Wednesday, July 28, 2021
We have been talking about joy over the last few life lifters. All this week I am talking about some joy killers that the Apostle Paul shares will kill our joy. These are from his his letter of joy to the Philippians in the New Testament. Today, I want to talk to you about joy killer number two, and that is suffering. If you don't handle suffering right, it will kill your joy. I've seen people who had a pretty good walk with God, they go through a bout of suffering, and man, it wrecks their life or wrecks their faith. It wrecks their walk with God - they stop reading the Bible, stop giving, stop serving, stop coming to church. I see it again and again and again. They let suffering do what the evil one wants it to do: take away their joy. God wants suffering to do something better. He wants suffering to refine your life so you have even more joy, just like a plant that's pruned. Initially, you prune a plant and the plant is smaller, but by pruning the plant appropriately, it allows it to grow fuller and thicker. When you nail in a nail with a hammer, you have to bring the hammer back to go forward. Suffering is like that. It's like a pruning. It's like bringing the hammer back. It doesn't make sense, but when it's fully accomplished it changes us and fills us with joy.
I get that from Philippians 2:17-18. Look what the Apostle Paul says. He says, "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me." Paul says, "Even if my life is being poured out like a drink offering." What does that mean? Basically, even if I'm in the process of dying because I'm living out my faith, you should rejoice with me. What Paul is saying is, "I know what suffering is all about. I know this life is temporary. I know suffering is always fitting into a plan for good for me, for God's work, and for God's people, and for the people who will become Christians." Paul had an amazing attitude towards suffering. Other than Jesus himself, I don't know anybody who suffered as much as the Apostle Paul. He suffered so much for the Lord. And yet, I don't know anybody that had more joy, other than Jesus, than the Apostle Paul, because he learned that suffering was doing a great work. He even said, Don't you even worry about me, Philippians. Don't worry about me. Rejoice with me because the suffering is for God's glory. Even if I'm being poured out like a drink offering, even if my life is slowly being taken from me through these circumstances, rejoice.
Can you do that? Can you rejoice in suffering? You say, "Vince, how do I rejoice in suffering?" You see God's work in it. You see God working something good out of something which is uncomfortable and not good in your own eyes. The other way to do it is to have eternal vision. You see the future, you see a reward in heaven. You see your life five years from now, if you handle the suffering well today, and that fills you with joy. Again, when you're suffering you may not be happy, that's okay. You don't have to be, but you can be joyful when you make the choice to rejoice in your suffering. Are you suffering? I feel bad for you. But God is doing something in you, and for that I rejoice with you. And I hope you rejoice in that too.
Let's pray. Father, I pray that we would all realize that suffering is not fun - it hurts, it stings - but it's doing something good in us. Paul said, don't cry for me. Rejoice because I rejoice. What an amazing attitude. Help me to find joy in my suffering. Help those listening to find joy in our suffering, knowing that you're the God who either sent it if we sinned, or allowed it if we didn't. Help us to be more and more like your son Jesus, because that will bring us joy, and suffering is a part of that journey. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.