Do you know where Paul wrote the book of Philippians? He was in a Roman prison.
Most likely, it was after his first appeal had been denied and things had taken a serious turn. No longer under house arrest, he would be in a standard, horror-house prison, a prison of first century style Rome. Added to his physical misery, he had to have felt a bit apprehensive that his execution was a very real possibility. But, it was in this context that Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 NKJV.
It was in this context that Paul wrote, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 ESV
It was in this context that Paul, while living in poverty, with humiliation, fear of death, physical pain, and hunger, wrote, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8.
We know what it is like to suffer. We have all had hardships. We have watched loved ones die. We have had the pain of divorce and broken relationships. We have lived with little and needed more, but I am going out on a limb here, we have never suffered the way Paul suffered.
It was Paul who wrote “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.” Romans 5:3
If any man, who ever lived, would know about suffering, it was Paul. I wrote about him last week, but there is so much to his life and his story.
He was jailed, multiple times. Beaten up more times than he could count He was beaten by the Jews AND by the Romans. People threw rocks at him. He was shipwrecked, not once; not twice, but three times! AND stranded in the middle of the ocean “for a night and a day”.
He lived a hard, hard life. Paul did not know what it was like to have the “comforts of home”. He did not live an easy life. Traveling was hard, and he did it year after year. And yet he wrote, “and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:4-5 ESV
We can have that same peace with God but it takes faith. I’m not sure how much faith I would have if I had not experienced some major life crisis’ over the years. I think it takes those trials to build that faith.
This is how important faith is to Abba. We are justified by faith!
It’s not a faith we come up with on our own. It comes through trials and leaning on Jesus. It comes through testing and trying.
I have a fuzzy memory of learning to ride a bike. The one thing you did, above all other things, if you fell, you got back up and got back on and you tried again.
Same with horseback riding. If you fall or get bucked off, you need to get right back on or you may never try again. And over time you began to trust your bike, you began to trust your horse.
In a very small way, it is the same with Jesus. As you lean into Him during the crisis, during the pain, instead of pulling away; as you learn to recognize His voice and His moving in your life and your circumstances, you begin to build your faith.
It's like a muscle; exactly like a muscle really. If you don’t use it or exercise it, it will become weak. It could even become useless.
I will leave you with more words from Paul, some of my favorite really. But please remembers this, if nothing else, remember this,
“…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:8-11 ESV
by Jeanette Stark - Tuesday, September 27, 2022