20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Philippians 1:20-24, NIV
This is a well known passage in which Paul talks about his imprisonment and soon to come death. Paul states he is torn between dying and being with Christ or remaining and being an ongoing witness. He ends up concluding that it was better for him to stay than to go and be with Christ because that is the only way he can continue to spread the Gospel message.
When we face trials and tribulations we often want to find the quickest way to escape. Surely God does not want me to continue to suffer in my present circumstances? Suffering and pain are never easy for anyone to endure but is sometimes beneficial because it advances the Gospel message. It became clear to the palace guards and everyone else that Paul was in prison not due to his own failures but solely due to his proclamation of Jesus Christ. Persecution and ridicule has no benefit in and of itself unless it points to Christ who strengthens and enables one to endure!
If we always look for the easy way out of painful situations then how can we grow? Just like the muscles in our body, growth occurs when injury happens. The more our situation tears at the very fabric of our being the greater the chance for healing and strengthening of our relationship with God when we endure by having faith in Him. This does not mean that growth cannot occur in good times. Some of our most impressive growth happens by the still waters! Spiritual growth can occur both in both good and bad times alike!
If we always look for the easy way out then, will not our lack of suffering mean less of an opportunity to testify to God’s grace? Others benefit greatly from our suffering. When we suffer and see it as a blessing from God who helps us endure the pain, others who are suffering will take notice and want to find our source of strength. For Paul, whether he received life or death his reward was Jesus Christ and that was enough for him to be happy.
The secret to happiness is learning how to be content in all situations by relying on Christ who sustains us!
If you have a story of where you persevered in difficult times and grew in the faith please share your story!