The apostle Paul helps us through his letter to the church of Philippi to learn how to endure hardship...
Since Paul was writing this letter from prison while in chains, they knew he had credibility to talk to them about suffering. We learn from his prayer for them in Philippians 1:9-11 that he knew they must grow in greater knowledge and insights about God so they would know His love, discern what is best, and remain pure. Thus, learning more and more about God through His Word is critical to remain steadfast. Most likely, many believers doubted the goodness and love of God when Paul was put in prison. Thus, he shared an eternal perspective on his situation and helped them see that through his imprisonment, many inside and outside of the prison became believers.
Years ago, my three year old nephew drowned in a swimming pool while my brother and sister-in-law were serving at a Christian conference. As a result, many (or perhaps most) of us battled with doubts regarding God’s love and goodness. I remember my director telling me that I needed to hang onto the hope that God is good, even when our circumstances may look otherwise. Later, I learned that through Ryan’s death, many came to Christ. Also, the Christian organization for which my brother worked changed drastically through this to have a more caring, nurturing, loving family environment which allowed for the staff to grow spiritually and remain in full-time work for longer. Meanwhile, though we greatly miss Ryan and the pain of loss for my family is very deep, God is our comforter and Ryan is living the abundant life with Jesus for which he was created. This difficult story of loss is sadly one that many of us will experience in our lifetime. But Paul’s exhortation is to help us persevere during these difficulties and not give up.
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.” - Philippians 1:29
It is interesting that in the same letter that describes the suffering of the church, Paul mentions over and over that we are to rejoice and give thanks. Why? “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you” (Philippians 3:1). Yes, rejoicing is a way to protect our faith. In chapter 4:4, he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” We are to give thanks for everything as we pray and then the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Choosing to give thanks in the midst of difficulties and proclaiming God’s attributes in prayer, praise and worship will result in an un-explainable peace and joy.