In Philippians, the first chapter ends with a charge to believers. “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God” (Philippians 1:27-28, ESV). This sounds great!
The very last two verses go on to sound even better, at least at first. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him…” Who wouldn’t want this? We’re being given a gift by God; he’s granting us salvation and belief in him. So what else do we get? This passage says next, “…but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:29-30).
That causes us to pause, doesn’t it? Maybe we say things like “God, I thought you would grant victory. I thought you would grant success and growth. I thought you would grant me joy…” The thing is that God does grant all those things to us, but he also gifts us with suffering for his sake.
There are four things that God wants to see created through trials in the people whom he loves. Number one, he wants your heart to be encouraged. Number two is that you would be knit together with other believers in love. Three is that you’d reach all the riches of the full assurance, and four is the understanding of the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.
Struggling is exhausting and painful. When we hear some smooth message about how we can have all of these blessings without the struggle, it’s very tempting to believe, right? Getting these gifts from God doesn’t require intercessory prayer. It doesn’t require fasting. It doesn’t require you to study day and night or fall on your knees before God so often.
That’s a tempting message, but is it true? I don’t think it is, based on those verses in Philippians. God gifts us with suffering, and he gives us these blessings through our trials.