4 Ways the Book of Philippians Gives Hope to Those Who Suffer4 Ways the Book of Philippians Gives Hope to Those Who Suffer

4 Ways the Book of Philippians Gives Hope to Those Who Suffer

What does it mean to suffer like Jesus?

God Can Use our Suffering For the Good of Others

In Philippians, Paul is in prison for preaching the good news that Jesus’ death leads to eternal life (Philippians 1:7). But Paul tells those reading his letter that his suffering is not pointless. God has been using it for the good of others. His suffering has been the direct cause of others claiming and preaching Jesus as King and Savior (Philippians 1:12-14). Even prison guards are hearing the Good News of Jesus, and some have begun to follow Jesus. Even though he is imprisoned, chained, and may soon face death, God uses Paul’s suffering for the salvation and good of those around him (Philippians 1:18). One encouragement we can take in our suffering is that God can use it for the good, salvation, and transformation of others. 

Suffering Like Jesus leads to a Resurrection Like Jesus’

When Jesus obeyed God, he was attacked, persecuted, and killed. However, his obedience to God led to his resurrection from the dead. The book of Philippians tells us that Jesus’ obedience to death isn’t just an inspiring example, but a promise. When we follow Jesus in obedience and even into persecution, we will be raised like him as well (Philippians 2:8-9, 3:10-11). Jesus told his disciples that anyone who follows him will be persecuted like him, but we hope that when we join Jesus in his suffering and death, we will also join him in his resurrection. Rather than avoid suffering, Christians can have joy in their sufferings, knowing that Jesus’ resurrection guarantees our own. 

Jesus Didn’t Come to Save Good People 

Sometimes the suffering we experience doesn’t come from outside of us; we create it ourselves. We suffer because we believe we have to be perfect. In Philippians 3, Paul lays out a spiritual resumé. It’s his proof that if anyone could get to heaven based on their good deeds, it would have been him. He even claimed to have followed the 613 laws in the Old Testament flawlessly.

But Paul says his obsession with perfection was a distraction. All God wanted from him was to trust and follow Jesus (Philippians 3:9-10). If you grew up in a religious home, you can probably empathize with intense feelings of religious guilt. But the good news for people suffering under the weight of religious perfection is that Jesus didn’t come to save good people, but sinners (Mark 2:17).  Philippians tell us we do not need to suffer under the weight of perfect adherence to a set of religious expectations. Jesus accepts us—warts and all. We are saved by grace through faith as a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Hope of Restored Relationships

One of the biggest issues Paul addresses in Philippians is the suffering we experience in our relationships with other people, particularly those we love. Frequently, Paul pleads with his readers to put away their divisions and in-fighting, and instead to be united with one mind and spirit around the good news that Jesus has saved them from death by his resurrection (Philippians 4:2-3). One of the best ways to stop the suffering we cause one another is to remember that the death of our common Lord and Savior has rescued both us and those we disagree with. Instead of wrestling with in-fighting and anxiety, we can be marked by unity—resolving conflicts, putting away past injustices, and choosing to love one another. When we remember the good news of what Jesus has done for us, we remember that while we had wronged God, he did not respond by fighting us, beginning a conflict, or executing justice against us. He loved us! He sent his son so that no one would die due to a broken relationship with God (John 3:16). When we remember how God has restored his relationship with us, we can pray in hope that he will repair the suffering in our relationships with one another. 

While Philippians offers hope to those who are hurting, it does not cover everything the Bible has to say about suffering. To learn more about suffering, study the book of Job with us, which shows that God is at work in ways our minds and logic cannot grasp.

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