They say be careful what you preach on, because it will happen to you. Tonight I’ll be preaching on joy in suffering. So it may be an interesting week. If you think about it, pray for me. And really pray for me next week. I’ll be preaching on joy in death.
All joking aside, most of us in this room are going through suffering, coming out of suffering, or are about to get hit with some. And sometimes it’s hard for us to understand “Why?”
Martin and Gracia Burnham spent 18 years as missionaries in the Philippines. But in May of 2001, they were kidnapped by an Islamic terrorist group. They were held in terrible conditions in the jungle for over a year. Their young children (ages 11, 12 and 15) were staying at a small church in Kansas praying for their parents to be released and trying to raise the $330,000 demanded for ransom. 1,000s of Christians from around the world prayed and gave money. The ransom was paid. But they weren’t released. When the Philippine army tried to free them, gun fire ensued. And Martin jumped in front of his wife, and was shot 3x in the chest.
You look at this kind of suffering and think “Why?” Why is a godly missionary needlessly murdered? Why is his wife widowed at 40? Why are his young children orphaned?
In Philippians 1:12, Paul could have asked the same thing.
12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me …
Paul doesn’t elaborate. But Luke tells us about his suffering in the last 8 chapters of Acts:
First Paul’s illegally arrested in Jerusalem. • Then he’s almost lynched by a mob. • Then he pleads his Roman citizenship to keep from being flogged. • Then he’s thrown in a prison. • He’s made an object of insults and shame. • He’s refused a fair hearing. • He’s kept in prison unjustly for 2 years by crooked officials. • Then what should have been a short trip to Rome takes months because he’s shipwrecked and then stranded on an island. • He’s bitten by a poisonous snake. • When he arrives in Rome, he’s chained to a guard 24/7.
Paul knew what it was to suffer. Yet he still has what? Joy. Why? He says in v. 12—because his suffering was for the furtherance of the Gospel, the Gospel was advancing.