How God Uses Suffering For Good
Scripture: Philippians 1:12-14
Have you ever found yourself in a bad situation that you thought, "There is no way that God can turn this around for good."? Some of you may have found yourself in a situation like this, and let me tell you, God can turn your situation around for good. You see, God is greater than any evil thing or situation that you will ever face. Because God is greater and God is perfectly good, God can, and will eventually, work good out of even your worst situations. If you are stuck in one of those situations right now, this is incredibly good news. If you are not stuck in one of those situations, just know that you may eventually find yourself in one. On that day, the fact that God can turn any evil you may face around for good will be good news to your ears. If you know someone who is in one of these situations, tell them about this truth. It will be good news to their ears, as well.
How do I know that God can turn bad situations around for good? I know this is true because of the passage that is in front of us today. As we discussed in the introduction to this series, Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians while he was in prison, likely in Rome. He was not in a good situation, especially if it were, in fact, Rome where he was imprisoned. Paul faced his final appeal, and the Emperor of the Roman Empire at the time was the infamous Nero, whose persecution of Christians is remembered as one of the worst in history. Facing the potential for death, how did Paul respond? He responded by looking at the good that God was doing through his imprisonment. Instead of focusing on his bad situation, Paul chose to focus on the good that God was doing and joyfully telling the Philippians about what God was doing. The good that God does is always greater than the bad situations that we find ourselves in, and Paul realized this.
Paul makes it a major point to remind the Philippians that what has happened to him has actually served to spread the Gospel. Why is this? While Paul's imprisonment at Rome was a bad thing, God provided new opportunities for Paul to witness in the very heart of the Roman Empire. While there were Christians in Rome, it is unlikely that anyone had such an opportunity to spread the Gospel so close to the seat of the Emperor as Paul in this particular situation. Thus, just as Joseph's brothers meant their actions for evil, so did those who imprisoned Paul before Paul appealed to Rome. However, just like God intended Joseph's sufferings for good, so God ultimately intended to do good through Paul's imprisonment. Thus, we can be assured that, even in our suffering and difficulty, God is working good.
Paul specifically mentions two specific goods that God has worked out of his situation. First, Paul mentions that the entire imperial guard became aware of the real reason for Paul's imprisonment. Paul seems to imply that they knew that he had done nothing illegal or wrong, so that his imprisonment was not because of something he had done, but because of Who he represented. This provided an excellent opportunity to witness, and it is likely that Paul would have witnessed to the imperial guard at every opportunity. The opportunity to introduce the imperial guard to Jesus Christ was one of the greatest goods that could have come out of Paul's imprisonment. However, it was not the only good that came out of Paul's situation.
Paul also makes mention of the fact that believers who knew about his imprisonment had become emboldened by it. When Paul says that they were emboldened, Paul likely means not only a feeling of confidence in the message that they had received, but also an acting on that message. That is, they were likely more outspoken about their faith in Jesus. This also makes sense of the context of verses 15-18a. When we face difficult times, it is important to remember that our difficulties may not be simply about us. God can work through our difficult situations to help others grow in their faith and in a Christlike lifestyle.
The important lesson that we need to draw from this passage is that God turns bad situations around for good. He turned Paul's bad situation around for some very specific goods. He may turn your bad situation around for a different type of good. However, we should never doubt that, even in the middle of our difficult situations, God is working.