Philippians 1:28 – Part 2

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.

1:28 (cont.) – We will just pull this one verse to lead the discussion. ‘For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins. You made men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance (Psalms 66:10-12). God is not without putting His children through trials. Often, we mistakenly view trials as merely something God uses and helps us work through – as if God was simply rolling with the punches in our life. Yet, the Psalmist proclaims that God’s hand is causally involved in our trials. God has brought us into the net. God has made men trouble us. He has laid the affliction on our bodies. These are direct circumstances given to men from God.

Nevertheless, this is solely where comfort is found in the trial. As God’s children, we recognize that the trial is for God’s purpose of refining us. It is a molding, forming, and opportunity for growth. What better news is there within the troubles? Spurgeon, a man who was deeply troubled with poor health for his entire life, states, “It would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him, nor sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity.”[1]

This perspective only comes through trusting and loving God, being His child. Once one has been adopted as a son in the family of God, the Scriptures promise ultimate prosperity – a goodness that extends beyond circumstances unto an eschatological hope, which instills faith and joy within any circumstance. ‘And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose’ (Romans 8:28). ‘My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights’ (Proverbs 3:11-12; cf. Hebrews 12:5-11).’ Often, it takes a trial to reinforce our dependence on God. We are such flimsy creatures, and sometimes we require a divine shaking. And once we embrace this refining work of God, we will delight in the place of abundance to which He has brought us.

There is a deep and profound teaching to discuss regarding this matter of God’s sovereignty and human suffering, but the center of its resolution comes through the observance of the gospel. Does God utilize and ordain suffering for His beloved? Absolutely, look at the cross of Jesus Christ. ‘This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men’ (Acts 2:22-24). Notice the emphasis on God’s plan and determination, yet there is not the nullification of the people’s responsibility for killing Jesus. How can God allow suffering? Well, God so ordained it that the greatest blessing and most good has come from the greatest suffering and most unjust action every committed – the murder of the perfect Son of God. That perspective – gospel-centered suffering – changes everything in reference to my suffering, and it is certainly how the Bible calls us to suffer and face opposition, as we will see in 1:29.


[1] Charles Spurgeon, quoted in Darrel W. Amundsen, “The Anguish and Agonies of Charles Spurgeon,” in: Christian History, Issue 29, Volume X, No. 1, p. 25.

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