This is Part 3 of 4 parts answering the question, “How do You Minister During the Suffering God Allows?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Part 4 will be posted tomorrow.
Follow Paul’s Pattern of Ministry
Paul humbled himself before the Lord and realized that there was nothing on earth that mattered except being conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus, and sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings on behalf of others. He wrote,
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:7-11 NKJ)
So by pursuing the pattern of the Lord Jesus, Paul began to understand the ministry Jesus had while suffering here on earth. This behavior is not something a spiritual child would understand, let alone live out! And rarely would even a spiritual young adult understand or live it. This act of “dying to self” comes only after years of total dependence on the Lord’s will and considering others to be more important,
12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. 19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith. (Phil. 1:12-25 NKJ)
Even though Paul was in prison and he desired to depart from earthly living to be with the Lord, he recognized that his presence was more needful to those in Philippi, for their spiritual progress and joy as their faith increased. The difficulty is in how to minister while in your own anguish.
Part 4 will be posted tomorrow.