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Joy In Suffering

Elisabeth Elliot: Remember, everything that God does to us He does for us. There is no circumstance that can thwart the will of God in my life. None. Absolutely none.

Lisa Barry: Have you ever gone through a time in your life when you said, "There is absolutely no good that will ever come out of this tragedy; this is wasted time and the scars will never go away"? Well, it's easy to feel that way in the midst of a crisis, isn't it? I know I've felt that way before. When you hear people say what Elisabeth Elliot just said, we often assume that they're just trying to be positive, but they either don't understand or they're simplistic. But the fact of the matter is that every trial, every tragedy can become a gateway to joy. But there's one condition that needs to be met in order for that to happen. Stay tuned for the next 15 minutes as Elisabeth Elliot reveals that condition as we continue with another highlight on Gateway To Joy's 10th anniversary special.

Elisabeth Elliot: "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking today from the first chapter of Paul's epistle to the Philippians.

We find some wonderful principles for the Christian life in those first few verses of chapter one: Take our positions as servants; make Jesus Christ Lord. Secondly, we have access to His grace and peace. God's resources are available to us, and they are unlimited. The third thing is prayer. What a privilege! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. The fourth, God is the one who began the work. And the fifth, He's the one who is going to finish it.

Sixth, He's going to do it just where I am. This is a principle that I often try to articulate on these programs. It is not our circumstances that determine our spiritual growth. We can grow into saints in any kind of circumstances in the world. Wherever we find ourselves, that is where God wants to reveal Himself to us and where He wants to perfect us in holiness.

The seventh principle: Love opens the way for knowledge, insight and discernment. Do you ever say, "Well, I wish I could understand my husband" or "I wish I could figure out my wife"? We say things like that, don't we? The Bible teaches us that love opens our minds and hearts and gives us discernment and insight. What we need is more love.

The eighth principle: We are to bear fruit. I'd like to read verse 9. "This is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best, and may be pure and blameless until the day of Jesus Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God."

Here we find the tremendous principle, which runs like a red thread all the way through the Bible from beginning to end, that the redemption of the world involves suffering. Paul says, "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel."

Paul has suffered in many ways. The Apostle Paul was flogged, stoned, starved, imprisoned, shipwrecked. He had some troubles. But he says, "These things which have happened to me have really served to advance the gospel."

I really believe that no one who wants to cooperate with God and His redemptive work in the world can possibly avoid suffering. The Lamb of God was sacrificed for you and me. I live because He died. Life comes out of death.

That's true in the physical sense. There wouldn't be an oak tree if the acorn hadn't fallen into the ground and died. There wouldn't be a field of waving wheat if the seed had not fallen into the ground and died. Jesus said to His disciples shortly before His own death, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."

It is a spiritual principle, indispensable to God's total order of the universe. It was necessary that Christ should suffer for us. And if you and I are going to follow Him, we must expect to have to suffer.

Is that scary? Well, of course it is for us human beings. Who wants to suffer? And it was scary for Jesus. Let's remember that just before He was crucified, He actually prayed, "Lord, if it be possible--Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me. But if it is not possible, nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done."

We don't need to be asking why about suffering. Jesus demonstrated it. He calls us to the fellowship of suffering. He calls us to take up our cross. So here's Paul, chained in the jail. Is he complaining? In turmoil? Struggling? Full of joy. Paul is full of joy.

He had a lot of reasons, humanly speaking, to complain. But instead of that, he trusted God. He praised God. He wrote love letters to his spiritual children in Philippi. What was the effect of this suffering on Paul's part? It was fruitfulness, encouragement for the brothers.

"And even if some preach," he said, "for wrong reasons (envy, rivalry and selfish ambition), what does it matter?" Let me read you those verses. He says, "As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

It's true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition; not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter?" I have that verse underlined in my Bible. What does it matter?

There's so many little things that I make a big deal out of, almost a federal case sometimes. The Lord just quietly and very lovingly whispers to me, "Does it matter that much?" Paul says, "What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice.

Yes, and I am going to keep on rejoicing, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." That's my life verse. Philippians 1:21: "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

"If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I don't know. I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and to be with Christ which is far better, but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come to see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel, without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.

This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved, and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggles you saw I had and now hear that I still have."

Remember, everything that God does to us, He does for us. Paul recognized that for himself personally, there was real blessing in his being chained in prison. But the blessing didn't stop with Paul. It goes on to the others. What God does to us--and sometimes we say, "Lord, why do You do this to me?"--remember, it's for us. There is no circumstance that can thwart the will of God in my life. None. Absolutely none.

Now what is His will for Paul? That Christ be exalted in his body, whether it's by life or by death. And what's God's will for you and me? It's the same--that Christ be glorified, exalted, properly represented in the way we live and act and speak.

In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 30:20, we read: "The Lord is your life." Moses said that to Israel after forty years in the wilderness. It's a matter of indifference--where we are, what's happening, or what people do to us. Indifference in the sense that it is not going to hinder our spiritual growth, provided we recognize that God is with us there, that God is absolutely in charge of everything that happens to us, and never can one single thing happen without His permission. God's permission comes through His love.

You are loved with an everlasting love. Don't you ever forget it.

Lisa Barry: That helps put things into perspective, doesn't it? We don't want to act as if though the trial doesn't exist, but instead like Paul, to offer that circumstance to God and watch what good He brings out of it. There's a book that picks up where Elisabeth Elliot left off today. If you're going through a tough time right now, you owe it to yourself to hear what she has to say. The book is called A PATH THROUGH SUFFERING. It will keep your attention focused on the truth of God's Word and His will for you.

I'd also like to suggest a brand-new book that is as wonderful to look at as it is to read. It's the special anniversary edition of a book called GATEWAY TO JOY. It's full of just the kind of thing you hear daily on this program-poems, readings, vignettes. All are handpicked and part of Elisabeth's vast heritage of reading.

For information on how to purchase either of these 10th anniversary offerings, get in touch with us here at Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or call 1-800-759-4JOY. Our Internet address is gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy is a listener-supported production of Back to the Bible.

Join us again on Monday when we begin our final week of looking back at the past ten years of Gateway To Joy. This is Lisa Barry, thanking you for being a part of our history. Have a great weekend.

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