Western culture promotes the advancement of self in this world. People have bought into the message that if they had more earthly treasures, than happiness, contentment and peace will follow. In the all-out pursuit for happiness, people rarely stop to ask to ask themselves, “What is happiness?”
Happiness is a fleeting treasure that rests on circumstances in our life. Joy is truly a heavenly treasure. It doesn’t depend on circumstances in life, but solely on a relationship with God. Our human nature seeks to fulfill our body rather than the soul. People attempt to fulfill their soul with earthly pursuits, but are continually frustrated with their efforts. Like pouring water into a cup with cracks and holes, it is impossible to fill our soul without God. Joy becomes a heavenly treasure because it is an inner response to a right relationship with God. That inner response is faith and trust in what God has already done for us through Jesus Christ.
The quandary before us is that we tend to equate joy with blessings or good things that happen in our lives. Yet, when we take a good look at Scripture, true joy comes only from difficult circumstances that God allows in our lives. Through these difficult times, we build up traits like perseverance, hope, trust, and character. It is through struggle we build up our faith, not through good or “happy” times.
“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 struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:29-30)
The final verses of chapter one reveals a very unique aspect of being a Christian believer. We are given the gift of faith, the promise of the Holy Spirit to “stand firm” and be strong, and the gift of eternal life in heaven. Yet, we are given another special gift that is vitally important to our faith and our inner joy. We are “granted” by Christ to not only believe in him, but to also suffer for him.
Scriptures teach us that suffering is a blessing and that as Christian believers, we should expect it. This spirit-filled attitude was reflected in the apostles when they rejoiced at being counted worthy of suffering on behalf of Christ (Acts 5:41). We recognize that suffering is given (“granted”) by God as a blessing. 1 Peter 4:19 states, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will, should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” We can expect from God both gifts of blessings and gifts of suffering. Each is granted according to God’s will and purpose for our lives. And in both cases, an appropriate Christian response is to rejoice for this is what the Apostle Paul did during his trials. Suffering is a means God gives us to draw us closer to Him. With Christ, not ourselves, all things do become possible.