- Suffering works to advance the gospel. In these two cases, it’s the suffering of persecution that helps spread the gospel, but I’m sure other kinds of suffering can work this way, too.
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ (Philippians 1:12-13 ESV).
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord (Acts 11: 19-21 ESV).
- Suffering spurs other believers to keep trusting in Christ. It may be that I should have included this verse with item #1, but I’m not sure. I’m thinking that these verses might not be saying that Paul’s suffering advances the gospel, but rather that Paul’s faithfulness in affliction spurs other believers to keep on trusting God through difficult times. What do you think? (Update: I could add the whole chapter of Hebrews 11 as a text for this. See first comment from Holiday Longing.)
- Suffering shows our weakness, demonstrating Christ’s power in us.
- Suffering teaches us to trust God and not our own abilities. This is similar to #3, except this time the lesson is for us rather than others.
- Suffering shows the genuineness of our faith.
- Suffering produces righteousness in us.
- Suffering makes us value and long for what is eternal.
- Suffering brings us heavenly reward. 2 Corinthians 4:17 (directly above) could be used as a text here, too.
- Suffering give us the ability to comfort and encourage others in their suffering. We suffer and God comforts us, and our experience of God’s comfort enables us to comfort others.
…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you (2 Corinthians 4:10-12 ESV).
But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV).
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1: 8-9 ESV).
….you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1: 6-7 ESV).
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? …..For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:7, 11 ESV).
….we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope… (Romans 5:3-4 ESV).
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-3 ESV).
For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV).
….we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:17-18 ESV).
…the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV).