I love Philippians. From our reading in Acts, I feel like I know the church well, and the book is especially meaningful knowing that Paul wrote it during his house-arrest in Rome…described in the closing chapter of Acts.
Philippians is hopeful and full of joy. Paul sees a greater purpose for his imprisonment and suffering; consequently, he can rejoice. The contrast to Job is stark. Job doesn’t have the written word of God to give him hope in the midst of immense suffering.
In today’s reading, Job asks some tough questions…Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (Job 21:7-15)? Why do the wicked seem to go unpunished (Job 21:17-21)? What is the purpose of following God if both the righteous and the wicked die in the end (Job 21:22-26)?
Job doesn’t have God’s written word for encouragement. Job is left in despair because he sees no purpose for his pain.
Paul, on the other hand, knows the ways of the Kingdom…that this life is not the end, that at the end of the age, ALL will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and the wicked will be punished and the righteous will have their reward. Paul knows that suffering in this life will not compare to the glory of our eternal home (2 Corinthians 4:17)!
Like Job, Paul also wants to escape his suffering through death…but for a far different reason!! Paul knows that he will see Christ!
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account (Philippians 1:21-24).
Paul has a purpose that helps him endure the suffering. His purpose is to further the gospel, equip the churches and bring glory to God. Job is crushed under the weight of his suffering because he sees no purpose. And his friends’ false ideas about God and judgment in this life only serve to increase the weight of his burden (Job 20).
If you are suffering, do you suffer in hope or despair? Seek God’s comfort in the truths of His word. There is a good and loving purpose for your pain! Look to Christ and find hope!