The apostle Paul said it this way:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
Paul survived many difficult challenges in his life. Some included anguish for persecuting the early church and supervising Stephen's stoning (1 Timothy 1:12-14). Other challenges had to do with painful suffering and abuse he endured — hardship through shipwrecks, financial hard times, and physical afflictions (2 Corinthians 11:23-27; Philippians 4:11-13). He would eventually face martyrdom (2 Timothy 4:6-8). No matter the mountains in the way, no matter the severity of his suffering, no matter the difficulty of the challenges, Paul faced them with purpose because he knew his life had meaning in Jesus!
How did he survive these ordeals and keep going?
Where did the old apostle find such resiliency in the face of such stiff opposition?
How did Paul tap into such persevering strength that allowed him to persevere to his end?
Paul looked forward to a bright future with Jesus beyond this life (2 Corinthians 5:1-8; 2 Timothy 4:6-8). He was confident that when his life was over on earth, Jesus was waiting to welcome him into his presence: until then, he knew God had important work for him to do (Philippians 1:19-26). While he waited for the eventual end of his life, Paul lived passionately to fulfill his calling from God. Paul believed that his life had meaning after his earthly life ended. He also trusted that God had a purpose for his life while he was still alive.
Viktor Frankl, in his epic book, Man's Search for Meaning, suggested that we, as human beings, can survive almost any "how" if we have a "why"! We can endure almost anything if our lives have meaning and purpose! James Nored reminds us of that important truth in this week's video as he challenges us to find our meaning and purpose in God:
In Psalm 139, David talks about God being present in every dimension and time in our lives. He specifically talks about when our life began and when God first filled our existence with his purpose and meaning:
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:13-16).
God knew you before your mom felt you as a flutter in her womb or knew you as the person inside the bump on her belly. God has known you even from before your conception. Your Father in heaven had a plan and purpose for you. That plan and purpose wasn't a rigid program you had to fulfill, but an opportunity to embrace. That purpose was designed to give you meaning and a reason to persevere no matter what life can throw at you. And, that same God has known you since you were reborn in his family (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:3-7). That new birth has given you a living hope — the expectation that something, your holy Someone, is awaiting you beyond this life (1 Peter 1:3-9).
No matter what you face in this life, God can reach into the middle of the mess and fashion something good out of it to accomplish his purpose for you and bring you to your eternal good (Romans 8:28). That truth is as valid for you as it was for his Son. Jesus' life, suffering, and death were not wasted (Romans 8:29). As for you, when you confessed Christ and were baptized, your life was joined with Jesus' life. The living and eternal part of you was hidden with him in God, awaiting Jesus' glorious return when we will share in that same glory (Colossians 2:12, 3:1-4).
Above the circumstances, however, we all must embrace that God has a purpose for us greater than our joy or pain. The meaning of our life is in following Jesus in both the transfiguration where he was glorious and in the cross when he endured abandonment, ridicule, torture, humiliation, and death.
No matter our circumstances — or your particular circumstances, dear brother or sister — we know glory awaits. Between now and glory, God has a purpose for us, no matter where we find ourselves. That doesn't mean he wants us to be in the painful, awful, challenging situations of our broken world alone. God longs for us to know that he will go with us in our struggles. God wants us to know that our lives still have purpose and meaning, both now and eternally, no matter how difficult our struggles may be. Our Father will accomplish something out of messes for our good, his glory, and someone else's salvation.
How do I know?
I know because of what God did with Jesus' painful challenges. Jesus is our older brother — the one who has gone before us as our example and pioneer (Hebrews 2:10-18). Jesus endured what he did so that we could be sure that we would never be abandoned in our journey of faith (Romans 8:32-39). As God's children, our Father will not waste our suffering and tears, any more than he wasted our old brother Paul's suffering and tears. Our lives are lived for his purpose, and this gives each of our lives enduring meaning.
Hopefully, we can join the apostle Paul in saying with confidence:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14).