Explore the Bible Study: Joy of Adversity

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How can you rejoice even when you face adversity? It is difficult, but the apostle Paul learned this skill and his adversity is something most of us who profess Christ and live in the United States will never experience. Yet there are Christians all over the world who do experience Pauline type adversity and continue to rejoice as Paul did. The Explore the Bible Study: Joy of Adversity, will examine Paul's response to adversity. Perhaps you will discover how to rejoice in spite of your circumstances or the conditions of the world around you.

Under Roman house arrest and awaiting trial on a capital offense before the Roman emperor, Nero, we find Paul encouraging his audience to rejoice in Philippians 1:12-30. How can he be doing that? How can he be full of joy amid adversity? The answer? Vantage point! 

He sees his circumstances from God’s perspective. Therefore, he has a clear understanding of what is going on and why these things are happening to him. Getting God’s big picture, vantage point, on your problems and adversities can give you a sense of joy and peace.

Rejoice Because Adversity Has Advanced the Gospel - Philippians 1:12-18

Paul points to his own persecution and his present imprisonment in Rome. Instead of hampering the gospel, these have advanced it. The palace guards along with the common people on the street understood that he was in prison due to his commitment to Christ. 

One can only imagine what those who guarded him observed that led to their openness to listen to the gospel. Had they heard the apostle singing and praying as he and Silas had done in the Philippian jail years before? Or was there something about his silent demeanor as a prisoner that made them wonder what made the difference between Paul and other prisoners? Whatever the case, Paul assured his friends and supporters back in Philippi that his circumstances had led to the gospel being advanced and shared. 

In addition, other believers were inspired by Paul’s witness, to speak the word of God. Instead of being fearful, they had become fearless in proclaiming the gospel. Notice also that Paul was even joyful for those who proclaimed the gospel out of impure motives. While many were sharing the gospel out of pure love for Christ and the desire to see others saved, some were motivated to share the gospel because of personal gain. 

Paul found joy in the fact that the gospel was being spread in Rome. So, in the face of preachers with motives that were not pure, the apostle had a simple but large-hearted response in the form of a question: What does it matter? What mattered was not his feelings, but that Christ is proclaimed.

Even though the gospel was being proclaimed with mixed motives, the message, nevertheless, was Christ and people were being saved. So, Paul emphasized the results, not the reasons, and he rejoiced. He rejoiced because so much good (the gospel witness) was coming out of his imprisonment (his adversity).

Paul’s purpose was bigger than his life, finances, job, career, or circumstances. His life purpose was to share the gospel. 

  • Do you believe this is the reason God has left you here after you were saved? 
  • How can the things you pursue this side of Heaven rob you of the joy you should have for sharing the gospel? 
  • How can adversity cause you to think more selfishly about what you have lost instead of the opportunities you have gained to share the gospel due to your adversity?

When you face adversity, no matter how much or how little, you should be joyful if others can see Jesus and embrace the gospel because of your situation.

Rejoicing During Adversity Will Exalt Christ - Philippians 1:19-26

Whether he regained his freedom to minister outside of prison or went to be with the Lord in heaven, Paul was determined to exalt Christ. He knew he could continue to exalt Christ because of the prayers of the Philippians and the Spirit of Jesus Christ who worked in and around him.

  • How would you complete the following statement: “The adversities I face personally, or the circumstances we are facing in this world today motivate me to . . . “
  • Many believers today desire to escape, hide, give up, or just get ready for Heaven while silently sitting on the sidelines. Is this a proper response based on Paul’s statements in this passage?
  • Based on Paul’s response to adversity, what should be your response?

Rejoicing During Adversity Will Encourage Believers - Philippians 1:27-30

God was in control of the situation. Paul could be released from prison or killed by the Romans. Just as he wanted to maintain his testimony for Christ, he longed for the Philippians to remain faithful and united, too. Paul, didn’t moan about his personal situation but encouraged the believers in Philippi to stand firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel. 

Choose to Rejoice

Paul could have become depressed, discouraged, or disillusioned. He could have wallowed in self-pity and despair. Instead, he regarded his imprisonment as being appointed or destined. Adversity, whether it comes in the form of persecution or trials, is a part of the Christian life and should come as no surprise. If adversity destroys us then the gospel is not shared, Jesus Christ is not exalted, and other believers are not encouraged. Which should you choose? 

Paul was able to experience joy in adversity because:

  1. The good news of Jesus was being shared.
  2. Christ was being exalted.
  3. He and other believers were being encouraged. 
Paul encouraged believers, as citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ (v. 27). Don’t let your circumstances determine your joy. Live a life of joy because you are a citizen of heaven and have nothing to lose. View life from God’s vantage point and you can experience joy in the midst of adversity!

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

NOTE: This week's teaching ideas include a football illustration option and quarterback comeback story. Be sure to check it out as an option when preparing your plans.

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