When Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, it wasn’t because he’d heard revival was breaking out there. He wasn’t a discouraged preacher looking for someone to impart something of God to him. No—he states clearly, “I went up…to Jerusalem…by revelation and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach” (Galatians 2:1–2). Paul went to Jerusalem to share a mystery that God wanted to reveal to his people.
This godly man had his own full, glorious revelation of Christ. He didn’t learn the doctrines he preached by shutting himself in a study with books and commentaries. He wasn’t some isolated philosopher who dreamed up theological truths, thinking, “Someday my works will be read and taught by future generations.”
Let me tell you how and where Paul produced his epistles. He wrote them in dark, damp prison cells. He wrote them while wiping the blood from his back after being scourged. He wrote them after crawling from the sea, having survived another shipwreck.
Paul knew that all the truth and revelation he taught came from the battlefield of faith. And he rejoiced in his afflictions for the gospel’s sake. He said, “Now I can preach with all authority to every sailor who’s been through a shipwreck, to every prisoner who’s been locked up with no hope, to everybody who has ever looked death in the face. God’s Spirit is making me a tested veteran, so I can speak his truth to everyone who has ears to hear.”
God hasn’t turned you over to the power of Satan. No—he’s allowing your trial because the Holy Spirit is performing an unseen work in you. Christ’s glory is being formed in you for all eternity.
You’ll never get true spirituality from someone or something else. If you’re going to taste God’s glory, it’s going to have to come to you right where you are—in your present circumstances, pleasant or unpleasant.
I believe one of the great secrets of Paul’s spirituality was his readiness to accept whatever condition he was in without complaining. He writes, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
The Greek word for content here means “to ward off.” Paul is saying, “I don’t try to protect myself from my unpleasant circumstances. I don’t beg God for relief from them. On the contrary, I embrace them. I know from my history with the Lord that he’s doing something eternal in me.”
“That ye may be able to bear it…” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The word bear which Paul uses here implies that our condition isn’t going to change. The point is for us to bear up under the situation. Why? God knows that if he changes our condition, we’ll end up destroyed. He allows us to suffer because he loves us.
Our part in every trial is to trust God for all the power and resources we need to find contentment in the midst of our suffering. Please don’t misunderstand me—being “content” in our trials doesn’t mean we enjoy them. It simply means we no longer try to protect ourselves from them. We are content to stay put and endure whatever is handed to us, because we know our Lord is conforming us to the image of his Son.