I often wonder—and am often rebuked—as we join in congregational singing of Psalms and hymns how much we really believe. How honest are we when we sing the first lines of Psalm 122 for example on the Lord’s Day morning: “I joyed when to the house of God, Go up they said to me”? When we are enveloped by the stuff of life, do we really believe that “every joy or trial falleth from above, traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love”?
We all know that circumstances dictate our mood. But would we admit also that they also affect our theology? How often do we live under the delusion that if circumstances—“the things that happen”—were pleasant then we could be godly, we could be happy, we would have things in order, and praise God more? Very often we do not enjoy the present because we live with the false promises of the future, the “grass-is-always-greener” syndrome.
Paul’s happiness did not depend on the “things that happened” but on the furtherance of the gospel. 2 Corinthians 11:23–28 tells us that he was beaten with “stripes above measure…in prisons more frequent.” He continues, “Once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep.” He continues in this catalogue of suffering to outline the shadow of danger that hung over him and the weariness of the flesh: “in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen…in weariness and painfulness.” Despite all this that happened to Paul he told the Romans that in all these things he rejoiced in tribulations (Romans 5:3) because they worked for the furtherance of the gospel in him.
Reading: “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.”—Philippians 1:12