When the Apostle Paul writes, he always boasts of Christ. Paul revels in “immeasurable greatness of [Christ’s] power” and the “working of [Christ’s] great might” (Eph. 1:19-20) And yet, Paul is frequently penning these words from the dusty, cold, damp floors of a prison cell.
When he exclaims, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord,” his words have power when we remember that he does so while unjustly imprisoned. Paul clarifies that he can rejoice in prison because his identity is no longer tied to his earned credentials but in the righteousness of Christ. He then adds his life purpose, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:10-11).
Experiencing the power of His resurrection means sharing (koinōnian) in his sufferings and becoming like him in his death now. It is the power to suffer like Christ. It is not that suffering is good but rather that it is purposeful in Christ. When suffering is faith-filled suffering for Christ’s sake, the suffering is transformed for God-glorifying good.
It is Christ’s resurrection power that transforms present difficulty into glory. The Apostle Peter emphasizes the them that for the believer suffering leads to glory:
“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed (1 Pet. 4:13).
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Pet. 5:10).
The beginning and end of every believer’s story is resurrection. There is an already of resurrection (Eph. 2:5) and a not yet of resurrection to come (1 Cor. 15:12-28). We must always look beyond today into forever. So, when we “know Christ,” “gain Christ,” are “found in Him” and know “the power of his resurrection,”—nothing in this world has us in chains any longer.
The reality of eternity has always been the reason Christian’s have been so courageous through the history of the church. The believer can say, “Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55). Our mortal body (15:47–49), the subject of so much weakness, humiliation, pain, and affliction, will be endued with “life and immortality through the Gospel” (2 Tim 1:10). Paul taunts death in 1 Cor 15:55, saying in essence: “Where, death, is all your power now?” (see, Hosea 13:14). Christ has removed the sting of this wicked malignant enemy.
There is purpose to our suffering, which means we can bring glory to God in the difficulty, in the pain, in the tragedy, the health problems, and the heartache. Christ never sinned, He never deserved any difficulty at all, nevertheless, he came and died for us and was raised for us. Peter reminds, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21).
Yet the end of every believer’s story is resurrection. Paul’s letter of joy from prison points to the reality that God knows best. Christ can be trusted. He is in charge, not us. From the Old to the New Testament, the arc of history bends toward the glory of Christ. In all of the talk today of being on the right side of history, it is Christ’s resurrection alone that determines the right side of history.
Editor’s Note: This originally published at Prince on Preaching