Macedonia–the place God led Paul after a very difficult road. He met some wonderful people there and also some difficult people (E.g. demon possessed girl), but the end result was a letter of joy. Suffering did not escape that letter but formed it.
(Philippians 1:29) “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,”
Every Bible student knows Philippians is a joyful letter, but the background of the book is often neglected; that background is Acts 16, “The Road.” Keeping this in mind, we find that suffering and joy are mentioned in James 1 in regards to asking for wisdom. Is this a coincidence? Perhaps in a Ruth sort of way, but I think not. James speaks about counting it all joy when encountering “trials of various kinds.” The means to this joy is “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” In other words, you can rejoice in knowing that whatever God is taking you through, however difficult, will be productive. But we do not all have this wisdom all of the time—prayer needs to happen, trusting, yearning prayer for wisdom from God.
This God is not for our worst, but for our best. He is a good God “who gives to all generously and without reproach.” So, you want wisdom? You’ll need to pray. You’ll need to suffer. You’ll need to keep walking with God. The grace life is a glory life; and the glory life is a life that obeys God wherever He wants you to go.
This is not something everyone can have—for example unbelievers do not have joy, not true joy. True joy is Christian; it is internal not external. True joy is produced by God and given by God the Holy Spirit. True joy is not found by seeking it, but by seeking God. Paul walked the road of obedience, and kept walking, obediently, never giving up on Jesus. The dividends of wise counsel that result in joy and glory will not be paid if we give up, nor if we try to walk our own paths. We must remember:
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
Jeremiah 10:23 I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.
Isaiah 45:8 “Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it. 9 Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker– An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’? 10 Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to a woman, ‘To what are you giving birth?’ 11 Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: ‘Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, And you shall commit to Me the work of My hands. 12 It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, And I ordained all their host. 13 I have aroused him in righteousness, And I will make all his ways smooth; He will build My city, and will let My exiles go free, Without any payment or reward,’ says the LORD of hosts.”
No one has been God’s counselor, or could be (cf. Romans 11:34). He is ours, and His wise counsel is not simply advice to be heard, but guidance to be felt and known through submission to Him.
Financial benefit is not, nor ever should be, the incentive for pursuing God’s glory. Cyrus in the Isaiah 45 quote above is one proof. The weary, hurting, troubled and broken come to God because they have discovered God has all the counsel they will ever need, to His Glory.
Glory does at least two things: God’s glory pushes back the darkness, and heals the brokenness. I can recall many nights, led by our professor Dr. Greg Harris, gathering in Bible study (usually on a Thursday night), and hearing the broken become glad because of the Glory. Making much of man only puts us in greater debt and pain and slavery, but making much of God and His Word pays dividends of Glory in any situation. Wherever God’s glory is there is joy, and there is wise counsel—they just go together and result in thankfulness.