For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 8
“I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” Philippians 1:12-13
Social scientist, researcher and author Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, David & Goliath introduces a unique idea called “the theory of desirable difficulty.” According to Gladwell, difficulties are not necessarily a problem to be avoided, but a requisite for growth. Our “impairments” are imperative to improvement and impact. For example, Gladwell points to David’s small stature as an asset in defeating the giant Goliath. The diminutive David discovered a new way to defeat a giant, which he did with pinpoint accuracy. More generally, Gladwell asks, “You wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your child. Or would you?” He continues by presenting a case file for how those with dyslexia must overcome and work around the difficulty of dyslexia, learning to think differently and find unique solutions that others miss. What is perceived by most as a weakness or a hindrance can be transformed into a secret strength.
In the field of science, biologists have witnessed a similar phenomenon in their studies of plants and animals. Interestingly, it is called “the adversity principle.” Observing that habitual, ongoing well-being is not good for a species, biologists have concluded that difficulty and adversity are essential to healthy growth. A safe, threat free existence without challenge is not healthy to plants, and surprisingly, it is not healthy for our faith in Christ.
The difficulties of life and the cost of Christianity are the greatest catalysts for gospel growth. (See Philippians 1:12-14, 19-20 & 29-30). The cost of imprisonment and suffering was not an impediment to the spread of the Gospel, it was a catalyst for it! Throughout history, the more Christians have suffered and sacrificed for the sake of the Gospel, the greater the weight of its message and the wonder of those who don’t understand it. Paul understood this intimately, having watched the death of Stephen and subsequently persecuting the church violently himself. Paul’s rage and fury against the followers of Jesus of Nazareth could do nothing to stomp out their faith, hope and love. This has always been the case and it is the reason why the Gospel spreads most powerfully in places in which it least welcome. This is also why we must not despise difficulties in our own lives. The struggle that is required for a caterpillar to emerge from her chrysalis as a fully formed butterfly is indispensable in the strengthening process that allows her to fly.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5