Suffering Can Be an Answer to Prayer

Philippians 3:7–10

No one prays for suffering, but suffering can be an answer to prayer. In this lab, John Piper shows how God is working in your suffering. He is working Christlikeness, working trust, working a deeper experience of him.

Some questions to ask as you read and study Philippians 3:7–10:

  1. What role does suffering play in our pursuit of knowing Christ more deeply? How has suffering played a part in your walk with the Lord?
  2. Read Philippians 2:5–8 and 3:10. What might Paul mean when he says he wants to become like Christ in his death?
  3. If you have not weathered much suffering, know that it will come. What can you do today to prepare for the storm?

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Principle for Bible Reading

Search in Concentric Circles

When seeking for answers concerning how a biblical author uses a word or phrase in a verse, it is often helpful to start by seeking answers in the immediate context and then moving outward. Good Bible reading, like a stone dropped in a pond, starts at the word or phrase in question and ripples out to other places in the Bible to get help for understanding. Starting your search in the immediate verse and moving outward is often called searching in concentric circles.

After searching in the immediate verse, it is key to look for the author’s meaning in:

  • The paragraph which contains the verse
  • Then the chapter
  • Then its book as a whole
  • Then other books written by the same author
  • Then the same Testament (New or Old) as a whole
  • Then the whole Bible

Note: This order may be rearranged depending on the verse. If you are dealing with the meaning of a verse cited from the Old Testament, for example, going to the Old Testament would move up in priority.

An Example

If you were wondering what it means to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7), you might begin by looking for clues in:

  • The immediate verse: 1 John 1:7.
  • Then the paragraph which contains the verse: 1 John 1:5–10.
  • Then the chapter: 1 John 1.
  • Then the book of the Bible: 1 John.
  • Then other books of the Bible written by the same author: John, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation.
  • Then the New Testament.
  • Then the rest of the Bible.