Summary: We only see God's greatest work through us when we embrace humility & suffering. Only then we'll see His glory.
Ephesians 3:7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
Paul, by this time, had earned a considerable reputation among the Church. He had planted several churches, had proclaimed the Good News of Jesus to public officials and the lowliest of servants, had been used by God to bring healing-in one situation he was so busy with work, people took sweat bands from his head & placed them on sick people and they were healed (Acts 19). He could boast of spiritual accomplishments with the best of the Apostles. But he calls himself a servant (deacon) of the Good News, and less than the least of all the Lord's people. James said 'humble yourself in the sight of the Lord & He will lift you up" (4:10). Peter said "humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you in due time" (1 Peter 5:6). Jesus said "for those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted" (Matthew 23:12). It is an illness of our age that many people in the Church teach the opposite attitude.
Gautama Buddha said "life is suffering". I think this idea resonates with many of us. The Preacher of Ecclesiastes said something similar "vanity of vanities, all is vanity". Life is short, and there is pain and decay even in the midst of the greatest triumphs and pleasures. In Christian teaching the trick is not to avoid suffering. In exercise circles they say no pain no gain. For musicians, the tedium of consistent error-correcting practice results in great performances. A woman suffers great pain in childbearing, but has great joy when the child is born. Beyond this, there can be redemptive suffering. Jesus suffered in our place in order that we could have freedom from sin and punishment. Each of His Disciples suffered greatly in order to bring the Good News to others. When you suffer in order to fulfill God's call on your life He uses that suffering as a redemptive price to purchase others out of slavery. Paul was writing this from prison. He knew the price and value of redemptive suffering. The word he uses here for suffering is thlipsis-often translated as tribulation. The word has its roots in describing the process of running a piece of metal through a wringer, a rolling mill (pic attached). Have you ever felt pressed in & flattened? You may be going through suffering God can use to mold you and bless others.