It Has Been Granted that We Suffer for His Sake
I don’t like suffering. I’m the first to run for a pill when I have an ache or a pain. I worry too much about the course which our country is taking and what that will mean for my children and grandchildren. Suffering just goes against my flesh which desires above all to be at ease and at peace—in a worldly way, that is.
In this brief passage, the essence of the Christian living in this world is clearly taught. As in several other places, Paul exhorts the Philippians to “let [their] manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” I am told that this could be translated, “Only and always show yourselves to be good citizens, worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Martin and Hawthorne, WBC, 68). The citizenship spoken of here is no earthly citizenship but the heavenly citizenship of which believers partake. And it is the knowledge and experience of this citizenship that enables Christians to stand firm “in one spirit and one mind” and to strive “side by side for the faith of the gospel.” And this knowledge of our true citizenship and fellowship with the saints in the true faith as we strive to live and proclaim it is our best defense against our opponents. And Paul is very sure that we do and will have opponents.
But it is critical to understand that our citizenship is in heaven if we will be able to stand without fear, for it is this very ability to stand without fear that “is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of [our] salvation, and that from God.” Paul is not speaking of arrogance or fierceness on behalf of Christians but that of a quiet and gentle spirit that yet fears nothing but abides in simple trust in God. It was our Lord’s demeanor that so infuriated the Sanhedrin and Pilate, and then forced a Roman centurion to exclaim when he saw how he died, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39). It must be the same with us. Let them curse and threaten while we bless and praise; such will witness to their hard and impenitent hearts.
And then that last line of this passage: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” Did you hear that? Suffering for his sake has been granted to us as a gift, we might say, from God. Our Lord told us in his most famous sermon, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). These are words I need to hear: Suffering for our Lord is a gift, for he suffered for me.