Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Thought About Suffering - Part 1

Philippians 1:29 – “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.”

This verse has always been somewhat of an anomaly for me. I dare say for many others also. I have heard the first half of this verse quoted frequently in my Christian experience; however, I do not often hear the second portion quoted as well.

The average American evangelical avoids the topic of suffering, excuse me, like the plague. We don’t even like to talk about it publically since it risks the chance of suffering to attach itself to us. We think if we talk about trials, tribulations, or testings we will “catch it.” I have actually had believers tell me to be very careful with books of the bible like James or Job otherwise I will enter into some form of suffering by the virtue of simply reading them or handling them.

As much as we avoid suffering, it is the one thing we need the most. Suffering is the vehicle by which we are made more into the image of Christ than any other means. C. S. Lewis once wrote:

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains:it is       His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Verse 29 is part of a paragraph that includes Paul’s most ardent desire for these Philippian believers; “…so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

Paul desires that these believers stand firm, to strive or agonize in standing firm. Paul uses a verb that means to persevere or persist in standing. The verb is in the present tense meaning to continually stand or to always keep standing. Why? The answer is found in verse 27, “…let your manner of life be worthy of Christ…” 

The everyday conduct of our life should be worthy, or suitable to our profession. In other words when we say we are in Christ then our everyday conduct is to reflect that claim.

Paul realizes that in our everyday living, which is suitable to Christ, will produce opposition. We find Paul telling these Philippians “…to not be frightened in anything by their opponents.” Opposition, persecution, and suffering are real. It cannot be patently dismissed or ignored.

Then he makes that mind-boggling statement: “…for it has been granted to you…also suffer for his sake.” What does granted mean? The root gives us the idea that it is something pleasant or agreeable. It includes the idea of a favor in which one is gratified. It can also give the idea that one is gracious in the giving of such favor or gift.

Paul is saying to these dear Philippians that God has shown Himself to be gracious and has bestowed a favor that is pleasant and agreeable upon these believers by the means of suffering. Of course we know why God gives us this gift, not for the pain, but for the product that the suffering is designed to produce. 

1 comment:

nashvillecats2 said...

Great to read and thought provoking Gregg.