Philippians 1:27-30: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”
Paul is showing us an aspect of Christianity that is not very popular. This is the aspect of Christ-follower’s suffering for Christ’s sake. We live an extremely pampered lifestyle. Even the poverty of the United States cannot be compared with the most gut-wrenching and abject poverty that is worldwide. We as a culture have not seen the discrimination and human rights violations that are seen on a daily basis in countries like China, and Saudi Arabia. We as American Christians have seen very little outward physical displays of aggression toward our faith as a whole like our brothers and sisters worldwide.
For the Christ-follower in the early church suffering was a very real and common occurrence. Paul and his missionary team experienced suffering regularly. In fact it was such a thought for Paul that he was thinking about being killed for Christ when he writes, “for me to die is gain”. This was the mindset for the early believers. Being willing to lay it all on the line for Jesus even unto death was the call for the Christ-follower. “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” We may not seek out suffering and hardships just for the sake of martyrdom; However, we can live with an attitude that proclaims boldly, “I am willing to give it all for Jesus”. We should also, as he says, struggle with the awesome thought of “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”
Even though we do not see the suffering here as we do across the world (which we will be faced with in the future), we need to live in a way that we will be willing to accept anything for the sake of Christ. We are not called to a life of ease and comfort. If we are to follow Christ we need to deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow Jesus.
Old Testament: Isaiah 31-33 New Testament Philippians 2