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Living for Christ When Life Gets Hard
The gifts of belief and suffering
Philippians 1:27 to 30–part two (verses 28a-30)
I have received some awesome gifts in my time. My 700-plus strong college ministry one time, in the middle of the year, for no reason except to give me a gift gave me $800–a lot of money in the mid-1980’s. I bought my desk I use today with that money. Some men I was training once gave me a time away with Jean, a trip to Hawaii–not to see my kids or grandsons, they didn’t live there at the time, but to vacation.
I was offered a down payment for my first house by a man who was willing to take a second out on his house to do it. I was given life insurance money from my mom from my dad’s death, ultimately to put a down on our first house. I was given a gift of mentoring once, when I sat in my ‘72 exploding pinto and a godly man said, “Ask me anything.” I still ask this same man questions today.
I was given the gift of Jean Sharpe, my precious wife who then gave me two awesome boys, who then married two incredible women, and now two grandsons thus far–all gifts. And I was given the elders, leaders and you the congregation of FBC as a gift from Christ to me. I have received some amazing gifts in my life, but all of them pale in comparison to the gift of Christ.
Having salvation given to me, a guilty, defiant, helpless and hopeless sinner is the greatest gift I have ever received. The fact that Jesus Christ chose me before the world was even created, then called me at 18 years of age is the most important and most precious gift I’ve been given. And it is that gift and the gifts that accompany it that Paul tells the Philippians are essential for them to recall, especially when life becomes very hard and harsh.
Open your Bibles to the end of Philippians 1 and follow along with your outline. In this first chapter, Paul has reminded the Philippians how much he loves them and prays for them. He shares about his present situation, then his future situation which may mean freedom from house arrest in Rome for Paul, or it may mean his death by beheading. Yet in all of it Paul is rejoicing because live or die, because of Christ, Paul can either enjoy more of Christ now or all of Christ later.
Yet regardless of how much better Heaven is, Paul has chosen to give up his wants of Heaven in order to remain here and minister to the Philippians. Now in verse 27, which we studied last week, Paul transitions from talking about his situation to their circumstances. Instead of talking about the privileges of being a Christian, Paul talks about obligations. From narrative to imperative.
The Christians in Philippi were being sorely tested. What do you do when life gets hard for you–when cooperation turns to conflict internally in the church and peace turns to persecution externally outside the church?
#1 The Main FOCUS: Live as CITIZENS of heaven in the colony called the CHURCH
Verse 27, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
“Conduct yourselves” means to live as a citizen. Just as the Philippians valued their earthly Roman citizenship, in a greater way the believers should value their heavenly citizenship with Christ. Paul is even more pointed in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Live on Earth humbled by your heavenly citizenship.
Paul continues by saying, “Live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The Greek word “worthy” comes from a root word weight. Our lifestyle is to have a weightiness to it, meaning this–our lives should prove the reality of what we believe. Like evidence given in a court, our behavior proves our beliefs.
If we believe the Gospel frees us from the power of sin, then our lives should demonstrate it. If we believe the Gospel transforms a person internally, then our lives should demonstrate it by not showing anger, not gossiping, or not having an ongoing pity party. Live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Live like Christ and live for Christ in order to live worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
Parenting, schooling, working, serving are all for Christ–so Paul says act upon yourself to live as a citizen of Heaven, making sure your life backs up the message of Christ in all you do. Nothing should keep you from this. Verse 27, “So that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm.”
Paul instructs the Philippians to behave themselves regardless of whether he is dead or alive. So how do we live worthy of the Gospel, as citizens of Heaven, no matter what?
#2 HOW to live Worthy? Cling together as a Church
Paul adds in verses 27 to 28, “I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents.” Standing firm in Greek is used to describe a soldier who does not budge one inch from his critical post while under attack.
“One spirit” is most likely dependency upon the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, relying on His strength–not our own. So we can be one mind, standing firm, unmovable. What’s that look like? Three participles tell us—1) striving together, 2) not being frightened, and 3) by the opposition.
Standing firm striving together means work as a team. Standing firm not being frightened means don’t panic. Standing firm against opponents means always expect opposition. Do you get it? As a church, together, resolutely we are to proclaim the Gospel and live the Gospel by displaying the person of Christ through us together no matter who opposes us.
It didn’t matter if the opposition was the zealous Roman pagans of Philippi who worshipped Caesar as Lord opposing believers who worshipped Jesus as Lord. Or if it were Jewish legalists who didn’t like a salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, with no Jewish traditions. Paul can say this to the Philippians, because as their father in the faith he has experienced opposition in the past and is currently being opposed now. Yet he rejoices even though he’s chained to a Roman Praetorian Guard 24-hours-a-day.
So Paul tells them, if you’re going to live as citizens of Heaven in the colony called the Church, then you’re going to have to cling together as a church by working together as a team to share the Gospel, while not panicking, but actually expecting opposition. But why?
#3 WHY must we EXPERIENCE opposition and suffering?
And why is suffering considered a gift from God? Paul continues his run-on sentence in verses 28 to the end of the chapter with three answers as to why we must experience opposition and suffering.
First Suffering is an EVIDENCE of eternal destiny for the believer and for the opponent
Verse 28, “Again in no way alarmed by your opponents–which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.” When Paul says, “which is”, the “is” is a main verb–this is a sign, literally a demonstration, proof or evidence. Your working together as a team, not panicking and expecting opposition is an indicator as to who is really saved and who’s not.
Get this–as you show no fear in the midst of being arrested for your faith. As you show courage in the midst of being harassed or ridiculed at work, you’re demonstrating who is really going to Heaven and who’s really going to Hell. In fact, if there’s no opposition to our walk with Christ, then something is wrong with us.
Second Timothy 3:12, “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” In verse 28 Paul is saying, “The way Christians respond by working together and showing no fear of opposition actually helps prove the eternal destiny of those who reject Christ and of those who follow Christ–destruction for them but of salvation for you.”
How is that? Paul tells us how at the end of verse 28 with, “And that too, from God.” The opposition which might otherwise discourage us actually serves to assure us we are truly Christ’s. For the courage needed to stand with Christ during persecution can only come, verse 28, “from God” Himself. That courage is a solid evidence of the doom which threatens those who oppose Christ and of the eternal salvation awaiting those who submit to Christ. That kind of invincible bravery is not man-made—no, it is from God, a product of His Spirit in you.
Paul’s word choices here are an allusion to the gladiators in the arena. Just like the emperor would give a sign, a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to determine a warrior’s fate. As Christians manifest no fear in the midst of their opposition, they get a “thumbs-up” from their Lord, and those who oppose them get the sign of the “thumbs down”. So how do you respond to opposition – panic or courage?
What would happen if you were taxed to come to FBC? What if the government made you put your child in public school in order to attend this church or any church? What if I was put in jail for teaching the truth about homosexuality or abortion and everyone who went to this church was threatened with jail? Would you come or drop out? Would you stand together or fall apart?
God says here through Paul, we experience opposition to prove who is real and who is not. But why must the lost give us such a hard time?
Second Suffering is a GIFT from a gracious God, just like salvation
Read verse 29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Here’s a promised gift most of us want God to forget. We’ve been promised to suffer–suffering is a gift. If Christ suffered, and He is King, Lord, and God, then His followers will suffer as well. In fact, our suffering is as certain as our salvation. And our suffering is as sovereign as our salvation.
The main emphasis in verse 29 is the verb “has been granted”, which literally means given graciously to show favor, or give freely. It comes from the root word grace or kindness, speaking of God’s favor. God looks at you and I in a favorable way. And His favor has been shown to you in two ways–giving us salvation, and giving us suffering as gifts. Look at both.
1 We’re given the gift of BELIEF
Verse 29, “not only to believe in Him.” This is a very dramatic statement and raises a crucial theological issue–do you see it? The Bible teaches you and I are totally depraved. That does not mean we walk with a limp, have a hunchback, constantly drool, growl when we speak, and smell like garbage. Total depravity speaks of the inability to choose.
The Bible teaches fallen, sinful man cannot choose God. Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sin.” Dead refers to the stench of a corpse–a person so dead they smell. There’s absolutely no life. If you have ever been to a funeral, you know a corpse has no ability to choose anything. John MacArthur says, “Men apart from God are spiritual zombies. They’re the walking dead, who do not know they are dead. They go through the motions of life, but they do not possess it.”
Before God began His work in your heart, you were spiritually dead, with no ability to respond to God, nor choose God. As a result of Adam’s sin in Genesis 3, all people are spiritually dead, unable to either comprehend or believe spiritual truths. People are blind and deaf to the message of salvation. You were so lost, so blind, so unable to respond to God, God must regenerate us and give us the faith to believe.
You may think you chose God, but in reality it was God who chose you. Jesus makes this clear in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” Ephesians 1:4 says the same thing, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Look at verse 29 again, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him.”
You have been granted belief in Christ. God had to choose you before time, then call you in life in order for you to actually become a Christian. Never forget, God’s choice of a sinner is the cause of their salvation. You must be elect. God must choose me, because as a spiritual zombie, I won’t choose Him. And election is the action of God where He graciously chooses out from among sinful people the ones who will be saved.
The chart in your outline explains a right and wrong view. The right view shows God is ultimately responsible and the wrong view shows man as responsible.
|GOD Ultimately Responsible||MAN Ultimately Responsible|
|God’s choice unconditional||God’s choice dependent on man’s choice.|
|God chose in eternity past||God’s choice determined by present events|
|Fallen man cannot choose God||Fallen man can choose God|
|Faith is a gift of God||Faith is possible for all men|
|Justice is found in God’s character||Justice is found in equal opportunity|
The Scripture declares God is responsible for your salvation. God doesn’t look ahead to see who will respond in faith, or who’ll be good or who will work real hard–but for His own glory, God elects some to be His children. Paul affirms in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.” The Word of God clearly teaches the only reason you chose to follow Christ is that God first chose you.
Some believe God elects only by knowing beforehand what we will decide. They wrongly interpret foreknowledge to mean God knew in advance who would respond to Him and therefore He chooses those people. But foreknowledge is just another way of describing God’s choice–not merely knowing beforehand, but a predetermined love relationship.
The Bible makes a loud point about salvation not being conditioned on people’s choice at all. In Romans 9:11 to 13, “For though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls,12 it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ 13 Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”
God chose Jacob, not Esau. God didn’t look down through history and saw that Jacob would have faith, and as a result God chose him. No, that’s not it. That is exactly the opposite of what this passage is teaching. The point is, Jacob’s future actions, his faith or attitudes had absolutely nothing to do with God’s choice of Him. Why? Verse 11 again, “in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls.” Why? So God, not Jacob would receive absolutely all, totally 100% of the glory. John 6:65b, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
But you say, “Chris, it’s my faith that let me choose.” Really? Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Faith itself is the gift of God. First Peter 1:1 says, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Peter acknowledged they had received their faith. They did not work it up on their own, they received their faith. Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” The Philippian believers had been granted, or given, their faith. God gives us the faith to believe.
“But Chris, if I believe this, then I have to believe God elects some to eternal life but not everyone. Why doesn’t God choose everyone?” Well, the issue is not why God didn’t choose everyone, but why did God choose anyone? Men and women, God reserves the right to have mercy upon whom He will have mercy.
Some of fallen humanity receive the grace and mercy of election. The rest God passes over, leaving them in their sin. The non-elect receive justice. The elect receive mercy, but no one receives injustice. If you and I received justice, then we would be sent to Hell. God isn’t obligated to be merciful to anyone. It’s God’s decision how merciful He chooses to be. Yet He is never guilty of being unjust toward anyone.
God’s answer to why He didn’t choose everyone is found in Romans 9:20. He says, “Who are you, O man who answers back to God. The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this will it?’” In other words, “Be quiet and know I am God. I’m the potter, you’re the clay. I’m the creator, you’re the creation.”
Are you getting this? If you don’t believe in election, you’ll never understand just how gracious God has been to you. But I can hear you say, “Then why evangelize? If God elects, then why share the Gospel with anyone? They’re gonna be saved anyway, right?” Wrong. God has also sovereignly chosen you and me to be the vehicle to communicate His good news.
In Acts 10, an angel tells Cornelius, the Gentile centurion, that a man will come and share the good news with him. Then through a long process, Peter finally comes to share the Gospel to Cornelius with his friends and family. My question is this–why didn’t the angel tell Cornelius himself, he was right there. This would save time. The angel is right there–why not just tell them?
Because God has chosen His children to be the vehicle to share the truth of the Gospel–it is our joy, our delight. That’s why God told Paul to stay in Corinth in Acts 18:10. God said to Paul, “I have many people in this city.” God says, “Paul, I elected many people in this city, but you need to stay.” Why? To share the Gospel so they’ll hear it and respond. Cool, right? God has many people at your school, so share with them. God has many people at your work, so tell them about Christ.
I love the theology of Acts 13:48. It says, “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” They have been appointed, and in time they will believe. Remember the description of our own special lady from Philippi? Listen to how God saved Lydia through the preaching of the Gospel of the Apostle Paul.
Acts 16:14, “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” You have shared the Gospel, but they don’t respond? Why? The Lord has not opened their heart yet. But when they do respond, it is because the Lord did open their heart to see their desperate need.
That’s why Romans 10:13 says, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed. And how shall they believe in Him who they have not heard. And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?”
God has chosen us to share, but God is the one who saves. That is good news since I’m not responsible for anyone accepting or rejecting the Gospel. Can you imagine if it was your fault they rejected? They’re in Hell because of you? No–but I am responsible to share the good news.
1 We are given the gift of BELIEF
Verse 29, “not only to believe in Him.” This says even our belief, our faith, is a gift from God. We were graced with belief concerning Christ. God gave us belief in the Gospel of Christ. And just like God gave us belief concerning Christ, He also graced us with another gift.
2 We’re given the gift of SUFFERING
Verse 29, “but also to suffer for His sake.” Paul’s trying to make a point by listing them together here. Just like God graced you with belief so you could be saved, God has also graced you with suffering so you could be sanctified. The God who has graciously given us salvation through Christ, has with that salvation also graciously given us the gift to suffer on His behalf.
No matter how gracious and loving we are in this life, we will all experience suffering, encounter opposition and have adversaries for Christ’s sake. Suffering is not a privilege in itself, and no Christian should demand suffering. But verse 29 states, suffering is for His sake—it’s a gift which brings Christ closer to the Christian. Suffering gives assurance of salvation, will be rewarded in Heaven, and is often a means to winning non-Christians to Christ.
God sanctifies us in suffering. So God gifts us with the belief of salvation, and gifts us with the sanctification which comes from suffering. When we suffer as Christ would suffer, then we give weight to the message of the Gospel. Your non-Christian friends didn’t see Christ suffering on the cross for them with joy and dignity, but they can see Christ through your suffering as you view suffering as a gift from a sovereign God.
Don’t panic, Philippians–the same God who gave you the faith to believe, is the same one who is giving you this suffering. This is how we put Christ on display. This is how we prove Christ is real and in us. This is an opportunity to gain the attention of the lost. When they see us delighting in Christ while we’re suffering, like the Philippian jailer saw Paul singing in jail after being abused, some will come to Christ.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.” But this flies in the face of the American dream–surely, you think, the Lord protects His own from hurt.
If we’re godly enough, can’t we avoid such suffering? Obviously God does not intend for the most godly and most loving Christian to endure suffering. Paul says, “Not!” That’s not true. The final reason why we must experience opposition?
3 Suffering is given to every Christian EQUALLY
Read verse 30–the end of chapter 1. We made it to the end of chapter 1. “Experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” Paul says, “God has chosen you for the glory of Christ to not only believe but to suffer–just the way you saw me suffer when I was in Philippi, and just the way I am currently suffering now.”
Paul says to his beloved friends, “You’re having the same conflict I had while I was with you and even now as I am writing you.” You remember what happened to Paul when he was in Philippi? Paul was advertised by a demon-possessed girl. The enemy then slandered, mobbed, stripped, flogged, threw him into a dungeon with his feet locked in gruesome stocks—he was shamefully treated.
And now through this letter and through Epaphroditus, they’re hearing about Paul’s bonds in Rome and about those people who are seeking to make Paul look bad. In verse 30, Paul calls it a struggle. The same word used to describe a gladiatorial contest, a life or death conflict, a massive spiritual struggle.
Yet what an encouragement Paul must be for the Philippians. They’re vexed by idol worshiping and emperor-worshiping pagans, plus possibly opposed by Jewish legalists, loose-living false Christians and quarreling church members. Yet they could look at Paul, remember his example of delighting in Christ when in jail in Philippi, and now see his patience over years of suffering, demonstrating an optimistic attitude and trust in Christ through it all, and they could be encouraged–and so should we.
As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” So Paul says in verses 27 to 30, live as citizens of Heaven in the colony called the Church by clinging together as a church, working together as a team to share the Gospel, but not panicking when you get expected opposition–because the way you respond to opposition is an evidence of eternal destiny, a gift from God to witness to the lost and given to all Christians equally. These verses say many things–some keys are this . . .
A You need SUFFERING
Suffering is the polish that shines the mirror of our lives to reflect Christ. It is the polish on our lives allowing us to magnify Christ and show Him to be great to the watching world. Without suffering we’d be warped, smudged and broken mirrors of the glory of God. I need the polish of suffering and so do you–plus what an incredible opportunity to show how awesome Christ is.
God is prepared to go to any lengths to make us more like His Son. The cross proves that. We can be sure He will stop at nothing to change us. And suffering is one of His most effective instruments. Don’t look for an escape from suffering, look for the opportunity to proclaim Christ. What about your opponents? Our Lord showed us through His death on the cross that God’s way of dealing with opposition is this—love them to death.
B You need the CHURCH
Paul is calling for a true commitment. Like Joshua, will you say in Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”? If so, then will you say with Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” Listen, if you’re a genuine believer, you will follow the Lord. And if you follow the Lord, then you will function in the local church.
You will be relationally, ministerially, and in all ways a participant in the church–not a spectator. Paul calls you to stand together, strive together, support each other, love each other, witness together, suffer together and glorify Christ together. Today is the day to join the team and together seek to proclaim the Gospel to a needy world. Commit to join a community group or ministry.
C You need a right MOTIVE
Why we do all this, because of who Christ is. Paul told us in the previous verses the incredible blessings that are ours in Christ, and the better ones that await us with Christ in the future. This is the motive, enjoying Christ more now and enjoying all of Christ in the future. The more we enjoy Him, the more the world will see Him through you and through us. Your purpose is a person–Jesus Christ.
D You need God’s SALVATION
For you to have all your sins forgiven now and be able to live in Heaven later, you must receive the gift of God. Today is the day for you to plead with God to open your heart to believe so you might be saved. Only Christ can cleanse you, forgive you, wash you and make you totally new. Only Christ can give you love, peace and joy. Only Christ can make you right with God. Turn from your sins, turn from your way, turn from your ideas, turn from your good works and turn to Christ. Let’s pray.