For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
(Philippians 1:29-30 ESV)
Few people would consider it a privilege to suffer. But that is exactly what God tells believers in the Bible. Through this letter to the Philippians we learn that suffering for Christ’s sake comes from God (“been granted”). The Greek word for “granted”, χαρίζομαι (pronounced: khar-id’-zom-ahee), has the same root as the Greek word for “grace” (kharis). Suffering for Christ is graciously given to believers as a sign of God’s favor.
If you are a believer then hardship in response to your faith is a clear sign that you are right where God wants you to be. People hate the truth. They don’t hate lies. If non-believers aren’t against what you think and do then you are thinking and doing wrongly.
This is a hard concept for people to understand. Non believers ridicule passages like this in the Bible while many believers do not understand passages like this. Our natural way of thinking leads us to think suffering is punishment and that God will, and should, provide us with an easy life. But this is completely erroneous.
The Christian life is not meant to be a playground. It is meant to be a battleground. People’s eternal lives are at stake on this earth. God does not want His children to be seeking out comfort and self-satisfaction. He wants us to be concerned about whether our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even our enemies go to heaven. He wants us living for eternity, not for the temporary things of this world [Matthew 6:19-20].
This does not mean that our battle is against other human beings. It is not. Our battle is a spiritual one. Believers are part of God’s army fighting against the demonic forces of Satan [Ephesians 6:12] who trick human beings into believing spiritual lies.
When we live for Christ we will suffer. There is no doubt about it. The world is opposed to the message of Jesus Christ. But if we live in such a way as to hide our faith so that we can avoid hardship we are doing the world around us a great disservice.
Yet life does not have to be unpleasant. There is joy in serving God. And certainly Paul was an example. He faced many struggles as he spread the message of salvation through Jesus around the Mediterranean. Jews wanted to kill him for being a traitor. He was shipwrecked multiple times. He was beaten. He was often alone. He spent years in prison.
Despite all this Paul was full of joy. The entire letter to the Philippians is an expression of the joy he had despite the hardships he faced. He was able to have such joy because his sense of meaning came not from the world around him. The world gave him nothing but trouble. But he was never startled at this. He expected it. Instead he kept his focus on Jesus and his eternal reward.
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