Standing with Courage
Written by Lyli Dunbar (First 5 Ministries)
This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 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, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary reported that between 2011 and 2020, about 900,000 people were martyred for the cause of Christ. Two-thirds of the 2. 3 billion people who identify as Christians face danger and hostility on a daily basis. Somewhere in the world today, 10 brave souls will take a courageous stance for Jesus and willingly pay the ultimate price with their lives.
Following Christ is a costly choice. Each of us must decide if we will bear our cross or turn back. (Luke 14:27; 9:62) For some, the price of following Jesus is imprisonment, starvation or even death. (2 Timothy 3:12; Romans 8:35-36) For others, our fragrant offering is walking in love in the face of rejection and misunderstanding. (Matthew 5:10-12; Ephesians 5:1-2) Today and every day, we decide whether we will shrink back in the face of suffering or surrender all as a living sacrifice. (Romans 12:1)
Paul understood that the pain he presently endured paled in comparison to the glory he would experience when he was presented before the throne in heaven. (Romans 8:18) He wrote this epistle to the believers in Philippi from a prison cell, encouraging them to stand firm in the face of persecution.
We too can stand secure because God is our salvation, and He will see us through tribulation. (Philippians 1:28b) Fear is a tool of the enemy used to paralyze us and keep us feeling defeated. As we look to God as our light and salvation, He keeps us stable and leads us on a level path (Psalm 27:1-10; Micah 7:7-8) As we say no to fear and move forward in faith, we can trust that our Deliverer is fighting for us.
We can also stand rejoicing because the God of hope strengthens our faith and keeps us steadfast. (Philippians 1:29) Every trial we experience is a testing ground to refine our faith and increase our tenacity. (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7) Walking with a surrendered heart through a season of suffering develops our endurance, forms our character and cultivates our hope. (Romans 5:3-5) As theologian Eugene Peterson said, “Under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors” (James 1:2).
Paul also pointed out that we can stand undeterred when we are united with our brothers and sisters to proclaim the gospel. (Philippians 1:30) Paul challenged the believers to adopt the same mindset as a well-seasoned Olympian athlete playing a team sport in the arena. Active Christ-followers strengthen their spiritual muscles daily and stay engaged and alert by linking arms with the community of faith and building one another up in the faith. (1 Thessalonians 5:11-14) We stay on the course and finish our race well with our eyes fixed on the crown of victory to come when Christ returns. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
Friend, God has placed us exactly where we are to fight the good fight of the faith. (1 Timothy 6:12) His grace will strengthen you as you share in Christ’s suffering. (2 Timothy 2:1-3) Let’s resolve to stand with courage and trust that our mighty God will help us overcome.