Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 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.
We have been learning how to live like the believers in the early church this week, through the examples of Lydia and the Philippians. So far we have learned to open our hearts, to open our homes, to pray for our leaders, and to pray for bravery. All of those items seem easy enough to check off our spiritual checklists. Sure, opening up our homes for fellowship with believers might be a bit inconvenient, but if Paul’s exhortations stopped there, we might be able to schedule our lives pretty simply around those responsibilities. However, in today’s passage, as Paul continues to offer advice and encouragement to the Church, he includes the line “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…”
Granted to you? This seems like the sort of gift we might like to pass up. It’s one thing to say a prayer for Pastor David every now and then, but suffering for Christ is one of those phrases that sounds better in a song than as an actual directive. But the more we look through the New Testament, the more we start to see phrases like “take up your cross” or “can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
If we truly strive to BE the Church, to live our lives the way Jesus wants, then we must be ready to suffer on His behalf. It’s true we might not be executed or tortured or crucified like the apostles, but suffering is one of those actions that rarely seems to fit into our weekly schedule of spiritual disciplines. What is our suffering going to look like? Maybe it’s spending time with people we don’t like but need companionship. Maybe it’s volunteering our time, money, and energy. Whatever it looks like, Paul tells us that our suffering is for God.