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. (EHV).
Was Paul one of these people who said “well, it’s good enough for me so it’s good enough for you?” From these verses, it sure seems that way. Paul was in intellectual living in a world where, like ours today, the intellect was daily confronted by the reality of brutish living. Greece was the home of warriors and philosophers. So was Rome. So, in fact, was Jerusalem. Paul had been educated as a Pharisee, and was taught the entirety of the Scriptures from boyhood. Like other young Jewish men, he memorized them, took them to heart. Later, as an adult, Paul zealously lived out the commands of the authorities in the synagogue. Shut down “the Way” and get rid of anybody in your way. He enthusiastically persecuted new Christians, even overseeing the murder of Stephen: the first Christian martyr. That all changed on a lonely desert road, where Paul learned how to stand up for Jesus.
Now enter his time in Philippi. There Paul started the first Christian church on the European continent. He cast out demons. He preached Christ crucified to the mostly poor and merchant populations of that former Greek colony. In doing so, he antagonized the powers-that-be who didn’t want to see their businesses or way of life altered. All through this, Paul reasoned his way through, standing behind the truth that the Lord revealed to him and appealing to his friends and peers any way possible.
The payoff? Pain and suffering. Paul was ridiculed and scored: things tough to bear for one who prided himself on his knowledge and God’s power through him. By the time he got to writing these verses in Philippians, it would seem he was responding to his friends in Philippi, “well, if I have to suffer then you do, too.” But read closer, especially in context of the verses around these, and you see that Paul isn’t saying this at all. Instead, Paul is telling them, “rejoice in these sufferings. Model me as I stand up for Jesus.”
Stand up for Jesus and rejoice when you lose your job because you won’t do something repugnant. Stand up for Jesus and rejoice when your old friends reject you because you won’t go down those same old roads. Stand up for Jesus and rejoice when the knock on the door comes, the tap on the shoulder is felt, or you’re led away. You’re in His company and that of a man named Paul who had to learn how to stand.
For further reading: Acts 16:19-40, 1 Thessalonians 2:2, Hebrews 10:32, Philippians 2:1.
Lord Jesus, I don’t want suffering. I really don’t. But when it comes because of standing for You, I welcome it. Praise be to You.