Lessons from the Book of Philippians
Greetings precious people, I do hope that you are doing well today and giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty for all of His goodness to you. Today we will be picking up where we left off last time in our journey through the New Testament Book of Philippians. We have been studying this book verse by verse. I believe that there is no better way to study the Word of God, the Bible. Many of the previous articles that have been written in this paper are now on our Web page for Calvary Chapel of Alpine. All you need to do is log onto the Internet and type in the words Calvary Chapel of Alpine on your search engine and when our home page appears click on “Pastor’s newspaper articles”. We hope to have all of the nearly 3 years of articles available soon.
We will begin our study today in the last few verses of chapter one in the Book of Philippians. Philippians 1:29-30 says, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” this seems to be a strange verse indeed for it appears that Paul is saying that to believe in Jesus Christ and to suffer for Him are both gifts from God.
Lets take a closer look at what is said. First the Bible, the Word of God makes it clear that salvation, faith, and the grace of God are all gifts from God. In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” The word grace in the above verse and the word given in our text of Philippians come from the same Greek word meaning to grant as a favor, a gift.
Unfortunately many sincere church going people have been taught that salvation comes as a result of ones own individual effort, of following any given set of rules and regulations. My works will never bring salvation from the penalty of my sins, which is death and Hell. I could never do enough “good works” to make up for all of my sins, and even though I don’t know you, I have to say neither could you. I know this to be true because this is what the Bible says.
Salvation from the penalty of sin is a free gift of God. Jesus Christ did all the “work” that was necessary upon the cross of Calvary. All anyone need do is agree with God that we are sinners unable to save ourselves, repent of our sin, believe that Jesus Christ died and paid the price for my sin, and ask Him to come into my live and save me. When a person does this, God’s gift of salvation comes to them freely.
Now from our text, we are told that it is not only the gift of faith that is given to us, but also the gift of suffering for Christ’s sake. I know this sounds quite strange to many who are reading this. You may have said like many, “I’m all for the salvation part but lets forget the suffering part”. Lets see if suffering for Christ’s sake is part of the Christian life.
The best way to check to see if a verse really means what it says, is to compare it with other verses. Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 10:22-26, “And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!” John 15:18-21, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” John 16:2, “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 17:14-15, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Acts 5:40-41, “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Acts 14:21-22, “And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
As you can see, there are not just a few verses that tell us that suffering for Christ’s sake is a real part of the Christian life. It is a promise of God in fact. Not a promise that many Christians are ready to lay hold of by the way.
As some consider these verses and what is promised in them, they are prone to make the wrong assumption that the suffering that is spoken of was for the first century Christians and that it does not pertain to the Church today. Nothing could be further from the truth. One only has to look at Church history to see that suffering for Christ’s sake has taken place in every generation. In fact, in the last 40 years there have been more Christians put to death than in any other time in history.
You might be wondering how suffering for Christ’s sake could be considered a gift or a privilege. Because of the effects it has on the Christian and others around him. First of all, suffering identifies one with Jesus Christ. When you are living your life for Jesus Christ and you are suffering for that you know whom you belong to for it is something that Jesus promised would happen if you were following Him.
Secondly, it acts as a purifier of our faith. It reveals to us those things that are truly important and eternal vs. those that are not. It also brings us into a closer more intimate relationship with Jesus. Listen to the words of Paul the Apostle. In Phililippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” 2 Timothy 1:12, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Timothy 4:16-17, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” As a Christian goes through a time of sufferings for Christ’s sake, the reality of the presence of Christ becomes so much more real.
There is also the effect that it has on those around you. I think of the effect Paul’s suffering had on the Church in Philippi. They became bolder in their witness. In 1954 when Jim Elliot and 4 other missionaries were murdered for their attempts to reach the Acua Indians, there were many Christians that committed their live to serve the Lord on the mission field. More recent are the effects that the death of Gracia Burnham’s husband at the hands of Muslim radicals in the Philippines, the death of Rachel Scott from Columbine High School, and the death of the entire family of the man in Texas as his car was washed away in a flash flood.
One of the greatest things to have come out of these tragedies is that Jesus has shined brightly through the lives of these people. We are able to see the peace that Jesus spoke of when He said, “Peace give I to you, not as the world gives.” We are able to see the joy of the Lord in the midst of great heartache and suffering.
If you are a Christian and living for Jesus Christ, don’t consider it a strange thing when experience occasions of suffering. God is at work in your life and in the lives of those around you. Rejoice in the Lord always again I say rejoice.
We will continue our journey through this wonderful book of Philippians next time. Until then, may the Lord richly bless you beloved of the Lord.
If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests you can contact me at: Calvary Chapel of Alpine, P.O. Box 1528, Alpine, Ca. 91903 or call 619-445-2589, or e-mail email@example.com
Drew Macintyre is pastor of Calvary Chapel of Alpine