For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake. Philippians 1:29
[This verse stayed on my mind for some time and here is another go at it.]
Imagine yourself as a merchant in the first century about 50 AD and you live in the city of Philippi. In to your town comes a man who happens to be a Jew but not the kind of Jew you were used to seeing and knowing. This Jew has a message about a person called Jesus the Christ. After listening to him, you come to believe him and began to learn about a new way to live and a new God to worship. Your life changes and you become a part of the Philippian Church – a gathering of those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and God himself.
This travelling Jew is named Paul and he claims to be an Apostle of Jesus. One day he travels on with his message to other towns but you keep in touch through messages and letters. One day a letter arrives from this person Paul and his side-kick Timothy who you have also come to know. Things are tough in this Roman colony town because the only accepted religion and worship is that of the Roman Emperor. But you don’t worship the Emperor because you worship only God, the only true God the Father.
In this letter, Paul writes that he is in prison – but you knew that. That is why your church has sent one of your own to Rome with a care package for Paul. This member of your church has returned with this letter from Paul and Timothy. And the letter is telling you that the suffering you are experiencing is just what has been granted to you. Being a believer in Christ Jesus means that you are suffering for Christ Jesus and that it was intended, granted.
Perhaps you would rather not be granted suffering but here it is, it has been promised and it will be so. And on top of that, you are not supposed to be alarmed because of it. As a believer in Christ Jesus, I am granted the opportunity and likely the certainty that I will be oppressed and suffer because I am a believer.
This is a teaching – a concept that is not wildly understood or even accepted today. Many who call themselves Christian do anything they can to avoid oppression. After all, we do not want to offend others who do not believe as we do. After all we are supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves. After all, we live in a country that gives us the liberty to worship as we choose and without fear.
I mean to tell you today, that is going away. True believers in Christ Jesus will and are beginning to suffer opposition and hate from non-believers. Even from some who claim to be Christian but actually do not serve the Living Christ. Look again at the verse above in context of the verse before and after. (Remember, the books of the Bible were not written in this verse form – they were added later to help the study and teaching of the Word of God.)
“…in no way alarmed by your opponents – which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you and that too, from God. For to you is has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear to be in me.” Philippians 1:28-30
Philippians is a wonderful letter full of encouragement for believers who are facing trials and conflict. As a believer in the second half of the first century, this letter would have been a strong encouragement for you and can be so even today.