Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Unusual Favor

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. (Philippians 1:28-30)
The stakes have ratcheted up and every day brings another “click,” another reminder that this is serious business Paul is talking about. That is why the Jesus believers at Philippi need to be of one heart and mind, in sync with the Holy Spirit and each other and working as a team in announcing the good news of Jesus and His kingdom.

“For to you it has been granted … to suffer for His sake.” At first glance, the word “granted” might seem out of place here. The Greek word speaks of a gift or favor, something bestowed as a kindness. The favor they have been given is to suffer for the sake of making King Jesus known. For Paul, it is part of the honor of believing in the Messiah.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Later, He promised the disciples a hundredfold return for whatever they gave up for His sake and the gospel’s, but added that there would also be persecutions (Mark 10:29-30).

Persecution for the sake of King Jesus is not a means of entering into the kingdom of God but is a sign that one belongs to it. So, when Peter and some of the other apostles were hauled before the Sanhedrin and commanded to stop preaching that Jesus is the Messiah, they went away rejoicing that they were “counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

Paul’s ministry has been filled with all kinds of persecutions, and as his partners in the gospel, the believers at Philippi are well aware of the conflicts he has endured.
  • The beating and imprisonment he received for Jesus’ sake, and theirs, when he first came to Philippi (Acts 16:22-34).
  • The riot he was at the center of in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-9).
  • The ridicule he received at Athens (Acts 17:18, 32).
  • The opposition he faced at Corinth. It was intense enough that the Lord Jesus appeared to him a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you; for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10). Perhaps this was in reference to the “messenger of satan” Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
  • The uproar he and his team experienced at Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41).
  • His violent arrest at the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 21:26-36).
  • His trial before the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:30-Acts 23:10), after which the Lord Jesus came again to him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome” (Acts 23:11).
  • The conspiracy at Jerusalem to kill him (Acts 23:12-22).
  • His trial at Caesarea on charges of sedition (Acts 24-26).
  • His house arrest at Rome, where he awaits further trial, and from which he writes this letter (Acts 28:17-31).
Paul recognized that the things he endured for Jesus’ name actually turned out to be useful for advancing the good news announcement about Messiah and His kingdom. Whatever the Philippian believers were going through, and would continue to go through, were signs that they are truly part of that kingdom.

Focus Questions
  1. What is your gut reaction to the idea that suffering persecution for Jesus’ sake is an honor?
  2. Do you think it was an encouragement to the believers at Philippi that Paul also went through these conflicts?
  3. Many Christians are going through these same persecutions around the world — how are you praying for them?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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