The Suffering of a Heavenly People
Text: Phil 1:29-30
While the gospel is good news, it is not a call to easy living. There is always a price. To give us the good news required the Son of God to give His life. And to receive the good news requires us to give over our lives. Jesus suffered to deliver us from that which we could not deliver ourselves, and we are called to suffer in ways which are not dictated by ourselves.
The gospel rightly understood calls us to repentance, self-denial, and the complete surrender of our lives to His lordship. We are called to be willing to suffer reproach, give up popularity, and at times to sacrifice our possessions and comforts. Jesus suffered to bring the gospel, and we must suffer to own the gospel.
v27 calls us to heavenly living. Salvation is not a one time action. It’s a life time affair. We are to conduct ourselves as the heavenly citizens that we claim to be. The entire letter prior to this has not called us to anything.
We could be spectators of Paul’s life from v12-26 and debate about whether we are called to such heavenly living. But Paul takes no chances for the one that might make him out to be extreme, over the top, or not exemplary. He launches at his readers with this command to heavenly living.
Then he presents signs of a heavenly people. They will Stand in Unity, Strive for Orthodoxy, and Show their Bravery.
I. THE PROVISION THAT BRINGS SUFFERING
“for” – takes us back to v28 where we saw the bravery of heavenly people as they face their adversaries, and where Paul hints at the end that it all comes from God, “and that of God.” Is God being cruel? Has He no love for His people? Is He chastening us?
“given” – it is a gift. The idea of conferring something upon another. Used in Phil 2:9 “given him”. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Rom 8:32. Suffering is something God confers upon His people.
But what brings this about? Who experiences this? It is to those who “believe on him”.
How did that come about? Was it you? Did you just wake up one morning and decide to become a Christian?
Faith is not something that originates with ourselves. It comes from above. It is given by God. He makes the dead to live, and what follows is the gift of faith to believe the gospel. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” Eph 2:8 “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” 2 Tim 2:24-26
And our text enforces the idea that the salvation of those to whom Paul was writing was “given” to them. And just as salvation was given to them, so was their suffering, “also to suffer.” Suffering is given by God.
II. THE PURPOSE OF SUFFERING
“in the behalf of Christ…for his sake” – these two phrases basically mean the same thing. Paul repeats the purpose for which they suffer. It’s for Christ.
Salvation is a package that comes with suffering, and you don’t get one without the other. Now this is not speaking of our suffering because of remaining sin. It’s not even speaking of suffering of ill health. Those things are taught in the Bible, but it is not the focus of Paul here. It’s about facing adversaries. Those who hate the gospel, and as such, hate you.
“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Tim 3:10-12.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” 1 Pet 4:12-14.
Some of you are suffering more than others. Some of you are suffering right now for the Lord Jesus. You are living with or working with those who oppose the gospel. Don’t think it strange.
Reasons to see the purpose in suffering:
i) It Promotes Assurance – many struggle with assurance, but when we have to make a decision about who’s side we’re on Matt 5:10. Persecution for the gospel. It is not persecution when a brother points out a legitimate error and you get all sensitive about it. It is not you committing some sin and people giving you grief about it. It is taking a stand for truth and suffering for that stand.
ii) It Promotes Separation- it’s hard to be worldly when we’re suffering for Christ. “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” Jn 15:19-20. As we’re in the world and not of the world, it will be obvious to those who are of the world that we are not!
iii) It Promotes the Gospel – “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” Acts 8:4.
iv) It Promises an Eternal Reward – “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matt 5:10-12. The reward is not in this life.
III. THE PATTERN OF SUFFERING
v30 – there was no one in the church of Jesus Christ that those at Philippi loved more. He was their example and they loved him. And they knew what had happened to him when he was in Philippi, we read of it in Acts 16.
“But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi” 1 Thes 2:2
“and now hear to be in me” – in this letter v7, v13, v14, v17 and then talks about his death. And no doubt Epaphroditus took a report of what Paul was going through. Paul didn’t mention it to boast, but to encourage them and show them it was natural for the believer to suffer for the gospel.
Close – Heavenly living will lead to suffering, because the heavenly life is not at home in volatile environment of this world. I say to you young people, learn early that suffering is what you will face at school if you take a stand. Don’t deny the Lord by laughing at their filthy jokes. Don’t enter into conversations where the topic is wretched in the eyes of the Lord. I you fit in there’s something wrong.
The same goes for you in the workplace. Your Christianity is a sham if you’re not willing to stand against the vile discussions in the office. If you’re not different then you’re not different. Do you understand that? You’re still on the road to a lost eternity. You will suffer.
And don’t you sit there and think this pastor doesn’t know what it’s like. I know what it’s like. I’ve been there when your stand for God is mocked by colleagues. I’ve worked around the foul-mouthed. I’ve worked around those sharing filthy jokes. I worked with a professing Christian who used to give me grief about the strictness of how my faith manifested itself. He hated how I didn’t like the music of the world. He used to mock me in front of the ungodly, until one day he apologized with weeping because of his behaviour, admitting his backslidden condition.
The heavenly life is not at home in volatile environment of this world, and you will suffer. But so did our Lord, so let us embrace it, and live the heavenly life for the glory of our Saviour.