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Suffering by Appointment

Philippians 1:29-30
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. (NIVUK)

Paul had just spent 16 verses (Philippians 1:12-28) explaining his personal reaction to suffering for the sake of Christ.  Now, in conclusion, he gently stated that suffering is an integral part of believing in Jesus, and following Him (2 Timothy 3:12). The word 'granted' means 'given freely as a favour'!  Clearly this is true about our ability to trust the gospel and to respond in repentance and faith - it is a definition of grace.  But to apply that same idea to suffering might take us by surprise.

The way Paul wrote was intended to convey the idea that being persecuted is a privilege, graciously given by God to His faithful servants.  Paradoxically it was a privilege that Peter claimed he wanted to have (John 13:37) but when the moment came, he denied even knowing Jesus (John 18:25-27).  It was a well understood heroism – supporting a revered leader with one’s life.  It is the implicit understanding of joining a fighting force and choosing to be under a leader’s command; some will become casualties and some will die.  If you do not believe in the leader or the cause, do not get involved.  But to believe in Jesus means that there will be some suffering in the best cause ever (1 Peter 4:16).    

It is all to do with standing with Jesus.  What comes to Him comes to us (John 15:20-21); which is why we must take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23).  It also means that, one day, He will share His glory with us. But it must be a package: the cross always precedes the crown.  If we are not willing to die to our old life, why should He grant us glory?  But if we endure the suffering He allows ('suffering' is an old English word that means 'allowing') we shall also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12).

So whatever the Lord allows is a privileged gift, because it enables us to have the joy of relying on His grace.  As we endure, it shows that He stands by us as we stand by Him.  There is no need to fear, only to praise!  When Paul and Silas were in prison in Philippi, they prayed and sang praise because they felt the privilege of being identified with Jesus (Acts 16:25-28).  So, when you are under pressure because you are seen as Christ's representative, give thanks; and then trust Him to bring about a glorious outcome.

Dear Lord. Thank You for suffering for me and enabling me to receive Your grace. Forgive me for failing to stand with You and stand up for You because of fear of being persecuted. Help me to stand with You, even when that involves suffering, because I know that it is such a privilege to be counted as Your representative. And may I perform my role to Your glory. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams