For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. – Philippians 1:29
I have been studying about suffering for about a month now. Paul’s letter to the Philippians along with Acts chapter 16 has been my focal points. I have read these five chapters over and over and every time I see something different that just blows me away.
Not that I am an expert on suffering. Keep in mind, here I am, sitting in my favorite winter spot next to the gas fire logs typing this WMD on my MacBook Pro. I guess my only slight difficulty right now is my job, which has gotten considerably more difficult due to a recent influx of new students. My teaching partner and I are scrambling like crazy to try and get these students back on the right track.
But, you know what? I do have a job, and not just any job. I have a job where I honestly feel like I honor God most by simply keeping a great attitude while I’m doing it. I don’t get to act overwhelmed, I don’t get to complain, and I certainly don’t get to act as if I don’t want to be at work. Sometimes I want to, but when I meditate on this Bible verse and think about Paul writing the entire letter from a prison cell, how can I possibly complain?
Americans for the most part are spoiled. The American Dream is basically to have a nice suffer-free life where you always know great health, great wealth, and never have any problems or any unmet needs. Forget suffering. As soon as we are even slightly inconvenienced, everyone, especially those we tell on Facebook, knows it. We publicly let everyone know exactly who or what caused a problem for us and make sure the world knows we are angry about it. God used to record the bad stuff we did in His books, but now we do it for Him and He can just take screenshots. (Joking . . . Kind of)
I’m not saying I’m above any of this, because I’m not. I am saying that God is seriously dealing with my thought life. I can become such a crybaby as soon as I get stuck in traffic, have to wait in a long line, or am eating my favorite meal at a nice restaurant with an empty tea glass. It isn’t that I’m about to go off or anything, it’s just that Christ lives inside of me. If Philippians 1:29 says I have been given the grace to suffer for Him, then surely I can graduate to “beginner” status and be inconvenienced for Him.
Instead of whining about the traffic, how about I play my favorite praise and worship playlist and then listen to one of my favorite preachers via Podcast on my really expensive iPhone? I could have a church service alone with Him in my car that I might not have had otherwise. Instead of complaining about the long line, how about I ask the person in front or behind me how I can pray for them? I bet that line would seem pretty quick if I did. Instead of letting a manager know that my tea glass has remained empty, how about I pray for my waiter or waitress because they might be going through something way worse than my empty glass?
I guess I say all of that to say this: Christian persecution is coming to America. The current majority of American Christians is not and will not be prepared for it. Way too many people who say they are Christians are acting like we can somehow relax now simply because we have a new President. Our favorite idol is this worry-free; “my way right away” lifestyle that just does not fit with the word “Christian,” or often times even the word “adult.” Jesus Christ did everything perfectly and ended up being crucified on a cross. He told his disciples beforehand, “In this world, you will have trouble.” Believe it or not, that still applies today to you and me.
It has been granted to us “not only to believe in Him, but to suffer for His sake. We love the believing part. We love getting to go to Heaven by saying a prayer and saying we believe in God, but Paul says in this letter it doesn’t stop there. He says we also have been granted the ability to stand up for Him regardless of what it costs us. Here in America, it probably won’t cost us our lives (yet), but it could certainly cost us our jobs, our dollars, our pride, our friends, our reputation, and certainly our right to be offended.
Really think about this.
What has it really cost you to follow Christ?
Would you suffer for Him?
Christ has granted you that ability if you love Him.
P.S. My attempt at writing about this is pitiful. If you really want to dive deep into what it looks like to follow Christ regardless of the cost, read anything by Richard Wurmbrand. I haven’t read all of his stuff, but “Tortured for Christ” changed my entire perspective.