Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel
“27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Philippians 1:27-30 NIV
As we join Paul in Philippians 1:27-30, we can hear the Apostle encouraging the church in Philippi to live a life worthy of the Gospel. As we remember, Paul himself wrote these words while in a Roman prison. He writes this letter to a church that he planted in Philippi nearly five years earlier. He wrote with the purpose of explaining his circumstances to those who were concerned about him, to defend his friend Epaphroditus from his critics, to thank the Philippians for their generous support of his ministry, and to encourage them in their Christian life.
To encourage the church, Paul challenges the early believers to change their mindset because their thinking has a great influence in their lives. Paul knows that wrong thinking leads to wrong living, and so he pushes them to change their thinking despite the challenging situations they found themselves in.
In verses 27-30, Paul wanted them to recognize two things:
1 – You do not need to stand alone (verse 27)
Paul encourages the church that as they face persecution, they needed to strive together as one, without being frightened by those who opposed them. Too often in our society, we value individualism and our ability to “stand alone.” Paul recognizes the great privilege of the church the affirmation that you do not need to stand alone.
If you feel that you have been standing alone through the challenges of life, you need to begin to “strive together as one” with the church. God did not create us to “strive alone,” but to “strive together as one.” Do you have others who you are “striving together as one” with? The church of Jesus Christ was never meant to be a religious institution which we come to observe. It was always meant to be a family that presses forward together.
2 – It is a privilege to suffer for Jesus Christ (verses 29-30)
It is odd to me that Paul says that “it has been granted to you… to suffer for Him.” Paul does not say that it has been “granted to you to have joy for Him.” Paul does not say that it has been “granted to you to have blessings for Him.” I would like it if Paul said, “it has been granted to you to be prosperous for Him.” Instead, the verse reads, “it has been granted to you… to suffer for Him.” When something is “granted to you” that would suggest that it is a privilege. It is not “burdened upon you” or “dumped on you.” It is “granted.”
This teaches that the present challenges of the church in Philippi were “granted to” them not as a punishment for unfaithfulness, but rather as a tool in God’s hand to strengthen and build them.
When we face challenges in life, we often wrestle with the idea that God is punishing us. Paul pushes back on this idea and challenges us to change our thinking. He says that we are given the privilege to suffer for Christ because according to Philippians 3:10, that connects us in fellowship with Jesus Christ Himself.
Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel
Someone once asked Gandhi, “What is the greatest hindrance to Christian missions in India?” Gandhi replied, “Christians.” That criticism of Christ followers does not only apply to those in India, but to Christians everywhere. In order to gain influence in the lives of those around us, we as Christ followers need to live lives worthy of the Gospel.
Paul encourages Christians to live a life worthy of the Gospel no matter what happens in life. How do you do it? First, don’t stand alone. Stand with your brothers and sisters in the church. Contend together for Gods’ best. Strive together as one for the Gospel. Second, don’t consider the challenges you face to be God’s anger upon your life. Consider suffering for Jesus to be a great privilege. In order for God to bring a resurrection in your life, there must first be death. Allow the gracious hand of God to shape and mold your times of pain and suffering into a tool to refine your faith and to re-define your identity in Christ.
Holy Spirit change my attitude. When challenges arise, I complain rather than contend. I grumble rather than grow. I react rather than repent. I roll over rather than resurrect. I need to the spirit of Paul to grow in me.