Paul’s epistle to the Philippians has life lessons for a Christian particularly considering that it was written while Paul was in prison. The blue print of the epistle is on joy. Paul reflects on joy in suffering in chapter one, joy in serving in chapter two, joy in believing in chapter three and joy in giving in chapter four. This article will focus on the joy in suffering.
We partake in the grace of Yahweh in “chains” in “defense” and “confirmation” of the gospel, Philippians 1:7. We are in chains or are bound together with Christ just as we are defenders of the gospel. We confirm the gospel by our actions and statements because we are Christ’s ambassadors with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 18).
Paul exhorts us to be confident that “He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Yahshua the Christ” Philippians 1:6. This good work started when Christ died on the cross in our place while His work in us began when we received Christ into our lives.
Even when you feel like you are not making progress in this walk of faith, you can be confident that Yahweh will never give up on you. The Holy Spirit deposited in us is our helper working in us and through us helping us to be more like Christ daily. Paul suggests that even in the difficult times we can enhance the gospel by not wavering in our faith.
He shows how his imprisonment helped to promote the gospel and says, “ the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard and to all the rest that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains are much more bold to speak the word without fear” Philippians 1:12-14.
Paul encourages us to be bold in our faith and not to waiver even when circumstances seem to be against us. We are Christ witnesses and have been commissioned to make disciples ” of all nations” (Mathew 28: 19). Christ endured the cross to the end because of His love for us that we may be saved through His death and resurrection.
As Christ’s disciples, we must be prepared to endure hardship for the sake of the gospel, “ 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. Every time one man stands up for his faith when faced with difficult challenges, it always becomes an opportunity to reveal Yahweh to those who do not know Him or doubt Him.
An example is that of the three Hebrew young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego whose faith was tested beyond measure when they refused to bow down to an idol. The challenge put before them meant they would either compromise their faith or die for their belief. King Nebuchadnezzar told them that “if you do not worship (his gods and idols) you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace” Daniel 3:15.
These three friends were firm in their faith and they politely answered the king, “ O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, Yahweh whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, —But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” Daniel 3: 16-18.
Now these young men could have used the common excuses that many Christians use to get away with things they clearly know compromise their testimony in the face of others. For example; 1) We will fall down but not actually worship the idol (but what does that say about your faith to non- believers?).
Others will say, 2) We won’t become idol worshippers, but we will worship it this one time, and then ask Yahweh for forgiveness, ( by so doing, you have just told others that your god is smaller than the idol and cannot deliver you). 3) The king has absolute authority and we must obey him, Yahweh will understand ( you have by so doing elevated the king above Yahweh, and given him the glory that is not due to him).
Others will argue that, 4) The king appointed us -we owe him this ( Again you have confused Yahweh with the king. Yahweh holds your destiny at hand, not the king), 5) This is a foreign land , Yahweh will excuse us for following the custom of the land ( this one is very common. Yahweh is Lord over all and the same rules apply every where. If something contradict the will of Yahweh, stay with the will of Yahweh), 6) We are not hurting any one ( yes you are. First you break Yahweh’s commandment and secondly, you forever wipe your testimony for Yahweh. Many are lost because of your compromise).
By not bowing down to threats and pressure, the three Hebrew boys allowed Yahweh to show himself as true and faithful to those who did not believe. In deed the king said,
“ blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they frustrated the kings word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nations or language which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this,” Daniel 3: 28-29.
We need to die to our selfish ambitions and live for Christ. We have been redeemed with a price and sent out to the world as witnesses for Christ reconciling others to Him. Apostle Paul suggests that Christ will be “magnified” in our bodies “whether by life or by death” Philippians 1: 20.
When you have the certainty of eternity then death does not scare you because although “— it has not been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope purifies himself, just as He is pure” 1 John 3: 2-3.
Death to a Christian takes away the suffering of the world and reunites us with Christ. Being alive for a Christian should therefore be a time for preparation for eternity and that means serving Yahweh with all your being without the fear of death. The joy we have is resultant from what Christ has done for us and because of the hope we have for the future when we shall be with Him forever.