Philippians 1:12-30; Ezekiel 19; Isaiah 48
The “vicar of Baghdad” has related the story of four Christian children, all under the age of 15, who were faced with a choice. They could either convert to Islam or be killed. Their response was that they have loved Jesus and would continue to love Jesus. They were beheaded. Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians from jail, having been imprisoned because of his work in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. The result of Paul’s imprisonment was that the gospel spread. Paul reminded the Philippians that they had a unique gift: “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) As followers of Christ in the western world, we have the believe part down pretty well. We can say the right words. We can sing the right songs. Sometimes we don’t do too well on the “let Jesus take control of your life” part. If we were to really follow Jesus, that would make radical difference in our lives. There are actions we’d have to change; there are people we’d have to love. The idea that we are granted the opportunity to suffer for Him; we don’t like that too much. If we get inconvenienced, we scream about our rights. In truth, the message of the gospel has always gone against the prevailing culture. We should expect to be inconvenienced. We should be ready for ridicule from those opposed to the gospel. And as our culture changes and becomes more opposed to the gospel, we should expect some form of suffering. The key to living the Christian life isn’t that we find everything happens our way. The key to the Christian life is that we react to any and all circumstances in ways that bring honor to God. May we never endure real suffering for the gospel, but may we embrace the name of Jesus to death if necessary.
Oh Lord, I have things so good when compared to Christians down through the ages and in other cultures today. I have freedoms and privileges that my brothers and sisters living in other parts of the world don’t have – and yet I often don’t take advantage of them to share Your word. Give me the strength to follow and bring honor to Your name in any and all situations.