Philippians 1:29-30: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
What do these verses really mean? It means we’re Privileged to Suffer for Christ.
How is it that God has “granted to you” to suffer? Gifted to you to suffer for Christ? Do we view suffering and persecution, as a gift? How is that a gift?! Here’s how:
Your very sufferings are witnesses to the goodness of God, because in them you have a real evidence of your faith.
How is suffering evidence or proof of your faith? Because you’re standing firm… You are standing firm, in one mind, striving for the faith of the Gospel, no matter the circumstances, even when persecution and suffering is knocking at your door. Not that you don’t struggle, but that you do move forward! It goes to prove that God has indeed begun a good work in you, and that he also will carry it on to completion (Phil. 1:6).
A Rock Vs. a Leaf
The simplest illustration I can think of to help us understand this is of a rock vs. a leaf. A rock is going to stand firm basically no matter what’s going on around it. A leaf, though, can be easily taken away by the wind or the rain. The rock stays put, the leaf is taken away.
So here’s the question: which one experiences more pressure being placed upon it? The rock or the leaf? The rock! Precisely because it doesn’t move with its surroundings, the rock it will have more pressure on it from the rain and the wind. The leaf doesn’t have much pressure put on it, does it? No! Because it just goes along with the wind or the rain.
Here’s what I want us to get: What does this pressure on the rock reveal about the rock? That it is in fact a rock! If the wind came and the rock was just taken away, or a little stream came and lifted it up and it floated away, what would we know about that rock? That it’s not actually a rock! Perhaps it’s foam or paper mache or something, but it’s definitely not a rock.
Suffering = Assurance
That’s exactly what suffering can do for the Christian. It reveals and assures us of the reality that we are citizens of heaven, because no matter the pressure around us to conform and just live like the world, we live like citizens of heaven. Not that we’re perfect, or don’t make mistakes or even sometimes don’t go with the wind forgetting who we are. But, our tendency is to stand firm.
Suffering truly can be a source for assurance and a witness to God’s goodness. I know that sounds unusual, but perhaps this analogy helps us understand. Ultimately, the unity of the church, believers all acting like little rocks following our Great Rock, who is Christ, and our refusal to cower even in the midst of pain or persecution, is a gracious sign that our heavenly citizenship is real.