Standing, Striving, and Suffering

Hovering over the last few verses of Philippians 1 this morning. And as I do, a quote from Benjamin Franklin that I used years and years ago as part of a team building exercise at work comes to mind:

“We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”

Apparently he made this statement at the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He was referring to the need for the signers, and the states they represented, to stick together against a common enemy, Great Britain.

Common adversity has a way of bringing people together. Tough times a way of tightening the ranks. A prevailing foe a way of mobilizing the family.

So, it would seem, was Paul’s thinking, as well.

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. . . . 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.

(Philippians 1:27-29 ESV)

For it has been granted to you to suffer for Christ.

Granted. What a word the Spirit chose to use. Charizomai in the Greek. From the root word charis. Recognize that? That’s the word for grace, for gifting, for giving someone that which they don’t deserve. They had been gifted the opportunity to suffer for the sake of Christ. Their persecution was a “gimme” for living out the good news. A scenario to show what it looks like to walk in a way consistent with the gospel. So that their oppressed circumstance might be a window into the dynamics of the difference the good news makes in everyday, and not so everyday, trials of life.

And so, in their common suffering, in their common persecution, they were to stand and they were to strive. And they were to do it together. In one spirit. With one mind. Side by side.

Suffering allowed for the church to shine. Opposition was an opportunity for the gospel to be seen. A common enemy was a way for making known their common faith. We must all hang together.

You’d think then that, perhaps, prosperity rather than persecution could become the enemy of unity. That when the going gets too easy standing firm is not seen as quiet so important. Striving together not really all that necessary. Being of one mind and one spirit are a “nice to have” when I’m able to live my own life, for my own purposes, with my own resources. Maybe ease is really less a “gift” then being granted suffering for His sake.

But, if we haven’t recognized it already, I’m thinking that things aren’t as easy around us as we might believe. That those who name the name of Christ are increasingly losing favor with the prevailing culture. That our Way is not just viewed as a way but, more and more, is seen at large as the wrong way. And this is just the beginning.

And so, maybe it has been granted to us for the sake of Christ to not only believe in Him but to suffer for His sake.

And so, church, we need to hang together. Standing firm in one spirit. Striving side by side with one mind. Our unity a rebuke of the idolatry of individualism. Our private devotion to our Savior, and to His truth, and to His Bride, an affront to the self-serving, destructive, and divisive public discourse of the day. Walking in a manner worthy of the gospel, that the power of salvation might be known.

By His grace. For His glory.

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