“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him…” Philippians 1:29

We’ve been “granted” two things: To believe in (on) Christ, and to suffer for Him. Some translations say we’ve been “given the privilege” or “given the honor” to do these two things. I surely count it a privilege and an honor to believe in Christ and to serve Him. But do I count it a privilege and honor to suffer for Him? Clearly Paul did, but…

In preparing for our Bible study on Philippians, Phil looked up the word that is translated “granted.” Are you ready for this? It will knock your socks off! At least it did mine.
The word is “charizomai” and it’s a derivative of the word “charis” that was translated “grace” in verse 2 of this chapter. See Grace, the Double-Powered Prayer for more on that.

Charizomai means “to freely give something out of kindness or as a favor, which will help or rescue the person receiving it.” OK. Let’s put it in context:

“I have (you have) been freely given (out of the kindness of God) the privilege of believing in Christ and that belief will help or rescue you.” Cool! I like that!

“I have (you have) been freely given (out of the kindness of God) the privilege of suffering for Christ and that suffering will help or rescue you.” Say what?

My suffering has been given to me out of the kindness of God…that means it’s not always from the enemy, but from the hand of God, out of his kindness! (Kindness?) And it will rescue me. (Rescue me?)

I think it’s important here to point out that we’re not talking about receiving the discipline of God. We’re talking about suffering for Christ. Suffering injustly simply because of our faith in Christ and/or serving Him .

And (amazingly) this is found in Philippians, the book commonly referred to as “the book of Joy.” I repeat…Say What???

We asked our group how this could possibly be…how can suffering rescue us? How can it possibly be out of the kindness of God? Here’s some of the answers we came up with:
– It teaches us to focus on Christ and things of eternal value – It gives us more opportunity to know the goodness of God when He rescues us – It gives us more opportunity to know the goodness of God’s people when they support us – It teaches us compassion for others – It strengthens our “love muscle,” teaching us to love when it’s not easy to love (Don’t look now, but I think that list comes awfully close to defining spiritual maturity.)

All of this is consistent with the message of joy that Paul presents in chapter 1. Over and over again we see that the joy Paul possesses is a joy that comes out of seeing what God is doing in others, rather than a joy that comes out of our own circumstances.

In other words, if we want to experience joy, we must “get outside ourselves.” And sometimes suffering is what God brings into our lives to shock us out of our self-absorption.

Caveat…this is what God is teaching us…it’s not what I’ve learned yet! I’d much prefer for God to teach me these things through easy, patient circumstances not suffering. I realize that what I need is a change in perspective on suffering. And quite frankly, I’m afraid to ask for it! Because God is true to His Word and I’m afraid He’ll say “Ask and you shall receive.” And I’m not quite ready (willing? – Ouch!) for more suffering. So please pray for me what I can’t pray for myself – pray for a change in my perspective on suffering. (If you’d like me to pray the same for you, let me know.)

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