The Privilege of Persecution
Read Philippians 1:29-30 (ESV)
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.
How can suffering for the sake of Christ be considered a privilege?
There are an awful lot of preachers out there teaching a message contrary to Scripture. It sounds good. It tickles our ears. It may even calm some anxious hearts. But it is not the truth of God’s Word. If you are hearing the message that once you become a Christian, all of your problems disappear, you are being lied to. If you are being told that if you trust Christ, you will be blessed with health and wealth, you are being lied to. This is called the Prosperity Gospel and it is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yesterday, we talked about how we don’t have to fear those opposed to Christ. We don’t have to be afraid of persecution. In today’s verse, Paul is telling the Philippians not only to expect persecution, but he says that suffering for the sake of Christ “has been granted to you.” Granted means suffering has been given to us as a gift. John MacArthur called believers’ suffering a “gift of grace.” It is a privilege.
How can we consider suffering a privilege? Because of who we are suffering for. We are suffering for Jesus Christ. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Son of God. He is our Creator and our Savior. And He suffered immensely for us.
In Acts 5:40-41, we read of the apostles getting flogged by the Sanhedrin for preaching about Jesus. In verse 41 it says, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (NIV). They had just been beaten and yet they were rejoicing that they had been worthy of suffering!
There is no glory in suffering for doing wrong. There is no honor in being punished when it is deserved. But there is great honor in suffering unjustly for a righteous cause, especially if that cause is proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ, the One who came to save the world!
And in that suffering, Paul gave us this encouragement: we are not suffering for Christ all by ourselves. Paul suffered alongside his brothers and sisters in Christ. All of Jesus’ disciples suffered and all except one were martyred. And of course, Jesus Himself suffered and died on our behalf. We are all “engaged in the same conflict.”
Friends, if you are experiencing suffering and persecution, you are in good company! A long line of saints have gone before you, God will raise up more after you are gone, and many are walking the same road beside you, right now. We have been granted the grace of suffering for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You have been chosen to follow Him, serve Him and suffer for Him. What a privilege to be worthy of persecution for His great Name.
Lord, I know that You understand that facing persecution is never easy. You walked that road before me. But I consider it a great honor and privilege to bear Your name and suffer for it if necessary because that means that I am one of Yours. Give me the strength to bear it well. Thank You for the hope I have in You that makes this temporary pain eternally worthwhile. Amen.