“Suffering, a Privilege?” Or: “It’s War!”

29 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, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Phil 1:29-30)

The Apostle Paul tells the Philippians here that grace has not given them the privilege of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, but also to experience pain, punishment, and distress–for his sake. The privilege is to be engaged in the cosmic war, doing our divinely assigned part to advance the gospel. The more suffering we endure in our calling, as a direct result of obeying clear  instructions from the Lord, the greater of a position in the war effort we have.

Now, the riveter building warplanes has as vital a role as the soldier on the front lines, and the riveter may suffer sore muscles for his or her task to stop the forces of evil, but the soldier on the front lines has the greater glory for he (or she nowadays) bears the greatest risk.  The higher the price we pay in a godly war effort, in theory, the greater the glory.

Christianity today has become wishy-washy in some circles, all about the promises of comfort and peace and joy and forgiveness, prosperity and healing. Turning the other cheek, agreeing quickly with your adversary, avoiding conflict and being a peace-maker who is slow to judgment and quick to listen and respectful and loving to all.

That’s taking a cookie cutter to the Bible.  Our war is not against flesh and blood, but we are in a war, brothers and sisters.

Now, we should follow the rules of engagement, and the human lives around us are the territories being fought over, not the enemy, and we must stay alert. To the enemy, we are either combatants to neutralize or eliminate from the arena of war, or we are ourselves territory to seek to retake and oppress.

In this world, no suffering means we’ve either been neutralized by the enemy via deception like the cookie cutter approach to scripture, we’ve been taken captive by the enemy to do his will and haven’t manifested the bitter fruits of oppression yet,  or we’ve been given leave between battles so we can refresh and refill in preparation for a battle as great as the amount of rest we’ve been given.

Suffering means we are either hot or cold, actively doing what the Lord has called us to and facing the opposition, or a POW taken captive. It is vital we discern the source of our present suffering or its absence.

Lord, give me wisdom to discern the season I am in and ears that hear your call. Grant me a courageous heart willing to fight the good fight according to your principles, when and where you call me. Grant me eyes that see clearly who our enemy is and that perceive as you do the lives around me that are being fought over, used against what you have sent me to do, and who are fighting beside me or in other arenas of the cosmic war. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.