When God Doesn’t Rescue (Philippians 1:12-30)

When God Doesn’t Rescue (Philippians 1:12-30)

“It is the great support and solace of the saints in all the distresses that befall them here, that there is a wise Spirit sitting in all the wheels of motion, and governing the most eccentric creatures, and their most pernicious designs, to blessed and happy issues”. – John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence

Paul is writing to the church of Philippians from prison. Paul had started the church of Philippians and so they had a very special place in his heart and he held a very special place in theirs.  They loved Paul and seeing him in prison for so long was difficult for them to bear and understand. To the Philippians and many others, Paul was a very great leader and influence and it was hard for them to comprehend why God would allow a man such as Paul to be arrested and to be confined for so long.

It was in Philippi that Paul and Silas were arrested together as recorded in Acts 16. After casting a demon out of a slave girl, Paul and Silas were arrested by the authorities, because the slave girl’s owners were upset they could not profit off her any longer. Both Paul and Silas were thrown into prison by the magistrates. At midnight it was recorded that they were praying and singing hymns to God in their cell when suddenly a violent earthquake shook the prison and opened the prison doors and everyone’s chains fell off.  The jailer must have slept through the violent earthquake because the text says he woke up and saw the prison doors open. He was ready to kill himself before the magistrates would kill him the next day for the escape of the prisoners, but Paul stopped him and said they were all still there. Another miracle. Open prison doors, loosened chains but the prisoners were still there.  The guard immediately wanted to know what he could do to be saved. The guard and his whole household was saved that night.

The church of Philippi remembered this story that had happened in their city. I wonder how often it had been told and spread about God’s miraculous deed.  The guard and his family may have been members of that very church in Philippi as they worried about Paul now.

We love stories like this. Stories of God’s miraculous intervention bringing about freedom and justice with his Sovereign power. We remember Peter in prison. An angel helped him escape one night. He walked out the front door. We want God to do it again! I’m sure the church of Philippi wanted God to do it again!

But God didn’t. God did not rescue Paul from this imprisonment that lasted about 4 years. We know that before Paul appealed to Caesar he was imprisoned for two years in Caesarea in Herod’s palace as a prisoner of Rome by Felix who was hoping for a bribe to free him. After he appealed to Caesar, he was transferred to Rome to stand trial before Emperor Caesar and continued to be a prisoner of Rome for another two years.

Acts 28 tells us that he was not treated like a common criminal. Instead, he was allowed to live by himself with a Roman soldier to guard him.

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! – Acts 28:30-31

Paul never considered himself a prisoner of Rome, in his writing he would refer to himself as a prisoner of Christ, a prisoner of God.

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—Eph. 3:1

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker—Phil 1:1

Vernon McGee described Paul’s mindset as God’s prisoner in this way.

If we had been there, we might have had a conversation with Paul like this:
“Poor Paul, it’s too bad these Romans put you in jail.”
“They didn’t put me in jail.”
“Oh, we know what you mean. Those hateful religious rulers brought a charge against you.”
“They didn’t put me in jail, either.”
“Who did, then?”
“Jesus Christ. I’m
His prisoner.”
“You mean to tell me that you would serve someone who put you in prison?”
“Yes, when it’s His will for me to be in prison, I’m in prison. When it’s His will for me to be out of prison, I’ll be out of prison. When it’s His will for me to be sick, I’m going to be sick. I belong to Him. And since I belong to Him, I have learned to be content in whatsoever state I am in.”
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philemon 3)

—From J. Vernon McGee’s Edited Messages on Philemon ©1983

It changes your whole perspective when you view your circumstances as being from God Himself doesn’t it?

It is because of sin that we suffer and many spend a great time defending God. God would never do this or allow this because He is good. This is not from Him. While there is truth in this, sin and evil are major factors in the problem of suffering in the world,  there is another major factor at play that we must never forget as Christians, that God is Sovereign and in His premier Sovereignty He makes sin and evil His slave to accomplish His purposes and will for the world through our tiny lives.

Paul knew who was in charge and who ultimately had power over him and his circumstances.  Paul saw the Roman guards, magistrates and authorities as simple of administers of God’s ultimate will; despite the fact they did not acknowledge God or seek to do the will of God, they were ultimately carrying out the will of God. Paul knew this and it was this truth, this trust in the providence of God that enabled him to have joy, peace and contentment in all his circumstances despite his affliction when God did not rescue him immediately as he hoped and as others prayed God would.

During his final imprisonment Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy:

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 2 Tim. 1:8

This is what Paul is asking of us today.  His words in this letter that have reached our hands in our generation is still valid. The invitation is still open. Even from heaven Paul is hoping this letter will reach our hearts and that we will see ourselves, our lives as prisoners of God also in whatever position God has placed us and chained us to. That we would serve God joyfully in our circumstances no matter how dark they are for the advancement of the gospel.

Paul gives us a great example to follow and to imitate.

“Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” – 1 Cor. 4:16

“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. “ – Philippians 3:17

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,

Paul wanted the church of Philippi to know something, to understand something that is key to his circumstances.

The church of Philippi was rightly concerned about Paul, having such a leader in prison was disheartening to them. Why didn’t God free him this time? The church needed him. He could do so much good for the church if he were free to preach and to spread the gospel but he was imprisoned and it seemed the church was imprisoned with him, the word of God was imprisoned with him, and was slowed down and halted because of this obstacle. Why didn’t God free Paul like He had before? It had been over 2 years now. They had been praying for him. They had been supporting him and it didn’t seem to make a difference.

Paul was glad the Philippian church was willing to share in his sufferings and commends them for it in chapter 4; but Paul wanted them to have a right understanding of his sufferings and what he was suffering for.

Paul was not suffering because he was in prison, which most would determine to be his cause of suffering. Paul was suffering to advance the gospel. This is what grieved him at night, not his circumstances, but the circumstances and condition of the lost, the Jews who were misled, the Roman guards who needed salvation, the Pharisees who were misleading the Jews, the false teachers and heresies that were being spread among the churches,  his own churches continued growth and faith in Christ. This is what Paul suffered for and was willing to be God’s prisoner for.

What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.

Many saw Paul being in prison as a hindrance to the spread of the gospel. If Paul was in prison, then his message was in prison, the word of God was in prison also.

However, the word of God was not confined. It was not in prison.

Paul saw God’s hand behind his circumstances and knew what happened to him had not in the least bit confined the spread of the gospel but had in all actuality served to spread it, to advance the gospel even further through his imprisonment.

During his time of imprisonment, Paul wrote the letters of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. There have been many books written from prison, think of John Bunyan and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God can use us wherever we are at.

God’s message was not in the least bit hindered but was actually spreading further because of Paul’s imprisonment then it could have without Paul’s imprisonment.

13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

Paul was able to stay in his own rented dwelling place with a soldier chained to him constantly for two years. Acts 28 says during this time he continued to teach about Christ and welcomed everyone who came to him.

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! – Acts 28:30-31

It became to everyone, the authorities, the soldiers that he was chained to that Paul was no criminal, he was in prison because of he took a stand for Christ. He was a model prisoner and found favor in Rome, much as Joseph found favor in Egypt when he was also unjustly put in prison. Joseph’s guards knew they had nothing to fear from Joseph and even put him in charge because of his godly character and leadership abilities.

Paul’s soldiers soon came to see that they had nothing to fear from Paul either as a criminal instead he was probably one of the most loving, wise and humble prisoners they had ever been chained too.

 “Sometimes the obstacles that appear to block the gospel actually become stepping stones in which the Holy Spirit brings the gospel to them.” – Unknown

These Roman soldiers would have been chained to Paul for approx. 6 hours a day as they rotated shifts. They saw and knew everything about him. They must have heard the gospel a thousand times if they heard it once as Paul welcomed people into his rented home, taught about Jesus Christ, and debated with the Pharisees who did come to his home. The soldiers listened. They saw firsthand the debate and how Paul was in chains for Christ and the good attitude Paul had about it. They heard that the gospel was not just for the Jews but also for the Gentiles, for them, I wonder how many of those soldiers became Christians because of their routinely being chained to Paul?

How else would Paul had such a great opportunity to reach these Roman soldiers and authorities by their being forced to live with him? Paul was not chained to a soldier, the soldier was chained to Paul. Paul was free to live as he would have without the soldier. Free to teach. Free to pray. Free to fellowship. Free to talk freely. Paul was not hindered, if anything he was protected by always having his very own personal guard close by. God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform!

On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,  for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” – Matthew 10:18-20

The Roman authorities were forced to hear the gospel over and over again as Paul was interrogated before them on multiple occasions. Paul’s being in prison actually served to advance the gospel message to the Gentiles in Rome.

1And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

There is nothing like seeing someone take a stand for honor, for love, for integrity, for righteousness against all odds that does not inspire us to stand too. Paul inspired other Christians to stand their ground for Christ. If Paul suffered this much surely I can suffer this small thing. It was Jesus Christ who inspired Paul. If Jesus suffered the cross for my sins, I can suffer this.

Paul continually did not want his brothers and sisters in Christ, especially the weaker ones, the fearful ones, to lose heart when they saw his afflictions..

“For this reason I ask you not to lose heart because of what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” – Eph 3:13

“So that no one would be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.” – 1 Thess 3:3

Paul was always more concerned about his brothers and sisters in the faith then he was about himself. This is another example we can take to heart in Paul. When it seemed that Paul was the one to be encouraged, here was Paul encouraging others in his affliction, by his affliction.

We are all being watched when we are in an affliction. Our friends and family are concerned about us and we do need encouragement. However, how can we seek to encourage others from the center of our affliction so that when they face the same trials, and most will one day suffer the grief we suffer now for death and disappointment is universal to all, others will remember our example, how we survived. Perhaps we did not rejoice through our affliction, but we thrived and grew through our affliction and are stronger for it. Many experience the same affliction and their lives are weaker and futures shattered by it. This is the difference the gospel makes, the peace it affords us despite our tears that enables us to stand strong again, that God will redeem our circumstances and transform our pain into redemptive blessings in our lives. Evil can’t come to rest upon the life of God’s child for the spirit of God surrounds him and protects him as a blaze of fire around his soul.  Evil can flitter and flutter about us like a dust ball as we walk through the world but our hearts are sealed and sanctified by the power of Christ and his Spirit.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Rom 8:28

Others will one day suffer job losses, cancer, grief, financial issues, rebellious kids, etc..etc… Paul never lost sight that he was a leader and he always sought to lead others closer to Christ even in his own affliction, it was always an opportunity to advance the gospel, to prove the gospel, to display the power of the gospel at work in his life to others.

Because of Paul’s chains and sufferings the others were encouraged to preach without fear of imprisonment. He suffered joyfully. He invited others to share in his suffering for the cause of the gospel.

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 2 Tim. 1:8

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.

Paul was so influential that he did stir up others to stand for Christ and to preach Christ but not everyone preached Christ with pure motives or from pure intentions. Paul isn’t referring to the false content of their message, but false motives behind their preaching. The content is proclaiming Christ, but the motives for proclaiming Christ are in question.

Some went into preaching Christ for selfish motives, they wanted some of Paul’s fame, they loved arguments and disputes, they liked to be the center of attention, they were glory seekers, they envied the influence Paul had, they thought they could preach a better gospel and taught out of rivalry to Paul. Even in Paul’s day there were many preachers who called themselves to the pulpit.

Their preaching Christ out of rivalry tried to stir up trouble for Paul. They may have taught a more friendly, seeker sensitive message, dulling the gospel of Christ. They still proclaimed Christ but may have stayed away from the more controversial topics that were sensitive to the Jews to avoid offending anyone. If Paul had only softened his message he wouldn’t have been arrested, his message would have been accepted.

It’s agitating even today to hear such watered down gospel messages preached. Messages where we wonder where is the gospel? Where is the point? But God often does and can use these messages where Christ is preached too and in that we can with Paul rejoice. They are far from the perfect messages, but Christ is being preached in many of them.

Others did preach Christ out love and goodwill. God knows our hearts when we preach and teach and what motives are behind our words if we are trying to please others or please Him. One of the greatest true motives behind preaching is love and goodwill. We may not be the best teachers or preachers but love for others compels us to share the word of God, the gospel of God, the salvation and good news of Jesus Christ no matter what the consequences are to us. We may run no risk of being arrested but we must be willing to appear a fool at times in the other’s eyes.

A.W Tozer shared a prayer of his own concerning his attitude toward competition in the ministry. It is beneficial for everyone.

“Dear Lord, I refuse henceforth to compete with any of Thy servants. They have congregations larger than mine. So be it. I rejoice in their success. They have greater gifts. Very well. That is not in their power nor in mine. I am humbly grateful for their greater gifts and my smaller ones. I only pray that I may use to Thy glory such modest gifts as I possess. I will not compare myself with any, nor try to build up my self-esteem by noting where I may excel one or another in Thy holy work. I herewith make a blanket disavowal of all intrinsic worth. I am but an unprofitable servant. I gladly go to the foot of the cross and own myself the least of Thy people. If I err in my self judgment and actually underestimate myself I do not want to know it. I purpose to pray for others and to rejoice in their prosperity as if it were my own. And indeed it is my own if it is Thine own, for what is Thine is mine, and while one plants and another waters it is Thou alone that giveth the increase.” (The Price of Neglect, 104-105)

18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Once again, Paul is not seeking his own glory, he is not seeking his own fame and does not care what these preachers say about him, he rejoices that even in this Christ is preached. God uses their selfish ambition and motives for His own purposes and Paul trusted in the Providence of God and rejoiced in it.

Paul was able to rejoice because he did not think of himself but thought only of Christ. It was not about his benefit or gain but how did this benefit and gain Christ? Everything Paul went through was filtered through this lens and thinking.  Paul had died. Christ lived in Paul. Paul lived for Christ.

Guzik sums up Paul’s attitude towards these other preachers in the ministry:

“If you preach the true gospel, I don’t care what your motives are. If your motives are bad, God will deal with you – but at least the gospel is preached. But if you preach a false gospel, I don’t care how good your motives are. You are dangerous and must stop preaching your false gospel, and good motives don’t excuse your false message.”

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance

Paul did not allow himself to worry about his dark circumstances or how others added to it. Instead Paul chose to rejoice. He chose to trust God and not to give his rivals any further concern or thought. God was Sovereign over his providence and he would be delivered in God’s timing. Paul was confident of this. He was God’s prisoner not Rome’s prisoner.

Paul believed in the power of prayer and he knew the Philippians were praying for him. He trusted that God would answer their prayers in his time and their prayers were what would ultimately work towards freeing him.

Paul’s comfort and strength came through the Holy Spirit providing everything he needed. Paul was a true living demonstration of Philippians 4:19

            “My God will meet all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Paul lived what he taught. He spoke from life experience. If God worked this way in his life, God would work this way in every Saints life who appealed to him and looked to him in trust.

 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Paul expected and hoped, these are words of absolute faith in God. Paul hoped in God alone and expected God to deliver him in his perfect timing.

But even if God didn’t deliver Paul, and Paul experienced martyrdom for Christ, Paul maintained the same attitude of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3 when they replied to King Nebuchadnezzar:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Paul’s attitude was the same as that of Esther in facing the King in Esther 4:16.

Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.

It is this same attitude that we need to pray for and strive for when we are suffering. God can deliver us. He has in the past but if God does not deliver us Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or in death.

Paul had one goal that he was willing to both live and die for. His purpose in life was very clear and that was to live for Christ.

It is God’s purpose for us to, to live for Christ in all circumstances, in all callings, in all careers where God has placed us. Living for Christ is not only the secret to joy in affliction but the secret to tapping into all the rich resources of Christ promised to us through the Holy Spirit.

Living for Christ gave Paul the courage he needed to face any circumstance God put him in.

Living for Christ gave Paul the confidence he needed that he would in no way be put to shame. He could look like a fool to the world for the cause of Christ.

Living for Christ enabled Paul to experience joy and rejoice in every circumstance because in every circumstance Paul sought to advance the gospel, proclaim Christ and did not seek to live for himself. Paul lived for Christ literally.

Living for Christ enabled Paul to live without fear because even death led him closer to Christ. The only authority he feared was God himself and as long as he lived to please God, Paul had nothing to fear.

Living for Christ gave Paul peace and contentment in all circumstances because Paul trusted in the Providence of God and knew God was sovereign and in control over every circumstance.

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

It bears repeating. Paul lived for Christ and not for himself.  If he had lived for himself, then yes, he lived a very disappointing life, being arrested, cooped up in prison, beaten, and misunderstood. Just listen to him in his letter to the Corinthians as he “boasted” about his qualifications:

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.

 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.

Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;

In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.

 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?

 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.

 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. 2 Cor 11:23-31

But Paul did not live for himself or for his own gain, Paul lived for Christ, Christ’s gain and whatever loss he suffered personally Paul saw as a gain for Christ. Whatever Paul gained personally Paul saw as a loss for Christ.

Paul was not curled up in a ball lying in a corner in some prison bed bemoaning his awful circumstances in a pity party. Instead he was very active in working to advance the gospel from prison to live for Christ.

His opportunity to live for Christ was not diminished by his suffering instead it was amplified by his suffering and so is ours. Our suffering is the pedestal on which God lifts us up before the eyes of others who are near us watching and praying for us, or even scorning us at times, and displays his glory and adequacy to the world. It’s not a fun place to be, no more then the cross was to Jesus. It’s hard place to be, difficult with each breath. It’s only the nails of our circumstances holding us there that keep us there as a living sacrifice to God.  It’s hard to have all eyes upon you when you hurt, to be exposed to the world, to not see the God we boast of and have lived for rescue us from our cross but instead call us to die and trust him still. The cross is hard to bear but it is where God always does his most powerful work in our lives in the dark places of our heart where our real inward suffering is that no man can see but God and us.  It is where God does his most powerful work in the hearts of others as they watch our long term suffering either from force of love or from curiosity and entertainment.

Suffering tries us and shows what we are living for, it shows what is in us, what we are made of. Many times we do not like to see what comes out of us when we are suffering. As we are pressed we will make excuses for it, that if we were not so angry, if we were not so tired, if we were not in so much pain, if we were not frustrated, if we were not so ______ fill in the blank, we would never have acted that way.

Suffering shows what it is in us as we are crushed, Paul’s suffering displayed Christ. It displayed faith in God the Father in sovereign control, it flourished his love for others, it did not spew hatred, resentment, bitterness. When Paul was crushed, the spirit of Christ was displayed because Paul had crucified himself and lived for Christ alone. When Christ was crushed he displayed only a deeper love, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Whenever we display hatred, impatience, envy, resentment, bitterness towards others after we are crushed,  is it not because we ourselves have suffered some personal injury, injustice or loss and we take personal offense? We strike back with our words, with our attitude so that we are not taken advantage of or mistreated, we are motivated to protect ourselves, our reputation, our lives.

It should not be so. When we strike back we are living for ourselves, protecting ourselves, seeking our own personal gain and benefit and not that of Jesus Christ.

We cannot live for Christ and ourselves at the same time. We can only live one life. We can only protect one life. If we would protect the life of Christ in us then our fleshly life is going to suffer. We will have to bite our tongue so Christ can be displayed fully. We are going to have to deal with that resentment and put it to death before it boils out of us and harms another person because Christ would not allow bitterness and resentment to flow from him.

Do you see? We cannot live for ourselves and for Christ at the same time. One has to die. We can either crucify ourselves by putting ourselves to death or we can crucify Christ in us and put him to death so we can continue to live.

It’s a daily battle over who gets to live. The flesh or the Spirit. If we do not attempt to fight sin then it’s a no brainer, we live and Christ does not live in us. He cannot. It’s just not possible.

 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Paul had no fear of dying, on the contrary he looked forward to dying because he greatly desired to depart from the sufferings of this world and be with Christ which is far better.

Going to heaven meant freedom from every suffering, every sin and every temptation.

Going to heaven means Paul would be in the company of all the saints who had departed before him.

Going to heaven meant that Paul had finished the race, he had fought the good fight, he had kept his faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

Going to heaven meant rest, rewards, inheritance and so much more.

Paul had every reason to desire to go to depart and go to heaven, but one reason kept him and that was his great  love of the church, for the advancement of the gospel Paul would remain a prisoner even in this world confined to his own body to live for Christ for as long as God gave him breath.

Paul still had a message to proclaim to the world and that was what made it necessary for him to keep living. He knew that his continuing to live contributed to the progress and growth of the churches faith and to their level of joy. He would not take that away from them even if meant that he would continue to suffer in this world.

Paul still had work to do as long as God enabled him to live.

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Paul gave a great example for whatever happens, imprisonment, beatings, afflictions, sufferings, storm tossed trips, whatever happens to you in this life, live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

The word “conduct” here means “to live as a citizen”. Paul was encouraging them to live as a worthy citizen for the kingdom of God. That is where our true citizenship and allegiance lies.

Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.

Paul did not need Facebook or the internet to keep up with the Philippians. Word still traveled in his day and he wanted to hear good things about the Philippians in his absence.  He wanted the Philippians to keep their unity with each other as the body of Christ, to not become fragmented by those who opposed them, who would try to separate them and lead their members away from each other and scatter them.

The word “frightened” here is a word picture for the uncontrollable stampede of startled horses.  Paul did not want them to be frightened and to scatter when opposed as our temptation is to run in every direction but to stand their ground against their opposers.

Our enemies and opposers work off of fear. If they cannot make us afraid and fearful, they cannot control us. The more we fear God and God alone, the less fear we have about anything else in this world.

Fear of God is the ultimate distinguisher of all other fears in life; to not fear God, is to fear everything else.

Fear of God is evidence of our salvation and will actually deliver us from many troubles in this world where fear drives us as slaves. When we are acting out of fear, we think we are preserving our lives but the truth is when we are acting out of fear that is not the fear of God, we are loosing our life. God calls us to courage to trust him, to fear Him over all fears.

29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,

Many times when we suffer, we think God has abandoned us and left us alone but the truth is suffering is granted to us, we are given opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ, to suffer for his sake.

We suffer as we wait on him, we suffer as we serve others even though they mistreat us, or do not appreciate or recognize us. We choose to suffer and to show love by doing the right thing to glorify God when it costs us and we receive no benefit. We suffer when we deny temptation in our lives.

“Look up and take each throb of pain, each hour of agony, as a gift. Dare to thank Him for it. Look inside the envelope of pain for the message it enfolds. It is a rough packing-case, but there is treasure in it.” (Meyer)

30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Paul understood the suffering of the Philippians since he shared them with them.  He understood the difficulty of proclaiming the gospel in their generation  and what they were up against. If the Philippians shared Paul’s suffering they could also share his joy in the suffering and his comfort from God.

“For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” – 2 Cor 1:5