In this short reading, Paul reveals several challenges we face in how we are living our lives. At first, I couldn’t help remembering how we all scurried around the house on a Sunday morning so we could all look our best at church. Then there were the repeated reminders to “be on your best behavior.” These days, it seems anything goes in terms of attire at church, and that’s okay because God can see our hearts.
So, what does Paul mean then by “conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” What does that mean to you? Thankfully, Paul does give us a few clues to help us sort that out.
Paul suggests we should be plugged into a community of believers. Any time you have a group of people together, there is no guarantee everyone will agree on all issues. What happens then? Paul’s solution is that we should be “standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith.”
I love the image that creates in my mind. Imagine a line of normal people like you and me, standing arm in arm, equipped with the Holy Spirit ready to take on the world. There is nothing more encouraging than to be surrounded by a group of people who all love Jesus and take the gospel seriously. When you’re in a group of like-minded people, you can’t help but energize each other. Christians on fire with the Holy Spirit are a special breed!
Sad to say, I’ve met a lot of “wishy washy” Christians in my day. I know because I used to be one myself. Showing up for church every Sunday does always make for a devoted believer. Knowing your Bible doesn’t matter if you don’t live it or obey it.
The switch happened for me when I truly grasped what Jesus had done for me. I reconciled all the guilt I had built up inside for years of bad choices I had made in my life. I continue to lay those “mistakes” at Jesus’ feet knowing his forgiveness is for me. Have you experienced this joy in your own spiritual journey?
What a privilege it is to be redeemed and loved by Jesus. Paul said it so eloquently. “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” That’s a clue we should acknowledge as a foreshadow of what is to come. Being a Christian is not always easy.
The attacks from the evil one are brutal. They are especially disheartening when they come from other “so-called” believers. Paul never sugar coats the gospel, even to his friends in Philippi. His own life example sets the stage for what is possible when we stand on our beliefs.
Have you ever imagined yourself being incarcerated for your faith? The magazine, Christianity Today, has posted articles the past several years listing the 50 most dangerous places for Christians. The organization, Open Doors USA exists to support God’s people shining for Him despite constant hardship. All over the world, Christians risk everything to follow Jesus. Are you feeling persecuted?
Remember, you are not alone. Think of the faithful ones who have gone before you all the way back to when Paul first said these words. “We are in this struggle together.” Sometimes it simply helps to know others feel the same pressure from the world. Our immunity is being in Christ Jesus, and we have to remember that above all.
You’ll recall Jesus’ words as part of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:10-12. “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”
Focus on what a privilege it is to be used by God for his purposes. Couple that with the great inheritance we have been given to live our eternity with Jesus in heaven, away from all the haters and struggles we now face. We are privileged indeed!
Let’s pray … Lord, I thank you for the privilege of knowing you. Thank you for how you have equipped Paul and others to bring the Bible alive for us. I know that persecution will come. Help me to stand strong in my faith and not falter. May I always reflect your grace and love in all circumstances. In Jesus’ name. Amen.