Stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. — Philippians 1:27-28
Sometimes Christians appear a little shaky. Some lash out at critics. In some cases, because of fears that a “culture war” might cause trouble for the church, some Christians urge people to engage in hardball politics to try to get their way.
Make no mistake: Paul tells the Philippians to stand firm and not to compromise the gospel. We have enemies to face. But we have to face them in a way that is consistent with the gospel and with Jesus, who willingly suffered rather than lash out in anger. “Don’t be scared of those who oppose you,” Paul says, in effect; “fear is for uncertain people. But if we are certain that we have already won the victory in Jesus, then we have nothing to fear, and our confidence proves to our enemies that they have already lost!”
These verses from Philippians deliver a daunting challenge. For Paul’s first readers, this was not easy to do in the Roman Empire, where hostility toward the church became state policy. Nobody would want to suffer. Yet Paul says that suffering was “granted” to the Philippians, as though it was a gift.
That’s the way Paul saw it. To suffer for Jesus and like Jesus— well, that’s a gift. And it helps the world see Jesus more clearly than if we try to inflict suffering on others because of our fears.
Increase our confidence in you, O God, so that we can stand firm in adversity and display to the world the certainty of our faith in you. In Christ, Amen.