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.
We have all heard the saying, “Words mean things.” It is a saying intended to remind us of the grave responsibility we have to be good stewards of our words. A word spoken cannot be unspoken; nor can it be unheard. Words can be potent. Yet it is true that words lose much of their power when not ratified by actions. Whether confession or profession, words have no true staying power without the support of action. “Little children,” wrote John, “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Put simply: words are important, but they cannot stand alone. Paul reminded the church in Philippi that they had received the gift of belief for the sake of Christ. More than that, he urged, they were recipients of the gift of suffering because of Him. [It is fascinating that Paul used gift language (“it has been granted to you”) to describe our responsibilities of belief and suffering]. He understood that to believe was important, but that simple belief does not stand on its own (cf. the demons in James 2:19). For Christians of all generations, the privilege we enjoy through the gift of Christ does not have as its apex our profession of belief. Rather, belief is confirmed through our joint participation with Christ— and each other—as we walk faithfully through the experiences we face in this life as his people. As his children, ones who have received the gift of salvation through our faith in him, we welcome with equal joy adversity and plenty, knowing the One for whose sake we live. From Paul’s perspective, to suffer for Christ was the ultimate earthly experience. Casting everything else aside, Paul desired greatly to share in the suffering of Jesus for the purpose of being more like Him. This is our call, too. In learning more of Christ, we imitate and love him more. In loving him more, we long to face what he faced because we know that his “fellowship of suffering” will lead us ever closer to being like him. This has been granted to us for the sake of Christ.