Philippians 1:21-30 (NRSV)
Verse 21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Verse 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. Verse 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; Verse 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Verse 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, Verse 26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
Verse 27Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, Verse 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God's doing. Verse 29For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well- Verse 30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Russell Moore, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, recently expressed his concern that a growing number of people who say they are Christian are calling Jesus’ teachings “liberal talking points” and challenging the truths in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount—as if returning the situation of the church of the 1st century, facing challenges and even persecution from the world around them because of their beliefs and practices as followers of Jesus.
Little wonder that the Apostle Paul, writing from prison to encourage the Philippian Christians, was torn between wanting “to depart and be with Christ” or “to remain in the flesh” and continue to serve his friends and companions in the church.
We face the same mission of telling and living the head- and heart-crunching stories of Jesus, and the same obstacles of those who came before us: doubt, resistance, and rejection. We are also strengthened by Christ’s presence and hope. “We have been granted the privilege of believing in Christ and suffering for Christ.”
Challenging God, our cross lies before us as we walk and talk your gospel among people who do not find your mission acceptable. Help and guide us to speak your truth, your power, and your promise. Amen.