What it takes to be well-intentioned to be a kingdom citizen?
Pre-Introduction: hello church… wishing you a very blessed and fruitful Sunday! We normally say, God is good all the time and all the time God is good! Yes God is good… but the irony is that, not every good thing comes from God. And not every good thing is good.
Raising the need: illustration… many years ago… probably 12 years ago from now...
- What it takes to be well-intentioned? Philippians 1:27–28
To be well – intentioned a virtuous/noble conduct counts - This section begins with the adverb “only”, which is pointing to a sense of urgency and priority. Now it says, only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. The command to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel” serves as the overarching theme of the entire book. The term “only” could also be translated as “just this one thing” (that shows the urgency/priority). So Paul gives the key command and then proceeds to explain and to illustrate what establishes commendable/virtuous conduct.
Interestingly, the term “conduct yourselves” contains the root word for “citizen” that is found in Philippians 3:20 which says, “your citizenship is in heaven.” It has nuances of citizenship responsibilities. So this word is associated with living according to the cultural rules and religious expectations of the Roman state. Citizens were expected to be particularly loyal to the Empire and the Emperor and maintain high social standards.
You know what, the Philippians live in a free Roman city, and thus understand from their own experience what it means to live as citizens. Citizenship was important in Philippi. Those days, it was a special privilege and is a source of pride to be identified as citizens of Philippi. So Paul wisely uses that strong sense of identity and makes the point that just as much as being a citizen of Philippi—you are citizens of a kingdom that is even more important. It is a call for much higher citizenship to reflect the highest standards which is totally different standard from their Roman citizenship. Therefore, here Paul is picking up on that very motif and elevating it to include their heavenly citizenship as well. Paul means that the Philippians—though citizens of the Roman free city of Philippi—should conduct themselves as citizens of God’s kingdom.
And captivatingly Paul’s word choice here is very intentional again. Now, you know the word Paul chose for standing was used to refer to a soldier at his post in war. So this very word translated “stand firm” (steko) described a Roman military formation in which the soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder and back to back with their shields and spears up. This can be one of the strongest possible defensive position, that a soldier who defended his position at all costs, even to the point of sacrificing their own life. Figuratively, it means to hold fast to a belief, a conviction, or a principle without compromise, regardless of personal cost. “Standing firm in one spirit” is to remain solid in their commitment to the gospel. Thus by saying all this, Paul expects great things from the Philippians whether he is able to come and see them or whether he just hears a good report. To stand firm is to stand united—in one spirit, in one accord. To stand as worthy citizens is to stand firm on the gospel. Our unity is very much vital to standing firm as one.
Again you know friends it is very interesting for us to learn that, Paul has just used political and military word pictures, and now he moves to the world of athletics. The word translated “striving together” (sunathleo) gives us the notion of “athletics.” So, Paul pictures the church as a team, and he reminds the Philippians that it is teamwork that wins victories. We must stand striving together for the faith of the gospel. Paul is reminding the Philippians that we are not just called to stand and firmly do nothing but stand firm as we strive to see the gospel advance. And we are to go about that work together.
Verse 28 Now Paul is saying that standing strong for Christ demands rejecting to be intimidated by our enemies/by our rivalries. The word translated “alarmed” (ptyresthai) is not found somewhere else in the entire Greek Bible. But it is used on occasion in Classical Greek of timid horses that shy upon being startled at some unexpected object. This is to say that, we are to make no mistake, while we are spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will have enemies, but we must be well prepared for that. We shouldn’t be surprised.
So this is to say that if we live in a manner worthy of the gospel we will be unalarmed by our opposition (Philippians 1:28). This is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for us. There wouldn’t be no reason to be intimidated/scared/frightened or alarmed if we unified and strive together to advance the cause of Christ.
Friends, we have recently celebrated the 72nd Republic Day in India. Though we were few, we celebrate in our college campus. On that day, Mrs. Malini who is our Senior Vice President of our college was giving a speech. She was reminding our Indian constitution, how to be a good citizen and also talked about the 4 core values which we are to follow, i.e., justice, liberty, integrity and fraternity, to live with the sense of togetherness, with one heart, stand united and have the spirit of oneness. (Explain a bit)
Friends, Philippians weren’t only supposed to stand firm only when Paul was present—our faith is not linked to someone’s opinion of you or the opinions of the people. This is not a message of condemnation—it’s a call for us to stand firm, a call to conduct ourselves worthy of his calling, a call to live a well-intentioned life, and a call to be a good citizen of heaven.
- What it takes to be well-intentioned?
To be well-intentioned suffering well counts – Philippians 1:29-30
Not every good thing comes from God. And not very good thing is good. What’s the point? Somehow, suffering comes from God. I’m not saying evil comes from God. But it is God who allows you to suffer. God allows suffering to forge character into the lives of His children. “The root of suffering is attachment” – Buddha
Verse 29-30: Paul is calling us to a hard thing. In fact, it’s a thing that will ultimately lead to suffering. If we plant ourselves firmly on the foundation of the gospel, if we stand united in our striving then we will be assured that we stand together suffering. Paul calls suffering a gift. Here in this last two verses; Paul mentions something which is very important. He says, suffering is a privilege, and that ultimately all suffering is bound up with that of Christ; to suffer as a Christian is to suffer on Christ’s ‘behalf’ (1:29) and to take part in the glorious work of the Gospel (1:29). Yes, Paul tells them that it has been granted for Christ’s sake “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Paul explains that suffering is “a grace in concealed.” The word “granted” (echaristhe) is built off the Greek word for “grace” (charis). So, that means, the gift of suffering is too important and too significant.” Suffering is a gift of God’s grace!
By saying this of course it’s true to ask that “What kind of God would say that? What type of God would say, “I’m giving you the gift of suffering”? (Illustration about myself)
But let us all remember, Jesus didn’t tell people, “Come to me and your life will get easier . . . your problems will disappear and everybody will like you. . .” but He did promise peace and joy and life; but He didn’t promise people a trouble free existence in this life. Paul didn’t win people with a gospel of comfort and convenience. But he told people that “continuing in the faith” would be costly.
And Paul wants to encourage them because they are beginning to suffer for the gospel. And so, Paul says in verse 30, “experiencing the same conflict.” “What I am experiencing, you are also experiencing now. The suffering I am undergoing, you are undergoing the same suffering as well.” The Greek term for the word conflict was the term that represented the place, or the arena, for the athletic contest where the runners and the wrestlers and the boxers would suffer great blows and great pain. And they would push their bodies to the limit. This means, he is talking about the intensity. But it has been granted for Christ’s sake. And He will give us the grace needed to stand.
Friends, by talking about suffering do you all remember someone from the Old Testament? The story of Job. Job had led a good life. Even Job was perplexed and asked God the cause of his suffering. God answered Job by declaring that he was innocent. Job was content with that. He recovered his attitude of humility and trust. You know, the Book of Job gives us no answers to the "why" of suffering. God just showed that suffering is not necessarily the result of one's sins. The biggest lesson that we can learn is how to suffer well. But not why am I suffering.
No doubt, every problems and suffering often begins with great difficulty. Therefore, we asked the question, "Why do I suffer?" or why me? The question is asked and the answer is sought on a human level. Through our suffering, the meaning of suffering gradually unfolds before the sufferer/before us.
The sufferer, therefore, does not discover this meaning of suffering at the human level, but at the higher level - the level of the sufferings of Christ. It is this joy and peace that makes human suffering reasonable and tolerable. The source of this joy is found in making suffering meaningful, because there is joy, happiness, and serenity in overcoming the sense of uselessness which is present in all human suffering on the human level. The moment when we identify our human suffering with the salvific suffering of Christ, transformation takes place. Let us look suffering with the eyes of faith.
Friends, there may come a time when we are called upon to suffer for the Lord. We can rest assured that the Lord will provide the grace needed to stand. Our service unto the Lord cannot be dictated by circumstances. Our defining moment of our suffering must not be about our sufferings/problems but it should be the response of that particular problems. Someone says, “Suffering is a gift. In it is a hidden mercy”. Paul uses himself as an example and indicates the Philippians have seen him suffer. He counts suffering for the gospel as the gift of grace. It is because suffering changed his life and shaped his eternal perspective. Indeed, nothing will facilitate growth quicker and better than suffering.
And let us all remember that, Paul’s call is not simply ‘against’ the world and its cultures and values; it is ‘for’ the Gospel. There is no way we can escape from the sufferings of this world, but we can enjoy the ‘privilege’ of believing/trusting in Him (1:29). If we caught sight of this positive message then the power of our testimony will change our whole perspectives.
Conclusion - What is significant about the gospel in this particular context is that our Savior was willing to suffer to secure our salvation. In an absolute sense, there is no salvation without suffering: if He didn’t suffer by humbling Himself to the point of death on a cross, we would not be saved.
Today what Paul is saying to the Philippians is also speaking to us too. He encourages us to stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. And he urged a spirit of unity and cooperation. As we have discussed, all this political, military and athletic idea gives the pictures of a team working together to overcome the opponent in victory with one mind, heart and with one common goal. Friends, each of us has different gifts and abilities. It takes all of us working together, doing our part, to be successful for the Lord. We have much to contribute and we certainly need one another. We are the citizens of heaven and we are to have close ties with Christ regarding our conduct for that matter in everything, and agree no infiltration of other influences.
Standing firm sounds hard. Standing in unity is hard. Shouldering the load of the Great Commission together is hard. Suffering together is hard. However, we have a remarkable responsibility of representing Him well.
To be well-intentioned, our virtuous/noble conduct counts. We need to suffer well. To be well-intentioned we need to stand firm but not unstable behavior. We need unity but not division. We need striving together but not unmotivated selfish motive. We need to suffer well but not asking why am I suffering. Dear all let us all try to find the meaning our own difficulties in Christ. It is true that, “Suffering is a gift. In it is a hidden mercy”. Today I thank the God who gifted me the gift of suffering. Today I thank the God who allows me to live a well-intentioned life. Questions: How are you today? With what intention are you listening to her sermon? With what intention are you attending the service?
God is good but not all good things come from God. He allows suffering because “The root of suffering is attachment”. And with that attachment leads to a well-intentioned life.
Friends, let us all remember that, spirituality is very personal but at the same time it is very intentional.