Pastor David B. Curtis


Suffering: A Gift from God

Philippians 1:28-30

Delivered 09/20/1998

These verses are actually connected with verse 27, so let's review verse 27 and then go into verses 28-30 and discuss suffering.

Paul is concerned about the testimony of the church in Philippi. He has been speaking about himself in chapter 1, up to this point it has been autobiographical. Now he begins to exhort the Philippians to live their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. We need this message today.

Philippians 1:27 (NKJV) Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

The word "only" is the Greek word monos and it means "above all", this is essential! The word "conduct" is politeuomai which means to conduct oneself worthily as a citizen of a city-state.

Paul is exhorting them to live as citizens of heaven. You are to live your life and use your abilities and talents for the sake of the community-- the body of believers. They are to live "worthy" of the gospel-- this is integrity. This is much needed in the church today. We need to live what we preach. Our lives should model the truth of the gospel.

We said last time that worthy behavior involves four things-- Standing, Sharing, Striving, and Suffering.

1. STAND FAST-- "that you stand fast." This is a military term used of a soldier who will not budge from his post, no matter how intense the battle gets. There is to be no compromise in doctrine or practice.

2. SHARING-- "in one spirit with one mind." This is a call for unity. We must stand together, we are interdependent not independent. We need each other. I need your insights and wisdom and you need mine. Unity comes through spirituality. Carnality causes strife and division. How can we have unity? We will only have unity by living out:

Philippians 2:3 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

3. STRIVING TOGETHER-- "striving together for the faith of the gospel." The Greek word for "striving together" is sunathleo, from sun which means "together with" and athleto which means "to engage in competition or conflict." This pictures a team sport or fighting together side by side. Listen carefully: Christianity is a team sport. I mean that reverently. God built the body to be interdependent. We need each other. We are engaged in a common struggle for the faith of the gospel.

Our goal is twofold-- Evangelism and Edification or reaching and teaching. Which of these do you believe the church is weakest in today? Edification or teaching. We're still seeing conversions, but we're making few disciples because the church is selling out to entertainment. It is my conviction that most of the church today doesn't want to be taught. What the church is doing is following secular America which has traded learning for amusement.

We have a tremendous task today in the area of evangelism and edification and we must strive together to accomplish it.

We must not fail to realize how crucial to the purpose of God is the behavior of his people. Evangelistic success from our perspective is dependant on the worthiness of the lives we live.

Matthew 5:16 (NKJV) "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Paul not only tells the Philippians that they need to be Standing, Sharing, and Striving, he now adds:

4. SUFFERING-- If we are going to live the way that God intends for us to live, it will involve suffering.

Philippians 1:28 (NKJV) and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.

Whenever Christians will live as they ought to live in this world, when they live righteous lives and aggressively seek to spread the Gospel and make disciples, when we stand, share, and strive, the natural outcome will be suffering. Paul wants the Philippians to understand and expect suffering. And I want you to understand and expect it also.

2 Timothy 3:12 (NKJV) Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

Godliness brings suffering, in every age, expect it! If we understand and expect persecution for our faith, we won't be surprised by it.

Paul says in verse 28, "and not in any way terrified by your adversaries." The words "not in any way" are medeis in the Greek and means, in no way. "Terrified" is pturo. The verb occurs only here in the Greek Bible. It is used outside the Bible for a frightened horse running away. It came to mean, "to be intimidated." Paul is saying "In no way be intimidated by your adversaries." "Adversaries" is antikeimai. It means, to resist, oppose or enemy. So antikeimai is someone who resists you, or opposes you. We would say enemies. This same word is translated "contrary" in:

Galatians 5:17 (NKJV) For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

We could translate this, "In no way intimidated by those who oppose you."

Who were their enemies? Who were the greatest enemies of the first century church? Judaism!

At first the Jewish Christians found favor with all the people:

Acts 2:47 (NKJV) praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The first Christians continued to go to the temple and worship:

Acts 3:1 (NKJV) Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.

As they were going in the temple, they met a lame man who they healed. This caused quite a stir and gave them the opportunity to preach Jesus.

Acts 3:12-26 (NKJV) So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: "Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. 14 "But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 "and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 "And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. 17 "Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 "But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 "and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 "whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 22 "For Moses truly said to the fathers, 'The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 'And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.'

He is preaching to the Jews that Jesus, who they killed, is the Messiah of Israel. And as God said through Moses, every one who does not hear Him will be destroyed. I'm sure this didn't sit too well with many of them. But it was Stephen's radical "Anti-Temple" message that really got them mad and lead to his martyrdom.

Acts 6:13-14 (NKJV) They also set up false witnesses who said, "This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place (the temple) and the law; 14 "for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place (the temple) and change the customs (laws) which Moses delivered to us."

Have you ever wondered why the Jews would say that when Jesus was supposed to be dead? Why did Stephen say that? He said that because that is what Jesus taught.

Matthew 24:1-3 (NKJV) Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." 3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

This is not three unrelated questions, they saw the destruction of the temple, the end of the Jewish age and the parousia of Christ as one event. Jesus was to come and destroy the temple. The destruction of the Jewish temple is connected in Scripture with the coming of Christ.

Why did Stephen's anti-temple message provoke their anger? No temple=no God's presence. No God's presence= no Messianic Age. The end of the Temple was indeed the end of the Jewish world or age. The temple building was a visible symbol of Yahweh's presence with the Nation Israel.

The unbelieving Zionistic Jews throughout the Empire became the major antagonistic force to Paul and his evangelistic team. In Acts, "the Jews" chased, persecuted, arrested, imprisoned, and tortured Paul everywhere he went on his trips. They were forever accusing, blaspheming, and stirring up the synagogue leaders against him as a heretic.

2 Corinthians 11:24 (NKJV) From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.

As the years passed and their jealousy and cruelty increased, Paul's words became stronger and stronger until they became "dogs," "evil-workers," "mutilators of the flesh" (Philippians 3:2).

The "adversary" of the Philippian Christians was Judaism. Until A.D. 70 and the destruction of the temple, the main problem was the relation between the new faith of the Messiah and the old heritage of the Hebrew people.

Galatians 4:21-31 (NKJV) Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a free-woman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the free-woman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar; 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children; 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband." 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

Notice verse 28, "even so it is now." The persecution of Christians was a direct result of their preaching the gospel. This preaching led to rejection by those intent on maintaining the Old Ways, and persecution of those bringing this message of transformation.

The adversaries that we face today are not Jews, but unbelievers still oppose our message. Even believers sometimes oppose us when they are carnal. Paul had opposition from believers as well as unbelievers.

Galatians 4:12-16 (NKJV) Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all. 13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?

The Greek demands a "yes" answer. They were walking away from the gospel of grace to go back to the system of law. The truth hurts those who are carnal. It is always risky business to speak the truth. Those of you who have attempted to share the doctrine of preterism have found this out. When truth goes against tradition most people will choose tradition. When you live a godly life and speak the truth, you'll have plenty of enemies, but don't be intimidated by them. Stand fast for the truth.

In the days of Emperor Julian, the apostate (a fourth century enemy of Christians), a scoffer enquired: "What is your Carpenter doing now?" The answer of the unintimidated Christian was, "Making a coffin for your Emperor."

This next phrase is very difficult to interpret unless you understand what happened in 70 AD. "which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God." What exactly does this mean? The word "proof" is from the Greek word endeixis. It means an omen or proof. It was a Greek law term, proof obtained by appeal to facts. In other words they can look at the facts and this gives them proof. It is a proof of "perdition" apoleia, which is best translated " destruction." Paul uses this term in Philippians 3:19, where it is translated destruction.

Philippians 3:18-20 (NKJV) For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame; who set their mind on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Paul is talking about the Jews in this text. They are enemies of the cross and their mind is set on earthly things. So the word "perdition" is not speaking here of somebody going to hell, it is speaking of destruction. Paul goes on to say, "but to you of salvation." The word "salvation" is the Greek word soteria , which in this context means "deliverance." We could translate it like this, "Which is to them a proof of destruction, but to you of deliverance."

The majority of translators interpret this phrase to mean that when you are not intimidated by your enemies, that this is proof of your salvation (meaning proof you have eternal life).

When you stand up bravely for the gospel, that is your proof that you are a Christian. John Calvin said this, "For persecutions are seals of adoption to the children of God, if they endure them with fortitude and calmness."

John Calvin, as well as most teachers today, attach assurance to our lifestyle. They teach an assurance that is based on works, conduct, and lifestyle, and makes the basis of our assurance of our salvation subjective-- based upon our experiences. I do not believe in a subjective assurance. I believe that assurance is objective. It comes from the pages of the Word of God, not from your experiences.

Epistemology is the origins and nature of knowledge-- how do you know you know? How do you know that you're saved? Is you assurance based upon the things that you do or don't do? Should the Mormons have assurance of their salvation? They are persecuted and not intimidated.

Assurance is objective-- based upon facts, not feelings.

John 3:16 (NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Based upon that verse, what would you say someone would have to do in order to get to heaven? You would have to believe in Christ.

John 3:36 (NKJV) "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

How long would everlasting life last? There are no short term plans. Eternal life is given to those who believe in Jesus Christ.

John 5:24 (NKJV) "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
John 6:40 (NKJV) "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

What do you have to do to have resurrection life? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:13 (NKJV) These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

John is writing to believers because he wants them to have assurance because of their faith.

1 John 5:1 (NKJV) Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.

The Greek word used for "is" is in the perfect tense meaning "has been." The reason you believe is because you have been born of God. People who have not been born again do not believe. The evidence of salvation is faith. My assurance comes from God's Word and so should yours. I know that I am saved because I believe the gospel. My assurance is based upon what Christ has done, not what I do or don't do.

So what does verse 28 mean? I think that what he is saying here is that God is the author of the gospel, therefore those who are striving and suffering for it may expect deliverance from God, and those who oppose it may expect God's judgement. This very identical thought is found in:

Hebrews 10:32-39 (NKJV) But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; 34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. 35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him." 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

He encourages these Hebrew believers to hang on, because in a very little while Christ will return as He said He would. If they turned back to Judaism, they will suffer "perdition"-- this is the same word found in Philippians apoleia, it means destruction. If they continue in the faith, they will save their lives. Look also at:

2 Thessalonians 1:4-10 (NKJV) so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

We again see the subject of believers being persecuted and their deliverance coming at the second coming. The word "destruction" in verse 9, is apoleia. The destruction that they face here is at the Lord's second coming. The parousia was deliverance to the believers, but destruction to the enemies of the gospel, the Jews.

Let's look at the next verse. This is one of the most unusual verses in Scripture.

Philippians 1:29 (NKJV) For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

Paul realizes that the threat of persecution and hostility can cause these believers to question the goodness of God. Have you ever asked the question, "If God loves me, why am I suffering? In order to enable these Christians to bear up under persecution, they needed to be reminded that suffering is as much a part of God's eternal purpose for their lives as believing in Christ.

The verse says, "It has been granted"-- that is the Greek verb charizomai, which comes from charis, which means grace. So charizomai is grace. The noun form is used for spiritual gifts. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says, "Charizomai primarily denotes to show favor or kindness as in Galatians 3:18; to give freely, bestow graciously." Suffering is a grace gift from God.

" For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe" -- he compares suffering with salvation. Both are grace gifts. Salvation is a gift, according to Ephesians 2:8-9, and so is suffering. He doesn't say that suffering is punishment or that it is something that has happened to you by chance. God gives suffering as graciously and lovingly as He gives you the faith to believe in His Son.

Does this make sense to you? Suffering, affliction, and oppression a gracious gift from God? What does he mean? Paul also uses charizoma in:

Romans 8:32 (NKJV) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Suffering has been freely given to us. It is a gift from God. Suffering is a gift, a privilege. What is a gift? It is something that makes you happy; something that reveals the givers love for you; a gift is undeserved, not earned; a gift should cause thankfulness and gratitude. When is the last time you thanked God when you were suffering?

If this is the nature of a gift, how can Paul say that suffering is a gift of God? This should show us how far we have come from the thinking of Christians in the first century. God giving suffering as a gracious gift doesn't make any sense to us. That we should be grateful for it, that it should make us happy, that it should make us feel honored and blessed, that we should see it as a manifestation of God's love-- that doesn't make sense to us. But it did to the first century believers, because they were familiar with suffering.

Let's just ignore this verse. Tear it out of the Bible and throw it out (just kidding). Maybe this is just one isolated instance of a raving man who has a martyr complex. No! This is God's inspired Word. I don't know how the health/wealth teachers deal with this verse. It sure doesn't fit their theology.

We need to understand that Paul isn't the only one who holds to this view. If he was, we would still have to believe it, but it is also taught by Jesus and many of the New Testament writers.

Matthew 5:10-12 (NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The persecuted are blessed, not cursed. Jesus says we are to rejoice when we suffer! There is a connection in the New Testament between suffering and joy. That may seem like a contradiction, but that is what the Scriptures teach. Notice what the basis of rejoicing is, it is our reward in heaven. When we are persecuted, we are to rejoice.

Mark 10:28-30 (NKJV) Then Peter began to say to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You." 29 So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, 30 "who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

Verse 30 lists the blessings of service, and notice that one of the blessing is "with persecutions." He is listing the blessing and he says, "With persecutions."

Acts 5:40-42 (NKJV) And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

When you are trying to share the gospel and someone slams the door on you or makes fun of you, how do you feel? Do you get your feelings hurt, or get discouraged? These men were physically beaten. Please notice their response:

41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

They rejoiced! And they kept on preaching. Their suffering caused them to rejoice. They didn't get hurt feelings or get depressed or mad at God, they rejoiced.

1 Peter 4:12-14 (NKJV) Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

Again we see the idea of suffering and rejoicing. Suffering is not a curse, it is a blessing. Get that! It is a grace gift. It is the very essence of Christian experience. It is through suffering that we are brought to maturity in the faith.

1 Peter 5:10 (NKJV) But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

Evidently suffering, in some way or degree, is essential to the formation of Christian character. Now, suffering may differ today (at least in America) in meaning from its meaning in the early days of the church. By that I mean it may not mean bodily torment, imprisonment, starvation or a torturous death, but it will always be the price we pay when we live uncompromisingly for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is the purpose of suffering? I am talking here about suffering as a grace gift, not suffering as a result of sin. What we are talking about here is undeserved suffering.

1. Suffering matures us in our practical Christian lives.

We suffer because it is a training tool. God lovingly and faithfully uses suffering to develop personal righteousness, maturity, and our walk with Him (Heb. 12:5f; 1 Pet. 1:6; Jam. 1:2-4).

2. Suffering weans us from self-reliance:

2 Corinthians 1:9 (NKJV) Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead,

We suffer to bring about continued dependence on the grace and power of God. Suffering is designed to cause us to walk by God's ability, power, and provision, rather than by our own. It causes us to turn from our resources to His resources.

3. Suffering is an evangelistic tool:

Philippians 1:12 (NKJV) But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel,

When believers handle suffering joyfully and with stability, it becomes a marvelous testimony to the power and life of Christ that we claim and name. Suffering provides key opportunities to manifest and magnify the power of God through His servants in order to verify and confirm the messenger and his message.

4. Suffering increases our eternal reward:

Matthew 5:12 (NKJV) "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

5. We suffer to develop our capacity and sympathy in comforting others:

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

6. We suffer to keep down pride:

2 Corinthians 12:7 (NKJV) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

The Apostle Paul saw his thorn in the flesh as an instrument allowed by God to help him maintain a spirit of humility and dependence on the Lord because of the special revelations he had seen as one who had been caught up to the third heaven.

These are just some of the reasons given in Scripture as to why believers suffer.

Note also in verse 29 that faith is a gift of God.

Philippians 1:29 (NKJV) For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

Faith, the ability to believe the gospel, is a gift of God. This is taught all through the Scriptures:

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

This verse (29) shatters human free will. Paul says it is not in the ability of fallen man, apart from God's grace, to believe, it must come as a gracious, undeserved, freely, voluntarily given gift of God to his people.

If God owed us salvation by virtue of our act of free will, then he couldn't describe faith as a gift. Gifts aren't owed, they are given or they are not gifts. Faith itself is a gift. This doesn't mean that people apart from Christ don't have a will, of course they do-- they make choices, they deliberate, they decide, they think, they reason, they choose. When we deny human free will, we're not saying that people don't will, but that they can't will well. They can't will to choose Christ. In order to will well, you must have the gift from God.

A.W. Pink says, "The popular idea now prevailing, and which is taught from the great majority of pulpits, is that man has a "free will", and that salvation comes to the sinner through his will co-operating with the Holy Spirit. To deny the "free will" of man, i.e. his power to choose that which is good, his native ability to accept Christ, is to bring one into disfavor at once even before most of those who profess to be orthodox. And yet the Scripture emphatically says:

Romans 9:16 (NKJV) So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Which shall we believe: God, or the preachers?"

Faith is a gift of God. Why pray for someone's salvation if salvation is a product of human free will? If man is capable of generating in himself that belief by which an individual is justified, then why bother praying to God, let's go brow beat the individual.

We also thank God for our salvation because we know it comes from him.

Paul goes on to say:

Philippians 1:30 (NKJV) having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

The words "same conflict" are the Greek word "autosagona," it speaks of an athletic or gladiatorial contest, as in 1 Timothy 6:12 and 2 Timothy 4:7.

"Same" -- we are not alone in our struggle. The trials and persecutions that we face are not unique. "Which you saw" -- They saw Paul's persecutions when he first came to Philippi in (Acts 16), when he was beaten and imprisoned for preaching the gospel. "And now hear is in me" -- They were also hearing about Paul's present persecutions. The persecution that the Philippians were battling with were the same conflicts that Paul himself was facing.

Paul's message to the Philippians and to us, 1900 years later, is this: we are citizens of heaven and we are to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. We are to Stand, Share, Strive and Suffer.

Recognize that when oppression and affliction come, what ever form they may take, they are an indication not that God has cast us aside, or that he cares no more or that He is fed up with our feeble efforts to please Him -- no! It is a gracious gift from a loving Father that through that suffering, His name might be manifest.

We don't fail to thank God for our salvation and neither should we fail to thank Him for our suffering:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV) in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It is by means of the gift of suffering that we are matured and molded into a practical Christ-like character.

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