I have been contemplating the question, “What do our lives look like when we are passionately pursuing Christ?” I’ve been wondering about the commonalities among people living this way. During one of my God Times, this passage caught my attention:
Live as citizens who reflect the Good News about Christ…don’t let your opponents intimidate you in any way…God has given you the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him. (Philippians 1:27, 28a, 29, GW)
It seems the Philippians were passionately pursuing God. Three things stood out to me about Paul’s instruction: reflect the Good News; don’t let opponents intimidate; and it’s a privilege to suffer. Let’s explore them.
First, like the Christians in Philippi, we are surrounded by bad news. We constantly hear of problems, tragedies, evil, and dissatisfaction. I am tempted to withdraw from media to avoid the negativity it promotes. But the bad news around us creates a perfect backdrop for the good news of Christ! The message of Christ offers the safety people are seeking. Far more life shares the Good News of peace and hope in Christ.
When we experience far more life, we naturally want to tell others about it. We want them to know Christ and discover the richness of a relationship with Him, too. We hear the bad news that burdens them and want to offset it with the Good News that changes everything. Sometimes we have the opportunity to speak, other times we do not. Either way, I appreciate the heart Paul had for the Thessalonians:
Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (I Thessalonians 2:8, NIV)
Far more life is sharing life with others. There is something special about relationships that are centered on following God. There is a depth of connection that forms as we walk through life together. I have belonged to small groups and ministry teams that sacrificially supported each other through hard times, genuinely loved each other through trials and misunderstandings, and joyfully celebrated together when God blessed a member or granted our prayers. Many defining moments of my life have been shared with these dear people! We live far more life together.
Second, we face opponents who want to intimidate us. A Christian worldview is not popular, in fact it is often denounced and ridiculed. We are wise to carefully choose what we say and when we say it. But we don’t have to be intimidated about believing and living out the Good News of Christ. Far more life is boldly accepting and living out God’s love.
When I think of loving boldly in the presence of intimidating opponents, I appreciate the example of Guido in the movie Life is Beautiful. Despite being in a Nazi concentration camp, he goes to great lengths to keep his young son physically and emotionally sheltered from the reality they are facing. He also finds a way to communicate to his beloved wife that he is still alive. Guido successfully lives within the restrictions placed on him by the Nazis but is not intimidated by them. He lives out his love with boldness. No external situation he faces can extinguish it. The same is true of God’s love within His children. Far more life stands strong against opponents.
This leads us to the third statement: God has given us the privilege of suffering for Christ. Privilege of suffering? We think of privilege as an easy life, removed from difficulty. But God has a different perspective:
But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God (1 Peter 2:20b, NIV)
Why is suffering for doing good commendable before God?
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (I Peter 4:14, 16, NIV)
God’s children are not understood by this world. That leads to insults and suffering. God is proud of His children who endure that suffering graciously because they understand the Good News of Christ and the spiritual dynamics of this world. He is pleased when we keep doing what He says is good despite being misunderstood and oppressed. What was true of the first century Christians and is true of many Christ-followers around the world today:
Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (Hebrews 10:33-34, NIV)
Far more life takes suffering in stride and remains focused on eternal glory. It remembers this world is not our true home and this life is just a moment in eternity. Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of men and women who lived out that reality. After a long list of examples, the writer concludes: “the world was not worthy of them” (verse 38). Those men and women put their faith in God and the Good News of Christ above all else. They lived far more life and they suffered at the hands of those who could not comprehend it. We are not alone. We are not the first. We are probably not suffering the worst. But we can live far more life in our suffering.
So, what do our lives look like when we are passionately pursuing Christ? Far more life!
How do you reflect the Good News of Christ?
How do you share your life with others?
Does opposition intimidate you? Or make you bold?
How have you experienced the privilege of suffering for Christ?
Embrace far more life as you passionately pursue Christ this week!
Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso