For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.Philippians 1:29 NIV
This is an interesting and rather unsettling verse. Paul says that it has been granted to us to believe in Christ and also to suffer for him. Few believers probably have any issue with the first half of this. That is a good and positive thing. It is the suffering part that is unsettling.
Suffering for Christ
The word “granted” in this verse means “to show favor, grant, bestow, graciously conferred.” We have been given the privilege of suffering for Christ. Now generally we don’t think of suffering as a privilege. But Paul clearly does. The question is why? Why is it a privilege to suffer?
I believe that it has to do with the suffering of Christ on my behalf. What can I give to the one who gave his all to me? I can follow his example and suffer for him.
Suffering for Christ is not pleasant. And I don’t think it is something we necessarily should go out of our way to experience. But when we do, and all who would live godly lives will suffer (2 Tim. 3:12), rather than complain about it, be proud that you have been counted worthy to suffer for him and praise God (1 Pet. 4:16). Boast with Paul (2 Cor. 11:21-33) about how God has used your weakness to further the gospel.
Present Suffering and Future Glory
In Romans 8:17-18 Paul connects our sharing in the suffering of Christ with sharing in his glory. And then he expresses that the glory to come will far outweigh the current suffering. My suffering here is somehow tied to the glory that will come later.
Could it be that the ones who are most privileged to suffer here will experience the most glory in the age to come? If that is the case, then living in a land where we can freely worship and live free from the threat of much suffering may not be as big of a blessing as we suppose it to be.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”Matthew 5:11-12 NIV