By Life or Death

Philippians 1:12-14 ESV

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

Some believers in Jesus Christ, in this world, are literally being imprisoned for their walks of faith and for their testimonies for Jesus Christ. In America, where I live, we have known little of this kind of persecution, so far. But, that doesn’t mean we are exempt from persecution. We are not if we are truly walking with the Lord in obedience to his commands.

For, “imprisonment” can take on many different forms. For, it can be a “putting away” of people who don’t “fit” with the norms of society and with worldly Christianity, either. We can be ostracized, rejected, renounced and invited to leave fellowships because of our stand for Christ and for his gospel message, and/or if we are “too serious” about our walks of faith.

Friends and/or family members may desert us or distance themselves from us, as well as may those who claim to be our brothers and sisters in Christ. For, in America, there is a “socially acceptable” Christianity, which most people appear to adhere to, and then there is a Christianity taught and modeled in the scriptures that the majority appear to reject.

And, so we may find ourselves more and more isolated because we don’t “fit” with the norm (the majority), because they don’t understand us.

But, God can turn this around for good in our lives, and he may use it for his purposes and for his glory in order to advance the gospel. He did in my life, for I am on the internet, not just because of God’s calling on my life to be on here writing each day, but because it took me being rejected and dismissed by so many different groups of Christians before I was ready, I believe, to leave institutional Christianity to go where the Lord was sending me.

So, literally the rejection I have faced pushed me out one door and the Lord then opened up this door for me, and truly this has been for the advancement of the gospel. For, the Lord has me sharing his gospel daily, and the messages are going out to people throughout the world – all glory to God!

And, it is my hope that through what the Lord has me share each day that it is encouraging others out there to be more bold in their witness for Jesus Christ. For, in the world in which we now live, Christian persecution is going to get worse, so we need to be putting on that armor of God daily. And, we need to be sharing the gospel message in its entirety so that many will believe on Jesus Christ and be saved from their slavery to sin.

Philippians 1:18-26 ESV

“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

“If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”

But, we are to rejoice in the Lord in all persecutions that we might face. And, I don’t believe this means that we don’t feel the pain of the rejection and persecution, but that we don’t succumb to it, i.e. we don’t allow it to overtake us to where we want to give up. We choose to rejoice in the Lord even in the midst of pain and suffering for the sake of righteousness.

And, by deliverance, it doesn’t always mean that God delivers us from our painful circumstances. Paul continued to face persecution throughout his life. But, our Lord delivers us from the fear of being persecuted and from the emotional scars related to persecution.

He keeps giving us his strength when we have none. He keeps us going when our emotions scream retreat. He gives us courage when we have none in ourselves. And, he strengthens us to keep on in our walks of faith and in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others, even to the death.

But, our desire should be for the Lord through it all, and we should set as our goal that God would be honored through our lives and/or through our death, as well. For us to live is Christ, and to die is gain, because then we will be with our Lord forever and our suffering will be no more. Amen!

Yet, I totally get Paul’s struggle between wanting to remain on the earth for the encouragement of the saints of God and wanting to be with the Lord in glory. Whenever I hear a song about going to be with the Lord, my heart is truly moved that direction. Part of that, I am sure, is my age. I have lived 70 years, which is a lifetime, and I have had many hardships in my life, too. So, I am ready to “go home.” But, I am ready to stay, too, for the encouragement of the saints of God, as long as God has use for me here.

Philippians 1:27-30 ESV

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”

Paul’s concern for the saints of God was not just that they be bold in their witness for Jesus Christ, but that they would be those who walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. And, that is my concern, as well, that we, the body of Christ, walk with our Lord in all integrity, in faithfulness, in love, and in surrender to our Lord, and that we might be those who listen to his word and who do what he says, for the glory and praise of God.

With regard to this unity of spirit and mind, though, we must be so careful to make certain that the unity is first and foremost with Christ and with his mind and with his Word, and that we are united with those who also have unity of mind with Christ and with His Word.

For, “unity” is a big buzz word these days in the gatherings of the church, in institutional Christianity, and in the government, too, as we move closer and closer to the rise of the beast and the one world government and one world religion. So, make sure that you are united with Christ and not with humanity, and then you will be united with those who are also united with Christ. Learn to discern what “unity” is of God, and what is not of God.

There is strength in numbers, and it certainly helps to have other believers in Jesus Christ walk with us side by side in sharing the gospel and in not being frightened by those who oppose us. But, let me tell you here that as things get much worse, you may sometimes have to stand alone with no one by your side, so don’t put your dependency in human beings. Get your strength from the Lord even if everyone turns against you.

For, it has been granted to us not only to believe on Jesus Christ but to suffer for his sake. And, we have to be willing to stand alone, as Jesus did, when all deserted him. We have to get our strength from the Lord and not from other humans, and then if the Lord blesses us with brothers and sisters in Christ to stand with us, then praise His Name!

But, if they then desert you, don’t let that unsettle you. The Lord will be your strength. Just follow him wherever he leads you, and let his love be your guide. He will not fail you! He will not abandon you, either. So, trust Him.

Footprints of Jesus

Lyrics by Mary B. Slade, pub. 1871
Music by Asa B. Everett

Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling,
Come, follow Me!
And we see where Thy footprints falling
Lead us to Thee.

Though they lead o’er the cold, dark mountains,
Seeking His sheep;
Or along by Siloam’s fountains,
Helping the weak.

If they lead through the temple holy,
Preaching the Word;
Or in homes of the poor and lowly,
Serving the Lord.

Though, dear Lord, in Thy pathway keeping,
We follow Thee;
Through the gloom of that place of weeping,
Gethsemane!

If Thy way and its sorrows bearing,
We go again,
Up the slope of the hillside, bearing
Our cross of pain.

By and by, through the shining portals,
Turning our feet,
We shall walk, with the glad immortals,
Heav’n’s golden street.

Then, at last, when on high He sees us,
Our journey done,
We will rest where the steps of Jesus
End at His throne.

Footprints of Jesus,
That make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus
Where’er they go.

Copyright status is public domain

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