The Conduct of a Worthy Christian Life

Paul Laso
December 27, 2015

Well, good morning again.  I am excited to preach God’s Word this morning and I pray that you are excited to hear God’s Word as well.

It seems like every time I have an opportunity to preach, I have to make an announcement for something.  So, another quick update that I have, we are very excited, my wife and I are very excited because next year, (many of you may already know) but next year we are having a little baby girl that we are naming Isabella Renee.  So we are very excited to say the least.  Thank you.  A new frontier, a new journey for this next year of which we are both very, very excited.  And the other small side note is that it is almost my wife’s birthday, so if you see her, say Happy Birthday to her.

The title of this morning’s message is “The Conduct of a Worthy Christian Life.”   The Conduct of a Worthy Christian Life.  Shakespeare tells us a story from one of his plays involving Prince Henry V and it may be familiar to you.  It begins with a young Prince Henry, a vain, self-indulgent man who spends most of his time either drinking or carousing with his friend, John Falstaff.  But, there came a day, a very, very monumental day when his father, king of that land, died.  And in that life-altering moment, Prince Henry realized that something significant was about to change in his life.  He would wear the crown and one day be king.

And as he began to realize and look on his life and reflect on what his father had done, he realized that his father lived in such a way that he earned the crown, that he fought for the crown, that he lived in such a way that the crown brought a sense of worthiness to the throne.  And as he looked at his own life, he realized that it wasn’t.  In fact, he said these words: “The tide of blood (speaking of his family legacy) in me hath proudly flowed in vanity.”  And notice what he says next, “until now.”  When did he say that?  He said that the day that the coronation would come and they placed the crown on his head and he realized that at that moment on, he would have to change the way that he lived.  And would you know that it is noted that King Henry V became one of the worthiest and noblest kings of England.  His noble heritage flowed from him with majesty, all because he made that one distinct change in his life.

The text that we are going to examine this morning and study together and the opening lines read like this…and don’t turn there just yet, just hear these words.  It says, “Just one thing, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

  1. Kent Hughes says it this way, when he says these words, “May the power of the gospel in me, the life of Christ, display itself in formal majesty.”

Now when we hear these words, worthiness and formal and majesty, what comes to mind?  To me at least, what comes to mind is this idea of thrones and this idea of a king dressed in robes and walking in to a magnificent throne room.

Today we can picture that in our minds, but we don’t always necessarily really understand all of that.  At least for me, the most recognizable thing that I can think of is when you have a graduation at a university or at a seminary, where all of a sudden you all come in, we all sit down and then the tone starts ringing – da, da ta da da da.  I don’t know if I am doing that correctly, but you get the idea.  All of a sudden, we all stand and walking in is dressed every single individual in their regalia.  And you see them walking in and you notice certain things about them.  You notice the gowns that they are wearing.  You realize the hoods that they are wearing.  And you realize that some are longer and some are shorter.  You realize the velvet that is running down the middle of their gowns and on the sides of their arms.  And they have their caps as well.  And you realize, that is a doctor, that is a professor.  In comes the President and he has a medallion that he is wearing on his neck.  And you realize that all of these things, everybody is walking in in the sense of processional, in the sense of majesty, in the sense of formal attire.

Paul here in the book of Philippians is desiring for each of us to live in such a way that we carry this idea of worthiness.  Worthiness in such a way that we demonstrate who Christ is in our life and through our life.  And if you are like me, this story, this person of Prince Henry V brings to mind the moment and the day and it probably does for you as well, the very day that God radically changed our lives, where we realize that that one moment in time that we needed to make a change in our lives.  And I was constantly being challenged in my own life, how has the power of the gospel in me displayed itself in worthiness.  In other words, let me say it this way, how has Christ been seen and demonstrated in your life since the moment that you have been saved?  That is what Paul is calling all of our attention to.  And interestingly, God has a lot to say when it comes to hearing about living a life worthy of the gospel.

So turn with me to Philippians Chapter 1 and we are going to consider Verses 27 all the way to 30.  Philippians 1 Verses 27-30.  God’s Word says the following: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  There it is.  “So 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.”

Today, I want to do something very simple.  I want to show each of you how to live in a manner worthy of the gospel so that together all of us can further the message of the gospel.  Here this text, I believe, is divided in two ways:  a good report and a worthy reminder.  A good report and a worthy reminder.

Now, before we jump in, I think context does a great job of giving us a better understanding of what is going on within this text.  In other words, it answers the question, why would Paul tell them to live a life worthy of the gospel?  Well, you have to understand, during this time Paul is imprisoned.  We recognize this epistle as being one of the prison epistles.  Paul is imprisoned and he is writing to this church.  He is encouraged by them because they have partnered with him together in order to advance the gospel.  And he says that all throughout the beginning of the message…of his letter, excuse me.

Why is Paul in prison?  Well, Paul is in prison because of the establishment and the advancement of the message of the gospel.  They didn’t like what Paul was saying.  And so, to fix Paul, they said, well, let’s put him in prison.  Ironically, God uses Paul within the imprisonment.  They thought they would keep him quiet, but on the contrary, as you read the first portion of Philippians Chapter 1, you recognize that Paul is actually advancing the gospel.  And so God uses the circumstance like Paul’s in order to advance what He is doing in this world, and that is to save people.

And it is in this context that Paul is encouraging these believers in Philippi to say, continue to partner with me.  Don’t be ashamed of what is going on.  But on the contrary, as a result of what you guys are doing, continue to live a life that is worthy of the gospel.

So what does Paul do in this good report that he wants to hear back from them?  First of all, he really harnesses in on the individual.  And this is significant because if he could tackle that one individual person, you will also see that he will also get everyone together as a team, corporately as a church, to do what Paul is going to ask them to do.

So let’s look at this first portion of the text in Verse 27.  It says the following: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  Now to understand the significance of this one statement, we must familiarize ourselves with what it means when Paul says, let your manner of life.  And it is a very interesting statement because hidden underneath the English text within the Greek, you see a weighty word that is hidden there but it makes a huge impact on our lives.  Most commentators translate this verse this way, only let your manner of life (listen) as citizens, be worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Now why is that significant?  Why is that so relevant for Paul to use that one statement?  Because then, at their time, that would have been a highly significant word.  Well, you have to understand, Philippi was one of the providences, one of the areas of Rome.  And in fact, it was a great location.  And everybody who was living in this one area of Philippi coveted something that they could attain and that was a citizenship from Rome.  In fact, having that citizenship brought a host of different things.  One of them, it brought the sense of cultural pride.  I am a Roman.  I am from Rome.  I am from Philippi but I am a Roman.  More so than that, because of their citizenship, it brought about a sense of prestige and security and identity and value and a sense of belonging because now they were people of Rome.

And so Paul here uses this word strategically.  I really believe that.  Why?  Because what Paul now is offering is a counter-citizenship.  Paul is now saying, I want you to think in this way, just like you have that same prestige and that same sense of belonging, that same sense of pride that you are a Roman, I want you to think of it this way:  you are now not only, yes, a Roman citizen, but you are a citizen of heaven.  And Paul is emphasizing this one word because what Paul wants to do is take that same sense of pride and put it into this new identity.  Why?  Because out of our identity, we act.  How we think is how we behave.  And so Paul, at the very ground level, wants to make sure that they begin to think in this way, that they begin to shape their mind as new citizens of heaven.  And that is vitally important.  Why?  Because the more that they think that way, the more that they understand that they are that way, the more they will live a life that is actually worthy of the gospel.

Now here is the big picture.  Having this sense of identity, at that moment and at that time was requiring something of them.  They knew that Paul was in where?  In prison.  Now hold on a second here.  You are telling me that you want me to be identified with someone being with Christ?  Yes.  Well, hold on, that may mean that…yep.  That is exactly right.  And in that time and in that moment, you have to understand, Paul was imprisoned, they crucified Christ and at this point, yes, He is risen.  He is on the throne.  But they had to come to grips with the notion that if they now identified themselves as Paul has, a citizen of heaven, that this walk, this journey was not going to be a bed of roses.  And then later we are going to notice in this text how significant and how overjoyed Paul is with knowing that they would one day also share in the same sufferings and he did for Christ.  But this was huge.  This was significant for them, especially when it comes to now living in this way.

But how does that apply for us today?  How does that work into our own lives even today?  Everywhere you go, you carry the name of Christ.  Everywhere.  Where you live, where you work, where you study, where you frequent.  It is not just you.  It is not just Paul walking into Starbucks.  It is Paul, a citizen of heaven, who is representing Christ walking into Starbucks.  It is not that you walk into work that day on Monday representing yourself.  You are now representing Christ.  And we know that.  We understand that.  But what Paul is doing is bringing this to mind for all of us, that everywhere that you go, everything that you do, it should be known that they don’t just know your name.  They know that you are a citizen of heaven.  So it is not that you are just from Ringgold, Georgia, it is that you are a citizen from heaven that happens to be living in Ringgold, Georgia. The same thing in Chattanooga.  The same thing in East Ridge.  The same thing in Ooltewah.  The same thing in all of these areas.  We are these people who are now living in this area.  Everywhere you walk, talk, frequent, you are representing your citizenship.  Your life is now giving evidence of the gospel.

So what does Paul do?  He doesn’t just leave us with this idea of an identity, he helps us know how to live it.  And notice what the text says.  It says the following: “Only let your manner of life be (what?) worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  Now this is interesting because this word, (no pun intended) has a lot of weight to it.  Todd, this is the $10 word that I promised I would give you again…well, I didn’t promise, but I am going to give it.  The Greek word is “axios.”  And it has to do with tipping the balances or the scales.  It has to do with weights.

When two things are compared and found of equal weight, they are considered (listen) fitting or appropriate.  Since this implied worth, the Greek word “axios” came to mean deserving or appropriate or fitting.  We know exactly what this means, especially when we go to the grocery store.  We don’t ever want to pay more for something that isn’t the correct or accurate weight for what we are purchasing, especially when it comes to the food or when it comes to the meat or any of these things.  We want to make sure that what we are going to paying for is accurate.

So Paul here is saying the same thing.  Let what your identity is and what you are claiming to be, a citizen, be properly exemplified.  Be fitting.  Be deserving of what you are saying.

So let me ask you this and you might be thinking, so, am I the scale or am I being weighed?  Which one am I?  The scale is the message of the gospel.  That is what’s and what’s being weighed is our lives.  Our lives are being weighed according to the conduct of our lives.  In other words, here is another way of saying it, we have heard it several times:  Does your talk talk represent your what?  Your walk walk.  Or your walk.  Does your walk represent your talk?  Is what you are saying actually being lived out?

And so Paul, what he is doing here, saying it without saying it, but subtlely putting it into their mind, he is talking about something significant.  He is talking about their character.  He is talking about their integrity.  He is talking about who they are, both in front of people and behind the curtains, behind the closed doors.  He is targeting who we are at our core.

Now all of us can think of an individual.  If we had to say the word “character,” if you had to stop and think of someone or a name that comes to mind, you can think of all of the moments that demonstrated and exemplified their character.  And character has a way, whenever we hear the word, it has a way of either inspiring us to live above the standard and to live in such a way that it is godly or it gives us a spiritual gut check.  It gives us an opportunity to examine what we are doing and how we are living.  Is the message that I am proclaiming lived out in my life?

John MacArthur helps us when he says the following: “A citizen of heaven is consistent with what he knows, consistent with what he teaches, consistent with what he preaches and consistent with what he believes.”  Listen, that’s integrity.  Sadly, the thing that is stripping the church today of its credibility is that it says one thing and yet does another.  Sobering words.  If you compromise your integrity, you only cut down your credibility.  Hear that for a second.  Compromise your integrity and you only cut down your credibility.  It is a gut check.

So Paul here is wanting to make sure that everything matches.  So you have to ask yourself this question:  Is my life worthy?  Am I living in such a way that if God were to look at my life, put me on the spiritual scaled, would I be counted worthy?  Because He will.

So after Paul does all of these things, this is the report that he wants to hear.  This is the desire that he wants to hear from everyone.  And here is the thing.  Let me make a quick side note.  If there is a moment in life and time, even if it is right now, and you ask yourself, well, Paul, you know if I were to actually tell you that my life isn’t matching up with what you are saying, let me give you an encouragement.  If the character that you are hearing here that needs to be exemplified isn’t the one that you are living currently, listen, let God place the very character of His Son on your life, especially if you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior.  There couldn’t be a better moment in time now than to be able to say, you know what, though I don’t live this life, and here is a small disclaimer – God already knows, God already understands, God already sees what is happening in your life – let the character of His Son be the one that now clothes you.  The character that now changes who you are, because the reality is here in this text, Paul is speaking to believers.   Paul is speaking to those that already know Christ.  And so, if you know Christ, continue to live a life that exemplifies who he is.

This is the report again that Paul wants to hear.  This is the report that he is desiring to hear from these people.  So once he hears this good report individually, he wants to make sure that they do this corporately.  Well, what do you mean by that?  Well, notice what the text says.  It says the following: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so 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.”  Did you see what they are supposed to be doing corporately?   Paul here divides this next sentence into three different parts:  to stand firm, to strive together in unity and to serve without fear or to do it boldly.

So, let’s look at each one of them.  The first one is standing firm in one spirit.  The word “stand” means to firmly commit to be firmly committed in conviction or even belief.  In this text, Paul is speaking about spiritual resolve or a sense of spiritual tenacity.  The word “stand” is best defined when you compare it to a soldier.

Now, if you have had an opportunity to go to Arlington Cemetery, and if you ever have, there is a significant part there at Arlington Cemetery that is done.  My brother-in-law had a moment and a season where he was serving there and he served as one of guards of honor at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Now if you know anything about Arlington Cemetery and you know about this portion here or the tomb, you understand that there is a sense of committed conviction by these individuals that when they stand by the tomb, they stand there 365 days of the years, 24 hours of the day, whether it is hot, whether it has been the weather that we have experienced or whether it is cold, their resolve and their commitment is to stand and to guard this tomb.

And I really believe that it is this kind of imagery that Paul is talking about, that Paul is speaking about this kind of imagery that we have this committed stance for the gospel, that we have a conviction that no matter what comes our way, no matter what is being said, no matter what may be thrown in our way, we stand together committed for the truth of what we know for the gospel.

Now, here is where it was very relevant to the people at Philippi.  Again, now that they have this new found identity that Paul is teaching them, Paul is also making sure to tell them, listen, though trouble may come, though your opponents may say something differently or though culture may bend its way in a different manner, know that you are to stand firm.  And listen, that couldn’t be any more applicable for us even today where we have experienced even throughout this year a host of different cultural changes within our own country.  And yet, what does God say in His Word?  We are to (what?) stand.  Amen.  This side is listening really well.  We are to stand and be committed to what God’s Word actually says.

Well, you might say to yourself, well, Paul, that is a heavy responsibility.  Well, here is the great encouragement that comes with this.  Thankfully this is the kind of spiritual tenacity that God gives you, the strength to do.  That it is in those moments that we are confronted with a situation of whether we have to stand for what is right or say no, that Christ in you is going to live out a certain way.  That is concurrent and is the same as His Word, that God is going to give you that sense of spiritual tenacity that you need to say no when you have to say no and to stand for what is right when you have to stay right.  Amen?You don’t do that on your own.  God does it through you and that is the wonderful thing about it.

Here is the second thing.  We are to do this together.  So Paul says to strive together in unity.  To strive together side by side.  Here is the wonderful thing, Christianity is not about a lone star mission.  You do it together.  It makes me think of the moment where Tonto and Lone Ranger are riding through the canyon together when all of a sudden both sides are filled with warriors and horses dressed for battle.  So Lone Ranger does the one thing that he needs to do.  He looks over at Tonto and he says, Hey, what are we going to do?  Tonto responds and looks at him and says, what do you mean “we,” Paleface?

That is not the mentality that you want to take.  Here the Lone Ranger was looking for help.  He is like, we need to do this together.  And Tonto was looking for a way out is what he was trying to do.

Listen, for all of us here, know that you don’t do this together.  There is something special when it comes when we strive together side by side.  In fact, when we are stronger together.  Warren Wiersbe calls is spiritual teamwork.  We are literally doing this with one another.  And we know that many of you have walked this journey, have walked this life long enough to tell me, Paul, just so you know, don’t do this alone.  Don’t try to do this alone.  Do it with someone because as battles come, as trials come and we saw that and may have noticed that this entire year, and as we look at 2016, do this together.  And know, look around you, you are not alone.  You are not alone.  You are with a group of people that will do this with you.  And I love that idea, that we do it together.

And what does that mean even for this church, that as we reach the nations, as we reach our families, as we think about what we are going to do for 2016, we do it together.  And we do it for the glory of God.  And that is one of the ways that it is best seen is that we are a church that does it together.  Amen?

Here is the third one.  Striving without fear.  Striving without fear.  And you may ask yourself, why is Paul speaking about fear?  Why does he say that?  Well, if you look at the text, he is talking about, not something but someone.  If you notice what it says in the text in Verse 28, it says, “And not frightened in anything by (who?) by your opponents.”  That is significant.

Now to really understand why Paul is using this word “fear,” we have to dig into what it actually means.  In fact, the word “fear” here is very rare.  It is not your regular Greek word that Paul uses.  Here is what this word means.  It means to allow oneself to be intimidated.  That puts a brand new perspective of what you are reading.  And who is Paul talking about to not be intimated by?  The opponents.   What Paul is trying to again reinforce in all of these Philippians believers is the sense of spiritual tenacity.  Listen, don’t be intimidated by what is around you.  Don’t be intimidated by what people are saying.  Don’t be intimidated by the cultural changes.  Why?  Because Christ in you will give you the kind of fearlessness that you need, but more so, here is a great example.   Paul isn’t just saying this; he is living it out.  Again, where is Paul?  He is in prison.  So it would be one thing for Paul to say, hey, go out there, do it, you will be fine, don’t be fearful, everything is going to be okay.  You will be alright.  No, he says, while I am here, while I am in chains, don’t be frightened by your opponents.  And he gives them a huge picture of knowing that the end of what they will experience anyway will be glory.  That what they have secured in their life is to see Christ one day.  And so again, Paul is just bolstering them.  Paul is just giving them this confidence of saying, don’t be swayed, even when it gets hard.

Now how can we do that?  Here are some practical thoughts.  One, know that God is in control.  So stay grounded.  God is in control.

Two, if you constantly live in fear, you won’t live by faith.  You can’t.  The two don’t work together.  You are either fearful or you are either faithful.  It is one or the other.

Three, God is just.  Paul points out that our faith is a sign of our deliverance and their destruction.    Now there is an interesting phrase that Paul uses here in the next verse.  He says the following in Verse 28.  He says, “This is a clear sign to them of their destruction but of your salvation and that from God.”  And here is a wonderful thing.  Each and every one of us in this room is a light in this dark world.  And we are literally billboards that are walking around pointing to what Christ has done in our life.  Each of you is a testimony of hope, of what can happen to another individual as a result of Christ changing your life.  You are literally walking around shining for God’s glory, saying, Listen, this is how God is saving this world.  He is changing each and every one of us.  And Paul is saying here, Listen, know that you are this sign.  You are a sign to them that is pointing back to God, that He can change people.  But here is the sobering reality, that one day, one day, God will also judge those who don’t know Him and who are continuing in darkness.  And Paul points that out specifically.  And one day, I would imagine the words and it is sobering, one day God will say, did you not see the light walking around all over this city.  Did you not hear the message that these lights were saying, that to come to Christ, to know who He is, to repent of your sins and to place your faith in Him.  That is what one day will happen, that is what Paul means by saying that you are a sign and that one day it will point to possibly their destruction.  It is a very sobering thing.

  1. A. Carson says the following: “Your change in character, your united stance in defense of the gospel, your ability to withstand with meekness and without fear, the opposition that you must endure constitutes a sign.” Listen to this. “That sign speaks volumes, both to the outside world and to the Christian community.  It is a sign of judgment against the world that is mounting the opposition.  It is the sign of assurance that these believers really are the people of God and will be saved on the last day.”

Now, Paul says all of these things and encourages them.  Here is your new identity.  Here is how you are to do this individually.  Here is how you are to do this together, united with one another, to stand, to be fearless, to be faithful and to do it with one another.  And why does Paul say all of those things?  Well, because he knows that the journey ahead for all of them wouldn’t be a bed of roses.  Which leads me to my next point.

A worthy reminder.  Here is a worthy reminder.  Paul builds the Philippian theology by stating to them these words in Verse 29.  Notice what it says.  “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ that you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.”  Weighty words.

Now what exactly is Paul saying by using the word, “granted?”  This was interesting.  When I started to study this word and it gave me a brand new perspective of what Paul was actually saying in this text.  The word is actually “to give.”  Notice, the word is derived from the Greek word “grace.”  Here is how it actually is read when you read it in the Greek New Testament.  You have graciously been granted the privilege of suffering for His sake.  That is a very different perspective when you look at those verses.  We have the privilege of living as Christ lived on earth.  And Christ did not live a bed of roses.  Not everybody liked Christ.  In fact, it led to His crucifixion.

So here is the thing.  For the Philippian believers, this was the reality that Paul was sending into their minds, that there will be suffering at one point, that following Jesus Christ, being a disciple of Christ, for them would mean that they would be persecuted, that because they lived in Rome and they were very, very aware of what was happening with Christianity, that they may have to endure some suffering.  And here is the thing.  In their lives, that was very, very relevant.  For us, even today, that may be not as relevant as theirs.  But the tide is changing and things are culturally being different even for all of us.  And so here is a great thought.  We need to build our theology of suffering and what it means to be in this world and have suffering all around us because we know that this life doesn’t guarantee a bed of roses.

So David Platt helps very, very well with all of this when he says the following things.  One, is to have a high view of God when it comes to suffering.  What does that mean?  God is in control.  God is very much in control.  And how do we know that?  With probably one of the most familiar passages in Romans do we take comfort in knowing that God is in control.  Romans 8:28-39 are probably some of the most comforting verses for each and every one of us.

And it says the following: “And we know that those who love God all things work together for (what?) good, for those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His on Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring acharge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for all of us.”  It is Christ.  It is Christ Himself.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall (and here is where it becomes relevant.)  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’”

That was Paul’s words.  Imagine the Philippians hearing that same thought. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will e able to separated us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Knowing those words, that is what it means to have a high view of God because He is in control.  And I will say, one of the hardest times to see that is in times of suffering.

Here is the second thing.  Have a humble view of man.  The reality is that suffering in general comes as a result that we live in a sinful world.  Evil exists today because of sin.  Evil exists today, pain and suffering exists today because our bodies are sinful.  Now, that doesn’t mean…don’t hear what I am not saying…that doesn’t mean that because we have a certain illness that it is because of a sin that we have done.  No, that may not mean that.  What it does mean is that our bodies are frail.  Our bodies are broken because of sin.  And as a result, there is suffering.  The evil that happens here in this world is as a result of humanity because there is sin in this world.

Here is the third one.  The ultimate existence of suffering is for the glory of God.  Think about it this way.  Think of Christ.  All the evil that was done to Christ was actually for our good and for His glory.  Christ had to suffer so that we could have salvation.  And He took probably one of the most atrocious evils that happened at that moment in that time in history, and turned it into something good, turned it into our salvation.  And ultimately for His glory.

Here is a fourth one.  There are multiple purposes for suffering.  Here is just one of them.  It has a way of forging our faith.  Suffering has a way of making clear what may have not been clear before.  Let me explain.  The things that you believe will really come to light when we encounter suffering, when we encounter things that come our way that cause pain.  It really forges our faith.

And here is the big one that is very relevant to our text.  The Great Commission willbe accomplished through suffering.  And this is what Paul was communicating.  They would know that at this point and at this time and at this junction of this church’s life, the gospel was going to advance through suffering.  How do we know that?  Again, where is Paul?  In prison.  What is to come to all of them?  Possible persecution.  But here is the amazing thing that happens, the church begins to flood its way outward because of what is happening inwardly there.  They are forced out and with them…here is the interesting thing…because we carry the gospel with our words and with our lives, is that as they are flushed out, they are walking out with the gospel.  And God is spreading His news through suffering.  Now that takes a big picture of looking through all that.  We have what we have today, the Bible, the message of the gospel, as a result of the suffering that took place then.  And if you just look cursory overview of all of the disciples, it is true with each and every one of them.  And here is the amazing thing that Paul also points out and that is why he says all of that, is that we do this together.

Here is an interesting thing.  The word “struggle” in this passage is significant because it has the word that carries conflict or to be agonizing with one another.  That is the word.  Now here is the interesting thing.  That same word to agonize or to struggle with one another, to do this together, guess where else that word is actually used in the New Testament, if you know.  What is interesting, that same word “to struggle or to agonize” is the word that is used when Christ was praying in the Garden.  He, too, was struggling.  And what did He do?  He prayed to the Father.  Isn’t that a worthy example, that if Christ Himself was struggling in that moment of suffering, that He prayed to the Father, how much more should we?  And let me say something.  We need that.  If Christ Himself was dependent upon the Father, we, too, need to be dependent upon the Father and we do this with one another.

So let me say this, it is not easy, but it is worth it.  It is worth it.  Let me end with two walking points and I want you to think about these two.  The first one is of utmost importance.  Are you a citizen of heaven?  Perhaps you walked into these doors today and you are hearing all of this for the very first time, and you are wondering to yourself, that kind of testimony, that kind of identity is something that I don’t have.  Let me implore you, repent of your sins and place your faith in Christ because it is the greatest thing you can do.  Even looking at the end of this year, make it a staple that I ended this year finding Christ.  I ended this year with a brand new identity and it is found in Him.

The other one is, if God were to place you on the spiritual scale of worthiness, how would the scales balance themselves out?  And here is the reality, if there is a change that needs to happen, do it because it is worth it.  Why?  Because if God saved you and sent His Son to do so, He wants you to live a certain way.  But more than that, the big picture is that He wants to use you as a vessel of worthiness.  He wants to use you in such a way that you become this light for Him that others, because of your life, may know who He is.

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