There’s this old song that is a favourite of mine called “My Friend (So Long)” by DC Talk. The story behind the song is that while on their tour bus the one day, the band discussed what it would be like if one of them decided to leave and follow a faster track to fame through the secular music world. I would like to draw your attention to some of the lyrics:
“This situation is awfully dim, should we up and go with him? No way! We know exactly where you are and you’re gone. You’ve gone away my friend. Have you gone astray? And I remember when you used to say “Jesus is the way”. I never thought I’d see your light begin to fade.”
Keep these words in mind as my article is about perseverance and the Philippian Church.
The Church At Philippi
Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi while sitting in jail, but he does not seem to be discouraged by his current place of habitation. It is here that he says, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:22), and he talks about how he wishes to glorify God in every aspect of his life for the rest of his life.
Paul praises the Philippian church saying that they are progressing in their faith (1:25), that they have always obeyed (2:12), that they “shared in his distress” (3:14) and cared for him (3:16). As a whole, the church seems to be doing well and are a joy to Paul.
So both Paul and the Philippian church kind of seem to have this perseverance thing down.
But don’t think that their life was easy and that was why they were holding to their faith so well. For starters, Paul was in prison because he was a Christian and he was boldly proclaiming the Gospel. And as for the Philippian church, Paul says that God has granted to them the opportunity not only to believe in Him but also “to suffer for His sake”. So I think they were going through some tough times too.
I’m going to be very honest with you. This verse is very hard for me to swallow:
“For to you, it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake.” – Philippians 1:30 (NKJV)
Paul seems to treat suffering as if it were a gift. All the apostles did actually. I mean, in Acts 5:41 it says that they “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (NKJV).
I think this is one of the reasons that many people do not persevere in the outworking of their faith. There is a reason that I, and I’m sure many of you, could sing the words “I remember when you used to say, “Jesus is the way”. I never thought I’d see your light begin to fade.” to brothers and sisters in Christ who just don’t seem to have that fire any more. We do not see suffering as an honourable thing, but as a “why me, God?” or a ”how dare You, God?” event. And so we get angry with God and fall away.
Jesus told us, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10, NKJV).
The Bible clearly teaches that suffering is something we should have joy in. Not because we are in pain, but because we can share in the suffering of Christ, because it grows us spiritually, because it is an honour that is granted to us along with saving faith.
I think that if a lot of people changed their perspective on suffering and altered their focus to fix on eternity rather than the present age, there wouldn’t be so many people who have lost their passion for God. We would have a lot more exemplary Christians who were consistently growing and maturing in their faith.
Don’t Do It Alone
Perseverance is hard. Let’s not kid ourselves. We all (well at least I hope we all, otherwise I’m really bad) have our moments where we end up thinking “Is this worth it?” or “Should we up and go with him?”
Paul’s letter is filled with encouragements to keep at it, with reminders of how to live, and with stories of how they are not alone. If you are struggling to persevere, for any reason, maybe it would be a good idea to start with reading through the book of Philippians. And then don’t try to walk the road alone. Encourage a friend, exhort them, remind them of what they need to be reminded of, share your stories of pain, remind them that we are citizens of heaven and not of this world. Persevere together.