Charles Simeon Commentary - Philippians 1:29 - 1:29

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Philippians 1:29 - 1:29


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SUFFERING FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, A GIFT OF GOD

Php_1:29. Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.

THE chief obstacles to a holy and consistent conduct arise perhaps from within, from the evil propensities of our own hearts. But very serious difficulties are occasioned by the frowns and menaces of an ungodly world. We are naturally afraid of suffering; and are easily deterred from those things which would subject us to heavy trials. But if we considered the cross as a badge of honour, as a source of good, and as a high favour conferred upon us by God himself, we should feel less anxious to avoid it, and be more emboldened to walk as becometh the Gospel of Christ. It is by this view of sufferings, that the Apostle encourages the Philippians to hold fast their profession without wavering. His expressions are singularly bold and striking: they shew us,

I.       That suffering for Christ’s sake, is a favour conferred on us by God himself—

Believers are called to suffer for Christ’s sake—

[In addition to the sufferings which are common to others, the believer is called to endure contempt, and reproach, and persecution, for the Gospel’s sake. He is taught to expect them [Note: Mat_5:10-12. 1Co_4:18. 2Ti_3:12.]: and experience proves, that however amiable, or useful, or discreet he may be, he cannot avoid the odium attaching to true religion.]

But his sufferings are a gift from God himself—

[As far as respects his persecutors, his trials arise from a malignant effort of men and devils to obstruct the establishment of the Redeemer’s kingdom: but as far as respects God, they are a special gift from him. As the faith, on account of which he suffers, is given him, so also are the sufferings themselves, together with the ability to endure them patiently. They are bestowed purely for Christ’s sake [Note: We may conceive Christ soliciting the greatest of all favours on behalf of a beloved disciple; and, on being desired by his Father to specify it, replying, “Father, I ask that he may have the honour of suffering for me: “which the Father graciously condescends to grant.]; and are appointed in number, weight, and duration, so as to conduce most effectually to his eternal welfare.]

We may observe further concerning his cross,

II.      That it is a richer gift than even faith itself—

Faith is certainly an inestimable gift; yet the gift of suffering for Christ’s sake is far greater—

1.       It is a higher privilege in itself—

[In believing, we receive from God all the blessings which we stand in need of: but in suffering, we give to God: we give our name, our property, our liberty, our life, to be disposed of in any way which may tend most to his glory. What an honour is this, for a poor creature, a worm of the earth, to confer a gift on God himself! Surely, much as we are indebted to God for the gift of faith, the giving us an opportunity to honour him should be esteemed a far richer obligation, nor should any thing that we possess be of any value in our sight, if we may but have the honour of sacrificing it for his sake.]

2.       It is a nobler testimony for God—

[When we believe, we bear testimony for God that his word is true, and that not one jot or tittle of it shall ever fail. But when we suffer for him, that testimony is far more plain and unequivocal. We then declare, not only that God is good and true, but that he is deserving of all that we can possibly do for him; that there is no service so hard, but we should cheerfully engage in it; no suffering so severe, but we should cheerfully endure it for his sake. Hence it is said, that while “by his enemies God is evil spoken of, on the part of his suffering friends he is glorified.”]

3.       It is a more instructive lesson to the world—

[We cannot exercise faith in Christ, but we must by that very act convey instruction to those around us. We exhibit somewhat of that change which takes place in the converted; and are, as it were, “epistles of Christ, known and read of them” who would not read the Scriptures themselves [Note: 2Co_3:2-3.]. But by suffering patiently for Christ’s sake, we speak more loudly in their ears: we force them to inquire, what inducements we can have to make such sacrifices? and, whence we derive our ability to sustain such trials? And so efficacious have been the examples of many while enduring the torments of martyrdom, that their very persecutors have been overcome, and converted to God.]

4.       It is a clearer evidence of grace—

[Many have believed the Gospel, while yet their hearts were not upright before God. They have been convinced in their judgment, but not converted in their souls [Note: Joh_2:23-24. Act_8:13; Act_8:20-21.]. The same observation may apply also to some who have suffered for the Gospel’s sake [Note: Gal_3:4.]. But a patient enduring of trials for Christ’s sake is certainly a very strong test of sincerity. It gives reason to hope, that we have attained some measure of conformity to Christ, and that “the Spirit of glory and of God resteth on us [Note: 1Pe_4:13-14. with ver. 28.], There may indeed be some corruptions yet remaining to be mortified, which leave room for doubt respecting the present safety of the soul; but if we combine a zealous endeavour to mortify them, with a cheerful submission to the cross of Christ, we shall have a favourable testimony from God [Note: Rev_2:2-7.], and a happy issue to our present conflicts.]

5.       It is a richer mean of glory—

[The smallest portion of real faith has the promise of eternal life [Note: Joh_3:36.]: and in this view it may be thought superior in value to every thing else. But suffering for Christ’s sake is the means of augmenting that glory: it brings a recompence proportioned to the sufferings that are endured [Note: Heb_11:26. Mar_10:29-30.], and “works out for us, light and momentary as it is, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory [Note: 2Co_4:17.].” Now as health is a richer blessing than life, because it implies well-being as well as mere existence, so a patient suffering for Christ’s sake must be accounted of more value than faith, because of the super-eminent degrees of happiness to which it eventually exalts the soul.]

Address—

1.       To those who fear sufferings—

[It is painful to flesh and blood to bear the cross: but what must be the consequence of shunning it? Will not our case be dearly purchased? Ah! think of the fate that awaits “the fearful [Note: Rev_21:8.],” and tremble lest the preservation of your life for a season issue in the loss of it to all eternity [Note: Mar_8:35.].]

2.       To those who feel them—

[Faint not, nor be discouraged. Would you deprecate what Christ has asked of you, and what is given you in his behalf! He who confers on you the honour of suffering for him, will endue you with strength to bear your trials, yea, to rejoice and glory in them [Note: 2Co_12:9-10.]. Only view your sufferings in their true light, and you will rejoice that you are counted worthy to bear them [Note: Act_5:41. Jam_1:2; Jam_1:12.]. And, when you shall be joined to that blessed company “who came out of great tribulation [Note: Rev_7:14.],” you shall not regret one loss that you sustained, or one pain that you endured. The approbation of your judge, and the increased weight of glory which shall be awarded to you, shall soon wipe away your tears, and turn all your sorrows into joy.]

3.       To those who occasion them—

[Little do you think against whom you fight. You imagine that you are only opposing weak enthusiasts; but so thought Saul, when, in fact, he was persecuting Christ himself [Note: Act_26:15.]. Know, that “whosoever toucheth the Lord’s people, toucheth the apple of his eye [Note: Zec_2:8.];” and that “it were better for you to have a millstone hanged about your neck, than that you should cause one of his little ones to stumble [Note: Mat_18:6.].” Be sensible then of your guilt and danger: embrace the doctrine which you have been labouring to destroy [Note: Gal_1:23.]: and, instead of opposing, labour to advance, the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom.]