Chapter 3:18-4:1 (ESV) - For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
Question to consider: Why can the Christian life seem so difficult?
Though salvation is a free gift of God which cost Jesus everything, the Christian life itself is difficult. Anyone who tells you differently is selling a counterfeit Christ. Our flesh is constantly pulled by a world that offers every flavor of sin and corruption, and the devil prowls around like a hungry lion looking for someone to devour. It would be so much easier to just give up and give in to relieve some of the pressure.
The first sentence of today’s passage is one of the most heartbreaking in scripture. I can imagine Paul crying out to God with tears streaming down his face that those who walked away would come back because I’ve been there. I still cry out to God for dear friends who started out strong in the faith and now walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Recently, I had one of them raise the question of how God can be all powerful and yet allow so much suffering in the world. He won’t accept any explanation I give him, but suffering in the world is a result of sin. The moment God gave Adam the choice of whether to obey Him in the garden and Adam decided he wanted to be like God in knowing good and evil, the world was set on a doomsday course.
God is omnipotent, but He is also real. Theoretically we can talk about a god who can make square circles or create a boulder that is too large for him to carry, but that is a ridiculous notion in reality. In reality, people come to faith and remain in faith based on external circumstances. The same circumstances that secure the heavenly citizenship of one person may cause others to become enemies of Christ. A devastating event like a tragic accident or a hurricane can cause many to come to faith and many to curse God. It acts like a threshing fork separating wheat from chaff. There is no set of circumstances that is able to bring all people to faith.
So Paul pleaded with the Philippians to remember that their citizenship was in heaven, and that their weak bodies would become incorruptible when they went to be with Christ. So I plead with you today. Stand firm in the faith, encourage others to do the same, and cry out in prayer for those who walk as enemies of Christ!
Dear heavenly father, help our hearts to break for the enemies of Christ as Yours does. Help us to minister to those around us who are experiencing pain and loss. Help us to lift one another up and encourage one another as citizens of Your heavenly kingdom. We long for the day when Christ will return to put an end to sin, suffering and death, but until that day comes may we be Your instruments of life and healing in the world. Amen.