If the truth be known, even though in Canada we have laws protecting our right to evangelize, many of us are still intimidated. We talk about everything except Jesus in the public square. We feel we can mention Him in church – but not at work, in the neighbourhood or when shopping. We need to remember that we are ambassadors for Christ. This means that we are citizens of a different country representing our King in a foreign land. As citizens of heaven, what must we know? In Philippians 1:28, Paul writes to the church, “…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.” One may read this and wonder how the courage of believers makes unbelievers think they are going to be destroyed?
But we must understand this verse in the context of ancient Rome, where the idea of omens was especially common. The Romans tried to attach meaning to any unusual phenomenon that occurred. In their worldview, unusual or unexpected things were omens of something sinister and bad. What Paul is saying is that when you act without intimidation, standing in the grace of the Spirit and unified with your church family, then the Romans will see this as an evil omen that they cannot succeed against you – and that you will prevail. Here Paul uses the word “salvation” as the same word he used for his own difficult situation in 1:19 – where he says, “This (meaning the help of the Holy Spirit at his trial) this will turn out for my deliverance,” or for “my salvation.”
For the Philippians, their boldness will speak to other Christians in the ancient world who will then think that their lack of fear in the face of Roman intimidation must mean, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” Other Christians will see their courage as a sign that God is giving them the Holy Spirit’s power not to be intimidated. Here is the point of application. Courage is significant! Never underestimate the man or woman who is not intimidated to stand for Christ, who is willing to share the gospel wherever they are. This can be done simply. For example, when you talk to someone about something good that has happened to you. You do not need to say you were “lucky,” but you can say that God mercifully blessed you. You can let everyone know of your citizenship. You do not need to be intimidated. Following the command to remain courageous comes one of the most incredible verses in the Bible.
Paul goes on to say, “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.” (Phil 1:29) Allow your worldview to be altered. For the believer, opposition from the world is actually a gracious gift from God. The word translated as “granted” can also be translated as “generously given.” It means that someone receives a gift from another. The gift is so generous that it clearly reflects upon the good will of the one who gave it. That is what our suffering for the gospel is. It is not just that we are suffering, for all people suffer. But we are suffering for the sake of Christ. If today, you are not persecuted for your faith, it is because you are not doing evangelism.
So, if you understand yourself and your church as an outpost colony of the kingdom of heaven – as ambassadors of Christ who proclaim a message of reconciliation with God – then you will see that suffering is necessary.
APPLICATION: Let us remember who we are: ambassadors for Christ. Let us be men or women who are not intimidated to stand for Christ – and let us ask Him to give us the strength and power to do so!
IF TODAY, YOU ARE NOT PERSECUTED FOR YOUR FAITH, IT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT DOING EVANGELISM.
Dr. John Neufeld
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