One of the most unusual gifts I ever received was an overflowing bowl of cooked-to-perfection chicken feet from my Zambian friends. Gifts certainly come in all shapes and sizes! Philippians 1:29 describes another unusual gift:
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.
One commentator says the word “granted” can also be translated “gifted.” As Christ-followers we joyfully embrace God’s incredible gift of salvation. But this verse says that with the gift of salvation comes an accompanying gift--a most unusual gift . . . a gift called suffering.
If you stumbled over that last sentence you’re not alone! I’ll be the first to admit I don’t often view the trials, tribulations, and challenges of life as a gift. More often I see them as obstacles I would like quickly removed from my life. How differently God must view our adversities!
Since we know His love for us is immeasurable (Ephesians 2:4-5), and His every thought toward His children is for our good (Jeremiah 29:11), why would He consider suffering for Jesus sake a gift?
Perhaps a later passage in Philippians provides some insight. Paul said,
I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead ( Phil. 3:8,10-11).
Paul’s life was consumed by one desire--knowing Jesus! Every fiber of Paul’s being longed to know the fullness of Jesus’ power . . . and the fellowship (or joint participation and intimacy) of Jesus’ sufferings.
Oh, how we long to know more of Jesus and experience His power in our lives. But share in His suffering? That’s pretty radical.
Yet Paul seemed to understand what I so often struggle against . . . whatever “ gift of suffering” God allows in my life is an opportunity for Christ’s life to become more evident in me as I daily “ die to self.”
Perhaps that’s why Paul says the gift of Salvation (Jesus in me) is accompanied by a most unusual gift . . . a gift that allows Jesus to become more evident through my life.
If you’ve received this most unusual gift, how do you see Christ becoming more evident in your life as a result?