I know that many of you are not interested in minutia but it’s important to know that Philippians 1:29 is not a new sentence but the continuation of vs. 28. Of the various English translations, I like the NJB’s transfer of the final clause of vs. 28 to the following verse so that it becomes a new sentence. In context it reads, Your courage in times of opposition ”comes from God, for you have been granted the privilege for Christ’s sake not only of believing in him but of suffering for him as well.” Now that we have that out of the way, we can look at what the passage is telling us.
You and I as believers have been given two wonderful privileges that serve the purposes of Christ in this world: the first is to believe in him. Most if not all of us were born in countries where the message of salvation has been clearly and powerfully present. That is a considerable advantage in coming by faith to Christ. Those living in certain foreign lands and remote islands recognize from nature that God exists but not that Christ came to die for their sins. It is a privilege to live where the gospel is clearly and openly proclaimed.
The second privilege may come as a bit of a shock – we are privileged to suffer for Him. What? I would think that the fortunate ones are those who will not have to suffer. You are right; that’s what we think. But God has planned something quite different and significantly more beneficial for us. Not only do we get to believe in him but also to suffer for Him. It certainly is interesting how often God’s plans for us don’t seem quite right; and that’s because by nature we prefer ours to His.
When Christ came and lived among us he was not all that popular. The crowds flocked to hear him, that’s true; but the major reason was that he could perform miracles. He healed the sick and even raised the dead. John tells us that at a certain point in Jesus’ ministry he “no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea,” but “withdrew to be with his disciples” (11:54). Opposition to his message was coming to a point where in a few weeks they would crucify him. Jesus suffered and those who identify with him will receive much the same treatment. But that’s not a downer; anything but! It’s a privilege to suffer for him. Talk about a bright future! They may kill us but that’s what goes with being the follower of the Galilean peasant who claimed to be God and proved it by rising from the dead. The opportunity to stand close by the One who has provided salvation for all who will accept it is a remarkable privilege.