Life can be hard at some points and there will be ups and downs along the way. This is a simple fact which affects all humans indiscriminately. We will all face difficulties and the severity of them will differ from person to person. So what keeps the Christian focused in these times? Or to put it another way, how do we remain faithful to Christ through trials without becoming jaded or cold?
This is not a new question. Unsurprisingly it did not take long before Paul had to answer this in the early church. Young believers and new churches in the first century did not have what we would describe as ideal growing conditions. They were discriminated against and persecuted, cast out by family and work colleagues, viewed with a high degree of skepticism and some were eventually killed for the name of Christ. The road they traveled was a difficult one. This makes me ask, “what was the reason they endured?”
A clear and unified answer is heard across the pages of scripture. They knew that this was not all there was. They were convinced of the greater reality of the the heavenly kingdom bought by Christ through his cross. It was this principle that Paul helped to communicate to the church which had been formed at Philippi. Christians were now citizens of the heavenly kingdom.
We see this in Philippians 1:27 where he writes “only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”. Underlying this idea of a “manner of life” in Greek is the concept of citizenship. We are a community of redeemed people and therefore we are enabled by the king, Christ Jesus, to live as those who see beyond the trials of our present suffering. Our lives are not destined to remain in this constant battle against suffering.
But the reality is that right now we live in this flawed world. That is why in the midst of the trials and, from a global perspective, the persecutions and executions, we look upward to Christ. We do this because “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
When we are faced with cancer or miscarriage we know, through a time of grieving, we await a saviour. When in the grasp of depression or addiction, we know, through a time of repentance, we await a saviour. We know that when faced with rejection from society or loss of popularity with friends or family, through a time of sadness, we await a saviour.
And this is not just some fanciful tale. It is the truth of the gospel, that Christ will deliver and bring new life to those who trust in him. “[he] will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power power that enables him to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21).
This is citizenship which lasts. It is the truths of the gospel laid out for practical encouragement for everyone who believes in Jesus. In the midst of the trials and suffering remember those who have gone before us at Philippi. Your king is coming with his kingdom!