Summary: Whatever happens Christians should (1) Live godly lives (2) Maintain unity with other believers (3) Not fear persecution from the ungodly. The message focuses on what prepares Christians to faithfully stand firm in persecution.
The world we live in is full of uncertainty. A microscopic virus has upset the status quo of the whole world. Upheaval, discontent and hate suddenly erupts in the streets.i It is too organized to have been purely spontaneous. But people are inflicting pain and violence on other people they don’t even know, just because they perceive some difference between them. Who could have predicted in January the events that would unfold in the first half of 2020?
We don’t know what opportunities or what challenges we will personally face in the days ahead. We are given assurance of God’s watchful care. “The Lord is my Shepherd.”ii I’m going to be okay as long as I look to Him for guidance and follow His lead. The uncertainty of life should not cause us to live in fear or dread tomorrow. The future is bright for those in Christ. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
But as to the events of the future, life can be unpredictable. According to James, that should cause us to continually look to the Lord and depend on Him. James confronts those who think otherwise.
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil” (4:13-16).
The uncertainty of life should produce a humble dependence on the Lord.
Our text today begins with two words: “Whatever happens.”iii God has given Paul some insight on the future. But God never tells us all the details. We have to trust Him with those. In our previous study Paul addressed the two possible outcomes of his pending trial. If the verdict is guilty, he will be executed. If he is acquitted, he plans to visit the Philippians. Paul expects to be acquitted and come see the believers at Philippi. After telling them that, he tells them some things to do “whatever happens.” There are some things we do as Christians regardless of how events unfold.
Follow with me as we read Philippians 1:27-30.
“ Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” In verse 30 Paul is affirming his solidarity with them. He is essentially saying we’re in this together!
I draw from that three things we should do no matter what happens.
(1) We should LIVE GODLY LIVES.
(2) We should MAINTAIN UNITY AMONG BELIEVERS
(3) We should NOT FEAR PERSECUTION from the ungodly.
I. LIVE GODLY LIVES whatever happens.
In verse 27 Paul tells Christians to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
In the next few verses Paul applies that statement more specifically to their situation.iv They are to “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.” They are to guard their unity, resolving their differences so that they can defend the gospel together. And in that unity, they are to remain faithful in the face of opposition from the world.
In general, what does it mean to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”? We get some insight on that in Ephesians 4.v There Paul urged the Christians “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Then he expands on that statement in the rest of the chapter. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” He is saying something similar to what he says to the Philippians. Toward the end of that chapter he gets very specific. He tells them to stop lying, stop stealing, and don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of their mouths. In chapter 5 he continues his exhortation instructing them follow God’s example and walk in love toward others.