ODJ: larger than suffering

June 10, 2015 

READ: Philippians 1:12-30 

I trust that my life will bring honour to Christ, whether I live or die (v.20).

The 2010 French film Of Gods and Men recounts the inspiring and tragic story of nine Trappist monks who lived in the small Algerian monastery of Tibhirine. For years the various religious communities lived in friendship. As the political climate deteriorated, however, radical elements took advantage and gained power. The Brothers debated whether they should escape Algeria, but eventually they determined that God would not have them abandon their village. Then, after midnight on 27 March 1996, militants overwhelmed the monastery and captured seven of the Brothers, all of whom lost their lives.

These men believed that their call to obey God was more critical than their self-protection. The apostle Paul held this same posture. Imprisoned in Rome and uncertain of his impending verdict, Paul wrote to friends assuring them that his primary hope was to stay faithful to the One who had brought him life, the One to whom he had sworn his allegiance. Paul declared that his deepest commitment was to honour and remain faithful to Christ “whether I live or die” (Philippians 1:20).

Self-preservation is a good, natural instinct. Most of us will do almost anything to avoid suffering. In the kingdom of God, however, there’s an invitation to have a vision larger than suffering. Suffering at times will be necessary in this fallen world. Faithfulness (integrity, obedience and sacrificial love) will at times require us to make hard decisions.

Knowing that God’s vision is so much larger than ours, Paul wrote that we have “the privilege of suffering for him” (v.29). May we seek His strength, help and wisdom in knowing when to lay down our safety for His larger story.

—Winn Collier

365-day-plan: Luke 2:1-20

Read 1 Peter 3:13-17. What might it mean to “suffer for doing what is right”? What larger vision would carry us through such painful experiences? 
Where have you been committed to your safety, to not suffer? What vision might draw you out of such a self-protective posture?