“What if your rights were taken away” is a question that draws so many emotions. Some might say, “I would fight to get them back”, while others may say, “I’ll try to live with it.” No matter what end of the spectrum you come from, our response to that question may tell us what drives us and what we believe.
The word belief can be described as “conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence.” This means that there is a level of understanding and knowledge that is founded on factual evidence. However, it also implies that we actively study to get that level of conviction. Either way you look at it, our beliefs will actively affect how we feel about certain questions.
Paul, the apostle who wrote most of the New Testament, had very specific convictions and beliefs. When he wrote the letter to the Philippian church, he expressed these convictions with evidence that could not be reputed.
Paul starts off his letter with expressions of gratitude and thankfulness. He was grateful to Christ for sustaining the Philippian church. He was thankful for their expression of love for Him by continuing on the mission of Jesus Christ, to proclaim that He is risen and lives with the Father. However, Paul also includes some ideology that was happening during his time. He mentions about people sharing the Gospel for both monetary gain as well as for purity. He talks about convictions that made no sense and were determined to be false doctrine. He also explains what God is looking for in life, but what struck me was not just the positive message, but the attitude of Paul’s letter.
In Philippians 1:12-14 Paul writes the following:
“ I want you to know, brothers,that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guardand to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the wordwithout fear.” (NASB)
Did you notice the problems? Paul was in prison. Other people who were proclaiming Christ were also in prison. Think about this for a moment. What would happen to you and I if we found out people we personally knew were being placed in prison for simply sharing their faith in Christ? What would our reaction be? Would we proudly stand up or cower in the corner? These questions we need to wrestle with. Why? Because as Americans we are slowly losing the battle for the rights given to us by our forefathers. More and more, there are fronts to silence the testimony of the church. One front is if someone comes to you during your lunch break and asks you about your beliefs, there is a chance you could lose your job because it may be against company policy. Another area is when churches want to gather for a worship service, they are being denied access to places that other organizations are allowed to access. This is what is currently happening in New York City.
Did you also notice the attitude towards Paul’s circumstances? Paul was happy and proud to write that their imprisonment was causing others to stand up and speak without fear. Was this natural or from an outside source, that is still a debate, but in my experience, I believe (with conviction) that this lack of fear to proclaim the Gospel was from God. Why do I feel that way? Look around today. Most Christians do not speak up about their beliefs. In fact, most have decided to simply live quiet lives, never really expressing what they believe and why they believe it. Unfortunately, this has happened in the past with unprecedented and unfortunate results.
In the 1920’s, Germany was experiencing an economical downturn that other countries (like the United States) had experienced. There was limited food, limited jobs and limited everything else. People were starving and suffering like never before. In the 1930’s, a young man started to speak up. He proclaimed a future of prosperity, a future that would end hunger for his people. Treaties were made with Great Britain and other Eastern European countries that appeared to be good for their society. Everyone thought the future was bright. There were celebrations in many nations, but a small group of people saw something different. They expressed that this man was deceptive and had other intentions. They claimed that no matter what peace he promised, he would never keep his promises. His alleged prosperity would turn to poverty once again. However, no one listened.
The name of this man was Adolph Hitler. He promised many positive things. He promised prosperity. He promised peace. He promised he would never attack any other countries to further his country’s causes. All his promises were for naught. As we all know, Hitler was one of the worst murderers of our time. However, what most people don’t know was that the church at that time also saw the signs but decided to ignore them. They ignored the typical signs of a horrible leader. History has taught us that if someone promises prosperity and peace, the likelihood of that actually happening is extremely slim if at all. When a leader starts to talk against a specific group of people that has done nothing to instigate that criticism, the likelihood of that leader taking steps to suppress that people is very great. The church of the 1930’s saw what was happening, they never spoke up. It wasn’t until Hitler also killed Christians alongside the Jews that they started to notice.
From both this passage in Philippians and history, we must learn that we may lose our rights one day. We may experience suffering and jail time. No matter what we will face, we must all take Paul’s attitude. If we end up in jail for Christ, then so be it. Maybe if that starts to happen, others may take up the cause of Christ and spread the Gospel once again with fervor and zeal. Rather than wait for persecution to occur, let’s take up our crosses daily and follow Christ in His mission, to save the lost.
God bless and encourage someone today.