Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, (Philippians 1:27-29) (ESV)
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. (Philippians 1:28) (KJV)
Vincent Word Studies:
Only here in the New Testament. Properly of the terror of a startled horse. Thus Diodorus Siculus, speaking of the chariot-horses of Darius at the battle of Issus: “Frightened by reason of the multitude of the dead heaped round them, they shook off their reins” (xvii. 34).
Poor Man's Commentary (Robert Hawker):
"There is not, perhaps, a more alarming thing to the enemies of Christ; and his people, than when they see the firmness with which the Lord’s tried ones are borne up, under the cruel pressure of their persecution. It is, as the Apostle saith to them, an evident token of perdition. They see, they feel, their nothingness, and forebode their misery, when their threats, and menaces, and punishments which they inflict, are lost upon the objects of their bitterness. What a beautiful example of this the Holy Ghost hath recorded of the three children in the Court of Babylon. We will not (said they) serve thy gods. The King’s visage changed with rage, but inward horror was felt at the same time in his soul. Daniel 3:17-18. It is so. It must be so. Such things are for signs, yea evident tokens of perdition to the enemies of our God, and of his Christ. But they afford at the same time to the Lord’s people, sweet manifestations of salvation, and that of God!"
We live in a day of terror. We watch it happening all around us. Nobody seems to do anything to stop it, and in fact those who have the power to stop it seem to only reinforce it and feed it. The enemy of our soul wants to grip us in fear, literally, in such a way that we are paralyzed by it. We see our brothers and sisters in Christ slaughtered all over the world. It seems the world is controlled by demons at times, and our hearts faint, as we wait, wondering what is coming next.
The Lord is not alarmed as though something suddenly came upon Him that He did not foresee. He has told us of all. It's in His Word (Ps. 92:4-15). Though the world believes they are conquering, the Lord is always in control and carries out His Word in His time. He is not unprepared at the tsunami of evil now swarming the world like locusts devouring everything in their path. It's hard for us to watch, yet He did not fail to tell us ahead of time what would come upon the earth and that in this world we would have tribulation and sorrow and persecution, yet He will come again and take us to be with Him forever where no evil will dwell. We should not be surprised by it if we have been reading His Word, studying it to know His plan and His purposes in the earth, and to walk accordingly. Unfortunately, the church has been lulled to sleep or complacency in much of our country and in much of the world, taken up with the cares of this life, with getting ahead, finding fulfillment, searching for a good life for themselves, and giving a bit of it here and there to God as it suits them. The Laodecean church needs to come to Him for the true riches and the true clothing only He gives, and the true salve for their eyesight. He is standing at the door knocking - outside the door - waiting to be let in (Rev. 3:14-22).
Why should we not be terrified? I've asked myself that many times. My reaction to hearing about my brothers and sisters in Christ being persecuted, tortured, oppressed, mistreated, driven away from their homes, etc, is to be afraid and also very, very grieved. Yet when I go to the Word I see there is a plan for us even now, in how we are to walk through this time of darkness in the world. We are made to see many things that we don't see in times of peace. We are made to see the world for what it is. We're made to see sin for just how far it can take a man to the depths of depravity when unchecked and the unspeakable evil it can create in the world. We're made to see our own lack of godliness in our walk. As we turn to the Lord, we are made to see all the more, the provision He has made for us in fullness.
The Lord has been working in my own heart through it all, by revealing to me that to the extent that "my conversation" or my behavior in this world is as it should be, walking in union with my Lord abiding in Him daily, feeding on Him, surrendered to Him, walking out in my life the life of Christ in me, that my fear is much lessened and I find more peace in Him. Faith seems to fill my heart more and more as I draw from His well each day regarding all I need for my day to live in Christ. His presence sustains me and my heart is less given to fear. I am made to see how wholly He is my life. When I walk close to my Savior, I find His peace more in my heart, guiding my path and dictating to my heart His way. No wonder Paul's command to the Philippians was, "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ." When it is not, then sudden terror will grip us and jerk us back to Christ, if we are His and cause us to see that we have neglected Him.
Worthy or becoming, in Strong's:
Adverb from G514; appropriately: - as becometh, after a godly sort, worthily.
Fear has a way of turning us from ourselves to God. It has a way of strengthening our dependency on Him, and purifying our motives, our desires, and our walk in this life as believers. If we have much to lose in this life, our fear will be greater. If what we have in this life as seen as all of God's and we are not holding on to it, fear has less of a hold on us. When this life has less of a hold on us, our hearts are more drawn to please God alone, and not ourselves in our daily walk. We are more apt to pursue godliness by faith in our daily lives. Yet if we are not living this way daily, "dwelling in the secret place of the Most High" (Psalm 91:1), it's a little late when the sudden destruction is upon us to draw all that we need from that well. We need to be doing this daily, now, while the Lord has given us time to do so. We don't know what we'll be called upon to endure tomorrow. Today is the time to be prepared, to "watch and pray" (Mark 13:33).
I always ask myself when I see others going through severe testing, "would I be able to endure that?" My answer is always, "No! I can't!" But I know my Lord, Who lives in me, and I know His power in me, as I've experienced it in many ways through the trials He has brought me through in the past. Those trials I also thought I could not endure. Yet, as the plaque on my wall says, reminding me each day, "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it." I know He can, and I have such an assurance of that, because of my relationship with Him, that my fear is immediately taken away and His peace fills my heart.
I love that Jesus always said to those He appeared to, "Don't be afraid." Whenever His presence is near us He speaks peace to our hearts. And every true child of God has His indwelling Spirit - His unbroken presence living in their spirits. As we walk daily pursuing and cultivating that relationship with Him, we learn to walk in His presence and abide in Him, just as a branch dwells in the vine, continually drinking its sap and nourishing its life, producing fruit. If we are not, we will wither up. Our spiritual life will be powerless. We cannot separate ourselves from our very life source which is Christ Himself, and then expect to turn on that power just when we need it, as though we were in control of His power as though it were an impersonal force we can manipulate at our disposal. We must walk in obedience to Him through faith in our union with Him, continually, just as Jesus said in John 15:1-14.
We are to walk in faith in His promises, in faith in His finished work, which gives assurance of our salvation, dressed in the armor of God, filled with His Spirit, standing firm against the onslaught of the enemy. He has equipped us with all that we need to live godly in Christ Jesus. As we take up all He has given us and "put on Christ" - not merely giving mental assent to His Word, but walking it out by faith, in union with Him, then and only then can we hope to be able to take Paul's admonishments in Philippians 1:27-29 and do them.
I am afraid of suffering. I don't like it. Nobody does. But the more I see and experience Christ, and His love, the more willing I find myself to share in His sufferings, and the more I find His love is greater than my fear; and in fact, I feel that to share in HIS sufferings is the most honorable worthy thing in this life I could do, and I desire to be counted worthy to do so. My heart is given boldness from His love.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:16-18)
When we realize our union with Christ in His death and resurrection, that His death is our death - to the world, to sin, to the power of the enemy - and that His resurrection is ours - seated with Him in the Heavenlies - then we realize that nothing can hurt us. His love is our rule of life, and it casts out all fear of punishment. It's not that I am now crazy about suffering, or that I won't feel the pain of suffering or the deep sorrow and grief which is the same grief of the Holy Spirit in this world, but I will have His fellowship and power and presence through all. I will have His ability to suffer what I must. I have found in the grief and sufferings in my past, that as I give myself to it in Christ, that I have found a sweetness in the midst of it, that you cannot know outside of it. When I have struggled against His hand in my sufferings and trials rather than to "submit myself under the mighty hand of God" I have suffered needlessly and made my trials worse. If we are not obeying God in the suffering, we only make it worse. If we hold bitterness or unforgiveness in our hearts toward our enemy, reacting in our flesh, we only keep His grace from our hearts. Then we not only suffer from the world and the devil, but we suffer from our own rebellion against Him, and suffer His chastisement. Many wonder why God does not hear them in their complaining and grumbling of their mistreatment and trials.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:6-10)
May the Lord give us His peace as we face difficult times in this world, as the world rejects Christ more and more. May He fill our hearts with perfect love casting out all fear, and enable us to stand firm not showing any terror to the enemy. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and we are more than conquerors in Him. Nothing we suffer in this world compares to the glory we will one day share with Him!
If you are not sure you have eternal life, if you want to know more about salvation through Jesus Christ, and how you can be sure, you can read more about it here.