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, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
I enjoy a good cup of coffee. You know the kind, that comes in a real ceramic cup. God has been growing me in my cup-taste. I have progressed from matching cups, to those with a bit more personality. Photo mugs, mugs from special times and places, and a few mugs that I have been given to inspire and encourage me. I enjoy sipping my coffee from these mugs, because I love to think about these things.
This week our church has a daily devotional from the book of Philippians. One woman eagerly took one from me on Sunday, after being stuck in Ezekiel. We laughed together, because it is true, some books of the Bible feel harder to read than others. When we think of the book of Philippians, we are usually encouraged. Of all Paul’s letters, it seems to be the most positive. It is Philippians that we think of when we need something that makes us feel better! We can pause and take a sip from our “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” mug, and be reminded that God is just wonderful because He empowers us, we can do anything because He is with us. That driving test? All things. That exam? All things. That weight loss goal? All things. Right?
But Philippians 4:13 has a different story than we imagine. As with all verses, we need to read the whole passage. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Verses 12-13)
Paul has learned contentment. No matter what he faces, he knows the strength of Christ is with Him. It doesn’t guarantee him an A+, or a 30lb weight loss, but the joy of living for Jesus in every external circumstance. Would we want a verse 12 mug?
Paul is not looking to Jesus for the comforts he desires, but praise for the endurance Paul has been given. For Paul has been shaped by those trials. He knows to expect them, and is experiencing them even as he writes. Paul has been steeped in Scripture, and a history of a people, that tells of struggle and a need for God.
What would happen if instead of our Philippians 4:13 mug, we would drink out of our Philippians 1:29 mug? 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.
Call me cynical, but I wonder if this one would sell so well. Because we really don’t want to drink out of a cup of suffering.
But how would such a cup nourish us? Would it help us to remember and expect that we should face opposition because of our faith in Jesus? Would it help us to remember those around the world who are enduring such trials? Would it help us to remember perhaps, that life is not going to be easy just because we are believers, but actually will bring new struggles? Would it help us to give thanks? And would it help us remember that Jesus is not a genie, but an all powerful Messiah whose kingdom was ushered in by…. suffering and sacrifice? Could we drink from the cup that says: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” Philippians 3:10
“I want to know... participation in Christ’s sufferings….”
I’ve not seen that mug on the shelves of the store either. But perhaps we need these mugs to understand Paul’s love for Jesus, a matching set as it were. And rather than using his words to inspire us for the things that will make us more content, we drink from the cups reminding us of a man who has found great contentment in every circumstance because of his love for Jesus. Because of the power of the resurrection.
What if we were to pause and grab a new mug for our coffee. How would it shape us?