Proverbs 14 & Philippians 1

Proverbs 14

    The wisest of women builds her house,
        but folly with her own hands tears it down.
    Whoever walks in uprightness fears the LORD,
        but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
    By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,
        but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
    Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
        but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
    A faithful witness does not lie,
        but a false witness breathes out lies.
    A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
        but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
    Leave the presence of a fool,
        for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
    The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
        but the folly of fools is deceiving.
    Fools mock at the guilt offering,
        but the upright enjoy acceptance.
    The heart knows its own bitterness,
        and no stranger shares its joy.
    The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
        but the tent of the upright will flourish.
    There is a way that seems right to a man,
        but its end is the way to death.
    Even in laughter the heart may ache,
        and the end of joy may be grief.
    The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,
        and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
    The simple believes everything,
        but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
    One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,
        but a fool is reckless and careless.
    A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
        and a man of evil devices is hated.
    The simple inherit folly,
        but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
    The evil bow down before the good,
        the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
    The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
        but the rich has many friends.
    Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
        but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
    Do they not go astray who devise evil?
        Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness.
    In all toil there is profit,
        but mere talk tends only to poverty.
    The crown of the wise is their wealth,
        but the folly of fools brings folly.
    A truthful witness saves lives,
        but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.
    In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence,
        and his children will have a refuge.
    The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
        that one may turn away from the snares of death.
    In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,
        but without people a prince is ruined.
    Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
        but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
    A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
        but envy makes the bones rot.
    Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
        but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
    The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing,
        but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
    Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
        but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.
    Righteousness exalts a nation,
        but sin is a reproach to any people.
    A servant who deals wisely has the king's favor,
        but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully.
    

(Proverbs 14 ESV)

Philippians 1

    Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

    To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

    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 guard and 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 word without fear.

    Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

    Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

    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, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

(Philippians 1 ESV)

Philippians 1: In October of 2015, a gunman walked into a small community college in Oregon and killed nine people while wounding many others in his path. According to the survivors of this horrific tragedy, the gunman demanded that his victims stand up and declare their religion. If you were a Christian then you were shot in the head immediately.

Now, many of us have viewed religious persecution as something that takes place across the ocean and far away from our daily lives here in America. However, the targeting of Christians is beginning to pop up in our own backyard, and the rapid rate at which our culture is degenerating has increased the likelihood that most of us (and especially our children) will live and serve our Lord during a time of increasing hostility towards our faith. The days of living out your Christianity on cruise control are fading into the past. And so a time has come for us to stand up and settle it now. 

Will we compromise our faith in the face of opposition and persecution? And what good can come out of fearlessly suffering for our Christian faith?
   
In writing to the church in Philippi, we see the radical fearlessness of the apostle Paul and read his words on the remarkable way in which our Lord prevents victims of persecution from ever suffering for their faith in vain. 

Paul had been imprisoned for proclaiming his allegiance to Christ but joyfully declared that his imprisonment has actually “served to advance the gospel” (v. 1:12). Although suffering in chains and not knowing his fate, the apostle Paul doesn’t sit in confinement looking for a way out but instead sees his circumstances as an opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Christ to the “whole imperial guard” and “especially those of Caesar’s household” (v. 1:13; 4:22).  

For Paul, he is hopeful and in fact excited at the fact that he can glorify the name of Christ whether he is killed for his faith in prison or whether he keeps on living out his faith in freedom (v. 1:20). As someone who now belongs to Christ, this is the meaning and purpose of his life, and he rejoices at the reality that his circumstances here on earth have no power to prevent him from fulfilling this purpose. That is why he can sincerely say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (v. 1:21). Paul had settled it. His faith was not going to falter in the face of persecution because he knew that faith in Christ was the reason and purpose of his very existence.  

Therefore, to encourage the Philippians in the suffering that they too might have to endure and now encouraging us today in the suffering that may be down the road or approaching our doorsteps, the apostle Paul exhorts us to “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ… 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” (v. 1:27-28).
 
So how do we live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ?

Basically, we are to extraordinarily demonstrate that our supreme allegiance is to Christ’s Kingdom as we carry out our ordinary responsibilities as citizens of the United States. No matter what it may cost us, we must see Christ as worthy of that cost and live like it. 

You live as a citizen worthy of the gospel by living in such a way here in this country that demonstrates your heart and treasure rests somewhere else. Our king is not the President of the United States, and our treasure is not American exceptionalism. When you finally begin to embrace your God-given purpose, it changes your entire perspective on life. Your reason for living is to show the world that your true King and His Kingdom is your greatest treasure and has your undivided allegiance. This can be demonstrated persistently in life or powerfully in death, but the man who’s allegiance belongs to Christ can rejoice at the reality that his circumstances here on earth have no power to prevent him from fulfilling his purpose. 

The apostle refers to this faithful fearlessness in the face of persecution as “a clear sign… from God” (v. 1:28). For those who belong to Christ, persecution is never a defeat at the hands of your enemy but rather a demonstration of your faithfulness from the hand of God. The truth of the matter is that we can’t show fearlessness without something or someone to fear in the first place. In His sovereignty, our Lord has a way of using hostile opposition combined with His gift of unrelenting faith to produce the “clear sign” of faithful fearlessness.     

This fearlessness benefits us in the way that it grants us assurance of our own salvation. When we find ourselves standing fearlessly in the face of opposition then we can look at ourselves and realize with great joy that our faith is in fact for real. This fearlessness also provides another benefit of bringing your enemies face to face with a decision toward eternal deliverance or eternal destruction. Through your fearlessness, they will either see the “clear sign” that faith in Christ is powerful and real, or they’ll continue to resist and turn away from it marking themselves for eternal destruction. Either way, the Christian never suffers in vain, and Christ is always the ultimate victor.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21-24)

Therefore, in honor of our Lord and Savior, may we settle where we stand in order that we may in fact stand with faithful fearlessness in the face of hostility, opposition and potential persecution. The man who belongs to the Lord must fearlessly believe that to live is Christ and to die is truly gain, and that no matter his circumstances, persecution has no power to prevent him from fulfilling his God-given and Christ-commissioned purpose in this life.