We left off a few weeks ago with the apostle Paul instructing believers to do all things without grumbling or disputing and to live above reproach even among a wicked generation (cf: Phil 2: 14-16). He continues with his exhortation, by writing:
But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me. Phil 2:17-18
As we’ve learned before, Paul’s life after Christ was radically reshaped by suffering. We’ll read a little more in Philippians 3 about what he gave up to follow the Lord, and even more about his trials can be found in 2 Corinthians 11. And as a reminder, Paul was in prison when he penned this letter. He truly understood what it meant to sacrifice for the faith, and yet he continuously rejoiced.
Paul makes a rather unique statement that he was “being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith.” There’s some interesting history behind this, even going back to the Old Testament. We first read of a drink offering in scripture when God renamed Jacob to Israel in Genesis 35. This was part of God’s covenant with Israel and a foreshadow of the New Covenant sealed when Christ shed His blood on the cross. We commemorate and celebrate this thorough the act of communion (see Luke 22:20). Likewise, Paul was saying that he, through his suffering by the call of Christ, was being poured out as a sacrificial offering on behalf of the believers in Philippi and beyond.
There is no doubt that living for Christ is costly. Here in the West, we don’t often experience the weight of taking up our cross (ref: Matt 16:24). Our persecution is no more than a papercut compared to what many others go through when they claim Christ as their Savior. It is possible the lap of religious luxury we enjoy now will be taken away and the cost to be a Christian may be our very lives. Or we may just have to go through painful trials, sickness or some other tribulation that publicly tests our faith. In either case, we can lean on Paul’s encouraging words that such suffering may actually be for the benefit and service of others, and like Paul, we can rejoice and find joy in that we have been found worthy to suffer for Christ (cf: Acts 5:41).
“I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.” This is truly the summary of Paul’s statement here. He didn’t ask for pity or for someone to raise an appeal with Caesar, he simply asked the Philippian believers to rejoice and share their joy with him. We must do likewise.
In difficult seasons, where life is uncertain, challenging, or even crushing, scripture can be a great source of encouragement. It recenters our thoughts on heavenly things, getting our mind off our current circumstances and instead focusing on the eternal. If you’re going through one of these seasons now, take heart – you’re not alone and are traveling a very well-worth path. You may encounter trails of blood and tears along this narrow path, but the end for the faithful is glory! We can look to the scriptures and our blessed Savior for comfort and peace, and even after 2,000 years, we too can rejoice with our brother Paul.
Let’s close with reassurance from the lips of our Lord: “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b.