Do you ever feel like you're being watched by unbelievers? Probably more so now than ever before, especially in America, the church is being analyzed, scrutinized, and criticized by the unbelieving world.
The apostle Paul understood this feeling. He also understood that if you're boldly following Christ, life is not a playground but a battleground. He wrote to the church at Philippi about how to stand for Christ in a hostile world, focusing on four qualities in particular:
1. Consistency. "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27). The word conduct is the Greek word politeuomai, where we get our word politics. It carries the idea of being a good citizen, and we're told that "our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). So let's live up to that. Let's live consistently. If you call yourself a Christian, then your practice must match your proclamation. Your life must show that it has been touched by the gospel (see 1 John 1:6).
2. Unity. Paul continued, "So that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27). That phrase "stand fast" speaks of a soldier who stands his position even with the onslaught of tremendous opposition or temptation. Such a soldier's odds of victory are even better served when he has friends next to him also standing fast. This type of unity among believers—all for the sake of the gospel—is exactly what Jesus prayed for (see John 17:21).
3. Bravery. "And not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God" (Philippians 1:28). Paul was saying don't be a battle-shy believer. When the fight comes, don't be afraid to face the enemy. Opposition for the sake of Christ proves who you are and whose side you're on. It's a badge of honor. So be a brave nonconformist. And if you don't have courage, ask God for it. If you bow before the Lord, you can stand before anyone (see Luke 12:4-5).
4. Agony. This is the quality no one likes to talk about. "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me" (Philippians 1:29-30). That first part always guarantees the second part: if you believe in Jesus, then you'll suffer for Him (see John 15:20; 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:12). But if you suffer well and you suffer for the right reason—"for His sake"—it's a privilege (see Matthew 5:10). I know it's hard to see it like that. But I'll tell you, suffering will do more to build up your life, make you strong, and bless you than just about anything else.
These four qualities—consistency, unity, bravery, agony—are like the four legs on a chair. They will add stability to your life when the world wants you to fall. I pray you would incorporate them into your life as you fight for the truth, stand with other believers, and stand strong for the sake of Christ—even when it hurts.