Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved — and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. Phil 1:27-30
“Whatever happens,” is a reminder that our walk with God is always exciting and sometimes very painful. But, Paul also reminds us that the reward we receive is worth any price we have to pay. The gospel of Christ is the most valuable treasure we can possess. Through the gospel we see and savor the glory of Jesus. Our eyes have been opened to the joy of serving Jesus, The risks taken are not to be compared to the rewards promised. The pain is momentary. The promise is eternal.
I have found a great resource for finding encouragement in the midst of battle in the biographies of heroes of the faith who have gone before us. Men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, David Brainerd and my favorite, Jim Elliot, walked through dark and dangerous times and never flinched. The glory of Christ and the possibility of seeing his name honored by their faithfulness, kept them advancing in the face of great conflict. I would add William Borden to that list.
William was an heir to the large Borden dairy fortune. When he graduated from high school, his parents gave him a trip around the world. In his travels, his heart was moved by the needs of the people in the third world. He came back determined to be a missionary to the Muslims of China. One of his friends commented that he thought Bill was “throwing his life away by being a missionary.” In response, Borden wrote in the back of his Bible, “No reserves.”
In 1905, He entered Yale. He was disappointed to find the religious climate dominated by humanistic philosophy. He determined to do his part to change that condition. He began a Bible study with a few students which grew to over 150 by the end of the year. By the time of his senior year, a thousand of the 1300 students at Yale were involved in Bible studies. Although he was a full time student, he managed to work with widows, orphans, alcoholics and the disabled, determined to display the love of Jesus to these needy people. Upon graduating, he turned down many high paying jobs to fulfill his passion to proclaim the name of Jesus in the land of China. At that time, he wrote in the back of his Bible, “No retreat.”
After completing his theological training at Princeton Seminary, he made his way to Egypt where he planned to learn Arabic so he could evangelize the Muslims of China. But while there, he contracted spinal meningitis and was dead within a month. All of those good intentions and dreams were suddenly cut off at such a young age. When news of his death was cabled back to the States, many wondered if Borden had in the end, really thrown away his life. But, whatever others may have thought, William Borden would have answered a resounding “No!” Shortly before he died, he wrote in the back of his Bible, “No regrets.”
Paul’s “whatever” is light-years from our modern day “whatever.” It is not, “I don’t really care which way this goes.” It is, “I care like the blazes!” It is not a distancing ourselves from what is happening around us, but an investment of heart and soul. What is at stake is the glory of Jesus Christ. What captured Paul’s heart was the same thing that captured Borden’s. No middle of the road here. That is why as a student at Yale he wrote, “Say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to Jesus every time.”
How do we prepare for the “whatevers” of life? As many of you know, my son Chad is a Marine who is presently deployed to the dangerous land of Afghanistan. He is going where the battle rages. Men are going to try and kill him and his men. The enemy is committed, subtle and possesses deadly armaments. For two and a half years, the Marine Corp has prepared him for every contingency. They have driven him to test and strengthen his resolve. They have trained him in the skill of weaponry. They have made him a leader of men. They have prepared him for the tactics and strategies of the enemy. When we saw Chad off for his deployment, his battalion executive officer encouraged us with these words: “Chad is well trained. The Marine Corp has prepared him for battle.” The Marines are careful to prepare their soldiers for “whatever” the enemy will throw at them.
The most important weapon a soldier can possess is Motive. When the battle is hard and long, soldiers need a reason to fight and even die. “Honor, courage and commitment” need an ultimate purpose. For the American Marine, it is God and country and the Corps. When an enemy threatens the welfare of their nation, they are ready to be “first to fight.”
For the believer, the motive is infinitely more valuable and clear. It goes beyond this life into eternity. We fight for the glory of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We fight, not because we are conscripted, but because our God has won our hearts. We go into harm’s way, not because we have to but because we get to. We have seen a worth in Jesus that is more precious to us than any other treasure, including our own lives. Jesus said it like this: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? [Luke 9:23-25]
What is it that sends young believers to foreign, dangerous lands? What causes them to turn their back on the riches of this world? What causes them to spend their lives for people they don’t know? What causes them to risk their very lives in service? What causes them to go, serve and die for a people who would kill them? It is a vision of the awesome beauty of Jesus Christ, who loved them and died for them. It is the soul-satisfying joy that gives unspeakable satisfaction in knowing, loving and serving Jesus.
The words of the great hymn At the Cross, captures weight of glory that sends and strengthens the heart and minds of God’s heroes of the faith.
“Alas and did my Savior bleed and did my Sovereign die; would He devote that sacred head for sinners such as I? Was it for crimes that I have done, he groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity, grace unknown and love beyond degree. The drops of grief can never repay the debt of love I owe; Dear Lord I give myself away, tis all that I can do. At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away, it was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day!
This is the secret to faithfulness in battle. It is the love of Jesus, displayed on a cross, revealed in the gospel and sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We have seen a light so glorious and perfect that deep within our hearts we are “happy all the day.” No promise of money, fame, or power can compare to the worth we have found in Him. No threat of failure, suffering or death can rob us of the joy that anchors our souls. So, when we are contending against hostile and evil enemies, we do not fear, we do not faint, we stand firm. For we know that we have been granted the privilege of not only believing on Him but suffering with Him. “Whatever happens,” we will conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Semper Fie!
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92253 USA | 619.829.2390
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