“Having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”
Having stated in verse 29 that affliction is in God’s design, Paul now used himself as an example of how to suffer.
“having the same conflict”
“Conflict” is an athletic term. It means a contest, agony. It was initially used for gladiators in competition. It denotes any contest or struggle. We get our English term “agony” from this word. The Christian life is a struggle, a fight. There will be significant opposition, and therefore there will be a great strain. The Christian life is not easy. This is the “same” struggle as Paul himself had. Paul set himself up as an example of how to suffer. There is an emphasis on the word “same” in Greek. Our struggles are no different than the apostles!
“which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”
Two thousand years later, we face the same things as the apostle Paul. The things he faced then, we meet now. We face the “same” conflicts. The Philippians saw when he was there how he coped with suffering, and now, from hundreds of miles away, they still hear it. They saw what happened to him right in their city: “But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God with much conflict” (1 Th 2:2).
Now Paul was still in jail: “I was in prison in Philippi, and now I am in prison in Rome.” He saw the inside of many prisons. It was not because he was a criminal but because he preached the gospel.
Mutual suffering deepens mutual sympathies when we progress through joint suffering.
People who do the right things for the right reasons face agony. Paul did. It is good to know that we are not alone in suffering.
Some Christians expect nothing but smooth seas in life. If the great apostle Paul had his troubles, should not we face our problems as well? Believers who never engage in the bloody warfare of sharing our faith will never know the deep communion of the saints. Orientation in life is not gained by avoiding pain but by sharing it. Here is an opportunity for us to show the stuff we are made of.