“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,”
There is an attitude among Christians that somehow they are supposed to be exempt from suffering. This passage says God has designed suffering in the life of the believer so that he or she will represent Jesus Christ in it.
Verse 28 indicates that when we share our faith people will “stand against” us (literal meaning of “adversaries”). Christians will face opposition when we share our faith.
This verse contains a double gift:
to believe in Christ
to suffer for His sake.
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ,”
Suffering is a gift from God. The phrase “been granted” in the Greek means that the believer receives suffering as a gift from God. The word “granted” means to give freely or graciously as a favor. We have been granted the privilege of suffering for Christ. The suffering of the believer is under God’s sovereign control. This is no accident. Neither is it a sign of God’s punishment.
Suffering with a purpose is a privilege. Suffering in itself is no privilege, but suffering for Christ is.
“On the behalf of Christ” displays the pinnacle purpose for suffering. Note the phrase later in the verse: “for His sake.” This is what makes suffering valuable. Suffering points people to Christ. If we have Christ and His great glory as the purpose for our lives, it gives everything definition in our lives.
“not only to believe in Him,”
Our ability to believe on Christ is a gift from God; suffering is a gift from God as well. Our salvation is dependent upon the finished work of Christ upon the cross. We contribute nothing to salvation but trust in what has been given.
“but also to suffer for His sake”
Some people will not face the claims of Christ until they see how a Christian faces deep anguish. A believer under immense adversity and simultaneously possessing an inner orientation will impact those without Christ. How many times have we seen people come to Christ at the death of a dynamic witness for Christ?
Nothing is valuable in life until Christ is its aim. Suffering is never an end in itself. Pain is not good. But the association of that pain makes it purposeful.
Everything that the believer has of spiritual value is a donation from God—even affliction.
Do we accept suffering as a gift from God’s hand? It is conventional for us to think of salvation as a gift, but do we think of suffering for Christ as a gift? Can we accept the first gift (salvation) and not the second (suffering)? We are citizens of heaven; therefore, we are living out of a suitcase down here. We should not treat life on earth as the ultimate goal of our lives. We are spiritual aliens; this world is not our home. We should expect opposition.