According to the Dictionary.com widget on my desktop, the word “granted” means “to agree to give or allow something requested.”
- Like the time I applied to attend Furman University in the winter of 1992 and received a letter: “Application GRANTED.”
- Like the time I asked Holly to marry me: “Request GRANTED.”
- Like the time my favorite (and most flattering) slacks were on sale and I asked if they had more in my size in the back. “Desire GRANTED.”
- Like the time I preached the Gospel from Psalm 19 and asked Lake Murray to affirm me as their pastor: “Wish GRANTED.”
- Like the many times my 6 year-old son challenges me to a game of chess: “Petition GRANTED.”
- Like the countless times the neighborhood kids ask me to oversee their play on our 125 ft. zip line: “Plea GRANTED.”
- Like the time I entered my key-card into the FastPass machine at Expedition Everest: “FastPass GRANTED.”
The common thread behind these examples is that someone is asking for something they perceive as a potential source of joy. From the college of choice to the thrill of the ride, we always request something that we perceive will bring us some form of joy.
So when I read Philippians 1 this week, I was surprised to find this little gem in 1:29 - “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
What Christian would actively request that suffering for Jesus’ sake would occur? Certainly this kind of suffering is expected, but pursued? Sought after? Wished for? Not even the apostles were seeking to be arrested and beaten though they “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41).
With a little bit of digging, I discovered a significant difference between our present-day understanding of something being “granted” and the adverb Paul uses in Philippians 1:29. The root word of the phrase translated “it has been granted” (charizomai) is “grace” (charis). Grace, by definition, is given freely, not upon condition of request. Therefore, in this verse, Paul is saying that God has freely given (granted) suffering for Jesus’ sake to the Philippians.
That’s how the Gospel works. The world looks at things granted as requests from us for our perceived joy. The Gospel looks at things granted as gifts from God for our definite joy and His eternal glory.
Are you suffering for Jesus’ sake? Rejoice with the apostles, Paul, and the Philippians – God’s graciously given you this suffering … granted it to you. The specific reasons why may never be known, but Philippians 1:27 – 2:18 tells us at least this much:
- It’s a reflection of the Gospel (2:5-8)
- Your experience encourages others in their situations (1:27, 2:2, 2:16)
- It will bring you joy (2:17-18)
- It will bring God glory (2:9-11, 13)