For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Phil 1:29)
In Oct 1415, the English fought the French at the Battle of Agincourt in France on St. Crispin’s Day. Henry V was the king of the English. In his play about the king and this battle, Shakespeare writes of a fictional speech given by the king to his soldiers. The speech was given because the English soldiers were depressed in light of the coming battle because they were few in number. These soldiers were wishing that thousands of men would come from England to help in the battle. However, this was not possible and Henry V encourages the soldiers with his words.
How could a leader motivate men who were facing such a difficult task? Henry V motivates them by pointing to the future. He tells them that when they get home, whenever they hear the “name of Crispin” they will “stand” on their “tip-toes” in pride. They will be able to show the scars that they received during the battle they fought on St. Crispin’s Day.
They will be heroes when they return home. All will remember the things they did that day and their names will be “household words.” Until the end of the world they will be remembered.
In perhaps the conclusion of the speech contains it most famous and motivating words. Henry V says that instead of looking at the coming difficult battle as a negative thing because they are few in number, the soldiers should see it as a profound blessing. These are the words of Henry in Shakespeare’s play: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.” Henry adds that those in England who did not share in these difficulties “shall think themselves accursed they were not here.”
What a great speech! The king took an apparently negative thing – going through the difficult time of battle – into a positive thing. It was an honor to be there. The king tells them that they would gain great honor for the sacrifices they make.
Of course, on a spiritual level, the same is true for the believer in Christ. While eternal life is a free gift given through faith in Christ, Christ also calls every believer to join the battle with Him and suffer for Him in this present fallen world. He uses the words of taking up their crosses and following Him, in His footsteps. At first glance, this sounded very negative. But Christ turns it into a glorious positive thing. He says that those who do will be greatly rewarded in the world to come (Mark 8:34-38).
Paul says that same thing to the Christians at Philippi. These believers were going through difficulties because of their faith. Obviously, believing in Jesus Christ is a very positive thing. When the believers at Philippi had believed in Him they received eternal life.
Paul says they had been “granted” this blessing. But something else had been given to them. They now had the privilege of suffering for Christ.
Like the soldiers at Agincourt, they should be glad that they had the privilege of going through the difficult time they were experiencing. Great rewards and honor awaited them. Clearly, the rewards that Jesus will give those who suffer faithfully for Him will be greater than anything a soldier in any earthly battle can obtain.
Following Christ is difficult. The New Testament teaches us that few in the church will reign with Christ as a result of being faithful to Him in this world that is passing away and is opposed to Him. However, those who do will be able to say what Henry said in a most more profound way, “We few, we happy few.”