Yesterday we looked at Philippians 1:12-30.
Remember, Paul wrote this letter to the believers in the church in Philippi while he was imprisoned for his faith in Rome. He sent his companion Epaphroditus to the church to tell them what was going on and deliver the letter. Verses 1-11 of Chapter 1 are an introduction of sorts where Paul expresses his love for the people and his desire to see them walk in ways that would glorify Christ.
He continues in chapter one with these four ideas.
- Paul’s Priority:The Gospel Preached (1:12-14)
Paul lived his life for the sake of the Gospel. The fact that he was imprisoned for his faith didn’t discourage him at all, in fact it had just the opposite effect. Paul told the Philippians that his imprisonment had actually served to advance the Gospel because the whole imperial guard had been able to hear the good news while he was there! Not only that, but he said that because of his imprisonment many of the Christians that Paul had influenced were more confident, bold and fearless when it came to speaking the Word. They knew that if Paul could do it and see the Gospel proclaimed, they could do it too. They looked to Paul and knew that they could no longer live in a “business as usual” sort of way – they had to live purposefully, just like he did.
- Paul’s Goal: Christ Proclaimed (1:15-18)
In Paul’s Day the Gospel wasn’t just good, it was good NEWS. It was the hottest headline in town and the subject of all the chatter as word spread that there were people who were willing to risk their lives for its sake. And just like today, some people jumped on that bandwagon for all the wrong reasons. Many looked at it as a way to gain popularity, notoriety and fame. Paul’s response? What does that matter as long as Christ is preached? Paul wanted the good news of Jesus to get out by any means necessary. He wasn’t going to waste breath on gossip or waste his worries on these people who were out to get him or out to gain attention for themselves. He rejoiced in seeing Christ proclaimed.
- Paul’s Choice: Christ Glorified (1:19-26)
Paul takes a moment to consider his two options – life or death. He says in verse 21, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Most of us would reverse those two ideas and say “To live is gain and to die is Christ.” We look forward to the day that we will be with Christ at our deaths (to die is Christ, right?), but our lives are built for gain. It’s the American Dream after all! We build big houses and buy fancy cars and take big vacations and send our kids and grandkids to play all the sports and do all the activities. We store up treasures here on earth without ever considering that we are living life as if to die is Christ and to live is GAIN. We’ve gotten so confused. Paul says to live is Christ and to die is gain. We’ve got to change the way we live.
- Paul’s Instructions: Suffer for His Sake (1:27-30)
If we change the way we live, if we begin to prioritize Christ in our life and gain in our death, there’s one thing that will inevitably happen to us- suffering. To someone who is living for gain, this seems like terrible news. Suffering doesn’t fit in a life lived for gain. But a life lived for Christ? Bring it. Bring the suffering. And Paul says that’s exactly what will happen. If we want our lives to be worthy of the gospel of Christ, we will find ourselves standing firm in one spirit with other believers, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. There will be opponents, but we need not be frightened by them. We can look at Paul’s example and know that we can endure suffering because he did too! One of the verses in the homework this week asked how you are suffering for Jesus. And that’s because Philippians 1:29 says “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.” Suffering has been GRANTED to us as a GIFT! My first response to this question was simply “I don’t suffer for the gospel.” How sad is that? If suffering has been granted to us as a gift and it is part of living for Jesus, the fact that I am not suffering for His name’s sake makes me wonder why. If you’re in the same boat, trying to figure out why you’re not really suffering for the Gospel, may I ask you to consider that you may (like me) be living for gain? Ouch. It’s time for us to risk it all and live for Christ, suffering included.
If you had to answer truthfully, how would you fill in these blanks?
For me to live is __________________ and to die is _________________.
Would you put your kids in that first blank? Your husband? Your house? Your career? Your hometown? Your family? Your hobbies? Your dreams?
And what would you put in that last blank? Scary? Inevitable? A long way off?
Most of us probably wouldn’t fill in those blanks the way Paul did. Let’s let that sink in and think on it a while. Then let’s change our answers and our hearts.