I have often used today’s Bible passage to comfort families at the death of a loved one. There is a profound assurance of a good future for believers in this passage, but that is not the central message in these verses.
Personal Interests and God’s Glory
There was little value for human life in the Roman Empire. Paul’s Roman citizenship kept him alive, but for how long?
The church knew Paul’s problematic situation and prayed fervently for his safety.
Philippians 1.18-20 – Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my salvation.
It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way but that by my speaking with all boldness Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death.
“Rejoice” is a featured word in Philippians. Paul was able to rejoice, assured of the prayer on behalf and the help of the Holy Spirit.
Salvation refers to deliverance from impending harm. Anyone in Paul’s situation was certain to be concerned for their life. He was no different.
Paul’s personal concerns were outweighed by his desire to honor Jesus with his words and even his life.
Several years ago, I read a book about a house church pastor in China. He was arrested and sent to a “re-education” camp.
While there, his days were spent fertilizing vegetables with human waste, and his nights were spent in indoctrination lessons.
This pastor remained faithful to God’s call during his long incarceration. Upon his release, he returned to his house church ministry.
President H.W. Bush sent this pastor a new Bible to send the Chinese a message that he had taken an interest in the man’s case.
When I think about Paul and this Chinese pastor, I wonder about how I would fare in a similar situation.
— Would I make Jesus and serving him central in my life?
— How would I hold up under intense persecution?
Faith and Focus
Paul’s example is one of absolute faith in Christ and a determined focus on the mission God gave him.
Philippians 1.21-24 – For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me, yet I cannot say which I will choose.
I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better, but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.
When we realize exactly the nature and character of Jesus, we will join Paul and say, “to me, living is Christ.”
Jesus is our best friend and our Savior. If Jesus were absent from our lives, would life be as rich as it is?
I know that I was lost in many ways before I met Jesus. He has made all of the difference in the world in my life, since the day I became acquainted with him.
In the context of a relationship with Jesus, we can say, “dying is gain.”
John Wesley knew the reality of friendship with Jesus and the joy of heaven. I have adopted his prayer with the assurance of heaven.
He prayed, “Lord, don’t let me outlive my usefulness.”
Wesley, like Paul, was determined to be as useful to the Lord as possible. As a lover of Jesus and people, he wanted to be a powerful witness to the love and mercy of God.
Verses 21-24 should give all believers comfort. They also should challenge us to be as useful to the purposes of God as possible.
Paul, the Chinese pastor, and John Wesley desired more than anything to be aligned with the purposes of God.
Philippians 1.25-26 – Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith,
So that, by my presence again with you, your boast might abound in Christ Jesus because of me.
There is no safer place on earth than to be living in the center of God’s will. When we are aligned with what God doing in the world, we have his full power and authority on our side.
The Spirit revealed to Paul that he would be able to continue his service to the mission God had given him.
There is comfort, encouragement, and confrontation in this passage.
Comfort and encouragement come from the knowledge that when we depart from this earth, we will be at home with Christ.
The passage challenges us to make sure our lives are aligned with God’s plans and purposes in the world.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. Rudy has many insights that will help you understand this passage. The video can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.
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