ďTo Live Is ChristĒ††††† Philippians 1:12-26†††† †September 19, 2010
SI:† Last week was an introduction to Paulís letter to the Philippians.
Weíll be studying this letter over the fall, and will finish around Christmas.
Iíve pointed out for the past two weeks that for a number of reasons,
†† this letter, more than any other, shows us the heart and feelings
†† of the great Apostle Paul.† Here we see him with his guard down.
And what kind of man do we find behind the Apostolic officeó
†† a man at peace, a man full of joy.
Bible teachers have often called Philippians, the Epistle of Joy.
†† Because even though Paul was writing from a Roman prison,
†† he talks about the joy of Christ, rejoicing in the Lord,
†† and gives us great insight how believers walk through the difficult times.
INTRO:† Two weeks ago Adrienne had a wreck.† When she called me on my cell†
†† phone she was crying so hard I couldnít understand her, but she managed to tell
†† me where she was so I raced down there.†
On the way my heart was pounding and I didnít know what I would find.†
†† But when I got to the scene, there she was, and she was ok.
As I was hugging her, this feeling of gratitude and relief came over me
†† that was so strong, that nothing else mattered.† †
I was hugging my tall teenage daughter and looking over her shoulder at my caró
†† my once beautiful car, a car I once enjoyed washing and waxing,
†† and I thought, Who cares?!
Itís not that having a wreck is a little thing.
†† Itís not that it doesnít cost you.† Itís not that there is no expense or inconvenience.
But in that moment, when you are holding your child safe and sound,
†† all those other thingsócrumpled bumpers, body shops, insurance deductiblesó
†† all those things shrink by comparison.†
Because your children are your life.†
You understand the psychology of that, Iím sure?
When you know your most precious things are safe and sound,
†† then you can face lesser losses calmly.†
You might be sad, but you donít despair.†
†† You might be concerned, but you arenít consumed with worry.
†† Because you know that the really important things are safe.
What if you had something so precious, and so endearing,
†† that everything else in your life was small by comparison?
And what if that one great thing could never be taken away from you?
†† No matter what losses you suffered, no matter how your circumstances
†† or status changed, that most precious thing, that thing that you lived for
†† could never be taken away.
What kind of person would you be?† Calm, peaceful, even joyful.†
Thatís exactly how it was with the Apostle Paul.
He was in prison in Rome, awaiting trial by Caesar.
†† As an imperial prisoner he was chained to a solider guard night and day.
†† He couldnít sleep by himself.† He couldnít go to the bathroom by himself.
Paul was at the height of his career, in the midst of his most productive years.†
†† He was a tremendously active man, widely traveled,
†† always thinking and planning church-planting strategies.
Now the work he had poured his life into was threatened.†
†† He was forced to wait for a trial.† It might not be a fair trial.
†† Execution was a very real possibility.
But Paul said, Who cares?† It doesnít matter if I live or die.
And he didnít say that with despair, but with triumph!
†† With complete peace and profound joy.
Why?† Because he had the most precious thing, he knew it could not be
†† taken away from him, and on that his life and happiness rested.
What was it?† Who was it?† Paul said it best:
†† ďI rejoice.† Yes, and I will continue to rejoice . . .
†† For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.Ē
He said to the Philippians, donít worry about me.†
†† I might die, I might live another 20 years.
†† It doesnít matter.† The circumstances Iím in are not harming my life.
Because my life is Jesus Christ.†
†† And not only do I still have him, he is even more precious in my imprisonment.
Heís being glorified in it, heís changing me, heís getting me ready for heaven.†
†† So Iím not in despair, Iím rejoicing.†
What is your life?†
†† What are the things that make your life worth living, no matter what happens?
Iíve mentioned childrenóyou might add your marriage to that list, career, money,
†† home and possessions, accomplishments and successes.
There are lots of things that give us pleasure and meaningógood things.
†† But what if they are threatened?† What if you lose them?† What then?
Paul shows us that if Christ is your lifeóif you are loving and trusting himó
†† then the trials of life wonít destroy you.†
Things you love might be threatened or even taken away,
†† but no matter what happens, you still have the most precious thing.
You are enabled to face trials and say:† I rejoice.† Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.†
†† Letís see what happens how living for Jesus Christ gives you a completely
†† different perspective on the trials of life.† Three points.
MP#1† If Christ is your life, then trials donít destroy you,
†† they make you eager to glorify him.
The Philippian Christians were in danger of being tremendously discouraged
†† by Paulís arrest and imprisonment.† And itís easy to see why.
But Paul says:† No, donít be.† Let me tell you why.
†† I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me
†† has really served to advance the gospel.
First of all, the whole palace guard is hearing about Christ.
†† These tough, pagan Roman soldiers were being chained, one by one to the most
†† persuasive evangelist the world has ever known.† They were a captive audience.
As they rotated through that duty, every one of them heard the Gospel.
Also, Paul says, something else has happened because of my arrest.
Many brothers have been encouraged to speak the Word of God
††† more courageously and fearlessly.† Other Christians saw Paulís suffering
†† for Christ, and it put some steel in their spines.
In addition, Paul says, there are even ministers in Rome who are preaching
†† out of envy and rivalry because I am in chains.† Not sure what that means.
Somehow capitalizing on Paulís situation to make themselves look good.
†† But Paul says, even though their motives are wrong, they are preaching the truth.
Instead of writing a letter full of self-pity and sadnessó
†† Who could live chained up like this? †All my plans are ruined.†
†† Everybody is against me.† What is God thinking?!
Instead Paul says:
†† But what does it matter?† (Who cares what Iím going through!)
†† The important thing is that in every way Christ is preached.† And because of this I rejoice.
Is that your response to the difficulties and trials of your life?
One famous minister said that in these words of Paul
†† we see the alchemy of the Christian life.
What was alchemy?† Do you remember?†
†† It was the attempt by medieval scientists to turn lead into gold.
†† To take a base thing, a worthless thing, and turn it into something of great value.
Of course, alchemy never worked.† It was a dead end.
But Paul is saying that God is the true alchemist.
†† He takes worthless things, even the harmful things, and turns them into gold.
And whatís the gold according to Paul?
†† He was able to look at what had happened to him and see a little glimmer
†† of Jesus being glorified in his suffering, and for that he rejoiced.†
If Christ is your life, then you will want to see him glorified, even in your trials.
†† What testimonies do Christians love the best?† What Christians bless us the most?
†† Itís the ones who have been through fire and flood and come out trusting Christ.
When we hear those stories, when we know those Christians, we are blessed,
†† because in that we see lead turned to gold and Jesus glorified.†
Now, we need to be careful about this, because we can hurt people with it.
We shouldnít say to a Christian who is suffering a devastating loss or sorrowó
†† Look at this good thing that has happened.† Thatís why the tragedy happened.
†† And then try to explain exactly why they have suffered.
Thatís not what Paul is saying.† Heís not saying that a few soldiers saved is the
†† reason he is going through this trial.† Heís saying:† Jesus is my life.
†† And I believe God can take even the hard things in my life
†† and glorify Jesus in them and through them.†
I believe God can turn the lead in my life into gold.
†† I know I canít see the whole picture now.†
†† The big reasons are hidden in the Providence of God.
But God, thank you for giving me a glimmer of the gold,
†† thank you for giving me just a little glimpse of Jesus being glorified.
Now, let me as you a question?† Is this how you think about your troubles?
†† Do you look at them and hope that in some way, Jesus Christ will be preached?
†† Or are you consumed with self-pity?†
Think about Jesus Christ.† Think about his love for you, his suffering.
Then, even if you donít feel like it, pray:
Father, glorify your Son in my suffering.† Turn the lead into gold.
†† And please let me see it, even if just a little bitó
†† let me see a little glimmer of Jesus glorified in this trial.
Let me see some life changed, someone encouraged, some Christian strengthened.
†† If you do that, you will, in Godís time, start to experience peace and joy.
Paul doesnít stop there, and we canít either.
Because most times when we come into difficulty,
†† we donít see how God is turning it into gold, that remains hidden from us.
†† We wonít see the whole tapestry of Godís providence in the world.
But there is something closer to home.† Brings us to the next point.
MP#2† If Christ is your life, then trials donít destroy you,
†† they make you eager to grow in him.
The next thing Paul writes is remarkable.†
†† ďI will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the
†† Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.Ē†
When you read this, and Paul talks about his deliverance,
†† your first impression is that he is talking about getting out of prison.
That heís saying, I know that through your prayers and with Godís help,
†† Iím going to be let go after my trial before Caesar.† But heís not saying that at all.
He has no idea if he is going to make it out or not.†
†† Later on he says that he might live or he might die.
This is one of those places where the King James Version is better than the NIV.
Because what Paul literally says is that this will turn out for my salvation.†
†† That word the NIV translates ďdeliveranceĒ is the word ďsalvation.Ē
†† Very same word used for the salvation of our souls.
If you are reading from the King James, you would have noticed that.†
Paul is saying:† This thing that has happened to me, this arrest, this imprisonment,
†† this ruin of my plans, this humiliation, this uncertaintyó
†† this is bringing about my salvation.
What does that mean?† Did Paul think he wasnít saved?†
†† Did he think his suffering was earning points with God?† No.
When the Bible speaks of our salvation, it does so in different tenses.
There is a past tense of salvation.† Christian can say:† Iíve been saved.
†† Itís happened.† Itís finished.† Itís complete.† Iíve been justified.
†† Iíve been delivered once for all from the guilt and condemnation of sin.
There is also a future tense of salvation.† I will be saved.
†† The best is yet to come.† I will be glorified.
†† At death or Christís coming I will be saved from the presence of sin.
And there is also a present tense of salvation.† Iím being saved.
†† Iím being delivered from the power of sin.† Being made holy.
†† Iím being sanctified.† Iím being made more like Christ.
Thatís what Paul is talking about here.†
Heís saying itís not just that God is turning my circumstances into goldó
†† heís turning me into gold.† Heís making me more like Christ.
I can be at peace, I can rejoice, because I need thisó
† †Through prison and chains Iím being saved.† Itís making me more like my Savior.†
This doesnít happen automatically.†
†† When trials come, they donít automatically purify Christians.
Weíve all known Christians who had tragedy strike
†† and it didnít sweeten them, it made them bitter.
I once heard a pastor talking about a couple in his church.†
†† They had a son, their golden boy, who was destroying himself on drugs.†
†† The husband and wife blamed each other and were tearing each other apart.
So they met with this pastor for counsel.† He challenged them to honestly confess
†† their sins and failures as parentsóconfess them to God and each other.†
And to forgive each other, receive Godís forgiveness, move ahead by Godís grace.
†† Of course, this took time and lots of counsel.† But they did it.
And the husband changed.† He quit blaming his wife.† He was humbled.
†† He took responsibility and started praying for his son like he never had.
†† He started to become the father he should have been, and it freed him.
But the wife, after a short time, regressed.†
†† She became more and more bitter at God and her husband.
†† In fact, it angered her when she began to see the new peace her husband had.
†† She accused him of not loving their son any more.†
This pastor had an interesting observation.† He said the difference between the two
†† was that the husband started to find his identity in Christ,
†† but the wife would not give up her identity in her child.†
What does it take for the trials of life to make you sweet and not bitter?†
†† Jesus Christ has to be your life.† You can be a Christian, not be living for and
†† appropriating the grace of Jesus Christ.† Have to do it deliberately.
Paul even says to the Philippians:† I need your prayers.† You have to say at timesó
†† pray for me.† Iím struggling with bitterness.† Struggling with doubts.
But youíre not alone in the struggle, Paul also said that he was getting help
†† from the Spirit of Jesus.† Holy Spirit is in the fight with you.†
†† Know that, take courage from it, and cooperate with him.
Itís a struggle.† Itís the hard work of sanctification.
†† But you wonít have to do it forever.† That brings us to the last point.
MP#3† If Christ is your life, then trials donít destroy you,
†† they make you eager to die and be with him.
And here we come to the most amazing statement of all by the Apostle Paul.
He says, For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
†† In other words, I have Christ now, heís my life.† I love him and trust him,
†† and commune with himóand dying will just mean that I get more of him.
ďI desire to depart and be with Christ which is better by far.Ē
Now we need to think through this to really get the proper spirit of it.
Paul was not a man sick of life.† Iíve heard people say before:† I just want to die.
†† They are in the depths of despair and self-pity.
Paul wasnít.† He was a man at peace, full of joy. †His life had great purpose.
†† He wasnít saying, Woe is me, my life is terrible.
And Paul was also not saying that dying is an easy thing.†
†† Heís not looking forward to the pain and sorrow of dying itself.†
†† Dying is not fun.† Not for the person dying or for his or her loved ones.
Paul is looking forward to what comes after.† After he crosses the river.
†† Heís eager to move on to experience fellowship with Jesus undimmed
†† by life in a fallen world.† Heís just longing for the thing he loves most.
That prospect of life in the presence of Christ is so pleasant to Paul,
†† that he says the only thing that keeps him from dwelling on it is the
†† knowledge that he still has work to do here.† Church needs him.† Not quite done.
He wants to help them have the same joy in Christ that he has.
How many of us can honestly say we share Paulís cheerful anticipation of death?
Our lives are so full of what we can see, hear, and touchó
†† and our faith is so weak, and our spiritual sight of the unseen world is so dim,
†† and we have invested so much hope for happiness and reward in this lifeó
†† that itís hard for us to think about death as Paul did.
Itís hard for us to say that above all we desire to depart and be with Christ.
†† That would be far better than anything here.
But we want Paulís joy and peace, donít we.†
We want to be able to go through the trials and sorrows of life and not be
†† cast down into despair and overcome with worry.† We want that for ourselves.
That peace comes with an eager anticipation of life in heaven with Jesus Christ.†
Think about it:† If death holds no fear for you.†
†† If you are actually looking forward to it as Paul wasó
Iím one day closer to seeing Jesus.† Iíve still got some work to do, thatís ok.
†† But my life, my hopes, my dreams, my happiness is not in this worldó
†† itís in the life of the world to comeóthen what are trials?† Nothing.
Because they canít take away your greatest hopes and dreams.†
†† Trials just make the hope of heaven that much more vivid.
So how on earth do we develop this way of thinking and feeling about death?
†† Well, letís not kid ourselves, Paul had some advantages we donít have.
He had seen Jesus Christ in his glory on the Damascus Road.
†† He had visions.† He was taken up into heaven and saw things so
†† wonderful that God did not permit him to write about them.
He had a taste of the greatest things, so naturally he wanted more.
†† We havenít had such visions.† We havenít seen the glory of Christ.
But that doesnít mean canít seek for ourselves the same mind about death Paul had.†
Let me read you something Dr Robert Rayburn wrote about this:
†† If you were going to take a trip, say to Europe, you would buy and read in advance some guidebooks in order to make the most of your journey. †Your anticipation would build as you read of the wonderful things you would soon see. †Well, every Christian is going to take this journey sooner or later and there are guidebooks to be read in advance that will wonderfully spark your anticipation.
As my sister was dying, now some ten years ago, through the last month of her life, I called her every morning and, for half an hour or so, read to her from some of these guidebooks. †From the Bible of course, the best guidebook of all, and its glorious descriptions of the heavenly country and the life of the world to come. †The Bible has much to tell us about both the journey and the destination. †But from many others books as well. †I read to her the river-crossing scenes from the two parts of Bunyanís Pilgrimís Progress. †And all of that, I found, made me think very differently about my sisterís death and about my own. †I found in my own heart and mind, the beginnings of an anticipation of death and of being in heaven with Christ.
But, remember this, it is Christ who draws Paulís attention forward through death to what is beyond. †The more you are with Jesus here, the more you will crave to be closer to him, to know him better, to see him more clearly, to be with him the way the saints are with him after they die. †The way to Paulís mind about life and death is the way of communion with Christ. †Seek him and find him in your daily life and the prospect of seeing him on the other side will make death seem like little more than a door, through which a happy man passes to still more wonderful things.
Where do you get peace and joy in the trials?† In Jesus Christ.
How can you look at the things that happen and say:† Who cares?† I rejoice!
†† In Christ.
How do your trials become opportunities for glory, growth and heaven?†
†† Through Jesus Christ.
Knowing him, loving him, reflecting on what he has done for you,
†† finding your identity in him, looking forward to life with him.
And, of course, that takes deliberately pushing the truth down deep,
†† so that it catches fire in your heart.†
So letís come to the Table, and do that one more time.
†† Through the bread and cup, by faith and by the Holy Spiritís power,
†† we look at Jesus and say:† For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.†