Finn’s shoulders slumped as he dropped his bike on the lawn and joined his dad in the garage. “What’s wrong, Finn?” Dad asked as he worked on sanding a chair he had recently made.
“I just visited Grandma,” Finn replied. He sighed and picked up a piece of sandpaper to help. “I don’t understand her, Dad.”
“What don’t you understand?”
“Well, I know the doctors can’t cure her disease–and she knows it too–but she actually seems happy about it.” Finn started to help Dad sand an arm of the chair. “She just keeps talking about heaven and how great it’s going to be and how she can’t wait to see Jesus–stuff like that.”
Dad nodded thoughtfully. After a minute he put down his sandpaper and looked at Finn. “Do you remember the old apartment we used to live in?”
Finn stopped working too. “Sure I do! It was a mess. The pipes leaked and the paint was chipping. The floorboards were all rough and rotting.”
“How did you feel when you found out we were going to move?” asked Dad.
“I was so glad!” Finn said, and he started sanding again. “That place was just falling apart, and we really couldn’t live there anymore.”
Dad nodded. “That’s kind of what it’s like for Grandma. She’s stuck inside a body that’s falling apart. In heaven, she won’t be in pain at all anymore. Even better, she’ll get to be with Jesus. One day, when He resurrects all Christians and restores the whole world, she’ll have a body that will never get sick or die. That’s a lot to look forward to.”
“Yeah.” Finn scuffed his toe on the garage floor. “I just hate to think of her being gone. I’ll really miss her!”
“I know. I will too,” Dad said. “Grandma’s death will be hard for us because we love her and will miss her, but it won’t be hard for her at all. She’ll finally be home with Jesus, and she’ll be with Grandpa and other people who’ve already gone to heaven. So even while it makes us sad, we can be happy for her.”
Finn nodded. “When I feel sad, I’ll remember that.”
In Philippians 1:21-30, Paul is caught between his desires and his duty. He is in the ultimate win/win situation in which he sees life and death as equally valuable. If he continues to live, he will come to know, love, and serve the Lord more fully and witness to more people. If he dies, he will completely, finally, and perfectly know Christ.
Paul seems flippant about death, but he is making a point. He is glorifying Christ and crediting Him with the meaning of life. Paul is not condoning suffering of any kind, not does he attribute it to God’s will. His goal is for us to see that our suffering for professing Christ as Lord is proof of the certainty of our future hope of a life with Christ. Most of us don’t suffer for the gospel, but Paul’s instructions to live our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ still stands. Our devotion to Christ must govern all other loyalties, regardless of the consequences. We must live our lives in ways that are worthy of the gospel. The main reason to remain in this world is to bring others to Christ and to build up believers to do the same. While there is still ministry to do on earth, heaven can wait.
Paul’s confidence is shining brightly. His hope has not wavered despite being in prison in Rome. He is looking forward to the day when he will be with Christ, as all Christians should be. Paul has come to the point where the earthly distinctions of life and death will mean little. The passage for our earthly life into our eternal life will be like going to sleep. When we fall asleep in death, we will wake up in heaven. Before this can happen, we have to be worthy of the gospel. This means that we have to accept Christ as our Saviour, but it also means that in every area of our life our conduct must be worthy of the Gospel.
Paul addresses four areas that Christians should tend to as they live in this world:
- Their conduct-acting worthy of the kingdom of heaven to which they rightly belong as citizen of God’s household.
- Their consistency-maintaining integrity and their testimony in spite of persecution and trial.
- Their cooperation-remembering to strive together, like athletes against a common foe.
- Their courage-facing persecution and enduring pain for the sake of Christ.
Paul urged his supporters at Philippi to keep steadfast in the face of opposition, and he urges us to keep steadfast as well. Paul criticized those who opposed him, but he rejoiced in the knowledge that however it happens, the Gospel will go forth. He urged the Philippians to have the same attitude, and he urges us to have the same attitude today. We are to rejoice in the Gospel and not split the church into factions.
The word “conduct” comes from the Greek word that means “citizenship.” In Greek society before conquest by Rome, the city was the largest political unit, and citizens belonged to a city in the same way that people today belong to their country. Christians are to live, not by distancing themselves from the culture in which they have been placed, but by serving as ambassadors of their true citizenship.
Are our convictions strong? Are they influenced by our environment, our friends, or our social standards? Are we part of a church that is driven by a passion for the Gospel and lost souls? If not, what are we doing to inject that passion into our lives? Do we and the church speak about social and political issues?
Our manner of life in Christ can be summed up in four statements:
- The gospel is simple, so we should be simple and plain in our habits, manner, speech, and dress.
- The gospel is fearless. It boldly proclaims the truth whether people like it or not. We must also be fearless, faithful, and unflinching.
- The gospel is gentle, and we must also be gentle in our words and deeds.
- The gospel is very loving. We must be compassionate toward the evilest of people.
The Greek word translated as “terrified” describes inward fear caused by an outward stimulus. This is an appropriate warning for the little band of Christians living in Philippi during a violent time in history. No one wants to suffer but suffering on behalf of Christ and His gospel is different. Many in the early church viewed martyrdom as a high calling and spiritual gift through which God would be made known. As someone wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
The cross is a way of life for Christians. That way of life includes suffering and persecution. Paul remembered Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:10-11: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” If we accept Christ, we must be willing to suffer for Christ. The call to suffer for Christ is a favour and an honour.
Even though we may not be imprisoned for the cause of Christ, and we don’t hear much of the martyrs today, there is an important meaning in this passage from the letter to the Philippians. Because of the love Paul received from the cross, he was also able to love, in spite of the cost. It costs to love, in any time, in any place. The costs may not be chains or death, but they are no less real. It costs to take into our homes a young pregnant woman who has been disowned by her parents and needs love and care. It costs to turn our homes into places of hospitality for wanderers, misplaced, unsettled persons, to give up our privacy and the comfort of routine for a season, so someone might have space and time in their life journey to convalesce and think in settings of love and acceptance. It costs to be “on call” for prayer, listening, and counseling as we seek to minister to people both within and outside of our churches.
Evangelist Bill Fay ran into singer John Denver at an airport one day. He walked over and introduced himself and told him he had a message for him. Several years earlier, Fay led John Denver’s father to Christ, and the father made Fay promise to share Jesus with his son John.
Fay took John through the Gospel, and John understood every verse, but he accepted none of it. He wanted nothing to do with his father’s faith, so Fay asked him, “John, when did you make up your mind that Jesus Christ would never become your Lord and Saviour?” John Denver could remember the time and place. He said a Sunday School teacher told him that Jesus Christ was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and he just didn’t believe it.
Don’t get frustrated when it feels like you’re not getting anywhere sharing the Gospel with the lost. Belief in Christ is something that is granted to people-it can’t be manufactured. We must trust God to work in His way and in His timing in the lives of the lost.
Lifting the light of Christ will mean facing opposition, but it will also mean living a life of integrity and joy. The more we surrender to Jesus, the happier we will be and the more fearlessly we will stand firm in the face of any trial. It will motivate us and excite us. We will heed Paul’s call, and we will be like Roman soldiers. Paul issued the challenge to stand fast in many other letters. The image refers to the way Roman soldiers would lock their shields together, plant their feet, and present a solid, unified wall of resolution against the enemy. Even in our darkest moments, we can hold on to the promise of permanent joy in God’s company.
Our refusal to show any sign of distress or concern will be evidence to the enemy that his defeat is imminent. If we react with fearful emotions and begin speaking fearful words, we will become prey to the enemy and will be easy to devour. The enemy doesn’t know what we are thinking until it comes out of our mouths. During troubled times we have to put guards on our thoughts and our words.
Paul’s call for genuine unity of heart and mind is based on four things:
- The necessity of oneness to win the spiritual battle for the faith.
- The love of others in the fellowship.
- Genuine humility and self-sacrifice.
- The example of Jesus, who proved that sacrifice produces eternal glory.
Life is about Jesus being our Lord and Saviour. We live in Him, and through Him for others. Death can’t even get in the way of Him blessing us with life and salvation, because He gives us eternal life.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1657-1658)
- Melissa Montgomery, “A Better Place.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 267-268)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “Life on God’s Terms.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
- Mary Luti, “Visiting.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D.,” Sweet Surrender.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Jack Graham, “Giving God Your Best.” retrieved from www.powerppoint.org
- “Where Does Faith Come From?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Randy Kilgore, “Every Moment Matters.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Allister Begg, “Be Worthy.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Vikki Burke, “Defeating Fear.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Troy Troftgruben, “Commentary on Philippians 1:21-30.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3431