Sunday’s Sermon — Philippians 1:19-30

1 Jul

Philippians
Philippians 1:19-30
To Live is Christ

Who is this man? Who is this man who can take the lashes on his back and not deny his Lord? Who is this man? A man who can take insults and injuries from his own Jewish brothers, injuries and insults he himself had once handed out against Christians. Who is this man? Who can see prison not as a cell and chain but as freedom and an open door? Who is this man who having nothing has everything? Who is this man?
This is what I’ve been thinking about this week. How could Paul have taken all he took in his life as a follower of Christ and, far from shrinking back, actually gone forward with Jesus? I look at my own life and realize that so little can throw me off and lead me to despair. Some family conflict can make me discouraged. My own sinfulness can get me down. When attendance is not good or when people drift away from the church I get down. So my question over these last couple of weeks has been, “who is this man?” How could this man have lived such a faithful life to Jesus in the midst of such incredible trials? What can I learn from him so that I can walk in victory?
Now I would be leaving out an important piece of the puzzle if I didn’t bring Paul’s other writings into the picture. When we consider 2 Corinthians, for example, we see that there were times when Paul says he was so stressed that he even despaired of life itself. And, of course, many of us know of the famous passage about the thorn in the flesh, some satanic challenge in Paul’s life that stretched him spiritually.
Still though, the overall tone of Paul’s life was one of victory. And I have been trying, in studying through Philippians, to get to the heart of that victory. The easy answer is, “well Paul was a man of great faith” and that is true. But what I am trying to do is look at Philippians to understand the shape of his faith. As we go through Philippians 1:19-30 this morning, that is what I will be doing, just observing aspects of Paul’s life with God which led to his victorious outlook. We focused last week on the outward reason Paul had for having great hope in God, namely that Paul was involved in the ministry of the unstoppable gospel. Now this morning, we turn more to the inward realities of Paul’s life which gave him such joy.
Paul had said in verse 18 that he rejoiced that the gospel was preached and that he would continue to rejoice. The cause of his continued rejoicing is verse 19.

for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,
The word order in most of our English translations is different from the Greek. The Greek text puts the phrase “this will turn out for my deliverance” at the start of the sentence, giving it some emphasis. The emphasis of the verse then is that Paul expects to be delivered. The way in which he expects to be delivered is through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The question to ask about this verse is, what does Paul expect to be delivered from? And the obvious answer would seem to be “prison.” Paul expects to be freed from prison. But I think there is also a deeper deliverance Paul is expecting and this deeper deliverance is so important to Paul that it almost makes being delivered from prison unimportant in comparison and this is the key to Paul’s victorious life. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is what we will see as we go through the passage. At the end of the day, being delivered from prison is much less important to Paul than the other kinds of deliverance.
The phrase “this will turn out for my deliverance” is a word for word quote from the Greek version of the Old Testament book of Job. In Job 13, Job has had enough. His friends have been telling him all these reasons why calamity has come to him and Job knows they are wrong and he is fed up with all their hints that sin in Job’s life is causing the problems. So he lays into them. And it is in this passage I believe that Paul finds inspiration for his own life. This is what Job 13 says, beginning at verse 13 . . .

13 “Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may.
14 Why do I put myself in jeopardy and take my life in my hands?
15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.
16 Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless person would dare come before him!
17 Listen carefully to what I say; let my words ring in your ears.
18 Now that I have prepared my case, I know I will be vindicated.

Paul had lots of people against him, many unbelievers. But most hurtful probably were those fellow believers who opposed him. Our hearts are always heavy when one whom we think loves the Lord sees in us someone who is a rival or someone to be criticized. Paul had people in his life who were like Job’s friends, whispering about what was wrong with Paul that got him in prison, sometimes openly opposing him. So Paul goes back and lifts a phrase from righteous Job to say something to the naysayers. “I’m going to be delivered. Though He slay me, I will trust in Him. To live is Christ and to die is gain.”
But Paul knew his deliverance was not going to come because of his great faith. This is another of the secrets to Paul’s victory. He is a man of great faith precisely because he is not measuring his faith but is instead focusing on the object of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t worry about how much faith you have, be concerned about who you are placing your faith in.
Paul knew his deliverance was dependent on God. If Paul was to be delivered, it would have to be the work of God. Nothing makes that more obvious than when your back is up against a wall. You don’t get much more up against a wall than when you are chained to a Roman soldier 24 hours a day in a prison.
Though Paul knew his deliverance was dependent on God, he also knew that God uses means to bring his deliverance. The means God uses most often are the means Paul mentions here: prayer and the help of the Spirit. The way the Greek phrase is written, prayer and the help of the Spirit are linked together very definitely. We have things to do but we don’t do anything of worth apart from the empowering of God. God does things, but He chooses to do many things through human response. So there is an important place for prayer. God has determined to work in response to believing prayer. So if we need deliverance, we need to pray and depend on the Spirit to give us all we need. Don’t give up on praying. Consider how powerful the Bible says prayer is. Still though, we must remember that self-centered prayer goes nowhere but God-centered prayer changes the world. Most of us are discouraged in prayer because we have forgotten the priorities of the Lord’s Prayer. Before we ask for our daily bread or protection we say, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Prayer is as useless as a water gun in wartime if it is directed toward comfort and ease of life and it is mountain-moving powerful on the lips of a believer whose life is given over to the great purposes of God.
With this hope of effective prayer and the power of the Spirit to bring deliverance, Paul begins to draw out what this deliverance would look like. And it is contrary to what most people would expect. Look at verse 20 . . .

20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

Paul has an eager expectation and hope. Hope is one of Paul’s favorite words and should be one of our favorite words, for biblical hope is not “caught in the mid-air wishful thinking” but is rooted in the promises of God. The word translated “eager expectation” is only used in one other place in the New Testament, Romans 8:19, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” So Paul has a deep longing, a hope and he expects it to happen. But his hope is very different than what we might expect. We might think Paul would say, “It is my eager expectation that I will get out of this prison and go on preaching and be blessed.” But Paul says instead that his expectation and hope is that he will not be at all ashamed. Ashamed of what? Being in jail? Maybe. I think rather though that what Paul is talking about is that he would not be ashamed of the gospel. The reason I say that is the next phrase, “that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body.” I think Paul is looking forward to the time when he is going to go to trial. He was in prison awaiting trial as was often the case in the ancient world. And as he awaited trial in that cell, he thought about his defense. What would he say when he was called on to make his defense? Would he wimp out or would he speak boldly of Jesus, even though doing do could possibly lead to death? So his hope is that he would not be ashamed but have courage. And the goal is that Christ would be honored in his body, whether by life or by death. This word honored can be translated “magnified” or “to make great.” Paul’s goal was the glory of Jesus. He wanted Jesus to be seen as great and beautiful and powerful through his life. And he knew that was happening now, as he was preaching Christ in prison and people among the guards and all the rest were being influenced. And he wanted this Christ-exalting to continue always in his life so that he whether in trial or back out in the world he would not be ashamed but would always have courage to make much of Christ, even if he died.
There are two truths about what Paul says here that I believe are vitally important for our lives. First, he says he wants to magnify or honor Christ. I wonder if so often our problems and struggles in the Christian life don’t arise from the fact that we don’t want Christ to be magnified, we want Christ to magnify us. We call on Jesus when we are in trouble not so that we can be delivered into His presence or into His great purposes but so that we can be made comfortable or be given favorable circumstances. Perhaps this one little change of perspective could change our whole life, if we began to see everything in our life not by how it affected us but by how it exalted or failed to exalt Christ. The second truth I think is so important here is found in the phrase “in my body.” Paul cannot conceive of a Christianity that has to do only with believing things. To be sure, beliefs are involved. There are very definite truths Christians must embrace but at the end of the day where the Christian life is lived out is in the body. We are not wispy spirits floating in the air and we are not going to have victory in the Christian life by separating the spiritual from the physical. Our bodies are the battlefield of the Christian life. The Christian life is lived in flesh and blood. Our warfare is not with flesh and blood but our warfare is waged in flesh and blood. So Paul tells us in Romans 12, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Our whole selves, body and spirit, must be offered to God if we are to enter into the kind of life Paul lived, if we are to tap into the endless streams of joy he found. Because those streams are in Christ and only Christ-exalting people can have them. So if you thirst today for Christ, come to Him and drink and be renewed and then out of the joy of your satisfaction go point others to the fountain of life.
Wouldn’t you like to be able to say with Paul, whether I live or die, I will still praise Jesus? When my chains are unlocked and I walk out of this place a free man, I will praise Jesus. And when the sword is at my neck and is about to come down, I will praise Jesus. Why could Paul live like this? Verse 21 gives us the answer . . .

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Here it is, right? This is it. To live is Christ and to die is to gain. To live is Christ. What does Paul mean by this? He means just what he says, to live is Christ. There used to be a line of t-shirts several years ago for different sports and they would say, “Baseball is Life” or “Football is Life.” Most of us are not that extreme. We are much more noble than that. We say “Family is Life” or “Success is Life” or “Wealth is Life” or “Romantic Love is Life.” And Paul comes along and says to us, “No, Christ is life.” And the reason he can say this is that he has personally seen the beauty and power and love and glory of Jesus in his life. To me, to live is Christ. I’ve experienced it, Paul says. Until you see Jesus as great and good, as worthy of worship and as the unending source of joy, you will never be able to identify with Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21. No one can say what Paul says here without a deep awareness that Jesus is the greatest treasure in all the universe. And this same treasuring of Christ is the reason Paul can say, “to die is gain.” What does Paul gain by dying? What is the gain he is talking about? The gain is Christ! Not freedom from pain and suffering, not deliverance from prison, not seeing loved ones who have passed away. Christ! Paul is so taken up by the greatness of Christ that he knows that to die will be to bring him to where he has always wanted to be: in the fullness of the presence of Christ. Right now he is pressing on toward that goal, not fully attaining but when he dies he will be in the presence of the Lord, free and fulfilled. So Paul is looking forward to that day. Paul was a man of two worlds. He lived and ministered in this world and longed for the world to come.
Do we really believe that to die is gain? Or are we really not looking forward to going to be with the Lord? I know none of us looks forward to the process of death. I am sure Paul didn’t think the executioner’s sword was gain. But to die is gain because in dying I come into the fullness of Christ’s presence.
So if we are thinking through this passage, we might wonder whether Paul has a death wish. If he is saying it is gain to die, why not just take our lives or give up the will to live so that we can have life with Christ forever? Paul has an important answer for us, for every one of us. He begins to unfold that answer in verse 22 . . .

22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.
Why not just give up on life if it is gain to die? Because if I live in the flesh it means fruitful labor. If Paul continues his ministry more Gentiles are going to come to the Lord and be changed by the Spirit. The flesh here is not talking about Paul’s sinful self, the way he often uses flesh. It is talking about his body. This temporary humanity is where I live and if I go on living there then there will be fruitful labor. The Greek phrase can be translated “a fruit of work.” For the Christian, ministry is labor. It is work. It is not easy and it is not passive. And Paul doesn’t shy away from it. He is eager to work for the Lord because he knows the Lord gives him power to do everything he does and because he knows his labor will produce fruit. So Paul is confident that his work is not meaningless. In what other area of life can we be involved in which we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will make an eternal difference? Human achievements are covered over by the sands of time. Who in here knows who the Roman Emperor was in 100 AD? Nobody. But in 100AD a large part of the world knew.
Every other view of life must ultimately take its cue from Shakespeare in Macbeth,
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Without Jesus, this is where we all end up. No matter how idealistic or disillusioned we are right now, this is where we all end up in our thinking and living if we insist that this life is all there is. But if we know, as Paul did, that right now counts forever, we will find that life, though brief, is infused with meaning and that death, though painful and harsh, is not the end. If, as Paul says elsewhere, our lives are hidden with Christ in God we can live in such a way that we do great good for people in this life while also pointing them to the deeper and more real life to come. The best way you can invest your life is to be taken up with the great purposes of God. A man or woman who treasures Christ above all things and lives for God’s purposes can be a powerful force for good in the world.
Paul’s life was taken up with God’s great purposes. But he was torn. He knew there would be fruitful labor for him but he also wanted to be with Jesus. So he didn’t know which he would choose. Of course, ultimately, Paul knew it was not his choice. And this is why he doesn’t throw his life away. Paul knows that his times are in God’s hands. He has conflict within about where he would like to be but in the end it is God’s will that he cares about.
Martin Luther King Jr., the night before he was shot, gave a speech in Memphis that sounded a lot like Paul. King, like many, was a deeply flawed man with very real sins but on this night before he died, he with a voice of resigned peace, said these words, “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”
So it is with Paul. He is ready to be with the Lord, but he is not just playing out the string. Look at verse 23 . . .

23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
This word translated “hard pressed” shows up 12 times in the New Testament but most notably when Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “the love of Christ compels us.” So the same word is used here. Paul has two compelling options, fruitful labor in God’s work here in this life or fullness of life in the presence of Jesus upon his death. And Paul had full confidence that he would see Jesus because he had already seen Jesus. On the Damascus road Paul saw the risen Jesus so he had no doubt that Jesus was alive. So his highest desire was to be with the risen Christ who had so graciously saved him all those years ago.
The fact that Paul says he would depart and be with Christ shows us that Paul would immediately be with Christ at death. The Bible picture of death is that we are with the Lord and then at the second coming of Christ, our bodies are raised from the dead. So when we die as believers we are absent from the body but present with the Lord and one day we will have new bodies. No wonder Paul wanted to go be with Jesus! His desire wasn’t simply because his life was so bad it was because Jesus was so good. One author says, “Paul did not tremble at the thought of death. He considered it to be a most welcome prospect. He expressed a desire ‘to depart and be with Christ’ which would be for Paul ‘far better’ (v. 23).
Such words seem very strange to many people these days. This life is generally regarded as being so very wonderful that we must cling to it at all costs. We would have no trouble agreeing with Paul if he had said, ‘I would prefer to die than to continue in prison.’
We are all familiar with situations that are so dreadful that death is a relief. But Paul is not saying that death is better than the worst of life. He is saying death is better than the best of life. In other words, he was not longing for death as the way out of unbearable circumstances. He was longing for it as the way into unspeakably glorious circumstances.
If we cannot share Paul’s desire, it is because we have not seen as clearly as he has the wonder of what Christ has done.”
Paul is torn then between two options but not in an unhappy way. He is joyful because he knows he cannot lose. There will either be fruitful days of ministry or the presence of Jesus forever. Paul is happy because in either case Christ will be magnified. This is what really makes Paul happy. I show that I love my wife by enjoying her company and trying to do what’s best for her. When I give her flowers or serve her in some way I am doing it out of love. And here’s the wonderful thing about love . . . when it is real, nothing makes you happier than loving the other person. Did you see that? Nothing makes you happier. So the wonderful by-product of true love is joy. However, if I am doing nice things for my wife in the hope that she will do nice things for me, I am not loving her, I am loving myself. Or if I live with her in a way that keeps the peace but doesn’t foster real relationship, I am trying to protect myself. And when I live like this I am miserable. There really are two ways to wash the dishes. The “I’d rather be doing anything else in the world than this now” way or the “there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than this, because I want to bless the one I love.” One is heavy and the other is light. One is gloomy and the other is bright. Now don’t get me wrong, doing dishes is not fun. And so it is with the things of God. On one level, indulging your eye with lust is more fun than purity. Living for comfort rather than God’s kingdom is on one level an easier way. But don’t underestimate the cost to your soul when you turn away from delighting in the Lord and try to come to him from a deal-making or a fearful heart. If you love God you will follow God, you will obey Him, you will worship Him and these things, though challenging, will ultimately be a joy to you because of your love for the Lord. But if your love for God is cold then you will be looking at every act you do and measuring it out. Did I do enough so that God will do something for me? Or maybe, what’s the least I can do and still feel like He accepts me? This way of living leads to shriveled hearts and is the explanation for why so many professing Christians lead defeated lives. We have, like the church in Ephesus in the book of Revelation, lost our first love. And remember, that church was doing all sorts of things right but their relationship to Jesus was wrong because their love motivation was gone. Can we say with the Psalmist, “I delight to do your will, O Lord.” Can we say what Paul says elsewhere, “We make it our aim to please Him”? Not out of fear, not out of duty or obligation, out of overflowing joy, the kind of joy that fueled Paul’s service.

Look at verse 24 . . .

24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
Paul wants to go be with Jesus but he knows that for him to remain is more necessary for the church in Philippi and the others he serves. He knows in God’s plan that his ministry is important and will go on for at least a while longer. So notice what’s happening here. I am making a lot of careful points today because there is real gold in this passage if you are willing to hear it. I am going after the handful of you today who are really locked in. If you will follow with me you will see great things from the Word here. Now have you noticed what has happened here in verse 24? Paul wants to go be with Jesus. This is his desire and his great hope. And to be with Jesus is better by far. So the best thing for Paul is to go be with Jesus. But notice this . . . the best thing for the church in Philippi is for Paul to stay. So Paul gladly turns away from his desire in order to bless others. Now this is Christian love, a love that gladly turns away from what is best for us to what is best for others. And what is always best for others is the kingdom of God in their lives. So the Christian who really loves Jesus wants Jesus’ Name to be lifted up in all the people around him. So his priorities will be shaped by his desire for Jesus to be praised rather than what the best case scenario would be for him. We go through most of our lives trying to arrange things for the furtherance of our kingdom when Jesus is calling us to turn our eyes in a totally different direction and ask, “What is best for God’s kingdom?” Ask that question and then spend the rest of your life constantly running after the answer. Out of love for Jesus you can willingly pour your life out for others.
To genuinely enjoy Jesus means seeking to live in ways that honor Him. Think about marriage for a minute. To genuinely enjoy our spouse is to honor our spouse. Face it, if you give your wife the flowers and tell her, “Well, I just felt obligated because Sally was talking about how her husband got her flowers so here.” She is not going to feel loved. But if you say from the heart, “I gave you these flowers because I love you and it makes me happy to give to you” then she will feel honored. Now of course there’s more to it than that. If you give her flowers and then hide behind the newspaper all night you’ve honored her in a kind of empty way. Sometimes she doesn’t need flowers, she just needs you to help with the kids. And we can be like this as Christians, when we gather to worship God on Sunday morning and then spend our week avoiding Him. Or when we are happy to serve the Lord as long as we are in the spotlight but when it comes to the mundane things we are not willing.
So Paul wants to be with Jesus, but he says in verse 24 that to stay for now is better for the Philippians and so he says in verse 25 . . .

25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,
Paul was convinced of that it would be best for the Philippians if Paul made it out of the jail cell and back into public ministry. Therefore he was confident that this would be the path God would choose for him. The word convinced here in verse 25 is the same Greek word Paul uses in verse 6 when he says, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” So again we see Paul’s overwhelming confidence, for the Philippians and for God’s plan for his life. Paul is confident because for him, to live is Christ. He is not trusting in himself, gifted as he was. His hope is in Jesus. So he is confident because he serves a Savior who is greater than any trial Paul will face. Paul’s confidence here is that he would remain and continue with the Philippians. The word remain here points to the fact that he would survive this imprisonment and the word continue points to the idea that Paul would continue to minister. Paul’s goal is not just to avoid death, it is to encourage spiritual life among those with whom he is working. Again, his goals are not self-centered but Christ-centered and this is the secret to his joy and confidence. Paul was not in ministry for money or a personal fulfillment. He was not in ministry so people would think he was a great guy. He wasn’t in ministry to try to rule over people and feel the rush of power. Paul was in ministry because what gave him joy was seeing other believers filled with the same joy in Jesus that he had. And that is my daily goal too, however imperfectly lived. I want to see you flourish in your walk with Jesus. To flourish means progress and joy in the faith. Progress speaks to the abounding love of chapter 1:9-11, a love that is growing in knowledge and discernment, enabling us to live a pure and powerful life for God’s glory. And progress speaks of the life hidden in Christ which can look at death or life, trials or blessings, as opportunities for glory to go to Jesus and the gospel to move forward.
And joy of course speaks of the great sense of personal blessing we get from knowing Jesus. It is not enough for Paul to see the Philippians making progress in the faith he also wants them to have hearts of joy. The reason for this is that the only way their progress will be sustained is if their joy in Jesus is so deep that it can weather the waves of adversity.
So Paul will stay and work for their progress and joy in the faith. But Paul will not only minister to them by using his gifts for their growth in Jesus, he will also minister to them in another way. Look at verse 26 . . .
26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Paul’s own personal example of service and satisfaction in Jesus will move the church in Philippi to treasure Jesus more fully. The word translated glory here is often translated “boast” elsewhere. The Philippians, like Paul, will come to boast in Jesus Christ alone as they observe Paul’s example of selfless service. And this is where Paul is going in chapter 2. He is a follower of the supreme servant, the Lord Jesus. Paul’s great point in chapter 2 is that we should emulate the one who had every advantage yet laid aside those things to take up the form of a servant and go even to death for us. Since we serve this kind of a Savior this is the kind of followers we should be. Many years ago there was a best-seller called “The Purpose Driven Life.” I think if Paul were going to write a book he might call it “The Service Driven Life.” And the first thing he would do in that book is show how the only way the service life can be sustained is by a consistent treasuring of the suffering servant Jesus.
The last verse of the great song “All I Have is Christ” says it well . . . “Now Lord I would be yours alone and life so all might see the strength to follow your commands could never come from me. Oh Father use my ransomed life in any way you choose and let my song forever be my only boast is You.”
So this is the example Paul has set forth for the Philippians and for us. We have seen the prayer he prayed earlier. Now we see what he calls them to do as a result.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,
The phrase be worthy of the gospel is better translated as “only behave as citizens worthy [of the gospel of Christ].” Philippi was a Roman colony where its citizens could become members of the great Roman Empire. But Paul is reminding them and will remind them again that they have a greater citizenship and that they should look to Jesus, not Caesar, for their life and joy. So we should look for joy and life in Christ and not in culture.
How do we live as worthy citizens? He has already told us two things: trust in the unstoppable gospel and follow Paul’s example of joyful service in love for King Jesus. Now he tells us something more. He says that living in harmony with each other as Christians is an essential part of living as worthy citizens of God’s kingdom. And not just when he is with them. He doesn’t want it to be like the children who only straighten up when the parent walks into the room. Paul wants the believers in Philippi to be unified all the time. How does their unity look? It is first a unity of spirit. Unity happens when a church comes together for the things Paul talked about earlier in this passage: love for Christ, joy in Him, treasuring Him. There we can have unity of spirit. But if we found our lives together on anything else it will fall apart. If our identity as a church is as the “family church” what will happen when people who are not related come in? Disunity. If we are known as the traditional church what will happen when people come in who desire contemporary music? Disunity. When we are known as the deep church, what will happen when people who are less seasoned in their Christian experience come in? Disunity. Anything we find our unity in apart from Jesus will ultimately lead to disunity, even if it is missions or ministry or how to do church. So unity is first a unity of spirit built on our common and supreme allegiance to Jesus.
Second, to be unified means to pull in the same direction, to work together that Christ might be exalted in our midst. The word “striving together” is an image like that of an athletic team working together. Those World Cup teams playing right now are not just kicking the ball around, there is coordination, a game plan, and group effort.
Warren Wiersbe reminds us: ‘The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battleground. We are sons in the family, enjoying the fellowship of the Gospel (Phil. 1:11); we are servants sharing in the furtherance of the Gospel (Phil. 1:12–26); but we are also soldiers defending the faith of the Gospel’.
A key part of living the Christian life as Paul lays it out here is to link arms with other Christians who share the desire of Christ above all and then stand side by side together in ministry. The other key Paul mentions here is to not back down. Look at verse 28 . . .

28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
Stand firm, keep fighting, don’t be scared. And remember, Paul is not speaking this from behind some cushy desk job. He is speaking it from prison. And he saying, don’t be afraid. The word frightened here was a Greek word that was used to describe when a horse was startled. Don’t be taken aback by those who oppose you.
And here Paul again wows us with an incredible insight. He says to us, “If you will not be startled by opposition, if you will not pull back but will instead move forward, if you will press through, you will not only continue to promote the gospel but you will profoundly affect those who oppose you. They will be aware, when they see your standing in joy in the worst trials, that the grace that has forgiven you has also freed you from fear. And they will tremble because they will know that they do not share that fearless life because they do not know the God who gives such freedom from fear that we don’t even fear death. Our unity in suffering says something to the unbeliever and it says something to us. We are reminded of our great God-given salvation as we experience the God-given sustaining that enables us to endure hardship for the gospel’s sake with joy. Paul isn’t coming up with something new here, he is just following the teachings of Jesus . . . Paul follows the teaching of Jesus here (Matt. 5:10–12), reminding us that persecution is a sign that we belong to Christ. Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Do you see that our God is a redeemer this morning? Nothing can separate us from God’s love and God is working in every single thing for His glory and our eternal joy. It is the life that can’t lose. The only way it loses is if we stand on the edges of it. In that case it is like a swimming pool on a hot day. We linger around the edges and appreciate the potential of the pool to refresh us but we never get into the water. My urging to you today, my pleading, is to dive in.

29 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,
Paul finishes this section by saying to the saints in Philippi, my lot is your lot. What I have experienced in salvation and suffering you too will experience. And we too will experience salvation and suffering if we truly follow Jesus. And notice here, it has been granted to you. This word granted in Greek is related to the word grace. Suffering for the sake of Christ is a gift. Almost no one looks at it that way today. Our goal as Americans is to avoid suffering at all costs. But past generations have understood that suffering, when it serves a redemptive purpose, is vitally important and even empowering. The early church understood this. I remember in our sermons on Acts, reading these words in Acts 5 when Peter and John were persecuted . . .
Acts 5:41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
The suffering in itself is not good but the results are good when we suffer for God’s glory. We are not happy that we are rejected or penalized for being a follower of Jesus, but we are happy when our suffering serves God’s purposes. You see, it is the life that can’t lose. God can even take our sufferings, our failures, our weaknesses and He can work through each one. This is what God means in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.”
We believe in Him and we suffer for Him and this is an unstoppable combination. It is people like this that God used to change the world in the first century and so it goes on today in many parts of the world. May it happen here. May it happen in me. But this life is not something just for pastors or missionaries, as Paul makes clear in verse 30 . . .

30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
The word conflict here is the word Paul uses elsewhere in his writings when he says to fight the good fight of faith. The Philippians had seen Paul persecuted and opposed by his enemies and now they have heard that he has faced conflict in prison. But Paul faced all this with joy. Not free from stress but in the end filled with the Holy Spirit and great confidence.

What about you? Is yours a confident faith? A joyful faith? Can you say, “To live is Christ”? Is your Christian experience something less than you hoped? If so, you must ask yourself, “what have I hoped for?” Have you hoped that knowing Jesus would make your life comfortable? Did you hope that having Christ would mean no dark days? Did you look to Jesus as a life enhancer, an assistant to make all your dreams come true? Or have you walked the Calvary road of surrender? That narrow road where your dreams die and God’s dreams for you come to life? That life where you live to please the one you love the most, not yourself but the Lord Jesus. That life where love for Jesus issues in glad-hearted and sacrificial love for others. That life where your heart is divided and both options make your heart leap with joy. Hope of the resurrection on the one hand and hope for a fruitful life on the other hand. Oh this life! It is available. It is real. It is free for anyone who submits with a humble heart and an eager spirit. Paul was not an elite Christian. He was in the same conflict as the believers in Philippi and every one of them had the same sustaining treasures of Christ available to them.
2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
The way of life is open to you. What’s holding you back? This morning, God welcomes you through Jesus Christ to abundant life . . . even in prison, even when racked with disease, even in loneliness and need. Jesus is that great and He is that good. This morning call on God to give you a confident, joyful life in Christ.

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