Summary: Philippians 1:18-26. Believers are encouraged to follow the example of Paul as he proclaimed "To live is Christ, and to die is gain."
AGAIN I SAY REJOICE
LOOK TO THE FUTURE; LIVE IN THE PRESENT
- I’m sure many, if not all of you, are familiar with the famous Peanuts cartoons. If you have read one of these cartoons before, you know that often Charlie Brown is the frustrated character and Lucy is the quick witted one. I can certainly appreciate some of the frustrations that Charlie combats. Like the one where Lucy is philosophizing and Charlie is listening. As usual, Lucy has the floor and is delivering one of her lectures.
- She says “Charlie Brown, life is a lot like a deck chair. Some place it so they can see where they’re going. Others place it to see where they’ve been. And some so they can see where they are at the present.” And Charlie, not impressed with the thoughtful statement, sighs and says “Lucy, I can’t even get my deck chair unfolded.”
- In addition to the humor of Charlie’s dilemma, what Lucy says has, as it often does, some truth to it. Some people are constantly looking back at the past; for good and bad reasons. They are so caught up in what used to be that they are missing what is, and have no room to think about what is to come.
- There are others who live for the moment. The only thing they are concerned about is what’s going on right now. The past is gone, so why bother reminiscing? The future is out of our hands, so why bother worrying? All we have is right now.
- There are still others who insist on focusing on the future alone. The past is so far gone that it doesn’t get a second thought, and the present is constantly slipping away ;so it’s best to keep our attention on what lies ahead.
- As is usually the case, all three of these extremes are to be avoided. In fact, we are going to get a close up look this morning of what a godly life looks like with respect to these things. How is a believer in Jesus Christ supposed to understand his or her time on this earth? What should a Christian be focused on?
- If you have your Bible, look at Philippians 1; beginning at the end of verse 18.
Read Philippians 1:18-26
- Here we see the Apostle Paul, after reminding the Philippians believers that his seemingly unfortunate circumstances were actually furthering the gospel message, building on that thought by saying that no matter what happens to him, God will be at work. Remember he told the saints that God was using him, even in house arrest. Whether he was in prison or free Christ was being proclaimed. Now he goes further by saying that whether he is alive or put to death, Christ will be proclaimed and glorified.
- In the key phrase of this passage he writes “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He says in essence “Look, if I ever get out of here, that would be great; and it would benefit you all very much. But at the same time, if I don’t ever get out, and I am put to death, that would be great too. As a matter of fact, I am not sure which I would rather have happen; because to be with Christ is better than anything this world can offer.”
- He is facing a dilemma here in his mind: “What do I want more: to live on and minister the gospel, or die and be with Christ?” And his response to this dilemma gives us great insight into what a godly mindset looks like concerning our view of life and death.
- At the end of v.18 through v.19 Paul tells them that he expects to be released. He says that through their prayers and with the help of the Spirit of Christ, he anticipates deliverance. He expects to be saved out of the situation he is in.
- This little word deliverance is really where our understanding of this whole passage begins. It is the word σωτηρίαν; the word usually translated salvation. And our understanding of how Paul uses this word is important for getting the point of what he is writing here.
- σωτηρία does not always refer to salvation from sin. It can mean a variety of different things. Usually the context makes it clear as to what kind of salvation or deliverance is in view. In this case, Paul is speaking of deliverance from his imprisonment.
- But he is not saying here that he expects to be released. That statement comes a few verses later. Verse 20 tells us what he means by deliverance: 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.