Summary: Knowing Jesus ultimately means having only good options
Phil 1 21-30
To me, and I could be really mistaken, high school is a time to make sure our choices with what we want to do with our lives can happen. We don’t want our options to be narrowed down, but rather, we want to do well enough that we can choose which college to go to, or which armed service to join or which trade to pursue. If we do poorly in high school our options are narrowed significantly; if we do well, our options are still open to everything.
When I graduated from high school I was blessed enough to have only good choices, only good options. I could have gone to several different colleges, all good, with really good options on what I could choose to learn about. Essentially, that is what being a Christian is about. That is one of the great rewards of being close to Jesus. We have only good options when we face situations of life and death. If we live, great, we get to keep on living for Christ, keep on serving Him. And if we die, our time of service is over and we get to enter into eternity with Him, heaven everlasting is our reward. So you see, there are only good choices.
The apostle Paul is facing a life and death situation, and he too understands he really only has good options. In the end he understands and wants the Philippians to understand that there is no one to impress but God. Phil 1:21-30, give a second to find.
21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 And convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
The apostle Paul is writing this letter to his beloved Philippians, a church he planted beginning with a woman named Lydia, who dealt in rich fabrics. The first church services were likely at her house, and then the church expanded as more of the Philippians became believers. This is a good church. This is a church that gives Paul joy, not worry and trouble. And so this letter to the Philippians is full of joy, rather than warnings against doing something dumb or advice on how to handle awkward and downright troubling situations. And since Paul is not really addressing a particular issue that is dividing the church, like he is in many of the other letters he wrote, he is free to be a little more philosophical, a little more real. And so we get to glimpse Paul when he is thinking about his own mortality, and his place in the plan of salvation God has for the world. I must tell you, it is nice to read this letter and think about what Paul says in the midst of his troubles and trials.
Paul is thinking about his own mortality. He is in prison, awaiting his trial before the emperor, before Caesar who considered himself to be a god. Paul has avoided being killed by the Jews by moving his trial from Israel to Rome. Instead of letting the Jews ambush and kill him, Paul has appealed to Caesar himself, instead of staying with the courts in Israel. It appears from what Paul says earlier in chapter 1 about talking to the praetorian guards that Paul is in Rome. We know from history that He died in Rome, so it is very possible, and in fact likely, that Philippians is one of the last letters he wrote. Sitting in a cell, awaiting one’s day in court, must have made Paul think about his mortality. The odd thing is that he is thinking good thoughts. Paul starts off this very personal part of the letter by talking about the options, the possible outcomes before him, life or death.