Read: Philippians 1:18-26
Think of a modern example of a person who keeps an eternal perspective. The person who comes to my mind is Jim Elliott. He was famous for saying, he is no fool to give up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” This flows from the heart of a man who had an eternal perspective. It is from someone more concerned about the things of heaven than entangled with the things of earth.
In his diary he said, “God I pray to you, light these idol sticks of my life, that I may burn for you. Consume my life God, for it is yours.” And then he said, “I seek not a long life but a full life, like that of Jesus Christ.” His prayer was answered. His life was not that long. He died taking the Gospel to the Auka Indians.
His prayer was answered in that his life was full. The very fact that he died taking the Gospel to the Auka was a stepping-stone for that tribe to come to know Christ. His life was full because he has inspired many to live with an eternal perspective. His life was like Christ. Not a long life, but a full life. He lived with an eternal perspective.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go through life day by day with an eternal perspective? When something happens to you and it is used for the glory of God. Have you ever known that kind of person? Their car breaks down and somehow the service man comes to know Christ. Or they have a health problem and the whole medical staff is witnessed to. Why? It is because for them everything in their life seems to have a purpose in God. They seem to be a person of destiny. They live with an eternal perspective.
Paul in these verses gives us some clues on how to have an eternal perspective. How you can go about in your life keeping Christ first. In verses 18-20 Paul speaks about his rejoicing. Remember that Paul is in prison when he is writing these words and he says he is rejoicing. Why is the Apostle Paul rejoicing? Is it because he is about to be released from prison and there is a lot of good news that is just around the corner? Paul does not know if he will be released or tried and falsely accused or even put to death. But yet Paul could rejoice.
Paul could rejoice because Christ was first in his life. His priority was on Jesus Christ. It is not a foolish optimism, like so many express today. Not like the guy who fell off a twenty-story building and at the tenth floor was heard to say, “so far so good.” It is not that kind of foolish optimism. His optimism is based on Jesus Christ. Paul said, “I can rejoice,” because he knew his hope was in God. Paul’s attitude was right, not because of the circumstances, but because his focus was on Jesus Christ.
Paul had an eternal perspective through prayer. Vs 19
The first thing Paul does is ask for prayer. He asked the Philippians Christians to pray for him. He is the great Apostle. You would think if anyone could get by without prayer it might be the apostle Paul. But he is the one who asks to be prayed for. Paul was the one who needed prayer. He knew there was nothing he could accomplish on his own, but only through the prayers of his brothers and sisters in Christ would Paul live a victorious life.
You must admit that without prayer you can do nothing. Each one of us is dependent on prayer. When we tell someone we are going to pray for them it needs to be more than mere words. We need to commit ourselves to pray for others when we say that we will pray for them. We need others to pray for us. We need to be willing to ask others to pray for us.
He is asking the Philippians for prayer and that is what is so needful and so vital for us. We need to be praying for each other. That is the key that Paul talks about in having a right attitude.
Paul then brings forth another way that gives him that right attitude.
Paul had an eternal perspective through the help of the Holy Spirit. Vs 19
Here is the great man Paul who had done so much but he was not willing to attempt to accomplish anything in the flesh. He sought to live only by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we are going to live in the power of the Holy Spirit it means completely in submission to Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can willingly allow in our life that we know is displeasing to Christ. We need to surrender it all to Jesus Christ. When you came to know Christ as your savior you surrendered your life before him. If you are going to walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, you need to surrender your life day be day, moment by moment. Asked to be filled, and walk in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit.
That is the key to the Christian life. Not going on in our own flesh or our own power. It is a supernatural life. It is a life of power in the Holy Spirit. Paul knew that even with all his great learning and all his great skills as a missionary that he needed the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul says these things will work out for his deliverance. The word Paul used for deliverance is literally the word for salvation. We think about salvation as the time we came to know and trust Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks not only of this kind of salvation when we trust Christ, but also a salvation yet in the future. A time when we meet Jesus Christ. Paul says these things for him will work out at that time of great glorification. The time when Paul is able to meet Jesus Christ face to face. He can rejoice how the circumstances work for his own deliverance. His attitude through prayer and through the power of the Holy Spirit is a right attitude. It is an attitude focused on Christ. An attitude that gives him an eternal perspective.
Paul had an eternal perspective because he was heavenly minded. Vs 22-23
Paul thought of the things of heaven. He was willing to look heavenward and that is where his thoughts were focused. In Shakespeare’s famous play Hamlet, we find the famous words, “to be or not to be, that is the question.” We discover a man who wants to end his life. He no longer wants to go on living, but facing death would be even more tragic.
This is in contrast to what Paul is saying. Paul had a struggle. He says departing or staying. Paul looks at death as parting. He is talking about the onward look to heaven. Paul constantly has heaven in mind. His joy comes from Christ. His life is wholly wrapped up in his relationship with Christ. For Paul heaven means a closer relationship with Christ. He can look at it as a gain because his life means Christ and heaven means a time closer to Christ. It is part of his eternal perspective. He knows his destiny is not in his own hands.
If the choice were left up to him he would rather depart and be with Christ. For him that would be gain. Paul was not thinking of dying, but what lies ahead. That deeper experience of what he already knew. He would know Christ more.
Can you imagine how close Paul was to Christ? He was able to think of death as being with Christ. Compare that to how we often think of death. When I am faced with death I rush to the Psalms. I say like King David, I want to see my children’s children. Deliver me from the hands of death. Or like King Hezekiah when faced with death asked for fifteen more years. I say give me life and I ask for more years on this earth. But not the Apostle Paul. He was so caught up and his life so bound together with Jesus Christ that he could look at departing as gain. He saw it as a closer relationship with Christ.
For Paul it meant entrance into heaven and knowing a nearer presence with God. Paul is hard pressed between the two, to depart and be with Christ or to stay with earthly service. For Paul life was Christ!
For the businessman life is accumulating wealth. For the academic life is accumulating knowledge. For the politician life may be seeking power. For the actor life is to see their name in lights. For Paul life was Christ. Everything he was, everything he did was Christ. That was his whole consuming passion. His whole life was wrapped around Christ. When Paul used the word depart to be with Christ he was using a metaphor. It was like a ship that departed from the dock. The ship loosened the ties and set out for the high seas. Paul looked at death as departing form this earth and going out to the deeper things of Jesus Christ.
Remember, Christian that this world is not your home. We are only visiting here and we are only truly home when we are in the presence of Jesus Christ. Why is it that so many of us lack this ability of the Apostle Paul to look heavenward? We need to have this heavenly outlook and look forward to Christ and looking at death as the nearer presence of God?
So often it is because we become entangled in this world. We put our hands to the plow only to look back. Only to begin a service of God and then we do not finish it through with full commitment. We get entangled in the world and believe the lies of what the world has to offer.
When someone is in the desert and they feel the heat of the sand rising up through their shoes and they are dying of thirst. That is when they see an oasis. A pond of fresh water surrounded by trees where they can get a cool drink. The problem is it is a mirage and they come up with a handful of sand. So often we see the mirage of this world and we believe possessions will bring fulfillment and we get entangled in this world.
The only thing is that will truly satisfy is the living water. Only Christ will satisfy. That is why we need to be looking heavenward at all times. Paul had the right attitude. Paul looked heavenward, but that was not it. He did not leave it there. Paul was committing himself to earthly service.
Paul had an eternal perspective so he had committed himself to earthly service. Vs. 24-26
Paul was committed to service while he was here on this earth. You may have heard the expression that someone is so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. In other words all they do is think about heaven. They sings songs about heaven ready to go to glory and yet, they never seem to do any earthly service. They never seem to make their life count here on earth.
Paul did not have this problem. He had a heavenly mindset and committed himself to earthly service. Paul knew that he would be spending eternity in heaven. But his days on earth were numbered. He needed to make each day count. We only have a short time to work here on earth and we need to make our life count for Jesus.
The Bible says the night comes when no man can work. We know that in the whole scheme of things our life is but a brief span. We need to commit ourselves to make the most of every moment we have. We need to make our life count for service here on earth. That is how we will have an eternal perspective. That is how we will know fullness and joy in our Christian life when we make our life count by serving God here on earth.
It is a call for commitment and a call to involvement. Paul’s purpose in remaining here on earth was to give service. He said that remaining here on earth would mean fruitful labor for him. He would be visiting his Philippians friends again and encouraging them in the ways of Christ. There is more to Christianity than just anticipating the great glory of heaven. There is a lost world around us. So many just outside the doors of this church need Jesus. There is work to be done and Paul shows us by example the path to service.
It is part of eternal perspective to have a great service here on earth. There is a call out for Christians to get their hands dirty. Paul is talking about this kind of commitment to earthly service. Paul uses the word remain. This word remain means to be called alongside and to be a helper. So for him to remain on earth meant he was going to be a servant.
How is your service here on earth? Is your life committed to service to others and to Jesus? Did you know that having an eternal perspective is related to your service? It makes a difference how you live your life here on earth. You need to get involved in service, and to the local church.
Do you want an eternal perspective? Get involved. Begin with earthly service. The time is short and the days are limited. Only one life will soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last. Won’t you make your life count for Christ? Let’s live with an eternal perspective and use every moment we have for service of Jesus Christ.