Summary: Only when we can say, 'For me to live is Christ' can we truly say, 'to die is gain'. Spiritual maturity is the outcome of a life truly surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord.
Away back in the 1980’s when I began ministry at Abbeyhill Baptist Church a fellow Minister in the City was faced with a problem. A homeless person had turned up at church and the church did not know what to do with him. Rather than doing nothing this colleague who was the Pastor of South Leith Baptist Church began to explore if it would be possible to rent premises across the road from the church building in order to provide accommodation for this man. His plan came to fruition and it was only then that he began to dream dreams about the greater possibilities. That Pastor was Rev Alan Berry, Founder of Bethany Christian Trust. The work he began grew to the extent that when it reached the tipping point he left pastoral ministry at the Church to become Director of the Trust. Bethany Christian Trust now supports over 7000 people across Scotland!!
Whenever you respond to a need or answer the call of God beware of what this may lead to. The outcome may be far greater than you had ever anticipated. And this was certainly true for the Apostle Paul. Seeking guidance from God as to the next step, it was then that he and his companions heard the ‘Macedonian call’. Having received a vision from God of a man of Macedonia crying out ‘come over and help us’, Paul and his companions travelled for the first time to Europe and entered the City of Philippi. In the Acts of the Apostles you can re-read the story of the their imprisonment, and the earthquake, and the conversion of the Philippian jailor and the new beginnings of a great work of God in the city. Small beginnings led to great outcomes and this provides the backdrop of Paul’s letter, as writes to them, again (as we understand it) from imprisonment but this time in Rome.
I am assuming that you are going through Paul’s letter to the Philippians and that you have already heard someone preach on the first verses of Philippians. This morning we continue in Philippians 1:18-26
• What strikes me from re-reading Paul’s letter is the high level of spiritual maturity Paul shows, given that there is so much that he might otherwise have complain about.
• He is probably chained to a Roman soldier (and while he enjoys little privacy he does have a captive audience). Indeed, he must have had a series of captive audiences as one after the other of new soldiers would take on the next shift. Paul gets to share the Gospel with whole Praetorian Guard!
• It appears that what Paul had to share was so compelling that many people came to hear him.
• Paul was awaiting his appearance before the Emperor Nero to whom he had appealed. Nero considered human life to be very cheap. Paul could not be certain of the outcome.
Adverse circumstances are probably the best test of spiritual maturity.
We have to wait until chapter 4 to read what Paul says about his attitude to the circumstances of life:
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength”
Paul knew both adversity and prosperity.
He had learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
And in Philippians 1, as we shall see, he remained positive even in adverse circumstances, and put his trust in God whatever the outcome - whether he lived or whether he died.
In which ways does Paul demonstrate spiritual maturity?
1. REJOICING IN ADVERSITY
It may seek strange to us that Paul had rivals whose motive was to outdo Paul – carrying out ministry with intention of provoking him.
Philippians 1:15-18 reads:
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice
He rejoiced that Christ was preached! v18
• Paul shows true spiritual and emotional maturity.
• Paul is not troubled by the intentions of those less mature Christians whose intension is to cause Paul distress.