Hey Everybody! Welcome to Gospel Home Brew a resource from River City Spokane. May the word of God brew in you today as we continue our study of Philippians. Before we jump in, let me tell you a little about myself.
My name is Thomas Lambert and I am the pastor of the Emerson-Garfield home church here in Spokane. My wife, Rachael, and I moved to Spokane in July of 2015 to join the Howells and Rivercity church so that we could help in the planting of home churches. We have one son, Titus, who is the source of constant laughter. Titus is 2 years old and has the sweetest heart of any child I have ever known. Like Kerr, I am bi vocational and I am a teacher by trade. I teach math and Spanish at 2 local schools and also coach soccer. Rachael is a nurse but has been a stay at home mom since Titus was born. She basically runs the show and is really good at it. I am very thankful for her because she makes it possible for me to do all the things that I do. We really are a team. We love Spokane, and all of the Pacific Northwest. We love to travel and so far have had the opportunity to see a few landmarks in and around Washington. Long term, Rachael and I see ourselves serving internationally as missionaries helping to plant churches very similar to Rivercity. We really do desire to see the Gospel go forth to all people. We pray that the Lord would use us in some way, big or small. Enough about me. Let’s get into Philippians.
In the scriptures that we will focus on today, we are going see a few things that the word reveals about Paul, which show us why he found a life worth living and a death worth dying. First, we see how Paul trusts the Lord, specifically God’s will to accomplish that which he has set out to do. Second, because of Paul’s selflessness, it mattered not how God’s will is accomplished. Even if that meant spending the rest of his life in prison. Which he did. Finally, we see that Paul knew who awaited him upon his death, Christ.
In the last podcast, Kerr walked through the verses that led up to where we are now. In verses 12-14 we see that Paul is in prison in Rome, writing to the Phiippians. He talks about how his imprisonment has actually turned out to advance the Gospel. For me this seems a little surprising. Paul is the greatest missionary ever. God was using him to plant churches everywhere. So, when he is put in prison I would think that would slow things down. However, Paul suggests the very opposite. Out of God’s sovereignty and wisdom, when the greatest missionary in history is imprisoned, the Gospel advances. That is incredible. Next Paul says that there are two types of people that are proclaiming the Gospel, those that do so sincerely and then those that do so out of envy and rivalry. Here is where we pick up. Let’s read verses 18 through 26.
“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, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” Philippians 1:18-26
Now we cannot forget that Paul is writing this letter from prison. He has just made it known that there were preachers out preaching the gospel out of rivalry and envy. Some men had seen Paul’s imprisonment as an opportunity to, in some way, even the score. Paul’s ministry had been very fruitful, seeing salvations and church plants to follow. Now, with Paul in prison, those that were filled with jealousy over his success sought to benefit from Paul’s persecution. I can only imagine how I would have reacted in this situation. I can see myself now praying for my release and praying against those arrogant preachers. I can even be guilty of believing that Christ needs me to do His work. Of course I would never say that out loud because it my head I know that God doesn’t need anything, especially from me. But if I am honest, my life sometimes is lived as if I believe I am needed. This state of mind generally leads to busyness.
Examine your own life. Do you struggle with telling others “no”? Do you feel spread too thin when it comes to serving the Lord? Sometimes we find ourselves saying, “I have to do it, or it won’t be done.” or “No one can do it the way I can.” If so, it could be that you think a little too much of yourself. It has become your ministry, and not God’s.
Paul was not of that disposition at all. Instead, Paul rested in God’s sovereign will. He truly believed what he wrote back in verse 6 that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Christ began this work, and Christ, not Paul, would finish it. Remember, Paul did not plan this church in Philippi, the Holy Spirit did. Paul had seen the Spirit open the ears of Lydia, release a slave girl from a spirit, set a jailer’s heart on fire and then use them to plant a church that would leave a spiritual footprint to last for centuries. Paul knew that he himself was not the successful minister, but that the Spirit is who draws men to Christ. Because of that truth, Paul could rejoice in knowing that Christ is preached, no matter what the motive.
Paul says that he rejoices in the proclamation of the Gospel, no matter how it comes.
As I read this I was reminded of different sports teams that I have played on in my life, specifically baseball. Growing up, baseball was my passion. I think one reason I, and many other athletes, love baseball is because baseballs builds ego like no other sport that I have seen. Think about it. Baseball, more than any other sport, offers opportunities for one player to change the course of the game. You may argue that football has this same opportunity, but not really. In every great play in football there are at least two players involved in success. Baseball is different. One man can single handedly win the game with a walk off homerun. What brings more glory than that? I played baseball from age 5 til about 18. I loved those moments when I would win the game with a walk off base hit or while playing catcher, getting crushed at the home plate by a base runner but somehow managing to hold on to the ball and get the out. However, when I was in highschool we had a brilliant coach that introduced us to a different style of baseball which we called “small ball”. Small ball was not about hitting the long ball but about playing smart and selflessly. Long story short, every time we came to the plate we had a purpose and it was rarely to swing for the fence. If there was someone on base with less than 2 outs, our one job was to move the runner from 1st to 2nd. This was done with the legendary, drum roll please…. sacrifice bunt. Just what every aspiring baseball players dreams of right? Not at all. We dream of walk off grand slams where we get to jog around the bases and be cheered by the whole crowd and to be met at the plate by our team who then lifts us up on their shoulders, not sacrifice bunts. Nevertheless, we were expected to use our at-bat to bunt and be called out at first base. As you can imagine, sacrifice bunts are not very good for your batting average.
So, what does this have to do with Paul? If you read through Acts, you will find that Paul was the superstar when it came to spreading the Gospel. He is the guy you wanted at the plate with two outs and bases loaded.
But Paul didn’t think that way. What mattered to Paul was that the Gospel went forth, and not that he received glory for it. It would have been easy for Paul to become frustrated with God. He could even find himself asking, “Why? Why do you have me in prison when I could be so much more useful out of prison?” But he didn’t. He trusted that God was incredibly wise. Paul knew that his imprisonment was advancing the Gospel, and that was enough. He was more than happy to sac bunt.
In verses 12-14, Paul recognizes that his imprisonment was advancing the Gospel and making the rest of the brothers more effective, and that was a good thing. Not only that, but being put in prison had caused some to begin to proclaim the gospel out of rivalry, and even that was good. Why? Because the Gospel was going forward.
So this explains why Paul could be the happiest man in Rome, even while in prison. Because of his security in the will of God and his faith in God’s wise sovereign plan, he could rejoice no matter the circumstance that he may find himself in.
Let’s pick up again in verse18. Paul writes, “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
Paul has a full expectation for deliverance. But what does he mean by deliverance. It seems that he hints at it in verse 20, saying “whether by life or by death.” For Paul, deliverance would come in one of two ways: Charges dropped and release from prison, or judgement and death. Either way, he has been delivered. Either way, Christ has won and Paul has been set free. And the best part is, both methods of deliverance will be free from shame.
On the one hand, if he is found not guilty by the Roman government and set free, his good name is restored and can continue the work of the Lord. On the other hand, if he is killed for his quote “crimes”, then he could experience the same rejoicing that the apostles felt in Acts 5:41 when they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
Now in verse 21 we get to see an eye opening glimpse into the mind of Paul. “21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”
This is truly incredible. In these few verses we get to see the outworkings of the selflessness of Paul. Because of what the Spirit had done in his heart, Paul was truly free. I am sure you have heard it said, but these verses really do beg the question, “What can you do to man like this?”
Whether he lives or dies, it will be a good thing. Kill him and you have made his day because now he will spend eternity enjoying the presence of Jesus. Let him live and he will enjoy the presence of the Spirit living in him.
One thing that really sticks out to me here is not so much that he sees both options as appealing but that he seems genuinely uncertain of which he would choose. In verse 23, he admits that to depart and be with Christ is far better. I think we would all agree with that. I would never claim to have attained the perspective that Paul has but I can read his letter and get on board. Without a doubt, departing and being with Christ is far better. Period. However, this is where Paul and I part ways. I personally am not torn between the two. If given the choice, I would quickly choose to leave sadness, hardship, persecution, etc to be with Jesus forever. Paul on the other hand is not so selfish. In this moment, he is not just thinking of himself and own personal comfort. He is thinking of the Philippian church. What is better for them? In order for the church of Philippi to progress and experience joy, Paul should stay, and he believes that he will do so.
What about you? Ask yourself, “What would you choose?” Would you stay? Or would you depart? Maybe that question is not quite enough. I think an appropriate follow up question is why would you choose to stay or depart?
Some may say, “I am more like Paul because I would want to stay.” But ask yourself, is it because you desire to see those around you meet Jesus and grow in the faith or is because you are treasuring something or someone more than Christ? The answer to this is imperative, because if we know anything about Jesus, it is that he is very concerned with motives and the state of the heart.
So, the title today is a “life worth living, and a death worth dying.” So how can we ever find ourselves living a life that is worth while? It seems that is only possible when we 1) see our life as a small part in the bigger narrative of God’s plan and 2) trust Him to use us to complete the task that he has given to us. If we fail to see the big picture, life will feel very meaningless indeed. However, if we do see the big picture but rely on our own strength to try and accomplish it, we work ourselves to death. Finally, how can we find a death worth dying? That is only possible when we know that on the other side is eternal fellowship with the one for whom all of creation is longing.
This is Thomas and I am praying that we can catch a glimpse of Christ the way that Paul did, so you find a life worth living and a death worth dying.