To Live Is Christ • Philippians 1:19-24

I.     INTRODUCTION

A.  It’s All Good

1.   There’s a popular saying going round – Perhaps you’ve heard it - “It’s all good.”

2.   It’s meant to be a kind of optimistic spin on things

3.   The one who says it means that even though something might not seem too good at the moment, in the end it’ll all work out

4.   You know what – that phrase, “It’s all good,” is exactly what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 1

B.      Background

1.   Paul wrote Philippians from prison in Rome

2.   Though he was being pressed by difficultcircumstances, he wrote a letter to the church at Philippi that is full of hope and encouragement

3.   He was able to be so positive because he had settled an important issue in his life

4.   We see what that was in our text this morning . . .

II.  TEXT

A.  vs. 19-20

19  For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

20  according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

1.   The “this” Paul is referring to in v. 19 is the circumstance of his imprisonment and impending trial

2.   As he looked to the immediate future, he knew there was one of two alternatives that lay before him

a.   either he would be acquitted of the charge of rebellion against Rome and released

b.   or, the emperor, to whom Paul had appealed his case, would find him guilty and have him executed

c.   it didn’t help that the emperor was a guy named Nero who was openly hostile to Christians

3.   So Paul had to deal with the very real likelihood that he would be put to death

4.   Release or execution, to Paul it was all the same – either way it would mean his deliverance from his present state of imprisonment

5.   Being set free or being executed wasn’t the critical issue for Paul –

6.   What was more important was how he would live right now in light of either alternative

7.   And he was confident that no matter what happened, he would continue to live by faith in Christ and not bring shame to His Savior’s name

8.   This confidence was based on the prayer of the Philippians and the supply of God’s Spirit

a.   Paul knew they were praying for him and that God would heed their prayers

1) friend, never underestimate the power of your prayer for those who are being pressed

2) how often we hear from those who are going through trouble who say that it was the prayers of others that helped get them through

3) Paul took great comfort in the knowledge they were praying for him

b.   the Apostle also depended on the supply of the Holy Spirit to provide the strength and courage he needed to endure and not give up

1) as Jeff Brown so eloquently reminded us a few weeks ago,

2) God’s grace is sufficient for us; His strength is made perfect in the midst of our weakness

3) we never sense the presence of God more keenly than we do when we are being pressed beyond ourselves

9.   Paul sees himself holding on to the bars of his cell

a.   the jailor is coming to open the door

b.   he will either be led forth and set free – or led to the place of execution

c.   but neither end concerns him

d.   what does concern him is that as he holds those bars and looks out from behind them, he would continue to live boldly by faith, content in his joy and peace in Christ, come what may!

10. In fact, he hadn’t merely resigned himself to this; he says that it was his earnest expectation

a.   those words present the picture of someone craning their neck so they can get a better look

b.   they’re standing on tip-toes in anticipation of what’s to come

11. How excited by the dawn of each new day would you be if you were lying in some dank prison cell?

12. Well, Paul was excited – not by the circumstance of his surroundings but by the opportunity each day brought of living boldly for Christ

13. It’s this concern to live above the level of his circumstances that draws forth his next words

B.  V. 21

21  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

1.   This is nothing less than Paul’s personal motto

2.   He didn’t pen these words reluctantly or with some kind of pious religiosity

3.   He felt this with every ounce of his being

4.   We know that because of what we read in the book of Acts

a.   Paul didn’t just say these words –

b.   he lived them!

5.   When they stoned him to death in Lystra, and the Lord raised him from the dead, he got up off the ground, dusted himself off and went right back in to the city

6.   When a mob of thousands flooded into the theater at Ephesus and called for his head, his friends could barely restrain him from entering the theater to try to win them to faith

7.   And when a prophetic word from God came to him warning him that he would be arrested and beaten harshly if he went to Jerusalem, Paul quieted his friend who tried to dissuade him from going by saying he was willing to not only be beaten, but beaten to death if it meant some might come to faith in Christ

8.   V. 21 is no mere religious platitude – it was Paul’s firm conviction and motto

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain

9.   If we take away the words “Christ” and “gain” we have “For to me, to live, and to die.”

a.   this is the way of all men and women

b.   we are born, we live and then we die

c.   what separates life and death is a comma – that is the sum of the life of the unbeliever

d.   but for Paul there was more

e.   “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

10. His whole mentality was this:

a.   as long as I draw breath – “I will seek to know, love and serve Jesus”

b.   “This life is not about me and my circumstances.”

c.   “It’s all about Jesus and what He wants to do RIGHT NOW!”

11. “As long as I live, I live for Christ. And then, when I die, I get more of Him.”

12. “So it’s all good – I can’t lose!”

13. Compare Paul’s personal motto here to the famous meditation of Hamlet – “To be, or not to be. That is the question”

a.   it’s the question of a man contemplating life and death

b.   he is weighing his options;

1) should he go on in life, filled as it is with turmoil, sorrow and pain?

2) or should he end it and face the terrors of death

c.   for Hamlet, both life and death were scary propositions and no matter which he chose, he lost

d.      existence was a lose-lose

e.   for Paul, life and death were a win-win

14. Again, think of where Paul was when he wrote this – in a dark, fetid hole in Rome

a.   yet each morning when he rose, he was stirred with a passionate thought and ambition to fill the hours with whatever might promote the glory of his Master

b.   he thought little of what befell him, just so long as it advanced the glory of God

15. The first time I went back-packing, I was bugged for two days by how dirty and grimy I felt

a.   the dust from the trail, sweat from the exertion of hiking, cooking over a campfire

b.   it all conspired to make me extremely uncomfortable

c.   you see, I’m a clean freak – I like to take a nice hot shower every morning

d.   if I don’t get one, I get edgy

e.   so for two full days I really did not enjoy camping a whole lot

f.    I kept complaining and mumbling and asking myself why I had every gone along with my friends on this stupid trip to begin with

g.   then, on the evening of the second day, after dinner, I was cleaning my dishes and grumbling about the dirt when it hit me –

h.   this was the way it was going to be, and I could keep grumbling and making myself and everyone else miserable, or I could resign myself to the fact of my circumstances and start looking for the positive

i.    as it was just starting to get dark, I took a little hike up the creek we were camping next to and just sat down on a rock for a few minutes

j.    I looked around at the canyon walls rising hundreds of feet above me

1) I looked at the creek flowing around the rock I was sitting on

2) the trees bending over the creek in such strong majesty

3) though I had been there for over a day, it was like I was seeing it for the first time

4) a whole new world opened before me – a world of beauty and wonder

5) a playground to enjoy

k.   the next two days were a delight; I got dirtier than ever, but I didn’t care anymore

16. Friends, Christ is all around us, and each moment of each and every day is an opportunity to know, and love and serve Him

a.   no matter what your circumstances are – being a Christian means living in the midst of it for Him

b.   don’t waste any time grumbling and complaining

c.   all it does is make you and everyone else miserable

d.   and it locks you out of being able to enjoy the beauty and opportunity that is all around you

17. To live is Christ – and to die is gain

a.   the world says death is the end, but for Christians it’s the beginning

b.   this world is but the vestibule, the front porch of heaven – death is the door

c.   does the caterpillar die when it spins it’s cocoon?

d.   yes, but out of that death comes new life, a life free from the limitations of it’s prior existence

e.   in the same way, one day these bodies will be shrouded in death,

f.    but only as the means of setting us free from the limitations of these bodies

g.   and in that new body that we will get, we will see Jesus face to face

18. To live is Christ, and to die, well that’s even more of Christ!

19. So Paul is face with a dilemma – should he be hoping for a release from prison or the release of death . . .

C.  Vs. 22-24

22  But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.

23  For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

24  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

1.   He says, “ If it weren’t for others, I’d just as soon go home to heaven.  But because there are still needs in this world, my staying might be best.”

2.   That word “depart” in v. 23 is enlightening

a.   it speaks of a ship that has slipped it’s mooring and has set sail on the sea

b.      Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about a new ship that was tied up alongside a wharf

c.   as the ship looked at itself it saw metal and wood and rivets

d.   it could not understand what it’s purpose was, what it was created for, why it existed

e.   but then her crew released the ropes that held her to the shore and turned her out to sea

f.    there, flying across the windswept waves, she realized what she was – a ship, made to sail

3.   Christian – you are a human being, a man or woman made to know God & enjoy Him forever

a.   this life is like a ship tied up alongside a wharf

b.   you are being filled with the cargo of experience in the lessons of life you are supposed to be learning

c.   one day, like Paul says here, you will slip your mooring and sail away into glory

4.   And so we find ourselves in the same place Paul was; caught between the desire to depart, and the realization that the timing of our departure is solely up to the Lord

5.   In the meantime, life means living for Jesus

6.   It means being fitted with more cargo so that when we arrive at our home port, we’ll have more treasure to bring.

7.   Paul’s motivation for wanting to be released from prison was so that others could be benefited by his life and ministry

8.   He knew that one day he would indeed set sail for heaven, but in the meantime, while he sailed the waters around it, he was looking for the lost and drowning, rescuing them for time & eternity

9.   He knew where He was going, and wanted to take as many people with him as he could.

III.     CONCLUSION

A.  Capacity To Enjoy

1.   Tell me, who has more capacity to enjoy the J. Paul Getty Museum; the adult who’s studied art and art history or the average, bored junior high student on a school field trip?

2.   The adult does, for the simple reason he or she is more mature and better appreciates what he or she sees

a.   their knowledge of art enables them to see things differently, in more depth; and so the greater is their enjoyment

b.   the junior high student just sees some boring statues and paintings – where’s the concession stand – I want a corn dog!

3.   Now tell me, whose capacity to enjoy heaven is greater, the one who’s had it relatively easy and never been plagued with the deeper challenges and trials of life, or the one whose been sorely tried and had the opportunity to experience Jesus as all He is; as . . .

a.   Savior

b.      Deliverer

c.      Protector

d.   Healer

e.      Consolation

f.      Strength

g.      Reconciler

h.   Guide

i.      Counselor

j.      Comforter

k.      Provider

l.    Brother

m.  Friend

4.   While I long for heaven, I don’t want to go home one fraction of a second before I’ve wrung from this life every possible thing I can learn about Jesus

5.   I want my life to be so full of the knowledge and experience of Him that I’m like a Spanish treasure galleon filled with gold doubloons and precious gems

B.  Tested

1.   These verses teach us that while v. 21 was Paul’s personal motto for life, that confession was being tested in that Roman prison

2.   As we go and grow in Christ we find that we learn the same lessons over and over again, but each time on a deeper level

3.   We surrender to God, and He tests the genuineness of that surrender with some trial

4.   Time passes, and then another trial comes, this time calling for an even greater surrender

5.   Where God wants to take us is all the way to the end of self

6.   Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”

7.   Paul could only say, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” if he had first died to self.

8.   It is only when we have let go of the mastery of our own lives and placed our survival in the hands of God that we can be free and know the joy of liberty

9.   Some of us live in fear, terrified of what might happen to us physically

10. Others are worried and anxious about our jobs or our finances

11. Some live with a constant state of dread that something terrible is going to happen

a.   Y2K

b.   cancer

c.   auto accident

d.   air crash

e.   meteor

12. If that’s you – where is your God?

a.   is He not on His throne?

b.   and hasn’t He pledged Himself to never leave you nor forsake you?

Psalm 23:6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

Psalm 139:16-18

16  Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.

17  How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!

18  If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.

Therefore,

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die, is gain.