Paul expresses an important truth about death from the Christian’s point of view in verses 22-26.
It is very different from the secular perspective, well-represented by the latest Calvin and Hobbes story line:
What’s the difference between Paul and Calvin? Or more accurately, between the apostle Paul’s writing and the beliefs of Calvin’s parents?
Paul knows that there’s something beyond the grave. Calvin and his family have a modern, five-senses approach to viewing life which neglects spiritual possibilities.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (v. 21, NASB & NIV).
Without the promise of eternal life, this would sound like an unhealthy deathwish.
However, after the miracle of Easter, this positive tension between life and death is logically consistent.
In verses 12-14, Paul shares that his imprisonment has resulted in the opposite of what his captors intended.
Rather than preventing the gospel from being preached, Paul has taught the people who are holding him in prison about Jesus.
God works his will even in direct opposition to our best, sinful human efforts.
Don’t bother fighting against God. In the long run, it will never work out.
I hope that Paul’s prayer in 1:3-6 for the Philippian church applies to me today. It is an incredible encouragement.
Just as the writer of Hebrews begins chapter 12 with a description of our spiritual grandstand cheering us on, so Paul is cheering on the Philippians.
Who is praying for me regularly? Who is praying for you, dear Reader?
I. Paul’s Greeting
II. Paul’s Prayer
III. Paul’s Imprisonment
IV. Paul’s Comparison (Life v. Death)
V. Paul’s Suffering
In his other letters to specific churches, Paul has sharper and more specific criticisms. But the church at Philippi does not receive this kind of negative feedback.
What was it about this church? How did they receive Paul’s godly approval? What was different about this congregation?
Internal evidence may not be enough to answer this question. It may take most of the remaining 8 years, 7 months of my nine-year journey to puzzle out an answer to this question.
Jerry Falzone is one of the musicians at my home church.
His song, “You Bring Me Joy,” sums up Philippians well.
If I ever find the audio online, I’ll link to it here.
Paul summarized his message to the Philippians well in 3:12-14.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and it is our job to focus on the prize. This is similar to Steven Covey’s concept of beginning with the end in mind.
Do I live each day, do I approach each interaction, with the end in mind? Am I focused on what is truly important?
I particularly struggle with this concept within the context of work. There are pressures from below to support the faculty whom I represent. There are pressures from above to honor my superiors and trust their judgment, even when I’m not sure their decisions are the right thing.
Lord, I pray that you will give me wisdom and insight into this issue as I struggle to serve both my colleagues and my supervisors with a Christ-like, unselfish attitude.
1:9-11 sums up Paul’s purposes in writing this letter:
I pray that your love will keep on growing and that you will fully know and understand how to make the right choices. Then you will still be pure and innocent when Christ returns. And until that day, Jesus Christ will keep you busy doing good deeds that bring glory and praise to God (CEV).
Read these verses, and then read them again.
Now close your eyes and imagine Paul reciting this prayer aloud, just for you.
Philippians feels incredibly personal. Paul shares openly from the deepest places in his heart.
1) Who cares about the motivation of people who teach about Christ? 1:15, 18
2) Who cares if I live or die? 1:21-26
3) Who cares if I’m a righteous Jew? 3:7-9
4) Who cares if I’m in need? 4:12-13
Paul states clearly that Jesus will take care of him, and by implication each of his followers as well.
Do you follow Jesus, dear Reader?