Life or Death

Far too often preachers preach as if the mysteries of God can be reduced to bulleted talking points. Perhaps an even greater danger is the temtpation for preachers to preach as if they’ve mastered the art of faithfulness to God, to preach as if they’ve got it all figured out and are just peddling out success stories to the less fortunate. For the sake of illustration: my semianry degree is titled Master of Divinity … as I’ve mastered the divine! I’ve read our passage countless times. I’m convinced that I’ve mastered nothing here. Philippians 1:18-26 is a strikingly powerful message … and I don’t have success stories to peddle out. I won’t preach this message to you. I’ll merely preach to myself in front of an audience.

Find the time to read Philippians 1:18-26.

Deliverance comes through prayer and the Spirit.

In the previous passage Paul discussed the need to rejoice when Christ is preached.  He now rejoices for yet another reason. He knows that he will be delivered through the prayers of the Philippian church and through the grace of the Spirit.  In this context “deliverance” does not mean release from chains (Yet, Paul is in chains as he writes), but something more important: ultimate vindication. You could actually translate the word “deliverance” as “vindication” or “salvation.” Paul is confident that he is in good spiritual shape for he has the Spirit and he has the prayers of the church.  Allow me this opportunity to ask you a question. What do you pray for? I’m sure you’re like many people and pray for wisdom, good health, relief from problems, among other things. When do you pray for gospel things? When do you pray for the ministries of this church? When do you pray for the salvation of your neighbor? When do you pray for your own gospel advancement efforts?  Your prayers reveal your priorities.

Gospel partners exalt Christ in life and in death.

The church prays for Paul and Paul has one priority.  Paul’s desire is to exalt Christ. He knows this goal can be achieved in life or in death. He can point to Christ through fruitful labor here on earth or he can point to Christ through faithfulness up to his very last breath.  Paul’s is not concerned about his chains. Unlike some us if in the same situation, he is not praying for his release or for his captors to receive justice. He is not concerned that if he must die, that he would have a painless departure. No. He wants courage so that Christ may be exalted.  He wants to hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant” when the time comes.

This may seem bizarre at first glance. For many of us death is something to be feared, to be held off at all cost. Many of us pray against the arrival of death at the doorstep. But not Paul. What drives Paul to think and act this way? Good theology.

To live is Christ and to die is gain.

For Paul, life is devoted to seeking and serving Christ. Life is overflowing with the character of Christ. Life is Christcentered and Christempowered ministry. Life is making disciples and building the church in Christ’s name. Life is abundant.  Yet, death is gain. Paul’s abundant life is not an end in itself. He knew that one day his Christcentered life would be swallowed up in the unshielded presence of the resurrected Jesus himself.  Paul’s theology is solid. “To live is Christ and to die is gain” is such a reality for Paul that he feels torn between life and death. For followers of Jesus, death should not be feared but welcomed.  May we stand on such solid theology.

Gospel partnership is rooted in self-denial.

While torn between life and death, Paul wants to remain in the body. Why does Paul want to remain in the body? His answer is rooted in the well being of the church, rather than his own. He wants what’s best for the church!  We often evaulate opportunities and decisions based on what’s best for us. Paul’s wants what’s best for those under his spiritual care.  Paul desires to remain in the body so that the chruch will boast more of Jesus.

It’s not about you … it’s about Jesus.

It’s not about you … it’s about leading others to Jesus.

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