Your motivation is to honor Christ in life or death.
Thank you Graham. Man, mercy said no right? That song’s full of the Gospel. No matter what we’re going through, mercy said no, and that’s something that we can shout about, sing about and rejoice about this morning.
Again, let me just say, I’m glad that you are here. If you have your Bibles, you can turn with me to Philippians chapter one. We’ll continue on with our series Advancing the Gospel Together, a look at Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, Philippians chapter one. We’ll be looking at kind of the second half of verse 18 through verse 26 this morning.
And as you turn there, I’ll ask this simple question, what motivates you every day? What is your motivation each and every day that you live your life? I read this story about a missionary named Lou Nicholas this week. He says growing up on a farm he hated to work. Now any young people like that you don’t like to work with your parents and he old people like that. Yeah, we don’t like to do work. But his dad had a philosophy. His dad was a firm believer that if you were gonna eat it, you had to go work it. Anybody like that? Anybody grew up like that. If you’re going to eat the vegetables, you better go pick the vegetables or plant in the vegetables. But his dad wanted to motivate him. And so here’s what happened. In elementary school, he was asked to go to the cornfield with his father and hoe the weeds out of the corn. His dad would motivate him to hoe by challenging him to take one row and his dad would take another row. If Lou was able to beat his dad to the other end of the cornfield, which is about 1/4 of a mile, quarter of a mile, and do the job well, his dad would taken for a cone of ice cream when he was done. Anybody else motivated by that? Yeah, you’re not excited about ice cream? Maybe it’s too cold outside, but somebody told me, I’ll give you ice cream. My dad did not motivate me quite that way. It was the you know, take the belt. Any youth or teenagers? That’s how you’re motivated?
Motivation is important. Motivation is what gets us out of bed every day and motivation can be hard sometimes. Motivation can be hard when we’re going through difficult circumstances, it can be hard to get up. It can be hard to push forward, but we all have motivations. We have motivations to go to work. Maybe it’s to make money. Maybe it’s to advance our career. Hopefully we have motivations to go to school. Crickets, here that? All the people, the crickets. The motivation to go to school is to learn. See, still crickets. Or to get an education? How about the motivation is to go hang out with your friends? That can be a driving, motivating factor to go to school. Or I guess today you get online so you can see your friends. That is the motivation. Either way, we’re all motivated by something in this life.
The Apostle Paul is in the middle of giving his report to the church in Philippi. Now if you think back we’ve been walking through the letter. He started out with a greeting, a prayer for the Philippians. Last week, he started the first half of his report, meaning that he’s telling them about his circumstances. We saw he is focused on advancing the Gospel. That is his primary focus, while he is chained to a Roman guard in prison with restricted freedoms. I know he’s in a rented house, but it’s still prison. He’s still limited on what he can do, and he’s chained to a Roman guard that just does not sound fun. But through all of that he doesn’t see it as an obstacle. He sees it as an opportunity to advance the Gospel.
Today he addresses the motivation why he is going to rejoice, why he is going to wake up every day even though his circumstances are atrocious. His situation and his outlook is bleak. He doesn’t know if he’s gonna live, he doesn’t know if he’s going to die. He’s awaiting to stand trial before the emperor and so in this set of verses, he’s looking at his motivation. What gets him up and out of bed each and every day.
He shares with us the meaning of life through these verses, but he also shares with us the glory of death. As Christians, he shares with us that his primary motivation is to live for Christ and to honor Christ in all that he does. And that’s our example. Whether we’re in a good stretch or a bad stretch, we need to live our life for Christ and honoring Christ.
Here’s what the Apostle Paul writes, starting in the second half of verse 18. “Yes, I will continue to rejoice because I know this will lead to my salvation, or deliverance is probably a better word there, this will lead to my salvation through your prayers and help from the Spirit of Jesus Christ. My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything. But that now, as always with all courage, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” And with the most famous versions of all the New Testament, “for me to live as Christ and to die is gain. Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me, and I don’t know which one should I choose. I am torn between the two. I longed to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake, since I am persuaded by this, I know that I will remain and continue with you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that because of my coming to you again, your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound.”
Listen, verse 21 is the main thrust of Paul’s whole motivation. To live as Christ to die is gain. He wakes up every morning focused on Jesus. He wakes up every morning with this motivating factor that for me to live today is Christ, to die is gain. Now the powerful part of that phrase is really not found in the English translations. English does not capture the rhythm, the tone, or even the mood that Paul is writing. You see, there’s no verb in this Greek text. We supply the “is”, you know, to live is Christ, to die is gain, but that’s not in the text. You can really supply almost any verb that you wanted to. To live means depending on Christ. To live means honoring Christ. To live means following Christ.
The heartbeat of Paul is found in this. I don’t do this often, but I love the way it sounds in the Greek. To zēn Christos, to apothanein kerdos. Do you hear the rhythm of that statement? Do you hear the power in his message? To zēn Christos, to apothanein kerdos. Zēn apothanein; Christos kerdos. To live Christ, to die is gain. All of us have to answer a simple question. We have to fill in that blank, to live is what?
Today, if you’re like, to live is money. Then that means to die is to lose it all. There’s a story I heard a long time ago. This guy was really, really wealthy. He was a millionaire, several times over. He told his wife when I die, you bury me with all my money. And she goes, “I promise I’ll do that. I’ll bury you with all your money.” So, he passed away. They’re getting ready to close up the casket and she says, “Wait!”. She writes a check and throws it in there. She kept her promise, but he lost it all. He can’t take it with him. If you’re living for money, you’re going to lose it when you die.
Maybe to live is fame. To die is to be forgotten. As a young, youth pastor, and Graham, you may have struggled with this, I don’t know. We all want to be famous. We want to be Doug Fields. We want to be the guy on the stage at the youth ministry. We want to write the books. Going into seminary it’s like, I want to be John Piper. I wanna be John MacArthur. I want to be David Platt or I want to be JD Greear with 20,000 people. If I live for fame, to die is to be forgotten.
Maybe it’s power. To live for power is to lose it all when you die. How do you fill in the blank? I am living for what? The Apostle Paul says “I’m going to live for Christ no matter what happens in my life.” My 24 hours each and every day I’m going to live for the Lord Jesus. And he shows us in these verses how to do that. He gives us two insights. And next week we’ll look at even more on how to live for Christ, which should be every Christian’s anthem.
The first one is we rely on Christ completely. In every circumstance we face good, bad, indifferent, we have to rely and trust on Christ completely. Not halfheartedly, but completely. He shows us how to do that by first knowing the Word of God. As Paul is sitting there chained to a Roman soldier, he is reading, he’s reflecting and he’s resting on the Bible. Which for him would be the Old Testament. You may be saying “Pastor Trent, I don’t see that in the text.” Well, I do and he does because he quotes Job 13:15 exactly. “Even if he kills me” this is Job, “even if he kills me, I will hope in Him. I will still defend my ways before Him. Yes, this will result in my deliverance or my Salvation for no godless person can appear before Him.” That is a verse that Paul is reflecting on. He’s reflecting on his circumstance that he’s reading the Old Testament and he comes to Job. Job was a great guy. He never did anything wrong. He never committed a crime and yet Job goes through terrible, terrible circumstances. He loses his wealth, he loses his family. He really loses his friends. His friends do not support him at all. And here in Job circumstances, he says hey, this will result in my deliverance.
Paul has not done anything wrong. Paul does not deserve to be in prison. He has not committed a crime because Christianity is not illegal at this point in time. And yet he finds himself suffering just like Job, but he’s resting on this truth that this is going to work out for my deliverance. Whatever you’re going through is going to work out for God’s glory and for your good. And you know that when you are committed to knowing the Bible, have you started your reading plan? Pick a reading plan that works for you. We’ve got the F260 plan over there on the table. It’s what I’m going through. It’s what our family is going through. It’s what I’m doing on Wednesday nights. But you’ve got to know the Word of God, memorize the Word of God. In times of stress, it is helpful to quote scripture. In times of temptation, it is helpful to quote scripture. There is power in the words of that book, and if you want to rely on Christ completely, you have to know what He says.
Now, Paul says it’s going to work out. He could mean it’s going to work out for his deliverance. He’s going to be set free from prison. Or he could be saying, when I die, I’m going to be set free from this world and be with God. It’s hard to know exactly what he means, but I think he means both. I think he wakes up every day and he says “if I die today, that’s OK because it’s a win-win I’ll be saved. I will be vindicated. I will stand before Jesus. I will be ushered in.” When you read the context of the whole verse, it seems that’s what he’s talking about. But if I wake up and I live and I get out of prison, that’s OK too, because he completely relies on Christ by knowing the Word of God.
He also knows the power of prayer. Folks, the one thing that was said to me and I have found to be true. This is a pray in church, Amen? Yeah, I know you came in, I heard you last week. This is a praying church. There is power in prayer. Paul says all this is going to work out for God’s glory, my good, my deliverance, my Salvation and I’m going to get through it relying on Christ because I know you’re praying for me. Christ uses the prayers of His people to sustain other people. When you walk up to somebody and they say, “hey, this is where I’m going on in my life”; we all say it, we’re Christians, “I’ll pray for you.” And that gives good comforts, good, comforting words. But let me ask you question, do you actually do it? If you say I’m going to pray for you, do you actually take the time to pray for those people? Don’t say it if you’re not going to do it. If you say it do it, because there is power in prayer.
Some people, that’s all they can do is pray. God has gifted them to be prayer warriors. That is a powerful gift if you’re one of those people. It is through the prayers of God’s people that God has done extraordinary things. Through the power of prayer, Paul feels the Holy Spirit. That’s the other thing he knows, that the spirit of Christ will sustain him through the prayers of the people, he will feel the Holy Spirit in him, encouraging him, protecting him, and sustaining him through these circumstances that he faces. Are you praying for people? We have in our bulletin a list of prayer concerns every week. Do you take time to pray for those people? Your life group or your Sunday School may have concerns that are shared with you. Do you take time to pray for those people? We have shut-ins, do you take time to pray for our shut-ins? One thing that I try to do every week is pray for every one of you on your birthday. That is how I pray for the whole church. We list the birthdays on everybody’s birthday. Do you pray for them by name? Do you pray for the missionaries who are in similar circumstances to Paul around the world? Do you pray for their well-being? Do you pray for their success? Do you pray that they would be delivered because there is power in prayer. And that’s what Paul knows and he asked them to pray.
James says it this way. “Pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” The Book of Acts is filled with the church, praying for boldness and endurance. Let us be a praying church as we pray and serve each other.
The other thing he knows as the spirit of Christ will sustain him. The Holy Spirit is going to be with him and sustain him. You are never alone. Never. Even when you are in your darkest places. Even when you feel like you were by yourself, the Bible says “He will never leave you, nor will he forsake you.” The Spirit of Christ will help you and sustain you. That is how we rely on Christ completely just knowing those truths that are found in God’s Word.
The second thing Paul shows us is we represent Christ courageously. We represent Christ courageously. He says “I will not, I hope, and expect not to be ashamed.” You know parents, you can relate to this. I try to be the cool dad. Any dads want to be the cool dad? I had discovered when I try to be the cool dad, I look over and see my soon to be teenage daughter, with her hoodie up, head down walking as far away from me as she can. Because I’m not the cool dad anymore, although I really am. I’m like the cool guy. But Paul says I don’t want to be ashamed of Christ. No matter what I do, I’m not going to be ashamed. Listen, the United States of America is on the verge, if it’s not already, a post Christian nation. That’s the reality we really need to come and accept. The question is, is the church going to be ashamed and hide or are we going to be emboldened and continue to proclaim the Gospel. If it ever comes, many missionaries deal with this, but here if it ever comes to a point where they’re going to throw us in jail for standing up for Jesus, are you willing to do it? Or are you going to be ashamed?
Jesus says this when He talks about it. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and that of the Father and of the angels.” I don’t know about you, but when I pass on to eternity, I don’t want Jesus to say I’m ashamed of you. I don’t want Jesus to look at me and say you are ashamed of Me. You didn’t stand up for Me so I’m ashamed of you. What I want to hear is well done, good and faithful servant. But that means we’re not ashamed to represent Christ. We’re not ashamed to tell people about Jesus.
Paul wasn’t ashamed. Every Roman guard that changed, we talked about this last time. He’s not ashamed to say, “hey, Jesus loves you. Let me tell you about Him.” He’s not ashamed to stand before the Emperor of Rome himself and tell the emperor the Gospel, even if it means death. He will stand firm and not be ashamed of the Gospel because he is going to represent Christ courageously.
Now, I want you to notice in these other verses as he continues. It really does seem like Paul has a struggle, doesn’t it? He really is struggling with what would be better, to live or to die? Is it better for me to live or is it better for me to go on and be with the Lord? He says it really is better to go be with Jesus. Listen, Heaven is infinitely better than this Earth. I mean, that’s just it. Heaven is infinitely better being in the presence of Jesus, yes would be better. But then he goes on to say it’s necessary for me to stay here. It is necessary for me to stay with the people.
You know, this verse can get really confusing right here. Paul does not have a death wish. I don’t believe Paul has a desire to be a martyr. I don’t believe he has a desire to die. He has a desire to live and to be a fruitful and faithful servant. But what he is saying is if the results of this is death, I’m OK. If I do die because I have stood up for Christ, that’s OK because I’ll go be with Christ. Can you imagine this every day? Maybe if Roman soldier walks in and he’s in a bad mood. Or maybe it’s one of those Roman soldiers who hate the Gospel and he comes in and says “Paul, today’s the day I’m going to kill you.” And Paul says, “OK, that’s fine. I want to be with Jesus.” He’s like I wait a minute. Second thought “I’m going to let you live.” “Well, that’s OK. I’ll stay here to.” Do you know how frustrating that would have been for a Roman soldier? Paul’s already got a win-win. Nobody else can. He wants to be with Jesus, but it is necessary for him to stay and be with the people because to live for Christ means we produce fruit. He says, if I stay in the flesh. I’ve got to have a fruitful life.
The fruits of the Spirit are this in Galatians 5:22-23. Love is number 1. That’s it. He also says in Corinthians, the greatest of these is love. If we want to represent Christ courageously, it starts with loving God and loving others.
Do you know Nero is most likely the Emperor of Rome during this time? That’s most likely who Paul will stand before when he goes to trial. Do you know Nero lit his courtyard with Christians? He would put them on stakes and burned them throughout the night. And here is the Apostle Paul, the greatest evangelist loving Nero enough to share the Gospel with him. There are people who disagree with us. There are people who hate us. Our response is always to love God and to love other people. Love God and love other people.
Another fruit of the Spirit, joy, peace, patience. How many of you struggle with patience? To live for Christ means we’re going to be patient with people. Kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, my favorite self-control. I use this as an illustration and an application for self-control. To live for Christ means you think really hard before you go to Facebook and Twitter and post something. Have self-control with what you post on social media; Instagram, Snapchat, whatever it is. Teenagers have some self-control with what you post. We see a lot. I have been so heartbroken over maybe the last two years of what I’ve seen from pastors who I have adored through my life and their social media content. I’m talking really within the Southern Baptist Convention with some of the divisions there. They are so hateful to each other. That doesn’t represent Christ courageously. The world needs us to be self-controlled, loving, patient, kind to one another. How about the church starts demonstrating how humanity should live as we advance the Gospel. That is, representing Christ courageously.
Another part of this is that we’re going to serve the needs of each other. Are you serving in the church? Are you serving the needs of each other and you may be thinking what Pastor I’m old. My time has come and gone. I can’t do the things I used to be able to do. Let me tell you something you can pray. And like I said before, that is a powerful tool. You can write a birthday card. You can write a get well soon card. Everybody, as long as the Lord is given you breath, He wants you to serve others. He wants you to serve within the church. The church needs Sunday School teachers. The church needs people to teach and to pray and to count money. And there’s so many different things that the church needs and He has called you to be here a part of this Church to use you. And if you’re new to the church and you’re just checking it out and you’ve been coming several times, maybe He’s called you here to be a part of advancing the Gospel together. You have a gift that He wants to use here as we courageously represent Christ.
I heard Adrian Rogers say this before. The church, the Saints, should not be like a jar of pickles. The people who are sitting in the church should not be like a jar of pickles. They should not sit, soke and sour ’cause that’s what happens. For too many Christians, they sit, they soak, and then they sour. Instead, we should soak for sure, stand up and serve. Don’t be a jar of pickles. Represent Christ courageously.
So I ask you the question again, what motivates you? What do you fill in the blank with? To live is what? Because if you say to live as Christ. Then no matter what happens, to die is gain. To live as Christ to die is gain.
John Piper in his book Future Grace, reprints a letter by a man named Carl Lonnquist, who is the former president of Bethel College and Seminary. In 1988, the doctors told Lonnquist that he had a rare form of cancer which invaded the skin of his entire body and three years after that he would pass away. The day of his diagnosis, here’s what Lonnquist wrote. “That day in the hospital room I picked up my Bible. When the doctor had left, I turned to the Joy Verses of Philippians. Thinking one might stand out to me, but what leaped off the pages was Paul’s testimony in chapter One. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed but will have sufficient courage so that now is always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether in life and death, for me to live as Christ, to die is gain.” Lonnquist says “I discovered that the verse I had lived by good health is also the verse that I will live by in bad health. To live Christ to die gain. But by life, or by death it is alright either way. So I simply trust that God, in His own way will carry out for me that which He knows is good and acceptable and perfect by life or by death Hallelujah.”
How many of us can say that today? How many of us can stand here and say “if I were to die tonight, I would immediately be ushered into the presence of Jesus.” If you can’t answer that question, then you need to just give your life to Him. You need to repent. You need to believe in Jesus. Repent. Turn from the world, turn towards Him and just follow. You say today I’m going to follow Jesus. Where He goes, I go. Where He wants me to go, I’ll go. What He says, I’ll do. What He did, I’ll try to do. You just gotta follow Jesus. It’s not about calling you to be saved, it’s calling you to follow. It’s calling you to surrender your life so that when you do die, you will be ushered into His presence for all eternity.
Have you made that decision to live for Christ? Maybe you’ve been following Jesus for a long time and you’re filling in that blank with, Well, I don’t know. You just need to recommit to living for Christ. Don’t leave here today without making one of those decisions.
Let’s pray together.
Father, we thank You for the Apostle Paul in his example. We’re so grateful that You inspired him to write this Word so that we could have it today in its perfection and its holiness because it really is a guiding light for us. Father, help us to answer the question what are we living for ’cause that really is the foundation of the Christian faith. Living for Christ. Because dying, we will gain eternity. Father help us to take that message to the nations. We ask this in Jesus Name. Amen, Amen.