13 December 2017

Roots: True Value for Living

True Value for Living (Philippians 1:20-26)

Here is a good question to ask yourself; “What gets me up in the morning? Is it an alarm clock or is it a purpose in living? What makes me tick?” All of us have someone or something we live for, a passion or an ideal that drives us and gives life a sense of purpose and meaning.

Paul was undoubtedly the greatest Christian who ever lived. He might have been little in stature, but he had a great heart, which was aflame with a great passion for God and the Gospel. Christ was the hub of his life. Everything else was on the periphery. When he wrote to the Philippians he was incarcerated in a Roman jail not knowing if he was going to be exonerated or executed, yet he opened his heart and gave them his manifesto and philosophy for living, the source and strength of his joy in Christ.

1Paul was not ashamed to live for Christ. “…in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:20,21). At that time there were no social advantages in being a Christian. On the contrary, to confess Christ as Lord invited persecution, yet Paul was saying that the Christian has the best of both worlds – he could not lose in life or in death. Why should that be? From this letter we can ascertain Paul’s answer:

  • (a) Christ was the source of his life. In v.6 Paul wrote, “He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” God does not only work with us and for us, His work of grace is in us. In Phil. 2:13 Paul stated, “It is God which worketh in you…” This was the source of Paul’s life. He was alive to Christ and Christ was alive to him.
  • (b) Christ was the standard of his life. In Phil. 3:14 Paul wrote, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” What was that prize? Earlier in the chapter he wrote of desiring to know Christ and to follow after that for which he had been apprehended. He wanted to be all that God wanted him to be – conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus – to be like Jesus…” That is God’s ultimate for the Christian. People seek to emulate their heroes. Our greatest aspiration is to be like Jesus. There is no higher goal.
  • (c) Christ was the song of his life. In 4:4, Paul says: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice.” Although Paul was incarcerated yet his letter to the Philippians is full of triumph. You can sense the music of heavenly joy playing through every chapter of this letter.
  • (d) Christ was the satisfaction of his life. In Phil. 4:11 Paul wrote, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Paul was saying, “I have Jesus. I need nothing else for I am satisfied in Him.” This echoes the words of the old Gospel song, “I have Christ what want I more…?”
  • (e) Christ was the strength of his life. In Chapter 4:13 Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” The “can do all things” of which Paul spoke are governed by the will of God. In the strength of the Saviour we can do all that God wants us to do.
  • (f) Christ was the supply of his life. Paul said, “But my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Paul affirmed this truth to those who had sent a gift to him for this was the principle he lived by. God promises to supply our needs, not necessarily all our wants.

 

 

2 Paul was not afraid to die in Christ. The sequel to living for Christ is to die in Christ. Paul maintained, “… to die is gain.” He went on to say, “…to be with Christ which is far better.” In our Portuguese translation Paul makes a comparison to life on earth and says that the gain of death in Christ is incomparably better. It is not just better; it is very, very, very much better to be with Christ. What a blessed assurance to enjoy.

The word Paul used for ‘depart,’ is a very interesting word. It has the idea of unravelling, or untying, or loosing something. He used the word again in the last letter he ever wrote, “…the time of my departure is at hand…” (2 Tim. 4:6). Consider the following:

  • (a) ‘Depart’ was a nautical term used by sailors when they untied a ship from its mooring and the ship moved out to sea. It was called a “departure.” People would say, “There she goes.” On the other shore they say, “Here she comes.” The same ship that departs from here arrives on that other shore.
  • (b) ‘Depart’ was a military term that meant to strike camp, to loosen the tent pegs and move on. In Corinthians he reminds us that this body is but a tent. In Heaven we have a building not made with hands (2 Cor. 5:1).
  • (c) ‘Depart’ was a legal term meaning to loose the chains from a prisoner, open the prison doors and set him free. In Heaven we will be released from sin, from suffering and from sorrow. We will be set free forever.
  • (d) ‘Depart’ was an agricultural term referring to the end of a hard day’s work when the farmer would lift the heavy wooden yoke off the ox. The work is over for that day and the burden is lifted. The night is coming when no man shall work.

 

 

 

These uses of ‘depart’ have significant parallels for the Christian.

3 Paul was available to serve Christ. Although torn between two great longings yet he was prepared to continue his earthly course. Paul admitted that “to abide” in the flesh would be needful for the church (v. 24), fruitful in the work (fruit of my labour v.22) and joyful in its outcome (your joy may be more abundant v.26).

Our study began with a question. Here is another and some homework for you to do. Write out, “For to me to live is………………..” Now, complete the sentence. Be honest with yourself. What are you alive to today? You know what it is and God knows what it is. If you have put anything in the blank other than Jesus then your statement must continue; “For to me to live is… and to die is loss.” The only way you can retain the word “gain” is to say, “For to me to live is Christ.” We cannot have Paul’s philosophy of death unless you have his values for life.

Victor Maxwell