Philippians 1:21-30 1:21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 1:22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 1:23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 1:24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 1:25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 1:26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. 1:27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 1:28 and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God's doing. 1:29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well-- 1:30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
The story was told about a young college woman who read a book that she found to be extremely boring. Reading each page of the book was cumbersome and difficult. Yet, because reading the book was required for her education, she forced herself to move through its pages and finally finish the book.
A few years later, while working in her field of study, she met a young professor and quickly fell head over heels in love with him and became engaged to be married.
One evening, while visiting her home, he saw the “boring and cumbersome” book tucked away, collecting dust on her bookshelf.
Pulling the book from the bookshelf, he quickly informed her that he had written the book under an assumed name as was requested by the publisher. Later that night, the young lady picked up the book and began reading it. All night long she sat up and now, to her surprise, the book seemed to be the most interesting book she had ever read. It was not dull at all. She found the book fascinating and intriguing.
What made the difference? That which made the difference was the fact that now; she knew the author and loved him (Copied from Sermon Central.)
This could so easily describe Paul. He had no interest in Christianity. As a matter of a fact, he was opposed to it. Even violently. But, once he was convinced, he fell head over heels in love with the Lord. He then embarked on a service that is nearly unparalleled in this world. He went on no less than 3 missionary journeys, traveling 10,000 miles, much on foot, and planted 14 churches. He was stoned, beaten with rods, bit by a poisonous snake, in danger from bandits, shipwrecked, arrested and imprisoned. He wrote a number of his letters from prison, Philippians included among them.
There was one thing about Paul that helped him through all of his hardships. He kept the prize in view – the prize of heaven. He had some knowledge of heaven. He met the resurrected Christ, in his resurrection body. In addition, Paul had a vision where he mentions being caught up to the 3rd heaven. According to Jewish belief, there were three levels of heaven or the heavens. The first was the sky, the second was outer-space, and the 3rd was the place beyond the stars, the dwelling place of God. Of course, we believe that God is not confined to a time or space, but that does not negate Paul’s experience of seeing that special place in the heavens where God ‘s throne can be found. Paul said he was so overwhelmed by the vision of heaven, that he couldn’t put it into words. It was so special, that he longed to be in heaven with the Lord.
The Greek word that Paul used for “depart” literally means “breaking camp.”. It signifies pulling up the tent stakes and relocating. This life has always been a temporary setting. Even John describes Jesus as pitching his tent among us for a little while.
There was Paul’s dilemma. Paul was ready to pull up his stakes and relocate to above, but he had important work to do below. He was no doubt tired, challenged, often at every turn, hurting, maybe near exhaustion. Heaven was certainly the answer to all of his life’s problems. Who wouldn’t want to go there. It is every believer’s goal, destination!
[Have the band do the song, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” slightly rewritten]
Paul’s work in Philippi was part of his 2nd missionary journey. He received a vision to go over into Macedonia to help the people there. He crossed over and made his way to Philippi. He went to a prayer meeting there and preached. A woman named Lydia, who believed in God, accepted Jesus as her savior based on Paul’s preaching. She provided a home for him to work from while he ministered in Philippi (she was baptized and her whole house).
Paul cast out a demon who controlled a lady who was a slave and brought her owners much money by fortune-telling. This angered the owners, who lost their profit, and they dragged Paul and Silas before the council, who in turn had them beaten with rods and then thrown into jail. At midnight Paul and Silas were singing hymns when a great earthquake rattled the jail, broke their bonds and opened the jail doors. The jailor, thinking all had escaped, drew his sword to take his life, but Paul and Silas were still there, and they stopped him. Then, the jailor asked what he had to do to be saved? Paul told them to believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized! He was, and so was his entire house. The jailor brought them into his own home and cleaned their wounds and fed them.
When the city officials realized that they had beaten Roman citizens, the Magistrate let them go, but not without an apology first! Paul would visit again, spending Passover there. The Philippians sent him financial assistance, and he wrote them a letter. It is my personal favorite of all of Paul’s letters. It is a love letter, filled with encouraging words!
Paul loved all of his churches. They weren’t without problems. But he still cared for them and wanted them to grow in the Lord. And he wanted to continue to spread the good news and save souls. So, his desire to stay, to serve and to labor outweighed his own desire to be above.
There was an incredible British athlete named C. T. Studd. How is that for an athlete’s name? He was one of the best cricket players ever. Well, he became a missionary. He once said, "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him." (Source: Norman Grubb, C. T. Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer, p. 141.)
The great preacher Warren Wiersbe once said: "Self-preservation is the first law of physical life, but self-sacrifice is the first law of spiritual life."
So, Paul took a backseat to his own desires, making the sacrifice to stay and work. Big decision. He had another missionary journey to lead. And some scholars believe he had a fourth. Think of all the people he affected. Think of all of the souls saved.
A pastor asked a dying man, "My friend, what persuasion are you?". The man replied, "I am of Paul’s persuasion.". The pastor said, "I am afraid you didn’t understand me. Of what persuasion are you?". The man answered, "Oh, I understood you. I am of Paul’s persuasion."
The pastor then said, "I’m afraid I don’t understand you. There is a Methodist persuasion, Baptist persuasion, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Nazarene persuasion, but what do you mean by ’Paul’s persuasion?’"
The man smiled and then said, Paul wrote to Timothy: ‘I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day’ (II Timothy 1:12. I like "Paul's Persuasion" better than anyone else's! (Dr. Larry Petton).
Paul was probably martyred for his faith in about 60 or 62 AD. John Foxe wrote in his book Christian Martyrs of the World that Nero sent two of his henchmen to escort Paul to his execution. Paul was teaching. The two “heavies” were so impressed with Paul, they asked him to pray for them that they might be saved. Paul prayed for them and encouraged them to be baptized. Nonetheless, they had their orders and led him away. Paul gained that which he had so longed to see, the very throne room of God. He fought the good fight. He won the race. He fulfilled his call. God kept that which he had committed unto him against that day!
We have a higher duty than being a West Virginian. We have a higher duty than being an American. Our first and primary duty is to God and his kingdom!
Colton Ward and I had a conversation after church one Sunday – which Avenger was his favorite – based on my sermon for that day. Colton’s was Hawkeye. Colton shared that Hawkeye wasn’t the strongest Avenger, but whoever’s side he was on always won. In “Age of Ultron,” Hawkeye found Wanda cowering inside during a fight. He said that she could stay there if she wanted, and that he would send his brother to find her. But if she stepped outside, she would truly be an Avenger. She was needed. The team needed her. Hawkeye needed her.
The General chooses his best soldiers for the task. You are either in or out! Paul wrote latter in Philippians: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:13).
Copyright First United Methodist Church-Elkins, WV. All rights reserved.