Updated: Apr 6
Philippians 1:12 & 20-24
By Drew Zuverink
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.”
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in may body, whether by life or death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
The apostle Paul is in prison when he writes this letter. When he writes, “what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel,” he is talking about his imprisonment. The Philippians were most likely thinking of how sad it was that Paul was in prison which is why Paul says that it is actually a good thing because it’s serving to advance the gospel. In other words, “friends don’t be sad! It is good for me to be in chains, because by me being here the people in charge of guarding me are hearing about Christ for the very first time.”
What motivated Paul and what drove his entire Christian life was his eager hope of exalting Christ in any way that he possibly could. If going to prison would exalt Christ because Roman soldiers would be saved, then Paul is more happy than he would be if he were free.
But how could this be? How could a person choose prison over freedom? Well he could because he valued Christ more than he valued his life or his freedom. He even writes that he is eager to exalt Christ in his life and in his death. Paul’s motivation to draw attention to the glory of Christ not only drove his entire Christian life but it drove his thoughts on death. For Paul no kind of death would be better than dying in a way that led people to Christ.
(Would you give up a painless death of old age for a more painful death that brought more glory to Christ?)
Paul summed all of this up in the phrase, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Living meant exalting Christ. Whatever circumstance he found himself in, whatever his surroundings were, and whoever his audience was - Paul’s sole motivation was to exalt Christ. Because he loved Christ so much he believed that dying would be a personal blessing because he would be with Christ in person. He truly believed that and he wanted other people to believe that too and so he lived his life motivated to make disciples.
He had a dilemma though. Paul believes that dying would be a personal gain for him, but it might be a disadvantage to other people because then he wouldn’t be around to minister to them. So what does he do? It seems like he trusts God to use his life or his death, whichever would be most effective, to spread the gospel. He says that he knows if he stays alive it will result in fruitful labor. How can he be so confident? Many of you have been Christians for many years, would you be as confident as he was? Paul knows that as long as he is alive people will be drawn to Christ. Can you say the same?
Try it once. Fill in the blank with your own name. If I, _________________, stay alive for another week, month or year, it will result in people being drawn to Christ.
Can you say that with confidence? I think if we were honest we might not be so bold. Yet.
How then can Paul say such a thing? He can say such a thing because what drove his entire life was exalting Christ in everything. There was not a single thing that he would choose over exalting Christ.
I was tempted to list some things that we might choose over glorifying Christ but it might be better for you to take some time and answer that yourself.
What would you value more than being used by God to bring a person to Christ?
For Paul his answer would be nothing. For Paul living meant exalting Christ by talking about him. That's why he says, "for to me to live is Christ." Exalting Christ was so essential to his life that the best way he could think of to describe that was to just say to live is Christ! Just as breathing is essential to living, for Paul exalting Christ was just as important. It was his passion, it was his joy, it was his "food that you know nothing about." (John 4:32) Exalting Christ gave him energy and it fulfilled his soul and it motivated every aspect of his life.
If we can get to the point where there is nothing that we value more than exalting Christ by sharing the gospel with people who have never heard it or with people who have never heard it described well, then I truly believe that we will be as confident as Paul - and we will know that our lives will produce fruit.
God bless me with an abundance of wealth if it will somehow give me great opportunities to lead people to you.
God I will gladly accept financial hardship if that empowers me to lead people to you.
God bless me with vibrant health and energy if it gives me the tools that I need to lead people to you.
God take away my health and let my body fail me if it will be more advantageous to lead people to you.
God bless this country and our freedom if it leads to more followers of you.
God allow our freedoms to be stripped and give us strength in persecution if it will lead to more followers of you.
God bless my work if through it I can lead people to you.
God remove me from my job if it will provide me a better opportunity to lead people to you.
God protect my family if we can lead people to you.
God even if you take my family provide me with the strength to exalt you in front of others so that they can see how good you are always.
Whatever comes my way, whether it be hardships or ease, may my mind focus on the opportunities that each situation provides for me to glorify Jesus Christ
And so Lord, bring anything my way, just don’t let me live a life that does not exalt you.