Philippians 1:18-30 (The Voice) – Regardless of the motives behind the spread of the gospel, the fact that it is being spread is a cause for joy. Paul rejoices also because he expects to be released from prison soon, and plans to continue to speak freely and courageously about Jesus. Paul yearns for Jesus to always be glorified in him, whether in life (which is all about the gospel) or in death (eternity with Jesus). Seeing both sides, Paul debates within himself whether it is better for him to live and continue spreading the gospel or to die and be with Jesus. He decides that for himself it would be better to die, but for the rest of the world it would be better to live and serve, even through all his pains and weaknesses. Plus he wants to be around to witness the growth of the church (in number and in belief).
With his firm commitment to stay and watch them grow, Paul tells the Philippians he expects them to conduct themselves as worthy of the gospel: 1. continuing to stand; 2. united in one spirit; 3. single-minded in purpose as they struggle together for faith in the gospel. They should not be paralyzed by opponents, but have steadfast faith in the midst of opposition which is a sure sign of both salvation and the fact that the enemy is doomed. Paul reminds them it is a privilege to not only believe in Jesus but to suffer for Him, just as Paul has been doing. The Philippians, who’ve been watching Paul from a distance, now understand firsthand what it means to suffer.
Whenever Paul speaks, whatever the subject, he always urges his listeners (or readers) to have joy. Is the gospel being spread? Have joy! Are you suffering? Rejoice! Are you in prison? Be joyful! Paul always strikes me as so forthright and serious, speaking on such heavy subjects. Yet so full of joy! That is not something you see very much of in today’s world, where you can have a serious person or a joyful person, but not usually both.
After telling us how joyful he is, Paul goes on to debate whether he’d rather live or die. And in typical Paul fashion, it is not his own desires that determine his decision. If I get to choose, I want to live in order to see my kids grow up, get married, have children. Paul, understanding death is the ultimate prize, determines to live in order to continue to serve others and spread the gospel.
And then Paul lays out what makes a person a true and worthy citizen of the gospel – standing in unity, unfazed by the opposition, suffering for Christ (getting to know firsthand the pain of battle). All too often I find myself in division with other believers. All too often I forget I’m in the midst of a battle. All too often I fall victim to the enemy’s lies and propoganda.
Jesus, I’m sorry. Open my eyes to reality… real reality. Not earth’s temporal reality, but heaven’s eternal reality. Even today as I go about cleaning up my very messy house, I want to be grateful for all your gifts, not frustrated by so much stuff. As I labor to raise my children, I want to keep their eternity in mind, disciplining them to guide them on the path to You, not punishing them in anger but in love. Empower me to stand in unity with other believers against the enemy without fear. Fill me with Your joy when I suffer for Christ’s sake. It is a privilege to not only believe in You, but to suffer for You. You are the ultimate goal, the ultimate prize, the ultimate reason for everything!