Isaiah 59:1-21; Philippians 1:12-26; Psalms 72:1-14; Proverbs 18:2-3
NT: “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ. Most of the brothers have gained confidence in the Lord from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the word fearlessly… 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. For me, to live is 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 I should choose. I am torn between the two. I long to depart and be with Christ — which is far better — but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of 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.” (Philippians 1:12-14, 20-26 CSB)
One of the main and overriding themes of the epistle to the Philippians was joy. That, in itself, is pretty amazing considering that Paul wrote this epistle while he was under house arrest in Rome and likely chained to a Roman guard. Undoubtedly, the believers in Philippi were concerned about his well-being, as well as wondering how his imprisonment would affect his call of spreading the good news of the gospel around the gentile world. Though Paul’s travels had come to a halt, he wanted the Philippian church to know that his ministry to the gentiles had not. In fact, his arrest and imprisonment had actually provided an opportunity to advance the gospel to the whole Roman imperial guard, and many others within the inner workings of the Roman government. Not only that, but his boldness to witness for Christ was actually emboldening others to be a witness for Christ as well. Though circumstances looked bleak and discouraging from the outside-looking-in, there was hope and joy to be found in the challenges that Paul was facing.
How was Paul able to maintain such a hope-filled and positive attitude while undergoing such challenging and stressful times? His irrepressible hope and joy came from his view of life and death. Any selfish ambition had long since been rinsed out of Paul’s life. He was done trying to make a name for himself or trying to pad his future. For Paul, as long as he was allowed to live, his life would be about one thing and one thing only: Christ. Whenever his life came to an end, his afterlife would be nothing but gain – for the trials of life would be over and he would be able to spend eternity in the presence of God and his Savior Jesus Christ. His outlook on life and his outlook on death was all framed around Christ. Therefore in all things, he had hope and was full of joy. He was determined that whether he was alive or dead, Christ would be glorified, and so everything he did and said, and the hope that he had in his sure future was all about Christ, for Christ, and full of faith in Christ. As he let go of the lesser things of this world and grabbed hold of his higher calling in Christ, he had the fullness of joy everlasting.
Proverbs: “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2 CSB)
The world is awash in people who are not really that interested in understanding, but are very interested in getting their opinions publicized. As believers in and disciples of Christ, as we grow in maturity toward the likeness of Christ, our opinions should matter less and less. There were a few things where Paul shared his opinions – and when he did share his opinion, he clearly qualified it as his opinion and not from the Lord. Otherwise, Paul was all about Christ… what does the word of God say about the matter, what is the wisdom of God through the Holy Spirit on the matter, what is the example that Christ left us to follow, etc., etc. When we are all about spouting our own opinions – especially opinions that are outside our realm of understanding – not only do we appear foolish, we are foolish. Let our lives be all about Christ and Him glorified… and in that we will be most wise.
Prayer: Lord, the more I live my life in You and walk out my life with You, the more I realize that this world has nothing for me. There is no gain in selfish ambition and self-serving agendas. I want to be able to say, with full integrity as Paul said, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Help me, as I submit to the leading of Your Holy Spirit, to so prioritize my life that everything I do and say is all about You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.