READ PHILIPPIANS ONE
Yesterday we saw how Paul rejoiced in the Gospel being preached – even by those who did so out of envy – and today we are going to see that deliberate act of rejoicing continue.
Before we dive into the Text for today reflect on this: would others characterize you as a person who rejoices? When things are hard? When things are good?
We’ve read and studied Paul’s prayer for his fellow believers, and in the next verses he reveals that they have been praying for him as well. Specifically, it is indicated that they are praying for his deliverance.
What deliverance do you think the Philippian church had in mind?
In verse 20 Paul reveals that there is one thing he is confident will happen. What is it?
Paul, sitting in a prison cell as his spiritual friends pray for him to be released from that jail fully expects that God will be glorified and that he will not be ashamed. Paul doesn’t tell his friends that God is going to set him free from those who arrested him. He doesn’t tell them that he is going to die, either. Instead, his only confidence and expectation is that the Lord will be glorified, and that no matter what happens he will not be ashamed of the faith he has proclaimed.
Why do you think Paul can have this kind of confidence?
As modern Christians most likely living in the West, we often cannot comprehend what Paul means when he says that God will be honored in his life or his death. Death isn’t something we’re terribly accustomed to thinking or praying about, but in Paul’s day where martyrdom was much more common, it would have been well in his purview that God could be honored through freeing him from prison … or through his execution.
The next several verses are some of Paul’s most famous words, but we often take them as the awe-inspiring words of a radical man of faith. We read them and somehow feel simultaneously inspired and intimidated, fearing our faith could never be fit to match. But let’s read these words, break them down into their core components, and hear what Paul is telling his friends in this letter.
Read 1:21-26. What does Paul saying about life and death? Make a few notes on each topic.
Paul speaks of life in the flesh and life in the presence of Christ (or, death). When Paul looks ahead at the potential of being executed, he sees his life hidden in Christ. He holds out before himself – and the Philippian church – the glory of being united to Christ. He considered all that Christ is and gloriously realizes that it would be far better to be in His presence than to remain on this earth. Since we live this life in true union with Christ that is not fully realized, he desires to go and be in the presence of the God he loves.
Can this be said of you? Have you been more captivated by the Christ who is your salvation – and your union with Him – than you are with life in this world?
But Paul resolves this passage differently than we might expect. It seems as though he has made a “decision” on the matter (though, of course, he doesn’t actually decide between life and death). What is his conclusion?
Why does Paul say he will remain “in the flesh”?
You and I are probably not very accustomed to speaking of this life as “life in the flesh”, but that is the language Paul uses to talk about his life this side of the resurrection. And a huge part of the reason he tells them that he will remain on this earth is to continue encouraging them in their faith. Let that sink in: a primary part of why God does not call him Home (as Paul would prefer) is for the sake of his spiritual friends.
Why do you think this is?
Are there any friendships in your life – either existing or developing – that God has made a primary part of your created purpose?
We cannot miss how central community is to the life of faith. Friendships are not optional, inconvenient, or meaningless. God has created His people to intentionally and strategically lead each other into a deeper understanding of the Gospel and love for Jesus Christ. Could this be a part of the purpose He has called you to as well?
PRAY & REFLECT
Spend some time prayerfully considering the spiritual friendships in your own life. Ask God how He might be calling you to lead them closer to Jesus. Pray that your own heart, like Paul’s, would be so captured in the glory of your Savior that you would say that it is far better to be in His presence than anywhere else.