Philippians 003 – Half Empty or Full?Philippians 1:12-30 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 19, 2020 • Philippians
Half Empty of Full?
April 19, 2020
Dr. Andy Woods
Let’s open in a word of prayer. Father, we are thankful for this season that we’re in. Your word gives us instructions about things of this nature. You tell us to rejoice in all things, and we come to the book of Philippians, wanting to be taught, wanting to be instructed, on how we exactly we’re supposed to do that because we believe this is why this book has been written. So help us to be teachable as we grow in our understanding of joy in the midst of adversity. And we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said, Amen.
Well, let me welcome you to Sugar Land Bible Church, Sunday morning service live stream as we continue our look at the book of Philippians. You might want to open your Bible to the book of Philippians. Chapter one and verse 12 as time permits. We’re going to see if we can make it all the way through verse 30 today. The title of our message this morning is Half Full or Half Empty. You know, you look at a glass, for example, I’ve got my water up here with me. Let’s say I drank a third of it. You know, you look at it and you say, well, I’ve only got two-thirds left. It’s a third empty or is it two-thirds full? It’s just a matter of perspective, isn’t it? It’s either a negative thing or a positive thing, depending on how you look at things. And this is what I believe Paul is teaching us here in Philippians chapter one. He’s teaching us a mental discipline. The mental discipline that Paul is showcasing for us here in chapter one is Paul developed the ability, no matter what his circumstances were, good or bad, from man’s perspective. He developed the mental discipline necessary to always see a silver lining in what, no matter what negative circumstance he was going through. So he could always see the hand of God no matter what, no matter what circumstance he was in. And because Paul could always see that he was not a prisoner of his circumstances, and that’s why he could walk in the joy of the Lord, regardless of his circumstances. So this is actually our third lesson in the book of Philippians. Our first lesson was an introduction. Where we saw the who, where, why? Paul the Apostle in prison, writes a book to the Philippians about this issue of joy in the midst of adversity, which is very different than happiness. Happiness comes from the Latin word, I think it is, hap, meaning happenstance or luck. The world system will allow you to experience emotional well-being as long as circumstances are good for man’s perspective. But, oh my goodness, once those circumstances leave or become unfavorable, the happiness that the world system has to offer dissolves very fast. As one man put it, it dissolves faster than a Hollywood marriage.
And that’s really not the joy of the Lord. The joy of the Lord is an emotional well being that a person could have, regardless of circumstances. And that’s why the book was written. In our second lesson together, we looked at the introduction to the book, chapter one verses one through eleven, and now we’re ready to get into the heart, really, of chapter one, which is how God can use negative circumstances to bring about positive results. What you’re going to find in the Book of Philippians is four chapters. Each chapter communicates a major point in terms of how to have this joy that the Bible is speaking of. Chapter one- God can use negative circumstances to bring about positive results. Chapter two- We have to develop an attitude of servanthood. Chapter three- We have to avoid legalism. And chapter four, we have to rely upon divine resources for daily life. But we’re focused here on chapter one, and it’s all about negative circumstances and how God actually can use negative circumstances for positive things. You’ll see really what I would consider to be the theme of this chapter. In verse 12 of chapter one, Paul writes to the Philippians not from a place of comfort, but from a place of incarceration. And he says, Now, I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel. Paul says, I’m in negative circumstances, but don’t shed any tears for me.
I’m not shedding any for myself. So, so many times most of us feel sorry for ourselves when adversity comes knocking on the door. But Paul says, don’t shed any tears for me and I don’t shed any tears for myself because God is working in my negative circumstances. In fact, God is accomplishing things right now through my negative circumstances that he wouldn’t accomplish it without my negative circumstances and because Paul could see that, he was never a prisoner of his circumstances. So the concept, there of verse 12, the apostle Paul is now going to teach or explain through four realities. These are four things that he could see that the Lord was doing. Not in spite of his imprisonment, but because of his imprisonment. And so it becomes really a fascinating chapter on mental outlook and mental discipline and developing the mental frame of mind necessary to see positive in the midst of the negative. And the first thing Paul starts to explain there, beginning in verse 13, is now something has happened because of his imprisonment. And in Rome, he has evangelistic opportunities that he would not have otherwise. And look at what he says here in verse 13. So that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole Praetorian Guard and to everyone else. I mean, if we put ourselves in the position of Paul and we were in a Roman prison, not completely sure what was going to happen to us awaiting our trial before Caesar,
I mean, what would be our mindset? We would most of us would be feeling very sorry for ourselves. Paul was not that way. Paul said, I’ve got an opportunity now to advance the cause of the Gospel that I wouldn’t have any other way. And he begins to talk about his evangelistic opportunities. And Paul, as he was awaiting his trial before Caesar was was chained to, we believe, the elite guard known as the Praetorian Guard. And if you look very carefully at what Paul is saying there in verse 13, he doesn’t say, I’m chained to this guard. He says the guard has chained to me. I mean, that’s a completely different way of looking at. A so-called negative circumstance. In other words, you want to talk about a captive audience. Paul literally had a captive audience. This guard had nowhere to go. And Paul could preach the gospel to this man around the clock. And Paul here is revealing a strategy that he used to get the gospel to Rome. And you see him tip his hand, so to speak, for the very first time in the strategy when he was in Philippi. The group he’s writing to about 11 years earlier. He was thrown in prison as you know. And Acts 16, verse 37 says, But Paul said to them 11 years earlier, They have beaten us in public without a trial. Men who are Romans and have thrown us into prison and now they are sending us away secretly. No, indeed! Let them come themselves and bring us out. Paul was not just a Jew. He was, of course, all of that. But he was also a Roman citizen. And he understood that a Roman citizen has rights. And one of the rights he kept insisting on was he wanted a trial before Caesar, and he kept insisting on it and insisting on it and insisting on it until they literally kept taking him. After the three missionary journeys were then over, they kept taking him to Rome, and it was always Paul’s goal to get the gospel to Rome. The church at Rome had already started. You’ll notice in Acts two really about verses nine through 12, roughly. It talks about all of the people that heard Peter preach on the day of Pentecost, the Jews from the diaspora that were assembled there, and some of those assembled there were Romans and presumably they got saved under Peter’s sermon acts to went back to Rome and founded a church. The church became very vibrant. And so it’s one of the churches that was started without the help of an apostle. And Paul always wanted to get to Rome because he wanted this church, which was really at the focal point of the whole world. You know, you’ve heard the expression all roads lead to Rome.
He wanted to get this church doctrinally anchored and then from there he wanted to move further west. He tells us in the book of Romans Chapter 15, I think it is into Spain. And so Paul always wanted to get to Rome. And what’s interesting is the strategy Paul used to get the gospel to Rome is he kept insisting on his trial before Caesar. And so even though Paul was in jail, although Paul was in prison, although this elite Praetorian Guard was assigned to Paul, Paul knew exactly what he was doing and he was using his legal rights as a Roman citizen to advance the cause of the Gospel. And he was assigned this guard from Caesar. And you’ll notice what the guard is called there in verse 13. It’s called the Praetorian Guard. This is not the run-of-the-mill guard. This is the elite guard. And Paul is saying, I’m getting those saved. The elites and obviously those that are elite, that are in the upper classes of society would have greater influence if they got saved to spread the gospel to other people. And this is what Paul sees happening as he’s chained to this guard. He sees an evangelistic opportunity put in front of him, an opportunity to expand the cause of the gospel, put right in front of him because he’s chained to this Praetorian guard. He’s not chained to the guard. The guard is chained to him.
And it’s not just any guard. This is the elite guard. And so he has the capacity to see the gospel penetrate the elite spheres of Roman society. And since all roads lead to Rome, once it penetrates that level, the gospel is going to go everywhere. And he in the process is going to be able to doctrinally solidify the church there in Rome. So it’s an amazing thing that Paul saw simply because he looked at his circumstances differently than most of us would look at our circumstances. Paul knew that once he went into prison, he could evangelize. The evangelistic opportunities would accelerate. In fact, 11 years earlier in Philippi, this is how the Philippine church started. First was the conversion of Lydia, Acts 16, and then eventually the conversion of the Philippine jailer. Acts 16 verses 27 through 32, says when the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice saying, Do not harm yourself, for we are all here! And he called for the lights and rushed in and trembling with fear. He, that’s the Philippian jailer, fell down before Paul and Silas. And after he brought them out, he said, the Philippian jailer, life’s most important question, by the way. There’s no more fundamental question to ask than this. Sirs, What must I do to be saved? So you’ll notice that Paul being in prison, being flogged, Acts 16, and rejoicing in the middle of the night after being flogged along with Paul and Silas, created an opportunity to evangelize this man, this Philippians jailer.
And so the Philippians jailer sees the obvious work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Apostle Paul, that Paul, after this earthquake, could have escaped but didn’t. Something obviously is very supernatural going on here in Paul’s life. And so he asked a question that I hope I hope you’re asking right now, what must I do to be saved? I mean, what must I do to be made right with this God? That you are obviously walking with? Verse 31, you’ll notice how simple the gospel is. They said, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. He doesn’t add a bunch of preconditions. He just says believe or trust in the message of the gospel. You’ll be saved you and your household. Now, we don’t believe God has grandchildren. He only has children. So presumably the Philippian jailor would then evangelize his immediate family and they would be saved. Verse 32 of Acts 16, And they spoke the Word of the Lord to Him together with all who were in his house. And that’s how the church at Philippi started. Lydia, and then this Philippian jailer and his family were saved. And it all happened because Paul was imprisoned unfairly. That’s the that’s the point.
He goes, I have a track record here, 11 years earlier, of God bringing something good into existence because of unfair treatment. The whole Philippine church got off the ground because of this conversion. And now, 11 years later, as I’m languishing in Rome, don’t shed a single tear for me because I’m not chained to the guard. The guard is chained to me. He’s got nowhere to go and I’m preaching the gospel to him. And as he gets saved, because he’s a Praetorian guard, the gospel is going to penetrate the highest levels of Roman society and the gospel is going to go all over the world. Now, if you were Paul, would you think that way? I mean, I know in my natural self I would never think this way, but Paul thought this way. And this is how Paul is role modeling for us, how we’re to think about our negative circumstances. Always look for the positive in it. You’ll notice also there in verse 13, he says to the Praetorian Guard and to everyone else. Now, who would everyone else be? I have a tendency to think everyone else is us. In the 21st century and for the last 2000 years of church history. Why is that? Because Paul in prison wrote the prison letters. Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians. If you study the career of the Apostle Paul, you’ll see at the very end of his life he is thrown back into Roman prison and he writes the book of Second Timothy, and had it not been for his imprisonment, the opportunity to write those books as he is being directed by the Holy Spirit would not exist. So think about this in the midst of COVID 19. Yeah. Your life has been kind of short-circuited. What you normally do, you’re not able to do. But think of the things you can do because of the time you have available. You know, even here at the church, we’ve noticed, partly because people don’t have a choice in the matter, we’ve noticed that all of our statistics in terms of live streaming, social media, all of that stuff has increased dramatically. And so here I am in an empty church building with just a small handful of people. And yet I have the ability to speak to people all around the world that have nowhere else to go because of COVID 19. And so it’s so easy to just sort of grumble and complain, but when you look at it that way, God has just put a massive doorway of opportunity in front of the church, a doorway of opportunity that she may not normally have absent the global pandemic that we’re all in. From there verses 12 and 13, Paul now gives us his second example where he was able to see a silver lining, in light of his incarceration, and it has to do with number two, boldness in preaching the gospel.
Look at what he says there in verse 14. And that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear. Now, there was, as we mentioned before, a vibrant church that existed in Rome that was started without the assistance of the Apostles. This is why Paul always wanted to get to Rome, to solidify that church and to use it sort of as a beachhead to venture further west into Spain. But he wanted to make sure that church was on the right footing. So there were Christians in Rome. And what happened is when Paul went into prison, the rest of the Christians said, Well, my goodness, did you hear what happened to Paul? He’s in prison. You know, we’ve got to pick up the slack. The great apostle is in incarceration. We’ve got it. We’ve got to work harder as laypeople to get this gospel out. And so his incarceration and his imprisonment was actually resulting not in less evangelism, but more evangelism. So rather than feeling sorry for himself, he says, my imprisonment has resulted in a greater emphasis on the proclamation and in the expansion of the gospel. Now, as you go down to verses 15 through 18, he opens a door here. That’s very, very interesting. And he talks about ill-motivated people. And he opens up the door of the possibility that it’s completely possible as a Christian to do the right thing and to say the right thing with the wrong motive.
Look at what he says there in verses 15 through 18. Some those in Rome, in other words, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife. But some also from goodwill. The latter, do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the Gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I what rejoice? You should underline rejoice there, verse 18. Then he says it a second time, verse 18. As if we didn’t catch it all the first time. Yes, indeed. I will rejoice. And he opens up this possibility of a doctrinally sound, doctrinally established believer proclaiming the gospel for ill-motivated reasons. And the Bible teaches this, it says, not this passage, notwithstanding, you can do the right thing but you can do it for the wrong reason. You have many, many examples of this in the Bible. One of them is Judas. You remember when the sisters there, I think it was Mary, took that expensive ointment, alabaster, broke the vase, began to pour it over Christ. She loved him so much. She wanted to worship him there in John 12, and Judas told her to knock it off. And Judas said in John 12 early in the chapter, this money that has been used to pour upon Christ that should have been– this expensive ointment, should have been sold and that money should have been given to the poor. So Judas looked like on the surface that he wanted to do the right thing helping the poor. But John 12, in verse six tells us what was really happening in Judas’ Heart. John 12 verse six says, Now he said this not because he was concerned about the poor. You mean everybody that stands up and expresses a concern about the poor is not really concerned about the poor. Now this, he said, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief. And as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. So Judas wanted that expensive ointment sold and put in the money box because he was embezzling funds. And there would be more to embezzle because he ironically was the Treasurer. Of this little group of disciples. So notice that Judas articulates a right thing to do, help the poor. But he is ill-motivated. And this is what Paul is facing here. He knows that there are preachers that are correct doctrinally. They are doctrinally established. They are Orthodox preachers. He knows that what they want to do is to capitalize on his imprisonment, and sees his land, his limelight and consequently build their own following, build their own ministries. We’re done with Paul. He’s in jail. I’m going to build my ministry. And Paul says there are people that are preaching the gospel that are just like that. Not all of them, praise the Lord, but some of them. And I–you know, I know for a fact. Taking my own wicked heart and putting it aside for a minute, because all of us with a depraved nature can go into wrong motivations for doing the right thing. But I know, for a fact, that there are people in Christianity whose theology I probably would agree with. But they want nothing more than popularity. They want nothing more than Facebook likes and YouTube subscriptions, and they want mailing lists and they want this and they want that. And so they’re doing the right thing, but they have the wrong motive behind it. I know some of the lives of these people. I know exactly what’s happening. And I try to guard myself and make sure that it doesn’t happen to me. Just like you should guard yourself and make sure that it doesn’t happen to you. And when you run into somebody like that and they seem to be getting ahead, they seem to be prospering, you can kind of lose your joy over that. I mean, so-and-so is prospering, their ministry is doing well, and yet their motives are completely wrong. And it’s interesting that that will kill joy in a person’s life falling into that mindset.
And it’s very interesting and instructive to discover what Paul says there in verse 18. He says, What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. Yes, I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice. Paul didn’t allow that circumstance to rob him of one millimeter of joy, because he says at least the gospel is going out. And he’s not dealing here with people that are preaching it wrongly. That would be a different discussion. He’s dealing here with people that are correct and orthodox and biblical in their presentation of the gospel. Yet, he knows their motives are wrong and he doesn’t allow that to crush their spirit. His spirit, even though they seem to be getting ahead while he’s languishing in prison. He just says, Well, praise the Lord. At least the gospel is getting out there. And that’s something to be understood about the gospel. The gospel is objectively true, regardless of the motivations of the preacher preaching the gospel. In other words, the gospel, if presented accurately, does not rise or fall according to the pure motivation or the ill motivation of a preacher. Listen to me very carefully when I say this, the devil himself can preach the gospel. And if he does it correctly, people can get saved. Because that’s the nature of the gospel. Paul, of course, says this very thing in the book of Romans chapter one and verse 16.
He says, I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. To the Jew first and also to the Greek. The Gospel is the dunamis, which is a translation of that word, power, where we get the word dynamite or dynamic. It’s the dunamis power of God. That’s how God has designed the gospel. And when the gospel is communicated, it has power. It doesn’t matter who’s saying it, as long as they’re saying it correctly. Probably one of my first lessons in this, in my walk with the Lord is there was a particular minister that would come on TV. If I called his name, everyone would know exactly who I’m talking about. I mean, it’s very obvious the gentleman is in the ministry for money. It’s very obvious that he teaches a perverted gospel of prosperity. And I remember I was in a group and I was kind of sitting in a group and I was sort of maligning this particular minister and someone in that little circle said, Well, you know, I got saved through that pastor. And it was sort of shocking to hear that because I thought, this pastor is satanic. He’s the devil. I mean, how can anybody get saved through his ministry? Well, it so happens that this particular minister was teaching error, but he was also teaching truth. And the person that I was speaking to happened to click on the television at a time when the guy said something right. And since God honors the Gospel, not men, because it’s God’s gospel, that gospel went right through the airwaves and this person got saved, even though I know for a fact that that particular minister is ill-motivated and teaches wrong things, it’s an example where he said something right, and that was sort of my first awakening. And what Paul is talking about here, that God honors the gospel because it’s God’s gospel. It doesn’t rise or fall according to the motives of the preacher. Now, don’t get me wrong, we should monitor our motives, etc. but I think sometimes we fail to understand the dunamis, dynamic, dynamite, power of the gospel. And so, yeah, there were people in Rome. They thought they could expand their own ministry empire because Paul was finally in prison. And Paul says, you know what, I’m going to rejoice twice in that. It’s not going to steal one minute, one second of my joy. Because at least the gospel is going out and all this stuff about motives, God’s going to take care of that anyway. That’s what the Bema Seat judgment of Christ is for. Following the rapture of the church as we as members of his church are with the Lord in the Father’s House for seven years, the first order of business is going to be this Bema seat judgment where we are evaluated not for salvation, but our works are put through a fire, first Corinthians three, ten through 15.
We’re not put through a fire, but our works are, to test their quality. And the works that pass through the fire and survive are part of our reward and all this stuff about doctrinally sound believers with impure motives. All of it’s going to get fixed anyway because some believers will be more rewarded than others. We don’t have to get into the motive business. We just need to be in the truth business. Is it being taught correctly? And it is true. You can do the right thing with the wrong motive, but you think people are pulling the wool over God’s eyes? I mean, rather than worrying about everyone else’s motives, I’ve got my own sick, wicked, depraved heart to worry about. I need to make sure my motives are correct. Paul, when he describes this famous judgment of Christ, he says, therefore, first Corinthians four, verse five, do not go on passing judgment. Before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in darkness and disclose the motives of men’s heart, and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. Paul says, You know, I’m not worried about these ill-motivated people in Rome preaching the gospel. I’m just I’m just happy. I don’t know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. I’m just ecstatic that it’s getting out there. And so while most Christians would sort of focus on the negative. It’s just another example where Paul focused on the positive. And he saw that through all of these things, God was still working. And so Paul could always walk in joy. His joy was not dependent of his circumstances because he developed a mindset which allowed him– it’s a mental discipline, really– to live above and beyond our circumstances. Now he moves into a third silver lining. That was happening because of his imprisonment. And look what he says there in verse 19. He says, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the spirit of Jesus Christ. Is it not interesting that suffering has a tendency to produce not less prayer, but more prayer? Because I’m in prison, Paul says. More and more people are praying for me than ever prayed for me. And in fact, he saw those prayers as a provision of the Holy Spirit. And that’s what we do when we pray for people. We pray for people that God would provide where we get the word provision. For them as they’re walking through a valley. And Paul says if everything was functioning hunky-dory and everything was rolling along like it was supposed to, I mean, the prayer life just wouldn’t be what it is. But now that I’m having a problem, now that I’ve suffered a setback, suddenly the body of Christ is praying for me in a way they wouldn’t pray for me absent my problems.
And in this, I rejoice. I would venture to say this, that because of what has happened to the world in the last few weeks related to COVID 19, I would say that God’s people all over the world are praying with a level of fervency that they weren’t praying at prior to what the world was like prior to the pandemic. Now, am I in heaven with a prayer meter and can read all this? No, that’s God’s prerogative. But I know in my personal life that when everything’s rolling along like it’s supposed to, the prayer life just really isn’t what it could be. Oh, my goodness. How things change, though, with a downturn. The fervency of prayer is different. The consistency of prayer is different. And so Paul says, Yeah, I’m in prison. But you know what? Look at all these, Look at the prayer that’s happening. I mean, that’s a completely different way of looking at going to the hospital, being set up for a surgery, having a heart attack or a heart problem, getting a negative report from the doctor. You know, it’s so easy just to focus on the negative and there’s plenty of negative to dwell on in those kinds of things. It’s totally different to face those things and say, Wow, look at it. Look at the opportunity to pray. Look at the opportunity for me to grow in prayer.
Look at the opportunity for other people to come alongside and not be complacent or lethargic, but to pray for my situation. And so, Paul, praised the Lord. He moves on from verse 19 into verses 20 through 26, where he speaks of really the fourth silver lining as a result of his imprisonment. And it has to do with the fact that he was being protected from martyrdom as long as he was in prison. Look at what he says there in verses 20 through 26. According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that all boldness Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Verse 21. For me to live is Christ, to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, that will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am, verse 23, hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Verse 25, Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith. Verse 26, so that you’re proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. What did Paul think about rather than feeling sorry for himself because he was in Roman prison? You know, it was going through his mind, It’s this prison that’s keeping me alive. The fact that I am chained to a Praetorian Guard. Is giving me another day of life. Now, why is that? Because when you study the book of Acts. Particularly Paul’s third missionary journey, where he traced his steps through Philippi. You’ll see a reference to Philippi in Acts 20, verse six. Right in that section Acts 20 verses one through three, there was a plot on his life. I mean, there was a plot amongst the unbelieving Jews to take this guy out. He talks about it in Acts 20 verses one through three. Luke records, After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had exhorted them and taking his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia. When he had gone through these districts and had given them much exhortation, he came to Greece and there he spent three months and when a plot was formed against him by the Jews, An assassination attempt, In other words, he was about to set sail for Syria, but he decided to go through Macedonia. Acts 20, verse six says, We sailed from Philippi after the days of unlimited Unleavened Bread. This all took place in the basic area that Paul is writing to the area of Philippi, and he’s saying, you might recall that there was an actual plot on my life.
Now all of us in ministry, at least here in the United States, have ups and downs and difficulties we face. I don’t think anybody’s plotting to kill me. Maybe some are. I don’t know. But you want to talk about opposition? I mean, we all face opposition, but most of us would say no one’s trying to kill us. No one’s trying to assassinate us. And yet that’s what Paul was dealing with here. And what he simply explains in verses 20 through 26 is I am safe from assassination right now. Because I’m in a Roman prison. I’m a chained to an elite Roman guard. No one’s going to try to assassinate me here. And consequently, because I’m alive, I can do more things for the Lord. In terms of not just evangelism, because we know when Paul was under house arrest in Rome, he received visitors Acts 20 verses 16 through 31 actually, verses 30 and 31 talks about that. He received these visitors and he could evangelize all of the time. You can’t do that when you’re dead. And as long as I’m in prison here in Rome, I have the opportunity to write the prison letters. Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians later second Timothy as he’s in prison a second time, which are going to edify the church transgenerationally. And here we are in the 21st century, the recipients of this book of Philippians. Meditating on it, enjoying it, being built up by it, because Paul was in prison. Because the prison was what was actually keeping him alive another day. And it’s interesting as you look at verses 21 through 23, Paul sort of starts to compare there what it would be like to die versus what it would be like to live. And he says, I’m sort of torn between the two. He goes, if I had my choice, though, I’d rather be assassinated. I’d rather die because, as he explains in second Corinthians five, verse eight, Absent from the body is to be what? Present with the Lord. I mean, my soul would separate from my body. I would go right into the presence of Jesus Christ. And of course, that is far better, he says here. But because I’m in prison, this assassination attempt has not come to fruition. I’m still alive. And so I can continue to evangelize. And I continue I can continue to write the New Testament prison letters, which will edify or build up the church transgenerationally. So rather than seeing his prison as a problem, if you actually look very carefully at what he’s saying here, it’s actually something very positive. Because it’s keeping me alive. I’d rather die, Paul says. But he kind of blames it on the Philippians. But for your sake. You know, I’d rather depart and be with the Lord, but for your sake, I guess I need to sort of stick around a little longer because the New Testament canon is not complete and there’s more people that need to be evangelized.
But if I had my choice, I’d rather depart and be with Christ, which is far better now. Don’t get suicidal. People read things like this and it becomes suicidal. That’s not what he’s advocating. He wanted to stay and be fruitful to the Lord, but he realized there were forces largely outside of his control that were trying to remove him, kill him, assassinate him, in other words. And he says, The thing that separates me from death is this praetorian guard in this prison, which allows me to continue on in edification for the church. For your sake, I’ll stay. Apparently, God wants me to stay, but if I had my own way, I’d rather depart and be with Christ, which is far better. You’ll notice that when Paul wrote and ministered, the man was completely fearless of death. Why is it that the world is so afraid of COVID 19? Why is it we’re so terrified of this? If you really boil it down to its basics, we basically are afraid to die. I mean, we’re in a state of fear. Now, if I didn’t know Christ, I could understand why I would be afraid to die. But if a Christian is afraid to die, they’re living far beneath their privileges. Because the Book of Hebrews Chapter two in a long chapter, which reveals the eight reasons why Jesus came into the world, one of those reasons is to remove the fear of death. Hebrews two and verse 15 says of Jesus Christ that he might free those who, through fear of death, were subject to slavery all their lives. The world is afraid of death because they don’t know what happens on the other side. And the reason they don’t know what happens is they don’t have the revelation of God. But if you have the full revelation of God and you understand that for me to live as Christ, to die as gain absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord. And those promises are very real in your life, What is there to be afraid of exactly? In fact, if somebody kills you, they might actually be doing you a favor, when you think about it. Says, I’d rather depart and be with Christ, which is far better. So you’ll notice that no matter what circumstance he was in, he was able to see a silver lining in it, and he could always walk in joy. Number one, I’ve got a captive audience verses 12 and 13. Number two, there’s greater boldness in preaching and the gospel is going out. Number three, people are praying like never before. And number four, it’s this prison that’s keeping me fruitful and alive because it’s protecting me from assassination. He concludes looking there at verses 27 through 30 as he takes the paradigm that he has just revealed and he applies it now to the circumstances of the Philippians, because apparently many of the Philippians were being attacked and we’re suffering adversity as well. So let me take my paradigm and apply it to your circumstances. And he leaves us here with three points of application. Number one, walk worthy of your calling. Look at what he says there in verse 27. Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel. His point when he uses the word worthy. Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel. He simply saying this. Allow your practice to be consistent with your position. Allow the way you live to be consistent with what God has already declared about you concerning your position and standing in Christ. And isn’t it interesting how suffering will rob us of that? We’ll start getting panicky and we’ll start saying things we shouldn’t say and doing things we shouldn’t do. And Paul says, don’t let your adversity detract you from what you’re supposed to be doing, which is living under God’s power consistent with your calling. He says, number two, do not fear your persecutors. Look what he says there at the beginning of verse 28. In no way alarmed by your opponents. And when we come under persecution, it’s so easy to fall into the temptation of being more afraid of man than we are God. Jesus, when he sent out the 12 to offer the kingdom to the nation of Israel, told them in Matthew ten verses 28 through 31, do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul. But rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground. Apart from your Heavenly Father. But the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than sparrows. I mean, what is the worst they can do to you? They can take your life. Which actually might be a favor when you think about it. Proverbs 29, verse 25, The fear of man brings a snare, or a trap, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. Here’s a verse that ministered to my heart during a time in my life when I was being severely threatened by somebody. First, Peter, three, verse 14, says, But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled. What’s interesting in verse 28 is all of these threats coming against the child of God from the unsaved world is actually a sign that the unsaved world is moving into destruction.
He says, verse 28, In no way being alarmed by your opponents, which is a sign of destruction for them. It’s like all of the people, no doubt heaping ridicule and abuse on Noah, As Noah was building, that massive ark and the world had never even seen rain. If I’m understanding Genesis two correctly, where mist came up from the ground and watered things. 120 years of preaching, of coming judgment and a flood,he’s building this ark. The unsaved world didn’t even know what rain was. And you can imagine for 120 years the abuse that Noah took from people verbally and otherwise. Foolishness. And yet that abuse was the very sign that they were about to be swept away. In fact, weeks down the road. Days down the road. Hours down the road. Minutes down the road. Seconds down the road. All of the people that were ridiculing Noah were about to be swept away in judgment. And so their abuse actually was a sign of their future. That’s how you look at your opponents that are threatening you. It causes you in a certain sense not to be angry about with your opponents anymore, not to be afraid of your opponents, but to actually feel sorry for them. Paul continues on, end of verse 28 into verse 29. But of salvation for for you, and that too, from God. Verse 29, for to you it has been granted, for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but to suffer for His sake.
He is explaining here that the Philippians belong to God. And that the Philippines were going through a normal pattern. What’s the normal pattern? God has granted it to you that you could believe on Him. But God has also granted it to you that you could suffer for Him. And by the way, when it says God has granted it to you the ability to believe on him, that is not the way Calvinism teaches this, that faith is a gift. Any more than suffering is a gift. It’s man that suffers, and therefore it’s man that believes. Granted to you to believe is the convicting work of the Spirit, whereby the spirit convicts you of your need to believe and you respond at your decision. But there has to be a granting of that as the Spirit convicts you of your need to do that. And that granting is not just for some, it’s for the whole world. John 16 verses seven through 11.
Every person within the sound of my voice has the ability, whether they decide or not, to be saved. Because God has provided salvation. And he’s also provided the convicting Ministry of the Holy Spirit, whereby we become aware of our need for salvation. But he’s just reminding the Philippians that you’re fitting into a pattern. The pattern is God gave, gifted you, granted to you to believe on Him, and part of that is you’re suffering for him also. You’re fitting into a well-known pattern. So don’t fear your circumstances. And his final point of application there is in verse 30, you’re suffering is actually normal. Because it’s fitting to you in this pattern, he says, verse 30, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me. And now here to be in me. Suffering is normal. Paul says, You see this pattern in me. I’m suffering. You saw it. Now you’re hearing about it as I’m in Rome. You saw it when I was with you 11 years earlier in Philippi. Now you’re hearing about my suffering in Rome, he says, verse 30 in me two times. So I’m suffering and that’s normal. And when you think about your sufferings, remember the normalcy of suffering in the Christian life, because I’m going through the exact same thing. You know, I’m just wondering, have we become so comfortable in the world as Christians that we have forgotten that suffering is part of our allotment in Christ? It’s just as much part of our allotment in Christ as receiving all that’s necessary to believe in Christ.
Times of suffering for the Christian are normal. What’s abnormal is the lack of suffering. Acts 14 verse 22, Paul says there, Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God. You’re not going through anything. That’s not normal. Second Timothy 3:12, Indeed, for all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. And so it’s wonderful how He ends his treatment on walking in joy despite negative circumstances by providing at the end of this chapter, three points of application: Walk worthy of your calling. Don’t fear your persecutors. And just remember that suffering is normal. And so it’s just an astounding chapter as Paul has traced for us, how to live above and beyond circumstances as he’s given us four silver linings in his own life, and then applied that paradigm to the circumstances of the Philippines.
Of course, we’ve spoken of there, verse 29, that it has been granted, for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in him, but to suffer. And this is something that the Holy Spirit does. He grants people the world because of his convicting ministry. Described in John 16 verses seven through 11, the gifting or the conviction necessary to trust in the Gospel. Nobody’s going to be able to stand before God one day and say, well, you just didn’t give me the chance, because the chance is there. Jesus said in John 16 seven through 11, I tell you the truth, that is to your advantage that I go away for if I go away, the helper will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment; Concerning sin because they don’t believe in me; Concerning righteousness because I go to the father and you no longer see me; And concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. Right now, as I’m speaking, every single person may not be saved, but they’re savable and they’ve become saved by trusting in what Jesus has done for them on the cross, 2000 years, no longer trusting in self religiosity, ritual, religion, but focusing exclusively and trusting exclusively in Jesus. That’s what Paul said to the Philippian jailer. What must I do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. It’s not just acknowledging a set of intellectual facts, it’s the actual issue of trust. And if right now you’re trusting, or have ever trusted in the complete provision of Jesus Christ and on the authority of God’s Word, you’re saved person. And should you die today? Your soul will go directly into glory. Our encouragement and exhortation as we close is to exhort people to trust in this message. If it’s something you need more help on, send us notifications somehow via email. Facebook notification so we can help you more. But it’s just a simple matter of privacy between you and the Lord, where you trust in him and him alone for your salvation.
As we dismiss this morning, let’s conclude with this ironic benediction. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face towards you and grant you peace. God bless you. You’re dismissed. Thank you for listening.