Philippians 1 (NIV)
Eternal God, who lives eternally in perfect unity with the Son and the Holy Spirit, you have called us to be members of one body. Join us with those who in all times and places have praised your name, that, with one heart and mind, we may show the joyful unity of your church, and bring honor to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to his close friends, the Christians in Philippi, likely from his Roman house arrest described at the end of Acts (Acts 28:30-31), waiting for his court appearance before Caesar (around the year 61). Philippi was a wealthy town, thanks to nearby gold and silver mines and a large number of (retired military) Roman citizens. The church in Philippi was founded by Paul some eleven years before this letter, on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:11-40). This was the first church established on the continent of Europe.
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with JOY 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Ezekiel 16:60 (NLT)
Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Deuteronomy 5:33 (ESV)
You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.
Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
FURTHERING THE GOSPEL
There are two ways to look at every situation: How it will affect you, and how it will affect God’s kingdom. The apostle Paul was always concerned with how his circumstances might aid the spreading of the Gospel. When he was unjustly imprisoned, he immediately looked to see how his imprisonment might provide God’s salvation to others (Phil. 1:13; Acts 16:19-34). When he was assailed by an angry mob, he used the opportunity to preach the Gospel (Acts 22:1-22). When Paul’s criminal proceedings took him before the king, his thoughts were on sharing his faith with the king (Acts 26:1-32)! Even when Paul was shipwrecked on an island, he used that opportunity to share the Gospel there. Regardless of his circumstance, Paul’s concern was how he could use his current situation to tell other of God’s good news of salvation.
Often when we encounter a new situation, our first thoughts are not about God’s kingdom. When we face a crisis, we can become angry or fearful for our own well-being, rather than looking to see what God intends to do through our circumstances. If we remain self-centered we will miss so much of what God could do through our experiences, both for us and for those around us.
Ask God to make you aware of how He could use your present circumstances to bless others. Perhaps someone around you needs to see the difference Christ’s presence makes in your life. Are you willing for God to use your circumstances to demonstrate His saving power to those around you?
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I REJOICE.
Yes, and I will continue to REJOICE, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 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 my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 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! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
Since Paul was in prison awaiting trial, he had to face the fact that it was quite uncertain whether he would live or die; and to him it made no difference.
“Living,” he says, in his great phrase, “is Christ to me.” For Paul, Christ had been the beginning of life, for on that day on the Damascus road it was as if he had begun life all over again. Christ had been the continuing of life; there had never been a day when Paul had not lived in his presence, and in the frightening moments Christ had been there to bid him be of good cheer (Acts 18:9-10). Christ was the end of life, for it was towards his eternal presence that life ever led. Christ was the inspiration of life; he was the dynamic of life. To Paul, Christ had given the task of life, for it was he who had made him an apostle and sent him out as the evangelist of the Gentiles. To him Christ had given the strength for life, for it was Christ’s all-sufficient grace that was made perfect in Paul’s weakness. For him Christ was the reward of life, for to Paul the only worthwhile reward was closer fellowship with his Lord. If Christ were to be taken out of life, for Paul there would be nothing left.
“For me,” said Paul, “death is gain”. Death was entrance into Christ’s nearer presence. There are passages in which Paul seems to regard death as a sleep, from which all men at some future general resurrection shall be wakened (1 Corinthians 16:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14 and 16); but at the moment when its breath was on him Paul thought of death not as a falling asleep but as an immediate entry into the presence of his Lord. If we believe in Jesus Christ, death for us is union and reunion, union with him and reunion with those whom we have loved and lost awhile.
The result was that Paul was swayed between two desires. “I am caught,” he says, “between two desires.” As the Revised Standard Version has it: “I am hard pressed between the two.”
25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and JOY in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your JOY in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Life Worthy of the Gospel
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Matthew 5:11-12 (ESV)
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
“For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Oh, to say these words with all my heart! HERE it is in musical form, by the Sidewalk Prophets.