Dr. Danny Campbell
This young convert was deeply impressed and determined to make these the rules of his life. From that day onward throughout his life he made it a rule to spend the first moments of his day alone with God and God's Word. Before he read a letter, looked at a paper or even read a telegram, he went first to the Bible, that the first impression of the day might be what he got directly from God.
- Series: Facing Life's Challenges with the Apostle Paul
- Scripture: Philippians 1:12-14; Philippians 1:20-26
Paul was ready to die
From underground Chinese church Pastor Brother Yun’s book, The Heavenly Man.
Describe the Back to Jerusalem movement (That many of the unreached people groups in the world lie between China and Jerusalem).
“As Back to Jerusalem gains momentum please don’t judge it by a worldly standard. If you hear that hundreds of us have been killed or imprisoned, don’t assume that is bad news and that the vision has failed! In China we have learned to trust the sovereignty of God. If we are in prison it is because he wants us there. The very thing some people think may be a failure may turn out to be the point of breakthrough and victory.
One small example of this principle is the fact that in Myanmar I was able to lead more than a dozen prisoners to Jesus. He touched them powerfully and their lives changed forever. Some people go through their whole life free on the outside but prisoners in their hearts, enslaved to bondage and sin. These men face the most miserable existence possible inside prison, but on the inside they are as free as birds gliding over the mountaintops! The love Jesus with all their hearts.
My days in prison were filled with God’s presence. To be honest, it didn’t feel as if I was in prison! I hardly even thought about the seven year sentence I had received, for each day was full of joy and life. Then, after seven months and seven days in prison, I was released and expelled from the country because the Lord wanted me to continue the Back to Jerusalem vision.”
“My family and I have committed ourselves unreservedly to serve the Lord and the Back to Jerusalem movement. One day I may be killed for the sake of the gospel in a Muslim or Buddhist nation. If you hear this news, please don’t grieve for me, but grieve for the millions of precious souls who are enslaved by Satan without any gospel witness. Death is not the end for a servant of God; it is just the start of indescribable everlasting life in the presence of Jesus. Please go on in my place with the gospel, preaching and discipling the people groups of the world until Jesus comes.” -Brother Yun of the Chinese underground church
We are going to see that same heart for God in today’s passage from the Apostle Paul.
Paul was willing to share the gospel no matter what, including possible imprisonment and death. In fact, he was often imprisoned for sharing the gospel and did some of his best evangelistic work behind bars!
Read Phil. 1:12-14, 20-26 Paul was ready to die Let’s Pray!
In the last few messages we have seen Paul’s extensive travels to reach people for Christ and plant churches.
Paul’s missionary journeys compared:
(SE Asia Minor)
Macedonia, Achaia (Europe)
No one did more in the first century for Gentiles to come to Jesus Christ than the apostle Paul.
But last time we saw that Paul also never stopped loving his fellow Jews and he boldly proclaimed that Jesus had a glorious future for Israel in store.
Paul wrote the book of Philippians from jail in Rome about AD 62 as he awaited a hearing with Caesar. His being in that jail corresponds to the events that Luke covers from Acts 21-28.
After that third missionary journey Paul still planned to take the gospel to places it had not been. In Romans 15:24 he told the Roman church of his plans to take the gospel to Spain!
But before he could do that ne needed to do something else, something that explains why Paul was in a Roman jail waiting to talk to Caesar.
For years he had been preaching personally winning people to Jesus and planting churches. He had raised up dozens of workers who were committed enough to keep the work going after he was gone.
There was a growing opposition to Christianity in the Roman Empire in the first century. Riots broke out in many of the places the gospel went.
Paul didn’t want all future Christians and churches to face the same levels of persecution from hostile rulers that he had.
Paul went to Rome to provide cover to fellow Christians by explaining that they desired to be good citizens even though they worshipped Jesus alone. He put himself on the hot seat in hopes of other Christians getting religious liberty.
Acts 21 -28 covers 5 years of time and show Paul sitting in a number of prisons and appearing before a series of Rulers from Jerusalem to Rome, while overcoming plots to kill him and scary shipwrecks.
From that Roman imprisonment Paul wrote 4 letters we call the Prison Epistles – Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and this book of Philippians.
Paul is probably himself in his early 60’s as he writes Philippians.
In our area we have many examples of people living to be 100, and the average for Americans is in the 70’s. But not as many people made it to 60 in the Roman Empire. And Paul had several hundreds of years worth of ‘miles on his tires.’
So here Paul is, in prison, facing some kind of life threatening illness as he writes, and he may receive the death penalty from Caesar. That’s the context for some of the most beautiful words on death and knowing Christ.
Our series has been facing life with the Apostle Paul.
Now we get to face possible death with the Apostle Paul.
For every Christian, magnifying Jesus means more than a long life V. 20
Look at verse 20
What did Paul want more than anything else?
To magnify Christ
I love the Greek verb Paul uses here for magnify – megalyno. It literally means to enlarge something, to make much of something or someone. It’s noun form is used to refer to the Majesty of God. Paul desired to make much of King Jesus!
More than anything else Paul wanted to make much of Jesus!
He didn’t want to stand before God one day having failed King Jesus.
He didn’t want to be ashamed of anything before Jesus.
For him getting out of bad circumstances wasn’t’ the main thing but making much of Jesus as he went through bad circumstances.
He couldn’t control what had happened to him but he could control making much of Jesus as he faced bad circumstances!
For him the main thing about being in prison was not to get out of prison but to make much of Jesus while he was in prison.
Look again at verses 12-14.
Paul didn’t waste his time in prison! He made much of Jesus there, and people were saved.
If he was here he would say, “Don’t waste your cancer – make much of Jesus while you face your cancer.”
If he was here he would say, “don’t waste your Coronavirus, make much of Jesus during this time of Coronavirus.”
Look again at verse 20
My hope is that Christ will be magnified in this beaten up old body, whether I live or die.
For Paul the biggest shame that could come to him wasn’t failing to live to be a very old man, but failing to live out a courageous faith that magnified Jesus Christ!
For every Christian, magnifying Jesus means more than living a long life.
For every Christian, the best is yet to come V. 21-23
Look at verse 21
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Who else on earth can say “to die is gain” but a Christian.
I have been around death a lot as a Pastor.
I have never heard a non-Christian describe death as gain.
They speak of how awful it is that they couldn’t do all they wanted to do.
They are agitated. For many of them, they live in fear of death constantly.
But the Christian has peace.
They know after this life, they will be with Jesus Christ.
They won’t have to live in a sin-stained world ever again.
They won’t have to deal with this tired old body any more.
They know one day they will receive a new body from the Lord.
They know that with Christ, the best is yet to come.
As Paul faced the possibility of death, he thought, It will be great to be with Jesus.
As Paul thought of more life down here, he was reminded that his body wasn’t going to stop hurting, the persecution for sharing Jesus would be ongoing, and he thought, it would be better to be with Jesus.
Death won’t mean loss for me, but everlasting life, eternal gain!
When you get that settled, several things will happen –
That peace with God will make you smile inside even when you face bad people and circumstances.
The worst day for the believer here is the only Hell they will ever know.
That perspective from God will make you appreciate good days for what they are, but you will always know that ‘far better awaits!’
You won’t make foolish decisions as if you believe this life is all there is because you know this life is not all there is!
When ‘far better’ awaits after this life you won’t settle for ‘far less’ than magnifying Christ in this life!
The non-believer can’t say that. Death won’t be far better, it won’t be gain. This life with its many problems will be the only “heaven’ they will know, and after this life eternal punishment in Hell – punishment that could have been averted through faith in Jesus Christ.
For every Christian, making much of Jesus means more than how long we live, and for every Christian, the best is yet to come. But Paul also taught that…
For every Christian, there is work to do until we die V. 24-25
Paul said it will be better for me and every Christian when we die.
But that doesn’t mean he was living whatever time he had left waiting to die.
He said, “It will be better for you if I live.”
Now Paul could say that because he lived to know Christ and make Him known.
He was a very focused person.
When he was around people he wanted to help them get from where they were to where God wanted them to be.
Non-Christians to Christ; new Christians to baptism and growth; Growing Christians to service based on their spiritual gifts; Mature Christians to leadership in Christ’s church.
Nobody who knew Paul would have laughed when they read those words from Paul. PAUSE
Would people laugh at the idea that you exist to help others get where God wants them to be?
If you know they would, maybe you need to reevaluate why God still has you alive on this planet.
Conclusion: Every Christian can live and witness with the confidence that whatever happens to them, they have it made!
When you die, however you die, you’ll be with Jesus.
In the meantime, you are here to make much of Jesus and help others get from where they are to where God wants them to be!
Bow your heads!