“A Mature Christian’s Perspective on Life and Death”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 1.22-26
Philippians 1. Don Farmer, 43, reported Tuesday that he was recently “led by God” toward several things he really likes—and in fact, as a general rule, everything he feels spiritually moved to do he coincidentally enjoys very much.
For instance, last week Farmer was considering whether he should go to the Men’s Golf Outing or volunteer at the city food pantry, when he says, miraculously, he knew just what to do. “You could say I really just felt led to lend my support to the church event,” Farmer confirmed to reporters. “It would have been great to be a volunteer over at the food pantry, but I had to say, ‘Here I am, send me, Lord, even to the ends of the fairway. Plus I recently purchased a new driver, which I took as a definite sign.’”
Additionally, he felt led to attend the church’s Super Bowl Party last year, which it just so happens he thoroughly enjoyed. The next Sunday, Farmer was unable to sign up for the church outreach visit to the senior home or the juvenile detention center due to the lack of a “nudge” from the Holy Spirit, but did feel moved to participate in the Men’s Group’s Annual Chili Cook-Off. He was also able to fend off several invitations by the church’s leadership to attend the new discipleship class, sorrowfully noting that not only would the time interfere with his Tuesday TV viewing lineup, but that he just didn’t feel as if he was being led to a diligent study of the Word “in that season.”
“It isn’t always easy, listening for that still, small voice that just so happens to send me to do things I want to do,” admitted Farmer. “Would I like to volunteer for the house-building project? Sure, but what can I do if the Spirit is leading me to come alongside Frank and fellowship by going to the game instead?”
Does that sound like a mature Christian’s perspective on life to you? I’d like to ask, “What ought a Christian be doing? What’s his goal in life? What is his purpose in life?
Where have you come from, why are you here, where are you going? Specifically, why are you here? Not here at church this morning … I trust you know why you’re here… but why are you on earth at all? Let’s broaden this question out to all religions for a moment … You could ask any number of religions and get a great different number of answers.
“Be good to get to heaven,” says a number of them. “Honor your ancestors,” say some more. “Gain enlightenment to be reincarnated” say even others. Another says, “We’re just one big cosmic accident and we’re supposed to simply propagate our DNA.”
Or, let’s take the question out of religion … many people today would simply say, “enjoy your life.” Family, friends, love, happiness … “eat and drink,” basically, “for tomorrow we die.”
But surely none of these will do! “Be good?” Ha, I haven’t done that for one second of my life. “Honor my ancestors or gain enlightenment to be reincarnated?” Says who? “I’m an accident?” My experience of life, beauty, creation, morality, conscience gives me a greater understand than “I ‘m just an accident.”
But just enjoying my life “family, friends, happiness” all fine, but it doesn’t actually give me purpose today… I mean, what about after death, what then…what good is enjoying my life if I can’t take anything with me?
And so we run up against death, then don’t we? My purpose in life is in relationship to death. I have an enemy … it’s death, let’s put it simply. Death is your enemy.
Now, I need that problem solved; death needs to be conquered. And there is only 1 person who has ever lived who has faced death and beat it and that’s Jesus Christ. Only Jesus Christ has died and raised Himself from the dead, just as He said He would do. And only Jesus Christ promises to do the same for those who trust in Him.
So the question becomes, “What will you do with Jesus?” Decide later? Put Him off? Why, to pursue your own purpose in life? What good is it, if it’s not the truth?
Let’s face reality and stop pushing aside the truth of the life…come to terms with Jesus Christ!
If Christ is who He says He is … that He’s God and since He was raised from the dead, that should change everything in your life! And should change everything about how you view your death as well. But when it doesn’t, it’s because you don’t have the great apostle Paul’s perspective on life and death. Let’s read Phil. 1:21-26 … Christ-commissioned Paul is writing from jail in Rome because he was telling others about the Truth, Jesus Himself … and he gives us his perspective on the purpose of life and death.
Philippians 1:21–26 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose [or better, to prefer … I do not know which to prefer]. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
As Paul looks to his future, whether it’s life or death, he tells us his perspective: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” And that is reasonable because of who Christ says He is and that His promises are true! His purpose: Christ! Death is simply a reward.
But as he was talking about his future, you could sense his dilemma. He doesn’t know which to prefer: life or death. Paul is a mature Christian; he’s walked with Christ each day and has grown to this point. He knows he could be executed or set free. Which does he want? Which does he prefer?
This is “A Mature Christian’s Perspective on Life and Death” … “A Mature Christian’s Perspective on Life and Death” … His purpose in life and his perspective on death.
A Mature Christian’s Dilemma (1:22-24)
Which does he want? Life or death? Let’s look at it…
Option #1: Death. He could prefer to die.
As someone who has trusted Jesus Christ, who knows Him, who has the power of His resurrection in his life, Paul can describe death as… verse 21… gain.
And verse 23 he says that he has the “desire to depart and be with Christ for that is a very much better.”
Paul has a reasonable perspective on death. For a Christian, it’s not the loss of all things … but the gaining of being in the presence of the One you love, Jesus Christ, to worship and praise Him, giving heartfelt thanks to Him who has loved you and delivered you from your sins…what grace, what eternal glory that will be! No more sinning against the One who died for all your sins…Paul has a desire for this … the idea is that he has a passionate longing for this … He passionately longs to depart and be with Christ.
APP: And this can be true for anyone of us who has trusted Christ and repented of their sin … this is true for anyone who has called upon the name of the Lord to be saved, who has forsaken it all to turn to follow Christ. If that’s you this morning, you can have a true and godly desire to depart and be with Christ.
The word “depart” very interesting. It was used of ancient Greeks to describe the loosing of the anchor of a ship in order to sail from a port … it’s a word for death, isn’t it … to depart by loosing anchor, as it were, and setting sail “for the land that is fairer than day.”
“For,” he says, “that is very much better.” He doesn’t say departing and being with Christ would be good, but better … better than his other option of life.
But he doesn’t just say that it’s better, he says that it is much better, death is much better than life. But he doesn’t just say that it’s much better, he says it’s very much better.
Paul has a passionate longing to depart and be with Christ in glory for that would be Very.Much.Better. … all gain.
This isn’t a conclusion you arrive at without intimate knowledge of Christ; without maturity.
ILL: One of our children brought up this question after one of our family Bible times this week, “I trust Jesus but I don’t want to lose my life for Jesus. I’m enjoying my life. Do I have to want to go to heaven?” I had to clear up some confusion on what it means to lose your life for Jesus’ sake. But nevertheless, preferring to go and be with Christ is a mature Christian perspective on death.
God gave us a desire to keep on living in this life, for sure, and He has given us richly all things to enjoy … that’s for sure too … , but Paul has given us this example: to die is gain, it’s better, very much better to depart and be with Christ.
How could Paul know it’s much better? I mentioned last time what Paul says in 2 Co. 12 that he was on one occasion caught up to heaven, into paradise itself and heard words that a man is not permitted to speak. He knew what it was that was waiting for him. He had been there … And that there with Christ, no more pain, crying, or tears. All gain! Of course he wanted to go there!
APP: How many Christians actually think like this? How many Christians in reality are really holding on so tightly and dearly to this life, and the things and relationships of this life? To get this perspective of death is gain … takes growth in Christ. Look, apart from the Lord’s return, death is going to happen … you need the right perspective, Paul’s perspective … it’s gain … to get that, determine to walk with Christ…it’s simple folks, trust Christ, read your Bible and pray over what you read everyday and begin to obey it. Read it, pray it, and obey it.
Option #2: He could prefer life, which would mean earthly Christian service
His other option is earthly Christian service. In verse 21 he says to live is Christ. Verse 22, to live on in the flesh means fruitful labor. Verse 24 to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for their sakes, the Philippians to whom he’s writing and Christians in general. In what sense is his remaining on in the flesh necessary?
Philippians 1:25 25 … for their progress and joy in the faith,
Obviously for Paul, to live is Christ: he will serve Christ with his life by laboring for others Christian progress. He will work for the Christian’s and their progress in the faith.
APP: Folks, this is life. If it’s not death, it’s this. You’re life as a follower of Christ is all about service, Christian service. You say, “I’m no apostle.” That’s right. But Paul is giving us his perspective for a reason. He says in chapter 3:17 of this same letter … “Brethren, join in following my example.” This is his example. What is the purpose of your existence today? If you’re not rescued from the penalty of your sin, it’s trusting Christ our only sacrifice … through no other can one come to the Father, Jesus says… but today if you have trusted and you are in Christ … your purpose in life is this: furthering the progress of others’ Christian lives. This includes proclaiming Christ and helping other Christians grow.
How many of us are fulfilling this example? Do you live for the service of others? Can you encourage another to seek Christ? Can you lift up someone in prayer? Can you be a sympathetic ear and give Christ’s word to them on it? Some of you have been doing that for years … can you grow a little more and share Christ’s love with some dear lost person?
APP: Not yet, well how do you get there? Trust Christ, read the Bible, pray it, obey it…everyday, and you’ll go into this.
Paul’s maturity in Christ is described in his 1 of 2 preferences: death and be with Christ, that’s way better. Or, earthly Christian service. To live is Christ; die is gain. Those are the two options for mature Christian people.
TRANS: But this isn’t easy… not easy to decide which to prefer. Paul has a true dilemma, a tension.
The tension described
Verse 22, he says I do not know which to choose. And that word “choose” would be better translated prefer…a standard way of translating that word… because clearly Lord is the one in control and Paul’s choice doesn’t necessarily matter in this case.
“I don’t know which to prefer” Paul says. Verse 23 I am hard-pressed from both directions. You can see he doesn’t know which is better…
EXP: The word “hard pressed” is used in Luke 12:50. There, Jesus says …
Luke 12:50 50 “But I have a baptism to undergo [meaning his death on the cross for the sins of the world … ], and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!
Just as Jesus was distressed, constrained … until he would die for our sins, taking all of God’s wrath upon Himself that we deserved … that’s distressing. That’s the word Paul uses here … He is distressed over which to prefer happen to him: to be executed and be with Christ or to remain on earth and serve Christ.
But he’s distressed over the other alternative of Christian service… Is that sinking in? Are you sure you caught what is actually causing this kind of distress for Paul?
His desire to be executed and be with Christ on the one hand … that would be excellent … and … wanting to get married on the other? No …. to get your head chopped off for the sake of Christ on the one hand … I mean, that would be the best, really and I just don’t know what else to choose … ahmm… getting a promotion at work…no, how about …travel, “I gotta fulfill my bucketlist of places I want to go,” foods to try, his family … not even just sustaining his life…. what’s causing him great distress over which he prefers over and against his death is his service for Christ to others. That’s what’s creating this pressure for him…
“I’m hard pressed from both directions; I don’t know which to prefer”: a bloody death or serving Christ so that others would come to know him and serve him better.
Paul’s not concerned with preserving his own life; he wants Christ in glory, but he also knows that his life is not his own and that Christian service it what is in store for him.
ILL: As Christians, we are pulled in two directions. We all want to go to heaven, but this life also holds great appeal. We are like the youngster in Sunday school who listened intently while the teacher told about the beauties of heaven. She concluded by saying, “Raise your hand if you want to go to heaven.” Every hand shot up immediately–except one. “Why don’t you want to go to heaven, Johnny?” “Well,” he replied, “Mom just baked an apple pie for dinner.”
That apple pie was keeping Johnny from wanting to go to heaven and be with Christ. What’s your apple pie? What’s keeping you from wanting to be in glory with Christ? Is it marriage, family, job, travel, recreation? These are good gifts from God, in many cases. But is that what keeps you on this earth? Your purpose in life? Are those things your purpose for living? Maybe your apple pie is Paul’s apple pie and that is service to Christ … leading others to Christ, and helping them grow to be like Christ.
If that’s your apple pie, you have Christian maturity.
If that’s not what keeps you on this earth, you have some ways to go before reaching Paul’s maturity.
Let me be frank, I’ve struggled with this myself. Do I know Christ so well and love Him so much that I can say “I can’t wait to get to heaven.” I have a lovely wife, young family, wonderful church … I have some growing to do.
Btw, that’s one of the benefits of being single: you might feel like you can be a little more reckless for Christ!
Granted, Paul had heavenly experiences we won’t and I’m sure that caused him to want to be with the Lord in heaven, but the Lord can work in your life like He worked in Paul’s life to bring you to this point of maturity.
A mature Christian will have this mindset; he’ll forsake this world to live for the next. All things are subservient to Christ and His mission.
What if someone doesn’t have this mindset? What if someone doesn’t feel the pressure to serve and doesn’t have a desire to depart and be with Christ? He is immature, at least. We need to get to the point that Christ, only our service to Christ is what keeps us here on earth and that we long to want to be with Christ.
TRANS: Well, knowing what Paul knows about heaven and earthly Christian service, which will he prefer?
A Mature Christian’s Preference: Earthly Christian Service (1:25-26)
Philippians 1:25–26 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
Paul had a sense that he’d continue on, that he’d get out of prison. Christ had a mission for Paul and He has one for every one of us as well.
Paul’s ministry is to progress their Christian life v.25
Paul knew that he would continue on for what? Verse 25 for your progress and joy in the faith. His life is Christ … Christ’s work is their progress and joy in the faith. See… there is joy in all of this! Paul’s not depressed, not even in jail! His ministry and purpose continues, “the word of God is not imprisoned” so Paul still has purpose.
And he longs to be with the Philippians to progress their faith and so that they might have joy in the faith! Paul desires their joy in Christ!
And all of your life’s work should have that focus as well … that they might progress in the faith …. that others might advance in the Christian life and that they might have joy because of all your service.
TRANS: And if you have a ministry of service like that for others, you’ll have joy and those you minister to will have joy and they will glorify Christ. That’s verse 26.
Paul’s ministry results in Christians glorying in Christ v. 26
Philippians 1:26 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
I don’t prefer the NASB translation here.
The new American Standard sounds like Paul is requesting that they would have proud confidence in Paul… But it better reads, “so that your glory/proud confidence might abound in Christ Jesus in me…that is, through my coming back to you.”
In other words, Paul wanted their glorying to be in Christ through his own ministry …. “When I come back to you, I want my ministry to result in you glorifying Christ, praising Him, giving Him honor.”
And through that, they will have the joy of fellowship in the gospel together!
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 1.22-26
I’m reading Hudson Taylor’s biography. He was a missionary to China in the 19th century. He began the China Inland Mission, out of a desire to reach the Chinese further inland from the coast.
Toward the end of the first volume he is very sick and will have to take a rest back in England … but he writes from China to his parents, “I trust, if it is the will of God, “that … I may be spared to labour for China. If not, all is well. I am very happy in Jesus. Never before have I felt Him to be so precious a Saviour, Lover, Friend. Sometimes I think I may not live to see you; sometimes I hope to be spared to labour long and more earnestly than ever for China. All, all is known to Him … and He will do all things well.
“Do not think me selfish. I do sorrow for the grief my removal [from earth] would be to you and to my dear, so dear wife. I would fain live for your sakes. But Jesus is so lovely, so precious! All must sink in comparison with Him.”
Though you might not be a full time missionary, that mindset is our example too. All for Jesus all for Jesus! Though I die, it’s all for Christ…If I live, it’s all for Christ. For He has died for me …Christ is life and there are no other details; He and his mission my only aspiration, my only dream…not riches, fame, wealth or security …I have eternal security, that’s all I need. I need not fear what man might do to me, for Christ is on my side, his wounds for me continually plead my case before the Father and I have eternal life.
The trials and struggles here merely prepare me for the fair land beyond the river. And I live today to serve His glorious name and His cause that others might have joy and progress in the faith. I want that to be my testimony more and more; I want to grow and grow to serve my glorious master more and more that He alone might receive all the glory and that I might have joy in serving Him now and forever.
546 Jesus I may cross have taken. You can see there are 4 stanzas.
First stanza, third line
Third stanza, second line … Life with trials…
fourth stanza, third line…
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Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000). ↑