Our Reasons for Living
Our Reasons for Living
Setting up the Passage
If you have your Bibles this morning, go ahead and turn with me to Phil 1.
For this morning’s sermon, we will be piggy backing on last week’s sermon. In last week’s sermon, I mentioned in the application section of the sermon that, based upon what Paul says in 1:23, it’s okay for a Christian to want to die. It is okay for a Christian to act and feel in the same way that Paul does in Phil 1:23. Paul’s desire is to depart this life by means of his soul and to be with Jesus in heaven. I argued last week that it’s okay for you, Christian, to feel the same. The glories that await us are infinitely better than the pleasures that we have in this world. It’s okay to desire to depart this life and be with Christ. While it is never okay for a Christian to take their own life, it is okay to desire to be with Christ in heaven. I argued this last week.
There are points in life where we feel how Paul feels. There are points in life where we do not desire to continue living. Due to the pain of this world and the hope of the next, we just want to pass on. If I were a betting man, I would bet that there are many of you here this morning who feel like this right now. I’m sure that there are many who are depressed today, who just want to die. Your hope is in Christ. This world has nothing for you. You just want to pass on.
My message this morning is for those people. My message is for those Christians who want to pass on to the next life. And the message I have is one of encouragement. As long as God gives you life, you still have purpose in this world. You still have a reason to live. You still have a reason to get up out of bed. You still have hope. While Christianity is a religion about the next life, it is also a religion of this life. God isn’t done with you, dear Christian. God still has work for you to do.
Our passage this morning is 1:25–26. Two verse. Thus saith the Lord,
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
As we’ve being doing in previous sermons, so also will we do in this sermon. We follow Paul’s example. Paul mentioned in v. 23, as we’ve already seen, that he wanted to die and go to heaven. In v. 24, though, Paul mentions that it is more important for the Philippians that he continue living. The Philippians need him. That need for Paul is greater to him than his desire to die.
Unpacking the First part of v. 25
What ultimate conclusion does Paul come to about life and death? He desires to die but also desires to continue helping the Philippians. Where do these two conflicting desires lead him? The conclusion to all of this is spoken of in our passage. Look at the beginning of v. 25. Paul says this,
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all,
In order to understand this statement, we need to understand the “this.” “This,” “that,” “these” and “those” can be difficult to understand. Most commentators take the “this” in v. 25 as referring to v. 24. So, what Paul would be saying in v. 25 is this:
Convinced that it is more necessary on your account to remain in the flesh, I know that I will remain and continue with you all.
The difficulty with this interpretation is it’s hard to see the logical connection here. How is it that the Philippians’ spiritual need for Paul to continue living result in his knowledge that he will continue living? How does their need for Paul to continue living make it so that he does continue to live? It does not follow that simply because the Philippians needed Paul that he would therefore stay with them.
I’m not sure how to explain this. Somehow, Paul had an awareness that it was not his time to go. My guess is that as an apostle Paul had unique insight to God’s plan for his life. Paul knew when his destiny in a way that we do not. Here in Philippians, he knew he still had more work to do. God had revealed to him he wasn’t going to die.
When Paul’s time to die was approaching, though, his tone changes. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Tim 4:6–8.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Notice the change in Paul’s tone. In the Philippians passage, he says, “It’s not my time to go. I’ve got more work to do.” In this 2 Timothy passage, the situation is different. Philippians was written prior to 2 Timothy. Paul knew he would live in the book of Philippians. He knew he would die in 2 Timothy. How does he know this? I don’t know. Maybe Jesus told him. Maybe he had a unique awareness of when he would die due to his apostleship.
I do not know how Paul knew he would not die in Philippians. I don’t know. In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter says that some things that Paul wrote are hard to understand. I would classify Paul’s statement at the beginning of Phil 1:25 as one of those ideas that is hard to understand.
For our purposes, though, it’s not essential that we understand how Paul knew that he would continue living. What is important is that we see is that in the life that Paul would continue living he had purpose. He had a job to do. Even though he wanted to die and be with Christ, he still had had reasons for living. Let’s turn back to Phil 1:25 to see what those reasons were. There are three reasons. These three reasons will be my three points.
We live to see others progress in their faith
The first point is this: “We live to see others progress in their faith.” I get this point from v. 25. Paul says, “I know I will remain and continue with you al for your progress . . . in the faith.” In v. 25, Paul mentions two reasons why he will continue living. The first, which is this point, has to do with progress. The second, which is my next point, has to do with joy. Both references to progress and joy are modified by “in the faith.” Paul lives to see the Philippians progress in their faith.
Paul has a lot to say about the progress of faith in the book of Philippians. Look with me 1:6. Paul says here that he is convinced that God will progress the Philippians’ faith. God, the one who began in them the good work of salvation, will progress it. God will progress it to the point of completion. God will complete the work of salvation in the Philippians. God is the one who ultimately progresses the Philippians faith.
Paul lives to continue reminding the Philippians that God is the one who progresses their faith. Salvation is by grace alone. The ultimate basis of the Philippians salvation is not their own trying or doing. Rather, it is the sovereign hand of God that progresses them in their faith.
While this progress in faith is based upon the work of God, this work is not opposed to the efforts of the Philippians. Their progress in the faith is very much dependent upon their striving for it. Look with me at 2:12. Paul says,
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for hit is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Paul reminds the Philippians that they have to strive for their progress in the faith. They are to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling.” Knowing, however, that God is the one who is the ultimate basis for their striving for progress. Paul lives to remind them to strive for progress in the faith.
Lastly, turn with me to 3:12. Paul lives to remind the Philippians of theological truth. He also lives as an example of that theological truth.
Not that I have already obtained this or mam already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in
anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Paul lives to be an example of progress to the Philippians. He lives to show them what it looks like to keep pressing, keep praying, keep going. He lives to show them that they should press on toward the goal of salvation.
Paul lived to see the Philippians progress in their faith. He lived to remind them of theological truth and to provide for them an example of progress. The application for this point is quite simple. We are to follow Paul’s example. We are to tell others of important theological truth regarding progress and we are to live as an example of progress. By word and example we fulfill this obligation to others.
I’m reminded here of the relationship between Christian and Hopeful in Pilgrim’s Progress. As I mentioned last week, Hopeful was always there to encourage and exhort Christian to keep going, to keep walking, and to keep making progress to the Celestial City. We need to be like Hopeful to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We live to see that other progress in their faith.
We live to see others have joy in the faith
We also live to see others have joy in their faith. This is my second point this morning. We live to see others have joy in the faith. I get this also from v. 25. “I know that I will remain and continue with you all . . . for your joy in the faith.” Paul’s purpose was to see that the Philippians have joy in the faith.
On this point, however, we immediately run into a potential objection. The point is that one of the reasons we live is to see others have joy in the faith. The objection is this: how can I seek the joy of others when I myself am depressed and discouraged? How can I seek joy for others when I’m discouraged? How can I encourage others when I am so discouraged? This is a valid question. It is a question that yields an amazing theological insight.
The answer is this: joy and sorrow can be intermingled. Joy and sorrow are not exclusive to each. You can be both joyful and sorrowful at the same time. Simply because you are filled with sorrow does not mean that you can not also have joy at the same time. To prove this point, let’s look at Paul. Turn with me to Phil 2:17. In this passage, Paul smashes together boy sorrow and joy. It reads,
Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
The second part of the verse is clear. Paul states that he is joyful and that he will be joyful. So, there we have the idea of joy. The first part of the passage is harder. What does Paul mean by “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith.” There are two interpretations. The first refers to the sacrifice of future missionary labors. The second refers to the sacrifice of martyrdom. I interpret this passage in accordance with the second interpretation—martyrdom. Thus, another way you can translate this passage: “Even if I experience sorrow for the building up of your faith, I still will have joy.” To prove my point,
though, it doesn’t matter. Both interpretations entail the notion of sacrifice. And the notion of sacrifice—whether through missionary labors or martyrdom—entail sorrow, suffering, discouragement, and pain.
So, to answer the objection: Can you have joy and be depressed? Can you be sorrowful and rejoice at the same time? Can you experience grief and hope? Yes. You can. That’s what this life is. We are in between the two comings of Jesus Christ. On the one hand we have been saved and yet on the other we await further redemption. As Christians, we have the down payment of the Spirit, and yet wait for the full outpouring of the Spirit. We have joy and yet still long for more.
What Type of Joy
If it is true that joy and sorrow can and do intermingle in this life, then what type of joy do you seek foster in others? If one of our reasons for living is to see that others take joy in their faith, what type of joy do we give to them?
Well, we don’t give them a prosperity gospel joy. This type of joy is based upon circumstances. It’s based upon wealth, health, popularity, and earthly pleasure. This type of joy comes and goes with circumstances. It’s phony. It doesn’t last. Don’t impart to others this joy.
The joy that we seek to give to others is a bedrock joy. One that doesn’t come and go. One that is not based upon us—our abilities and ingenuities. One that is not based upon our success, skills, and circumstances. That is sinking sand the Bible says. Rather, we based it on Christ—his death and resurrection. It’s based on his love, his love, his death, his resurrection, and his grace. = Here’s an illustration of what I mean. This is from the Heildeburg Catechism.
Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.
That definition of joy recognizes death, suffering, and misery in this life. But more than that, much more than that, that God is good. He is true, loving, and kind even in the difficulty. It’s not rooted in the circumstances of man but in the power of God. God is good.
How, Pastor, do I seek that others have joy in their faith? We do this through our words and through our actions. First, as you have the opportunity, encourage others. Be kind with your words. Build others up. Remind them of Christ’s hope. Thank them. Brag on them. Don’t talk about yourself. Don’t seek to let everyone know your accomplishments. Brag on others. Speak words of love and kindness.
Second, seek joy for others through your example, through your life, through your actions. Our lives have a radical impact on others. How we respond to difficulty inspires others—whether positively or negatively. Use your life to see others have joy in Christ. Martyn Lloyd Jones, a famous English preacher, as he was dying from cancer, wrote to his wife because he could not speak: “Do not pray for healing. Do not hold me back from glory.” Wow! Be like that! When it is your time to die, seek my joy in Christ by modeling that type of faith. Praise the Lord.
We live to see others boast in Christ
Last point for you this morning, dear Christian. It comes from v. 26. Let’s start, though, in v. 25. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all . . . so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Paul is giving a third reason for why he will continue living. That reason? Through his visitation to them he wants the Philippians to “have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus.” The though here is that Paul wants his coming to them to occasion great rejoining in Christ. He wants the Philippians to greatly praise and to greatly boast to greatly magnify Jesus Christ because of Paul’s return to them. Through Paul’s actions, Paul wants the Philippians’ confidence in Christ to overflow and abound.
A way to illustrate this point is by employing the idea of a mirror. We use mirrors to see objects. Often times that object is ourselves. You can also use mirrors to look at other objects. Sometimes you might use a little dental mirror to look inside your mouth, look at you teeth. I might need to start doing this more. One of my kids asked me recently, “Dad, why are your teeth so yellow.” I used to ask my dad a similar question when I was a kid. I guess it comes with the territory of being a dad. Anyways, we use a mirror to look at ourselves and to look at other objects.
One way we can view our role in the lives of other people as one who holds a mirror up for them. When people look to us for how they should live, we have four options. We either don’t hold up a mirror and have them fix their gaze on us. This is narcissism. This is us telling them that we are their savior. We can fix their problems and we have the answers. We shouldn’t do that. Another option is that we hold up a mirror and we point that mirror back at them. This is the idea that we lead them to think that they can do it, they can save themselves, they just need to try harder. We don’t do that. Or, we point them to other people. I might not be able to help them, they might not be able to help themselves, but other people can. Other people are the answer to their problems. Or, lastly, we can hold the mirror and point it to Christ. That way, when they look at us, what they see is not us, not themselves, and not other people. What they see is Christ.
It’s that latter option, of pointing the mirror to Christ, that we should model. That’s the posture that Paul has. Paul doesn’t want the Philippians to boast in him, in themselves, or in the world. He wants his actions to lead their confidence in Christ Jesus to abound, to overflow. That’s how we are to act, through both words and actions, towards others. We are to seek that they have their confidence and boast in Christ alone.
The best friends in life that we can have are the ones who point us away from them and to Jesus Christ. There are the friends, who through their words and actions, point us away from this world and to Jesus Christ. Oh, to have friends like these. It is a tremendous blessing to have these friends. To have a friend that doesn’t always tell you want you want to hear but tells you what you need to here.
Be that type of friend to others. Use the influence that you have on others, the mirror, to show others Christ. Through word and speech, make much of Christ in the lives of others.
Depressed, sorrowful, and discouraged Christian, we have great hope. That hope is ultimately set on the next life. That hope is that one day God will resurrect our bodies and we will live with him forever. That’s the future hope. That’s the main hope.
That’s not the hope I have been emphasizing today, though. Yes, we do have hope in the next life. But we also have hope in this life. That hope is this: God is not done with us. God is not finished with us. We have reasons for living. There is work to be done. As you have life, depressed and sorrowful Christian, remember that God’s not done with you. God wants to use you. You have hope. You have a reason to get out of bed.
I detailed three of those reason this morning. Overall, though, we can summarize those reasons under the category of selflessness. Your reasons for living are to make much of Christ by making much of him in others. As you have life, dear Christian, don’t become myopic and selfish in your suffering. Seek to lose yourself for Christ by loving other people.