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Philippians 1:12-26: Our Goal and Our Joy Print E-mail
Sunday, 29 June 2008

In studying the book of Philippians and particularly looking for how Paul could have joy in the midst of such difficulty, I think I see another principle concerning joy: the goal of our lives will determine our joy.  Thus, our joy in large part depends upon the goal of our life.  Of course, we said from the beginning of the letter that our joy should be relational and not circumstantial.  I am not contradicting that with our principle this morning.  Rather, I hope I am simply seeing the truth from a different angle.  Hereís what I mean.  Joy is relational and true joy is found in our relationship with Christ.  If knowing Christ and making Him known is the goal of our life, then our joy will be great even in the midst of difficulty and suffering.  In this way, I think the two principles build upon each other. 

Yet, how do we see this in our text this morning?  In order to answer, I want to begin by pointing out what Paul claims as his goal in life.  Look at verses 18b-20.  Paul states that his goal is that Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  The goal of Paulís life is the honoring of Christ.  He wants his life and death to result in praise of Christ.  His goal is to see Christ praised.  Because of what Christ has done for him and because of the relationship that he has with Him, Paulís goal is to see Christ praised.  He wants nothing more and nothing less except the honoring of his Savior.  We see this evidenced in our passage in at least three ways.  Letís consider these together.

First, Christ is praised through Paulís imprisonment (v. 12-18a).

In verse 12, Paul transitions in the letter to giving the Philippians a report concerning himself.  Look at 12-18a with me.  Paul says in verse 12 that his imprisonment has served to advance the gospel.  Paul knows that it easy to get discouraged when things are not going well.  He knows that things are difficult for the Philippians.  He knows that they are concerned about his welfare.  Thus, he wants to encourage them by letting them know that even his imprisonment is serving to advance the gospel. 

How is this happening?  First, his imprisonment has increased the audience.  Notice what he says in verse 13.  Paul has been able to share with the prison guards and by this time it has gotten around that he is in chains for the gospel of Christ.  These are people that may not have been able to hear the good news, but Paul uses the opportunity given to him by his imprisonment to share with others the good news of salvation through faith in Christ.  His imprisonment has allowed more to be able to hear. 

Second, his imprisonment has encouraged other brothers to be bold in their witness.  Look at verse 14.  Paulís willingness to suffer for sharing the gospel has caused others to be bold in their sharing.  That is not what we expect is it.  Usually, we think that if someone gets arrested for preaching the Word, then others will stop preaching out of fear of being arrested themselves.  To be honest, this often does happen.  Yet, sometimes when one brother demonstrates how much Christ is worth, then others see that and are encouraged to treasure Him as well.  This is what is happening with these brothers.  Paulís willingness to suffer for the Name of Christ has emboldened others to be willing to suffer as well.  In these ways, Paulís imprisonment has served to advance the gospel.

Yet, not all is well among the brothers in Rome.  In verses 15-17 Paul explains that some have been preaching the gospel out of envy and rivalry.  It is hard to know the situation exactly, but it seems that some were jealous of Paul and their ministries were not simply to get the gospel out, but to bring more harm to Paul.  Again, itís hard to know exactly what this looked like, but Paul makes it clear that their motives were not pure like the others. 

How would you respond in such a situation?  I mean, Paul is in prison for preaching the gospel and some of his fellow brothers are actually wanting to see him suffer more affliction (see v. 17).  How discouraging is that?  You are trying to do the right thing and instead of being encouraged in your suffering, other believers are seeking to make it worse on you.  Seems like Paul should lash out and put them in their place.  Seems like he should retaliate.  Seems like he should at least be unbelievably discouraged.  Yet, how does he respond?  Look at verse 18a.  He rejoices!!  How can he rejoice?  Simple: Christ is proclaimed. 

If your goal is to see Christ praised, then you will rejoice in the preaching of the gospel.  Paul is not excusing their false motives, he just values the proclamation of the gospel over his own comfort or well-being.  I think he is saying something like this: ĎYeah, we have some personal problems and they donít seem to like me too much, but at this point, I can rejoice that the gospel is being preached because it will bring honor to my Lord.í  Paulís in prison.  He is facing a possible death sentence.  Some of his fellow preachers are trying to make things worse.  And all the while, he is rejoicing that the gospel is advancing.  Why?  Because his goal is for Christ to be praised and that comes from the preached Word!

Second, Christ is praised through Paulís fruitful life (v. 21-26).

After mentioning his joy in the fact that Christ is proclaimed, Paul tells us, as we noted above, that his goal is to see Christ honored, whether by life or by death.  In verses 21-26, he explains how Christ can in fact be honored through his life and his death.  Look at those verses with me.  Paul wants his life to be spent on the glory of Christ.  How does he do this?  By using his life to point others to the fact that Christ is the greatest of all treasures.  This is what we saw with his imprisonment.  He wants the other brothers to see that Christ is worth any suffering that they might face.  He knows that his imprisonment will turn out for my deliverance (v. 19) not because he knows that he will get out of prison, but because he knows that whatever happens will serve to bring him closer to Christ, which is true deliverance, or salvation.  He wants his fellow preachers in Rome to realize this and to continue proclaiming the gospel.

He wants this for the Philippian believers as well.  Even though Paul desires to leave this earth and be with Christ (which we will consider in a moment), he also recognizes the value of remaining in the flesh and laboring for the Philippianís progress and joy in the faith.  For Paul, this is fruitful labor.  He wants to spend his life serving other believers so that they might be complete in Christ on the Day of His return.  His goal for them is not bigger buildings or easier lives or anything like that.  No, he wants them to prize and treasure Christ more and more resulting in faithful obedience to all His commands.  He wants them to progress in their joy of making much of Christ.  He serves them so that they can better serve Christ, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus.  In this, Christ is praised, which is exactly what Paul wants.  His desire is to see Christ praised through his fruitful life among his fellow believers.
Third, Christ is praised through his death (v. 21, 23).

Not only does Paul want Christ to be praised in his life, but he wants Christ to be praised in his death as well.  Again, this is what he said was his goal in verse 20, that Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  We have considered how Paulís life brings glory to Christ, but how does his death bring Him glory as well?  In order to answer, letís consider Paulís argument here.  He says in verse 21: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  After saying a bit about remaining in the flesh, he says more concerning death in verse 23: My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 

Do you see what he is saying?  Death is gain because it will bring him closer to Christ.  He wants to depart and be with Christ.  He considers that to be far better than our experience with Christ here on the earth.  He wants to be rid of all the distractions that this life can bring and simply be with Christ.  Thus, we can summarize it this way: when Christ is your greatest treasure, then death will be gain.  This was clearly the case for Paul.  He treasured Christ so much that he could easily let go of this life to embrace Him.  It is not as if Paul had a death-wish.  No, he had a Christ-wish.  He wanted to be with Christ more than anything else.  For him, it was far better than anything else that this life could offer.

How is Christ honored in Paulís longing to be with Him?  Such a longing makes it clear to all who encounter it that Christ is the greatest treasure of all.  When we can hold this life so loosely that we can even welcome death as a means to knowing Christ more, then even our deaths can honor Him.  Again, let me be clear, this is not Paul contemplating suicide or even having no desire to live.  No, this is Paul making it clear that he wants to be with Christ.  If he remains alive and is not given the death sentence, then he will honor Christ with his fruitful life.  But if his life is taken from him for sharing the gospel, then he will joyfully embrace that which will bring him closer to Christ.  In this way, Paul is putting on display how much he thinks Christ is worth.  He is saying to any who would hear: Christ is worth even my life.  By this, Christ is praised even in Paulís death

According to verse 20, Paulís goal is for Christ to be praised.  We see this evidenced in his suffering, his service, and his sacrifice.  He can face each of these joyfully because he knows that they will serve to honor Christ.  His goal of bringing praise to Christ gives him joy in all of these situations.

So, then, what about you?  This text forces us to ask a critical question: is Christís praise the goal of my life?  The statement that is printed on the front of our bulletin reads: ďOur goal is to be conformed to the image of the Son by the power of the Spirit for the glory of the Father.Ē  Is that your goal?  Can you say with Paul: I want Christ to be praised no matter what?  Can I say: Lord if our infertility can serve to bring you praise, then I welcome it?  Can you say: Lord, if this suffering can bring you praise, then I welcome it?  All I want is for Christ to praised, for the gospel to be proclaimed, for Him to be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  Can you say that this morning?  If not, then I encourage you to consider the cross. 

Consider what Christ has done to redeem your soul from Hell and reconcile you to the Father.  Consider how much your relationship with Him is worth.  Let the glory and weight of the cross bring you to a place where you can say that Christís praise is your goal.  For, when you can say that, then joy is yours.  Nothing will be able to steal your joy away.  I truly believe that the key to Paulís joy is the fact that Christís praise was his goal.  May the same be true for us so that we too can rejoice in suffering, service, and sacrifice for the glory of God.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

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