The passage we will study is Philippians 1:19-26.
Last week Jinson helped us understand the circumstances under which Paul was writing this letter to the church in Philippi. We learnt that Paul was imprisoned for his faith in Christ and for sharing the Gospel, he was suffering and going through hardships for the sake of Christ as he is waiting for justice.
The man didn’t harm anyone but was still convicted and was going through extreme pain and anguish. And even in such harsh circumstances, at the end of verse 18 he says “Yes, I will rejoice”.
In Philippians 1:19 we see he is so full of hope, confident that he will never be ashamed, and that at the end, Christ will be honoured in his body, whether he is alive or dead, there is absolutely no fear or doubt in his mind, fully prepared even to die.
I’ve met a lot of people in my life who go through tough circumstances and some even going through hardships right now, some due to sickness in their body, some because of pressure at work, some because of unfavourable conditions where people have taken advantage of them, hard life, abuse, cheated close family etc. But it is scarce to hear people use such words of hope and confidence as Paul is expressing here.
Most people in such circumstances go into depression and sorrow and end up blaming God or blaming others for their circumstances.
And therefore, I find Paul’s confidence and hope so amazing. And I’m sure a lot of people would desire that they would also live a fearless life just like Paul with faith and hope, responding in the same manner when facing hardships.
As easy as it sounds, I realized that this kind of response is not something a person can manufacture it. We can say these words with our mouth, but our hearts can be all messed up.
Here are some of the advice people commonly give to us when we are facing hardships.
- They ask us to do Positive thinking
- Get drunk and forget your sorrows
- Indulge in fleshly pleasures, and you forget all the worries in life
- Some religious folks will ask you to repeat prayers and mantras to attain peace
- Leave the world and go on a pilgrimage
- Some will advise you to intake drugs
But as we all know these solutions only give us temporary relief and joy, once the effect is over, we all go back to the same feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression etc.
And as we continue to read Paul’s letter, who is a follower of Christ we realize that there is something deeper that’s going on in his heart because of which he can respond the way he is responding. He is not drunk, or even hallucinating but is speaking from a clear conscience and a steady mind.
What we learn in these passages is Paul’s outlook towards life itself that is helping him rejoice and stay hopeful in all circumstances.
Every situation in our life is ultimately about survival and death. The best thing about life is staying alive, and the worst thing is to die and leave this earth.
Some enjoy their present life but dread the thought of death, and others hate their life so much that they want to kill themselves because they want to get rid of all their earthly sorrows and misery.
Paul seems to be fully prepared and satisfied in both these scenarios. He says “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”.
Paul, a Christian, looks at both life and death and finds both of them fascinating and joy-filled. In fact, he says it is difficult for me to choose which one is better.
22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
Today I want to focus on Paul’s statement ‘to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ and discover what did he mean when he said that.
Paul was not always a hopeful and fearless person as he is at this moment in life. He worked for the Roman empire and was recruited to find and kill all followers of Jesus. But his life changed when he was travelling on the road Damascus as he was looking for Christians in the other town, Jesus appeared to him and opened his heart and mind to see and understand the truth about life and death.
Friends, there is a reason why we live in brokenness and despair. The world we live in was not meant to be corrupt, sinful, dark, selfish and full of hatred. It was supposed to be a beautiful place. The Bible says, when God made the world, animals & birds, mountains and trees, lakes and rivers, and human beings, it was pleasing in his eyes. Man lived in perfect harmony with God and with nature. And everything God made was meant to exalt him and glorify him.
And when God made man and woman, he gave us a unique gift, and the gift was the free-will to choose between good and evil. And He gave it to us so that willingly and out of own choice, we would worship Him and honour Him, the one who created us in His likeness and His image.
But, we misused our free-will and are still misusing it daily.
But instead of using our fill-will to choose Him and worship Him, we ended up choosing ourselves and pursuing our selfish desires by disobeying his holy laws and commandment. If the world is broken and dark, it is not because God made it that way; it is because we chose to make it that way. And when our fore-father and mother, Adam and Eve disobeyed God, it affected all of us.
It’s like a baby in a mother’s womb. If the mother, while carrying a child in her womb, chose to intake drugs or any poison, it automatically affects the baby who is in her. Babies who are born to drug addict mother are called broken babies because they end up having some deformity in the body when they are born.
When Adam and Eve sinned, we were in them, as the baby in a mothers womb, and therefore we too committed the hideous crime against our creator God, which is why our relationship with God is broken. And according to God Holy law, the punishment for sin and rebelliousness against him is only death.
We lost our peace and joy. The peace and joy people in this world are seeking by doing good works, going on a pilgrimage, beating themselves up, chasing the world and its pleasure like a crazy man will never pay for the penalty of our sin we have committed against God.
But the good news is, about which Paul who encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus writes in Romans 5:6-11
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
On the road to Damascus, when Paul met with Jesus, he realized the one whom he hated was Christ, the Son of God, who paid the penalty of his sins by dying on the cross, who rose again on the third day and is now sitting at the right hand of God and is interceding for us, who is the only one through whom he can achieve salvation, through whom he can be restored into a relationship with God the creator and not end up in hell but enter heaven.
And to attain this salvation, all he had to do was repent of his sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, with all his heart, mind and soul.
And therefore, for Paul to say ‘to live is Christ is to live a completely restored and free life, one without condemnation, without fear of death, with full of hope and joy. And for him to say ‘death is gain’ is because he knew his end would be glorious, in heaven, he will ultimately meet Christ and spend his eternity in heaven. And he is not able to decide which is better.
The extent of his joy and gratefulness was so large that he saw everything else in the world rubbish in comparison to Christ. In Philippians 3:7-8
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
Friends, it is one thing to say we know about Christ and it’s a totally another thing to say we’ve experienced Christ and His saving power in our lives.
A person who has genuinely experienced Christ and His love, who has understood this glorious Gospel, he is a changed man. The Bible says when we sincerely repent of our sins and believe in Jesus, our old self dies with him and we are born again.
And the person who is genuinely born again treasures Christ more than all the things and the pleasure of this world because he is convinced that in Christ he has found everything his soul needs.
A person who is truly a believer in Christ lives in freedom, has hope in heart that no matter what happens in life, whether hardships or calamities or sickness or pain, he believes everything will ultimately work out for his good, and that Christ will be glorified in his body, whether in life or in death.
If we say we are Christians and even after years, we are still not experiencing freedom and joy in life. If we are not fully treasuring Christ more than the worldly things and its pleasure. If we are living hopeless lives falling back into depression and feelings of loneliness. If we are still living as our old self, we have to question our faith.
It’s time that we turn to Christ, not just in our mind, in our knowledge but our heart and our whole being. All you have to do is repent of your sin and put your faith in Jesus.
To be a Christian doesn’t mean that you are born in a Christian family. To be a Christian doesn’t mean that we are coming to church every Sunday. To be a Christian doesn’t mean we know all the Christian songs. To be a Christian doesn’t mean we know the Bible.
To be a Christian means to experience Christ and his life-transforming power in our daily life. Please do not be fooled. Don’t just be satisfied that you know about Jesus but seek to experience him and his saving grace in your life on a daily basis.
If you think you are that person that claims to know Jesus but haven’t experienced his life-transforming power in your life, you may want to consider committing or maybe re-commit your Life to Christ today.
Feel free to reach out to us if you wish to speak to one of us. We would love to hear from you and pray with you.