ES/PHIL/08 Philippians 1:22-26
19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Last week we saw that Paul is happy to live or die and whatever the case, he would do it for Jesus.
So, what happens then if he is not put to death? Well this is a man on a mission. For Paul he was going to be putting in effort working for the Gospel. The word ‘labour’ is there for a reason. Labour is work. It gives the impression of someone like a builder who digs into the ground with pickax and spade. When he works it is obvious that something is happening and there is an end plan. And that is exactly how Paul is talking when he talks of fruit from his labour. Paul was no layabout. Paul again speaks of departing in verse 23 and going to be with Jesus. He cannot think of anything better than this but if he had a choice it would be incredibly hard but he leans more to remaining and helping the Church further – but in reality he does not have the choice – but his confidence has grown to the point that he thinks that, on the balance of probabilities, God still has work for him to do in being alive and freed – and the Church, he says, will be joyful that God will allow such a scenario.
And we are all here for such a time as this. We are all needful here. In the deacons’ meeting we are already talking about vision that will bring vitality to the work ahead. One of those aspects, for me, is to reach every household in Manselton with the Gospel. Whether that is through delivering Gospels and tracts or inviting to events or just plain door to door or some other way. This means that there is still work for us to do – this is good news for we are all needed. What that work entails is something we all have to work out, for us as individuals and together. The important thing is that we carry on with those things that we are doing until the Lord closes the door.
“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
But with this we do have enemies:
For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
We are to get on with the work that God has given us to do in whatever way He has given us ability and look for ways to improve this work.
Though last week I talked of death – I want to speak of it again in relation to hope – and we shall see why in due course.
did not simply desire to escape his present sufferings; he longed for “even deeper fellowship with Christ”
It makes me ask just how deep my fellowship is with Jesus and wonder how strong my desire is for this deeper fellowship with Him. What about you? Is this what we are cultivating in our lives? A deeper, more zealous walk with God will make this life much more interesting.
There is no doubt in the way that Paul puts it that when we die we are no longer contained by our bodies – as our bodies are not us but only our frame – our spirits go to be with Christ – in real time.
There is no sleep in the sense that we are no longer aware of what is going on – some call this soul sleep – as if there is a gap between the time when we die and when we are resurrected.
Billy Graham has been quoted as saying:
Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.
Actually it was DL Moody that said but I am sure Billy Graham had the same sentiment. Paul says to die is to be with Christ which gives more a sense of immediacy. Jesus Himself alluded to the fact that we are alive to God at all times even when we are dead:
Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.”
And in another place Jesus spoke of two people to remind us that when we die we are not asleep:
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’
Both Lazarus and the rich man were alive and not asleep or having ceased to exist – and the comfort or the pain of where they were was felt. Clearly you would not want to be the rich man in this story.
And then there is what Jesus said to the man on the cross next to him:
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
So, like the thief we will go to be with Jesus in Paradise. Today, he said. Not at the resurrection. Not after 2000 years or more of sleep. This gives us great hope.
But at the time of our resurrection will be reunited with a body – though not in the form we have now – which is a good thing as it is out of shape as far as perfection goes. No one has a perfect body, even those who are considered to be beautiful – everyone has flaws – well, in Heaven our heavenly body will be perfect in every way. Let’s read about this in:
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
And this is it – we have this hope – a hope that may have lost its edge in the Church, in our lives. A hope that looks forward to the time when all things will end in Christ. Earlier on in 1 Corinthians 15 it says:
Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
It is all too easy to get caught up in the affairs of this life and to lose the hope that we have in Christ – it is of no surprise that
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Love is the greatest but there are three things that remain for a Christian – and hope is on the list. Why? Because – well, let’s see, shall we? Did you notice verse 58 of 1 Corinthians 15? Therefore. Therefore – ask why it is there for. What is the ‘therefore’ if it is not the hope of the resurrection? And what comes as a result of this hope? Labour. Work. This is our happy lot until the day we die or we be taken. There is no retirement in this life from the life of a Christian. No sitting contentedly in front of a TV or on the sand or in our beds – unless, that is, we are too unwell to do anything else – our lot is to work for God in whatever situation and Church we find ourselves in. Our most important goal and aim is to make Jesus known. And we are driven by hope.
For us though we find the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We go on living each day with no real regard to Christ, not looking for opportunities to share Jesus with others. It is simply not in our thoughts to live in this way. And that is a problem for we have to start living differently. It is one thing for sermons to be heard on Sunday – and another for me to write them – but if we find we come back the following Sunday with no change because we are so familiar with hearing the same things as you have heard before then we think that we not are accountable to God for what happens in a week. Then we are going to carry on living as we did the week before, the year before, the decade before – and this is not moving forward but backwards.
If only I could point the finger at you all and say: well, come on! What kind of witness have you been this week? With whom did you share Jesus? To whom did you do a good work in the name of Jesus? For whom have you prayed for without them knowing about it? Then I have to change the questions to: What kind of witness have I been this week? With whom have I shared Jesus? And so on.
Last week I said that the Christian life is not a boring one. It should be one of adventure with His leading but, perhaps, we are like new born babies needing to be fed and carried and washed and laid down incapable of doing anything ourselves. It would not be expected of me to dig holes or cart rubble but if it was necessary I would. I’m not volunteering, by the way! But if I did, in a reasonably short time I would become efficient and muscularly; this is no different from reading Scripture, from praying, from sharing Jesus with others – perhaps we need a good deal of guidance to start with – but then we should be feeding ourselves and then feeding others – we would get efficient, and spiritually muscular – and become more than babies and children but mature Christian adults. The hope of the Christian life would permeate every part of our being that it will be second nature; this the life of the Spirit, this deeper fellowship with Christ.
What’s going to change this week? Perhaps this week is the start of something new and perhaps we can pray to this end:
Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
This is it, you see, we have hope and that hope is steadfast and certain – we will go to be with Christ when we die – we will enjoy eternal life - and this hope should spur us on no matter how hard this life is.