Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
But so often, if we are honest, we would have to say:
For me to live is family.
For me to live is health.
For me to live is success.
And when those things fail us, and we come to the brink of despair, it is a gift from God.
For if we realize that Christ must be our life,
then we can enjoy the gifts without demanding from them what they cannot give.
Last week I was blessed with another gift. A grandson. Born to Beth and Seth.
This child, plump with possibility, had been given to us. We were euphoric.
But mountaintops are for a moment.
We were told he was jaundiced. Had to go under the lights, a blindfold on his wee head.
He wailed and flailed and his mother could only stand and watch.
So she cried.
So I cried.
Finally I took their two-year-old home and left the parents at the hospital. It rained all night and in the morning my basement guestroom was filled with water. I had to evacuate my soggy belongings while Seth hurried home, removed furniture, vacuumed up water, pulled back carpet, and tried to convince his wife, who was experiencing baby blues, that the house was not a disaster, when indeed, it was.
The next night I was attempting to get their two and a half year old, Katherine, to bed. I did everything I could think to do: water, story, prayers, rocking, more water…Still, she kept getting up, wailing, pointing toward the living room. We had begun at 7 and it was nearly 9. Past my bedtime.
“Use your words, Katherine.” (This is the new phrase I’ve picked up from my children and laughed to see it is the “in” phrase when I watched the comedy Parental Guidance.)
Katherine couldn’t use her words. Instead she sobbed, pointing to the air.
“Show me.” We wandered about the house again. She sobbed. “Honey, I don’t know what you want. Use your words.”
She collapsed, WAILING. When I picked her up she had a tantrum, screaming and kicking. Anger WELLED up in me. I held her legs tight, dropped her in her bed, and said, “STAY THERE!” I left abruptly, flicking off the light, slamming the door.
I slid to the floor outside her room, my head in my hands, listening to her heart-broken cries. Her grandmother had turned into Mr. Hyde. I hate this monster in me too, Lord! Help me! Her life has been turned topsy turvy, she probably wants her mother, and I can’t give her that. (An hour later, while she was still whimpering, I spied her pink bear under the couch. Maybe, I thought. I opened the door a crack, waved the pink bear, and she cried out in delight. She clutched it to her heart while I knelt and told her I was sorry I was mean. (She nodded!) Then I stroked her sweaty head until sleep came. Here she is the next day, when her grandmother was behaving better.
In heaven there will be no jaundiced babies, flooded basements, or wicked grandmothers. But we are not in heaven yet. We need the gospel for the here and now, and Philippians shows us how to apply the gospel to the trials of life, whether they are small or overwhelming, as some of you are facing. I so long to become the kind of believer Paul was, who knew Jesus was real and could see through what he called “these light momentary afflictions” (though they hardly seemed like that) to eternal glory.
It is natural to grieve when we lose family, health, ministry — but we should not be devastated, for our real hope is in Christ.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. Describe a trial you are facing today. Can you see through it to how it might press you to Christ? How, if you persevere, it might build character? How it might lead to eternal glory? Ponder and then share.
(On a personal note I’m traveling this week to two speaking engagements in Morton, Illinois. The first is a conference for pastors and their wives where Bryan Chappel and others will be speaking. I will be speaking to the women and covet your prayers for quickening, sensitivity to them, health, tech needs. Then I’ll speak Thursday night at the E. Free Church in Morton — if you are in the area, look it up on my website and come!)
MONDAY-WEDNESDAY: BIBLE STUDY
As background, Paul knew the Philippians would be concerned about him, for he had been flogged and imprisoned and chained for sharing Christ. So, he is writing to assure them, and to help them to see through his troubles to what God might be doing. The purpose of Paul’s life was Christ, and to make Him known, and he is aware, indeed, that God has only given Satan enough rope to hang himself. Like the cross, which seemed so bad, eventually showed the mighty power of God.
3. Read Philippians 1:12-14 and find two ways that Paul’s imprisonment has advanced the gospel.
4. Paul says “Most of the brothers have become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment.” Can you explain why this would be?
5. Matthew Henry calls the above, like Romans 8:28, “the alchemy” of God. What seems bad works together for the good to those who love God, to build character, to advance the gospel, to show the mighty power of God. Think about a trial in your life that built character or showed the mighty power of God. Share it, succinctly, here.
6. Read Philippians 1:15-18 and describe two kinds of preaching and what both may accomplish.
I’ve been reading J. D. Grear’s book: Gospel.
Tim Keller writes the forward and it is absolutely filled with the teaching of Keller, whom Grear credits as profoundly impacting him. Grear honestly shares the rivalry he felt with other preachers when his purpose in life was to be successful in ministry. And yet, even then, his preaching, provoked by rivalry, advanced the cause of Christ. This indeed, is the “alchemy” of God. I find comfort in this, for my motives for writing, speaking, have all been pure and impure mixed together, yet I am humbled God has not struck me down, but used some of it for good. He is purifying my heart, but oh, how I need grace. He works with us, flawed as we are, and even when our motives are mixed, He can use it for the good. I used to be confused by this passage wondering if he was saying that even some televangelists who are simply in it for the fame and money could be used for the good — and perhaps they could, but if their message is off, if it is a prosperity gospel, then I think it does more harm than good.
7. How do you interpret Philippians 1:18?
THE PROCESS OF SALVATION (Read Philippians 1:19-20)
Salvation is both an event and a process. We are saved from the penalty of sin instantaneously, but the process takes time.
Read Philippians 1:19 in your version and then see this phrase from it in these:
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation (KJV)
I know that what is happening will be for the good of my own soul (Phillips)
8. How do you interpret the word translated “salvation” or “deliverance” in verse 19? See verse 20 as well. Was Paul talking about salvation from the penalty of sin? Why or why not?
9. Read Philippians 1:21-26 and then explain what you think Paul means by verse 21.
10. Fill it in as honestly as you can — and then pray for your own soul — and we can pray for one another.
For to me to live is ________________________________.
Here is my answer, to pave the way: For to me to live is Christ, yet so often it is really for my own comfort, so help me trust You more, believe Your love more, so that I may glorify You more.
11. Read Philippians 1:27-30
A. What does “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” mean?
B. What two things have been granted to us for the sake of Christ according to verse 29?
The Son of man suffered unto death, not that man might not suffer,
but that their suffering might be like His.
Thursday-Friday: Keller Sermon: Joy in God’s Plan (It is 2.50): Link
You may want to buy next week’s sermon now as well. It is called Be Humble and Make Peace (Keller on Philippians 2:1-4) The following week will be a free sermon.
Share your notes — he has four points:
The hardness of life
The alchemy of life
The definition of life
The dynamic of life
12. What’s your take-a-way and why?