I was reading in Philippians chapter one this morning when I found a jewel hidden within Paul’s greeting. While the Apostle is informing the Church at Philippi that he is always remembering them in prayer, he states that he is “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (verse 6)
Now stop and think what this means. First, God has begun a good work in you. Something is happening to you, and it is good! It is not something that you have begun, but God has started it. It is His work and you are the recipient! Not only that, but He will see it through. This good work is a work in progress that will continue until the day Jesus returns. God will be there with you every step of the way, causing this good work to flourish and finally reach its potential before the end.
A little further down we read:
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (verse 9-11)
Let’s look at the word discernment. According to the dictionary, discernment is the ability to recognize or perceive clearly. In other words, to be able to see a situation and know what is really happening. So, Paul here wishes you to have discernment and knowledge, why? So that you can give your approval to those things which are excellent or right. In this way, you will know how to act or speak without offense to God or man. You will be filled with the fruits of righteousness which you can only receive by the work of Jesus Christ. Everything you do or say will be for the glory and praise of God.
As Paul writes these words to his fellow believers, he is in chains, arrested for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He has a message he wants them to hear. All that has happened to him: the brutal treatment, the chains, the prison cell; all this has been for the furtherance of the gospel. (verse12) His evidence? The entire palace guard has come to see that Paul’s true chains are to Christ. And most of Paul’s fellow believers have been encouraged and are speaking boldly the gospel without fear. (verse 13-14)
What does this mean for you? Bad things happen to good people, things beyond our understanding. But you can be assured, that if you are in Christ, all that befalls you is for the furtherance of God’s good work. Whether you see the evidence or not, we know that all things work together for good according to His good purpose. (Romans 8:28)
What I find amazing is that here Paul is in prison for preaching the gospel, and yet this has encouraged others to speak more boldly God’s message, and to speak it without fear! Though some are preaching for selfish gain, most are spreading the gospel out of love. Either way, Paul rejoices that the word of God is being preached. (verse 15-18)
Nothing has changed for Paul. Even though he is in chains, he will speak boldly, unashamed of the gospel of Christ. He will be delivered from his suffering, whether by life or by death, and in all, his body will magnify – magnify? Rather, to praise Christ. (verse 19-20)
Then, Paul’s famous lines:
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (verse 21)
This belief seems contrary to human nature. How can death be gain? Is not death loss? But here Paul clearly says, to die is gain. What does he mean by that? Well, Paul answers this question for us: to depart means to be with Christ. (verse 23)
But let us not gloss over the first part, for Paul is hard-pressed between the two. (verse 23) If he lives, he remains in the flesh, his labor for Christ will continue and fruit will be harvested. In other words, if Paul lives, he will continue to work for God: people will come to Christ and believers will grow. Paul does not know which he prefers – to continue working or to go to God. So he is hard-pressed? Stuck between two grinding stones; burdened with indecision. Should he stay or should he go? To go is better for him. His labor will be over and he will see Jesus face to face. But to stay is better for his fellow believers, to continue with them for their progress and joy of faith. Because they need him, he knows Christ will work it out so that he shall not die. (verse 22-26)
Then Paul advises that their (your) conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ. (verse 27) Good words, but what does it mean to be worthy of the gospel? I thought salvation was a free gift. When we become Christians, we are to be Christ-like in our conduct. Paul gives us a list: to stand fast, unmoving, in one spirit and one mind working for the faith of the gospel, and to be not afraid of those that oppose you. For your preaching confirms to them that they are headed to damnation and you are saved by God. (verse 28)
This is wonderful! Being a Christian frees us from trouble! Right?
Then comes verse 29-30.
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”
Wait – run that by me again. Did Paul say we are granted, or appointed, to suffer for His sake? Is there a cost to being a Christian? I believe there is, but remember:
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Christ has more power than your troubles. I have witnessed this in my own life.
And here is where chapter one comes to a close. Paul does not leave us feeling great, but he has more to say, three more chapters worth. But as I close this blog, don’t forget the jewel at the beginning of this section:
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
Through it all, you are not alone.
Until next time, I am yours in Christ,
Are you struggling with difficulties and circumstances you do not understand? Are you wondering how God could allow bad things to happen? Have you suffered loss and are having trouble working through your grief? I have experienced these. Let me share with you a message of hope. SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story), my true story of loss and resolution after the death of my father on September 11, 2001.