The Heavenly Perspective (Part 2)

The apostle Paul continued writing in Philippians 1:19,20 - "For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death." Paul would continue to rejoice, even while suffering persecution, because he had confidence that he would be delivered through their prayers and the Spirit of Christ. Paul clearly believed in the power of prayer as well as God's providential care.

Paul had no intention of being unfaithful to the Lord, and thus, he had no reason to be ashamed. He would continue to live boldly as a Christian; that is, he would continue to magnify Christ--even in prison! To the best of his ability he would strive to glorify Jesus through his actions, even to the point of death! If Paul had to forfeit his life, he would do so rather than forsake the Lord! His attitude is summed up well in the following verse.

Philippians 1:21 - "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." What a beautiful thought! Paul viewed his life from the heavenly perspective. If all Christians alive today would genuinely adopt this philosophy as their own, I suspect the church would thrive like it did in the first century! The problem is that many in the Lord's church today don't have any idea what it means to live for Christ. They are too busy living for themselves! Do you remember what Paul called himself in Philippians 1:1? He referred to himself as a bondservant or slave of Jesus! To be a slave of Christ is to live for Him. It is to make our own wants and desires secondary to those of our Master! We need Jesus to be the Lord of our lives. The life of every Christian belongs to Him. Paul understood that fact--do we? Everyday that Paul woke up, he embraced it as another opportunity to serve Christ, not himself. He put it this way in Galatians 2:20 - "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

When a person has the type of attitude that Paul did, the next statement follows logically - "to die is gain." There's the heavenly perspective again. The world tries to run from death out of fear. They consider death to be the worst thing that can happen to a person. Why? Because then they can no longer live for themselves! Paul and like-minded Christians understand that death is a wonderful experience! Yes, you heard me correctly: death is a wonderful experience because it marks the end of earthly troubles and the beginning of eternal bliss for God's faithful children! That is why Paul said what he did in this verse; he had the heavenly perspective.

"But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you" (Phil. 1:22-24). Paul expressed a dilemma in these verses. If he were given the choice between life and death, it would be a hard decision for him to make. He knew that for him personally it would be much better to die and "be with Christ" than it would be for him to continue suffering for his faith in the flesh. Nevertheless, he also realized that he was needed here on Earth for there was still much good for him to accomplish! There was still more fruit to be produced through his labor.

May each Christian learn to view his life in this manner. Let us grow and mature spiritually to the point that we would view our death as gain; that is, as something beneficial to us. And, at the same time, let us realize that every day God grants us to live on this planet needs to be lived for Him! There are good works that need to be done for the Lord. As Ephesians 2:10 teaches - "For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Friends, are you doing these good works or are you living for yourself and your own desires? May we all strive for the heavenly perspective that Paul had.

Paul stated in Philippians 1:25,26 - "And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Christ Jesus by my coming to you again." Paul was confident that he still had much good to accomplish in this realm. He knew (perhaps through divine revelation) that God would keep him alive for the time being. He would continue to live faithfully as a Christian, rejoicing with them, and intending to help them make more progress spiritually. The Christians at Philippi rejoiced for Paul and in the relationship they shared with him. He knew that if he could visit them again in person that their joy would be even more abundant. This was certainly his desire.

It is worthwhile to point out Paul's unselfishness in this passage. He loved the brethren so much that he considered their spiritual needs and progress, even though he himself was a prisoner in Rome! It would have been easy to become discouraged and depressed. It would have been easy to give up his faith and turn his back on the Lord. It would have been easy to allow himself to be overwhelmed in self-pity. But, Paul would not do this and we must not do it today either! When we are enduring trials, persecution, and suffering for the Lord, let us not dwell on our own troubles but upon others and how we may serve them! May we, like Paul, take strength in remembering our heavenly perspective.

"Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God" (Phil. 1:27,28).After declaring to them his philosophy of life, he encouraged them (and us, indirectly) to adopt the same attitude. Paul desired that Christians stand fast and be united in their faith, regardless of who was watching or what happened to them. He hoped that their behavior would always be worthy of Christians, whether he was there physically with them or not. Shouldn't that be the hope of every physical parent? They desire their children act appropriately at all times, even when they aren't around. Paul was like a spiritual parent to these Christians in that he was influential in getting the church established in Philippi. He wanted to know that his children in the faith were remaining true to the gospel message and acting appropriately as God's children. He wanted to receive good reports about their behavior. As Ephesians 4:1 says, he wanted them to "walk worthy" of their calling.

Today, we need to remember that our salvation depends upon how we walk spiritually. Is your conduct appropriate for a Christian? Are your actions in harmony with the Scriptures regarding what you should and should not be doing? God expects us to be true to Him and His word after we become a Christian, otherwise we will forfeit our salvation. If we are faithful to God, there is no reason to fear any earthly adversary.

Philippians 1:29,30 reads - "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."If you have the heavenly perspective, you will realize that it is a privilege, not a burden, to suffer for Christ and His cause. Even today "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:12). Have you ever thought about your life and persecution? Have you ever been persecuted and suffered for your faith? If not, perhaps you are not proclaiming your faith as you should. You will not be persecuted for what you believe if you keep it a secret! For example, if I believed that there were little green men living on the moon, I would not be ridiculed for that belief if I never shared it with anyone. It's the same way with the gospel. If one merely believes the truth and fails to live it and proclaim it, he is not being true to the Lord. He will avoid persecution and ridicule in so doing, but he will do so at the cost of his soul.

The apostle Paul refused to remain silent where God had called upon him to speak. The Philippians saw that and so can we throughout the New Testament. Today, no reasonable Christian wants to teach God's truth to others in order to anger them, but anyone who has been teaching God's word faithfully knows that sometimes this is an unintended consequence. The prophets understood this point, as did Jesus and Paul, but do we understand this? If you are faithful to God, then you're going to be hated by the world and by false brethren. You're going to suffer for doing and saying the right things, but praise God that there is more to our existence than this! To live is Christ and to die is gain! May we all adopt the heavenly perspective and find the courage, the love for God and man, and the willingness to join hands and go to work for the greatest cause on Earth--no matter what!

As we conclude this lesson, let us summarize what we have seen in this first chapter of Philippians. Paul was thankful for his brethren and the fellowship he had with them. Let us be thankful for our brethren and the fellowship we enjoy. Paul was confident that the Philippian Christians would remain faithful if they would abound in love by growing in knowledge and discernment. I am confident that Christians today can remain faithful in the same manner. May we always approve those things which are excellent, and may we seek to be pure and without offense, being filled with the fruits of righteousness. Paul is a marvelous example for us as we observe his attitude in the midst of persecution. He would live faithfully as a Christian regardless of his circumstances. He would not be ashamed but would boldly bring glory to Christ in his life and in his death. He knew that he belonged to Christ and, while he was alive, he lived to serve Him and to help others progress spiritually. He knew that when he died, he would go on to be with the Lord. May we adopt this same attitude! Paul exhorted Christians to behave appropriately as children of God and expect to suffer for the Lord's sake.

We will continue our study of Philippians next week. Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.