Lord, may the Gospel advance with or without my assistance.
Read PHILIPPIANS 1:12–26
Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 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.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reflect on James 1:2–4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Paul ponders his imminent trial and what its outcome might be. A death sentence seems a real possibility, so what are his thoughts about the outcome? If given a choice—life or death—what would he choose? In verse 21, he evaluates his options: (1) “to live is Christ,” meaning that his life is about and for Christ, or (2) “to die is gain,” meaning a permanent liberation from earthly troubles and being in Christ’s presence.
In verses 21–24, Paul goes back and forth between the two alternatives, but not without reasoning and clarity. In verse 21a, he mentions that to live is Christ and in verse 21b that to die is to be in Christ’s presence. In verse 22, to live would mean doing fruitful work; in verse 23, to die would mean being with Christ, which is far preferable. But in verse 24, Paul admits to living here as being much better for the Philippians. He is torn between the two options, but his conflict ends with the choice of what benefits the Philippian church. Having reasoned that the better choice is not what is best for him but for others, Paul knows what the outcome will be: life (25). God will spare him this time around.
Again, we must ask why Paul grants us a peek into his mind. The answer is that Paul’s choice of what is best for others exemplifies what he will urge the Philippians to do in 2:4, which is to imitate the attitude of Christ. By contrast, the world dictates choosing what benefits us. God’s consummate choice was to give his Son for us; Jesus’ consummate choice was to obey and sacrifice himself for us; Paul’s choice is to continue here for the Philippians’ sake. All three choices benefit others.
We make many choices in our lives. Consider how you can be more selfless in your choices: choosing that which will benefit others and the spread of the Gospel.
Lord, we understand that life here on earth is a series of choices. Help me always to choose what ultimately benefits the Kingdom of God.