Read Philippians 1:9-30
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.
12Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
15It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18But 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, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20I 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. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If 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! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.
27Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved — and that by God. 29For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (NIV)
Paul right away brings up his situation – his being in prison and in chains. He wants the people to know that he is not worried about the situation. In fact, he rejoices because God is using the situation to advance the Gospel. This is a mindset that we must all learn that God can use our bad situations for good. This is a hard lesson to learn because it means there are times we suffer. But this is the point Paul will get to at the end of this thought. He will remind the believers that it is not only granted to them to believe in Christ, but to suffer for him. For me, that always begs the question to myself, I am suffering for Christ? Am I doing the things that cause the forces against Christ to rise up against me? Or am I playing it safe and thus reducing my testimony of Christ? These are questions we must look at from time to time.
Paul also writes one of the great lines in the Bible in verse 21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I think this is the secret to living life to the fullest. It is a statement that says there is nothing in this world that can harm me. It is a way of seeing the good in everything, even the worst of situations, it is seeing that God will use this situation.
I would like to say that I am where Paul is, but I am not. I still want only good to happen to me in life. I don’t like the bad and I get frustrated when things go wrong. But I can say that I am getting better as I get older. I am learning to say, “Ok God, how are you going to use this situation?” And I am learning to listen to see where God is allowing me to share the Gospel in ways I would not if the situation had not happened. I am thankful that God is patient with me when stuff happens and with my initial reaction.
Learning to rejoice in suffering is a key to this letter. Now, that is not a happy party kind of rejoicing. It is a contentment in one’s spirit that knows God is in control and not letting the situation take us to a dark place. It is finding a special kind of joy that allows us to still smile and see good in life, even as we suffer.
How has your view of suffering changed over the years? Can you like Paul truly say that to live is Christ and to die is gain? What does Paul’s statement mean to you?
Questions and Comments?