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Apr 07, 2019

Really Living?

Passage: Philippians 1:19-26

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Philippians--Roots of Joy

Keywords: living christ, meaning of life, enduring joy


Enduring joy seems to be one of the most illusive experiences of most Americans today. But here Paul gives us three very clear things in this passage that ground any life in Christ in joy. Any of these three things is in our control and none of them need be determined by outside factors. Welcome to enduring joy in life...no matter what!


Really Living?

Philippians 1:19-26

April 7, 2019


Get Acquainted Focus:  Share one of your most recent joys in life…something that happened in your day/week that brought joy to you in some small or big way.


INTRO:  How many of you have heard or seen the new video documentary about Seattle called “Seattle Is Dying”?  In short, it is highlighting the crisis Seattle is facing (or not facing) with its homeless population that is fueled by substance abuse and aided by a failing justice system.  Having just viewed it this week, I’d give it an A- minus on diagnosing the problem and a “C” on providing solutions.  (That’s far better than the “D-” I’d give Seattle’s city officials on dealing with the problem.)   

The quality of life in a city or community can certainly affect one’s level of satisfaction with life in general. But does it have to?  Let me tell you briefly about a very well-known town in our country.  Not all that long ago, their residents were…

  • completely cut off from the outside world for 6 to 8 months of the year.
  • Mail service existed once or twice a year at best.
  • Jobs paid so poorly and income levels were so low that none of the residents were covered by medical or dental insurance.
  • Of those who had their own home, none of them were insulated.
  • Not one had central heating or running water (hot or cold).
  • Every home was heated by firewood, the result of which were frequent chimney and roof fires that left several families burned out of their homes. These families were forced to move in with other already destitute families for months at a time.
  • Most homeowners had single boarders living with them just to make ends meet.
  • All the homes in this community had dirt floors.
  • Nutrition was so poor that the only 3 families didn’t experience the death of a family member during one particularly brutal. winter. A catastrophic outbreak of illness that winter resulted in the death of fully 46% of the adults in 4 months (47 of 102).
  • Local “gangs” were a constant threat which required a 24-hour armed police presence.
  • City government, while existent, had no tax base and few social services whatsoever.
  • There were no paved streets or city sewer, no hospitals, no malls, not even a grocery store.

What do you suppose was this community’s “Consumer Satisfaction Index?”  What would yours have been in that situation?  Here’s what they did. 

  • Virtually every citizen of this community gathered to worship and praise God twice a day every
  • Within 6 months of the devastating illness that killed nearly half of the population, they declared 3 days of thanksgiving to God and feasting with their dramatically different neighbors.

Any idea what famous poverty-stricken, economically depressed U.S. city I’m talking about?  It was Plymouth, Massachusetts, circa early 17th century (1620-21). 

So what is it that makes people like that so filled with joy and gratitude while hundreds of millions of today’s fellow Americans who are unbelievably rich in comparison live lives of open discontent, frustration and joylessness?  The passage we are looking at in Philippians 1:19-26 today has a whole lot to say about WHY some people are able to cultivate a life of meaningful joy in the midst of very difficult life realities while others, living in and surrounded by material and social wealth of enormous proportions, struggle to experience one single joy in a day.  It obviously has something to do with what’s going on inside of a person more than what’s happening outside of us?

In our series in the book of Philippians, we’ve been noticing a few things about the Apostle Paul that are really important to today’s text.  Here’s the basic setting:

  • Paul is in the slammer. Actually, he’s under “house arrest” but his ‘electronic monitoring collar’ is a Roman soldier assigned to him 24-7.
  • He’s been stuck on the court docket for 2 years, waiting for his case to come to trial.
  • Meanwhile, he can’t travel or visit the many churches he has started filled with the hundreds of people he loves and would happily die for.
  • He has no family that visits him…ever.
  • He enjoys only a trickle of visitors month-to-month and he’s lucky to receive a single letter in a given quarter of the year.  
  • He’s suffered immense indignities ever since he started his traveling evangelistic ministry – things like mob beatings, public humiliation of whippings, threats on his life, poverty, hunger, muggings, nakedness, shipwreck, stonings and more.

You’d expect a much more sour tone to be coming out of Paul about this point, wouldn’t you?  Instead, we have the one letter that talks more about JOY in life than any of his 13 letters we have today.  In fact, in this 1st chapter alone you will find words like “thanks” or “praise”, “joy”, “rejoicing”, “hope” and “expectation” used 8 times the short passage.

If you asked most Americans, When is life really good?” or “When are you really ‘living’?” what would most of them say?  [ANSWERS?]

For a lot of American’s, how much of their average week fulfills that criteria?  Not much! (Where do you think the acronym “TGIF” came from?)  Satisfaction in life for too many consumer-oriented Americans is usually limited to a few moments during the week when they just closed a deal or just bought something new or just got drunk or high.  It all depends on what is happening TO them rather than in them. 

Paul doesn’t mention any of those things as the factors that were making him happy under house arrest.  Instead he points to 3 factors that contributed deeply to his enduring joy in life.  I’m betting they still apply today.  None of them are dependent upon what so many of us often depend upon for contentment and satisfaction in daily life. 

Q:  Are you interested in discovering what they are and how to get them in your life?

#1.  The first one is really a hold-over from Bob’s message last week:  Enduring joy comes from seeing the life-changing power of the Gospel advanced…everywhere.  Vss. 12-18Paul is rejoicing that his own stint in the slammer was actually causing the Gospel of Christ to grow and advance in the Roman palace and all over Rome.  Fellow Christians were becoming even more bold to share that Gospel with others because Paul was in prison. 

            Then he even went so far as to say in vss. 15-18 that he didn’t really care whether the motives for preaching Christ by others was good or selfish; he was simply “rejoic[ing]” that Christ was preached! 

God can use all kinds of methods and all kinds of conflicted motives.  What he can’t use is silence and lack of engagement with inquiring people God has placed in our path. 

If we want to experience joy that transcends life’s headaches and hardships, we’ll need to probably push ourselves beyond some comfort zones at times.  We’ll need to enter into the experience Paul talks about in I Cor. 9 when he says he “becomes all things to all [people] so that by all possible means [he] might save some.”  That’s making the Gospel a priority in your life!

It makes me ask the QUESTION, “What am I doing consistently to bring the gospel of Christ to others? 

If joy in my soul matters to me, taking the Gospel of Jesus to people will have to matter to me.

Q:  How many of you have prayed for years for a family member or friend to find Christ? 

Q:  How many of you saw that person come to faith in Jesus

Q:  How did you FEEL when they did?  Disappointed? Ticked off?  Depressed?  Hardly! You were SO happy, right? 

ILL:  Praying for my only and oldest brother, Chris, to become the last member of our family to accept Christ.  He was serving in Viet Nam, came home after 2 tours, experienced reverse culture shock, went to a Christian Businessmen’s dinner with my Dad one night and gave his life to Christ at the invitation of an African-American evangelist named Sam Dalton. The next morning when my parents told me what had happened, I was elated!    

But back to the text.  It’s pretty clear from this passage that, even back in the 1st century church, not everybody shared Christ in a perfect manner or with the best motives.  Some were doing it “in love” – out of love for God, love for the Gospel and probably love for the church and people like Paul. 

            But others were doing it “out of envy and rivalry…selfish ambition”, says verses 15 & 17.  One of the original Greek words used here means “to canvass for office in order to get people to support you.”  Some people wanted to have a grand following after themselves.  They were using people’s spiritual hunger to feed their own ego by getting people to join “their church.”  Paul was interested in getting a great following after Christ.  So he didn’t even attack people sharing the Gospel for selfish reasons…as long as the true Gospel was being shared. 

ILL: The well-known 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody was confronted one day by a woman who was highly critical of his “tent-meeting” approach to preaching the Gospel.  When Moody asked her what method of Gospel sharing she was using, she had nothing to say.  She just didn’t like the WAY Moody was doing it.   Dr. Moody is reported to have responded, “Madam, I prefer the way I am doing it, though imperfectly, to the way you’re not!” 

APP:  When is the last time you felt a heart burden, a real longing to share the Gospel of Christ with someone needing Jesus?  It’s been way too long in my life, I can tell you that!  And I know the Holy Spirit in us longs for us to do that.  So let’s take a few moments and ask God to change our hearts about sharing the Gospel.  [OPEN PRAYER for

  • Evangelistic passion/zeal/boldness
  • Love for specific people we know need Jesus

REVIEW:  Deep joy comes from seeing the life-changing power of the Gospel advanced…regardless of who or how it’s done.

Now Paul shifts into another gear as he keeps talking about what is currently bringing him joy in the midst of less-than-ideal living arrangements.  Not only is sharing Christ where he is and seeing others do it where they are giving him soul-joy.  Something else that has a whole lot to do with what he’s experiencing that has great joy-prompting potential. 

[Read 1:18b-21]

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.

At this point Paul moves from what has happened in the past and immediate present to what he anticipates will be his experience in the immediate present and future.  He sees his joy continuing based upon an experience that he is presently having as well as anticipates will be unfolding.

#2.  Enduring joy comes by experiencing the “saving” work of Christ in every experience of life…the difficult and the easy, the ups and the downs

Before we dissect this passage, I want you to notice one word that is very important in vs. 19.  It’s the word “deliverance” in the NIV.  That is the same word that is usually translated “salvation” (soteria).  What we must remember is that the biblical term “salvation” doesn’t just refer to that point-in-time experience that happens when you become a follower of Jesus through faith in him and his death for you. 

            Paul is talking about “what has happened” to him.  It wasn’t his suffering and imprisonment and witnessing to the guards that was going to “save” Paul spiritually.  He is talking about the end product of this whole journey of life, what was happening to him, as being the very means by which he was going to experience God’s “salvation” in his life to the fullest degree, from start (the first moment he trusted Christ) to finish (the last breath he would take on this earth). In fact, look at Phil. 2:12-13 where Paul commands believers to “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Here’s a question about your salvation and mine today: “What are we being saved from today?” 

Too many of us think that our salvation was started and finished the day we took Christ as our Savior and Lord.  Well, it started then, but it better not have finished then. 

ILL:  It’s a bit like asking, “When where you educated?”  Well, it started for most of us the day we were born.  It’s been punctuated along the way by various milestones.  I graduated from kindergarten at 6 years of age.  So, you could say I was “educated” at age 6.  But then there was 6th grade “graduation”…and high school graduation…and college…and graduate school…and doctoral studies.  I’m so ‘uneducated’ that it’s taken me well over a quarter of a century just to get to where I am today!  And I’m still ‘uneducated’ about way too much!  J

            When was I educated?  It’s an ongoing process…just as being “saved” from sin is. 

APP:  What is God still wanting to ‘save’ you from?  If Jesus had been the one to hand you the Communion trays today…and He looked you in the eye…what sinful thoughts or attitudes or plans or behaviors do you know he would want you to still be saved from by Him this week?        

            This is what Paul is talking about in vs. 20 when he says, 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.   You see, living with Christ in the body God gave Paul was Paul’s definition of the “good life”.  It was actually the “best life.”  That’s why life eternal will be life forever with Christ.

            So joy will come when we experience the ongoing ‘salvation’ of Christ.  Just like our initial ‘salvation,’ that requires we be open to being convicted of our present sins, choose to turn from them and let God replace our sinfulness with Christ’s life. 

And this is where Paul plants his Mt. Everest flag: 

Vs. 21--For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Life…and death… for Paul was all about Christ.  That is a rather difficult concept for most of us to get our arms around.  I frankly don’t think that most of us are living with Jesus at the level Paul was speaking here. 

The reason I say that is because most of us cannot honestly say most of the time what Paul said honestly in verses 22-24:

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. 

            Now, we may have moments (and perhaps more of them the older we are J) when we really do have a stronger longing to leave this world and life with all of its aches, pains, difficulties and disappointments and just leave it all behind for the future we’ve been promised in glory with our Lord. 

            But let’s be honest.  How many of us woke up this morning disappointed that we were in our beds rather than in heaven?  How many of us really feel that if we die of a heart attack this afternoon at 3:47 p.m. or are struck and killed by a car at the intersection of 3rd and Howard at 12:32 p.m. after church today that it will be the best thing that could have happened to us today?  If Jesus is really where I find the best of life, then it would be the best thing that could happen to me.

ILL:  Suppose someone says to me, “John, if I asked you MARRIAGE is all about, what would you say?” I might be tempted to answer, “Oh, commitment, trust, love, faithfulness, etc.” 

BUT, what if they asked me, “John, what is your marriage all about?” I would respond, “Sandy”  Take away Sandy and I don’t have a marriage  Take away my wife and the only thing I know about marriage first-hand is what I would carry with me from the 36+ years we’ve shared as husband and wife.

ILL:  What if any of us are asked about friendship“What is FRIENDSHIP all about?”  We would list things like, “Trust, share enjoyment of life, shared experiences, heart-to-heart understanding, etc.” 

But ask any of us what friendship means to us apart from the people we name as friends, and you have nothing but emptiness, loneliness and frustration.

ILL:  CHURCH—Ask any of us what church means to us, what it is all about, and we may talk about worship services, Bible studies, ministry teams we’re a part of, etc.  But remove relationships with people and God from our church experiences and, hopefully, we would all be missing that which we highly value in “church” – community, a spiritual family, fellowship, love of God and people.  Take God and people out of Mosaic and hopefully you are left with…NOTHING!

Take any major experiences in life, subtract the relationship component of that experience, and you won’t have very much left.

What’s vacation all about?  What’s schooling all about?  What’s your work all about?

Now look at Phil. 1:20-21 with this mindset.  If you asked Paul

“What’s your imprisonment all about,” his answer would be??? (Christ)

“What’s your apostleship all about,” his answer would be???

“What’s your suffering all about???”

“What’s your joy in life all about???”

What’s your church planting, your preaching, your writing, your quiet moments, your trials and triumphs all about?

His answer every time would be, “CHRIST”.  “It’s ALL about experiencing, knowing, growing in, depending upon Jesus Christ.”

Honestly, I can’t say that yet.  I guess that’s why I’m still on this earth.  I haven’t gotten to that place in life where no matter what you stick me with, I always bleed Jesus! 

Know how I know that?

            Because the fruit of the Spirit is not my constant, continual experience in life.  If I welcomed and embraced every experience in life that came my way…the desired ones and the undesired ones, the happy ones and the sad ones…with a heart-level conviction that this experience was going to give me more experience with Jesus than I had yesterday, I wouldn’t be getting disappointed or depressed or discouraged or frustrated or angry.  NO, I’d be getting CHRIST!  And since Jesus Christ is God, and God is the fullness of perfection in everything, what am I getting when I get more of Christ?  I’m getting nothing but LIFE at its best, as it was originally intended to be.  I’m getting more of God himself.

ILL:    Jesus really modeled this to us in His relationship with the Father.  I think He was the most joyful human being to ever walk the earth.  The reason was because He lived every experience and every moment living the life of His Father in this world.  He spoke only what He learned/heard from the Father.  He did only what He learned and was instructed to do from the Father.

            When was Jesus most troubled with life before Him?  (The Garden of Gethsemane, no?)  That is the only place in all of Scripture where Jesus even comes close to having a desire different from the Father’s.  (“Let this cup pass from me.”) Yet, in the end, he reconciled His human will of wanting to avoid the spiritual, emotional, relational and physical agony of becoming the world’s sin-bearer on the cross with the Father’s will for Him to do just that. 

Even Hebrews 12:2 calls us to, “…fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”   

            Enduring joy in life comes only by thinking, speaking, living and dreaming the life of Jesus Christ in our daily lives. 

But now we come to the third & final factor in enduring joy for any Christian. 

Review:  The 1st was the Gospel spread—preaching, embracing, building of God’s church on earth.

The 2nd was making Christ His life in every possible part and way of life. 

The 3rd is in vss. 21-26.  Let’s read it. 

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.

#3.  What was Paul’s 3rd critical ingredient of enduring joy?  It was being of benefit to others in the Kingdom work of Christ.  It was “fruitful labor” (vs. 22) that was “for [their] progress and joy in the faith…” (vs. 25).  It was seeing others who had started their journey in Christ continuing their journey deeper into Christ.  It was spiritually mentoring others in Christ.  It was discipling others in Christ.  It was coaching, encouraging, helping, growing others in Christ. 

And it didn’t matter if Paul was being a “tent maker” at the moment or a missionary in some foreign town…or a prisoner.  It didn’t have much of anything to do with his occupation, his source of income, his health or the company.  Those things were merely ways of building the Body of Christ in the world…Paul’s 3rd great source of joy in this life. 

Seeing Jesus increase in the lives of others in this world is the only adequate and sufficient reason to be doing whatever it is we are doing in life.  Everything else will crumble.  Everything else will fade.  Everything else will pass away under the scrutiny of eternity.  Everything else will not be big enough, eternal enough, valuable enough or beautiful enough to devote our lives to. 

ILL:  The story is told in English history of a young man who came to W. E. Gladstone, then Prime Minister of England.  After being introduced, he said to Mr. Gladstone, “Prime Minister Gladstone, I would appreciate your giving me [your counsel for] a few minutes…[about my] plans for the future. I would like to study law.”

“Yes,” said the great statesman, “and what then?”

“Then, sir, I would like to gain entrance to the Bar of England.” “Yes, young man, and what then?”

“Then, sir, I hope to have a place in Parliament, in the House of Lords.”

“Yes, young man, what then?” pressed Gladstone.

“Then I hope to do great things for Britain.”

“Yes, young man, and what then?”

“Then, sir, I hope to retire and take life easy.”

“Yes, young man, and what then?” he tenaciously asked.

“Well, then, Mr. Gladstone, I suppose I will die.”

“Yes, young man, and what then?”

The young man hesitated and then said, “I never thought any further than that, sir.”

Looking at that young man sternly and steadily, Gladstone said, “Young man, you are a fool. Go home and think life through!”

 (Told by Leonard Griffith, This is Living [Abingdon Press], pp. 48, 49.)

            Too many people have never “gone home to think life through.”  It can really be a refreshing experience. 

ILL:  Period in my life when I was pretty severely depressed.  Sandy and I started going to a Christian counselor in Portland to work through that and the impact it was having on our marriage.

            I clearly remember this counselor pursuing a similar line of questioning with me that Prime Minister Gladstone did with his young chap.  He did it a little differently by asking me to imagine the worst possible outcome of every decision I could make.  He started by asking me, “What will happen if you wash out as a missionary overseas?” 

Me:  I guess we’ll come back to the U.S.

He:  And do what?

ME:  Be a pastor, I suppose.

HE:  What if you wash out of the pastorate, then what?

ME:  I guess I’d have to get another job?

HE:  What if you couldn’t?

ME:  I guess I’d become homeless.

HE:  Then what?

ME:  I guess I’d learn to live without a house.

HE:  And if you failed at that, then what?

ME:  I guess I could possibly die.

HE:  And then what? 

ME:  I’d be in heaven.

HE:  And then what?

ME:  I guess I’d finally be home and at peace.

HE:  So how about you stop being afraid of choices you get to make in life & start living this amazing life God has given to you!  (Smart man…so I never went back to him!  NO, not really! J)

Paul isn’t quite that simplistic, but he’s clear.  Until our hearts are as clear about every experience in life that comes our way, we won’t be experiencing the kind of joy Paul did.  But when we do, everything in life takes on meaning, purpose and power.

  • My marriage – it’s all about coming to experience Jesus Christ in greater and greater measure as well as helping my wife and anyone watching (kids & grand kids included) to “progress” (vs. 24) in their faith in God.
  • My work
  • My growing physical weaknesses
  • My friendships
  • My free time

If it isn’t somehow enabling me to experience Christ and people better, what am I doing it for?  How is he wanting me to help others around me progress in their knowledge of him through what I’ve been handed?

When knowing Jesus IN every experience of life is my definition of “really living”…my reason for living, then nothing in life will be able to separate me from the joy of the Lord.  But when I swallow the lie that I must have someone or something else in life (good health, good job, good marriage, etc.) in order to be “really living”, I will find myself frustrated, angry, depressed and anxious. 

In fact, just take a moment to think about what is giving you heartburn in life right now.  What is making you frustrated?  Angry?  Depressed?  Anxious?  Worried?  I’ll bet it isn’t what you are experiencing of Jesus IN whatever the thing, issue or circumstance is. 

CLOSE:  How’s the joy factor in your life these days?  It probably has a lot to do with one or more of these 3 factors Paul talks about in this passage. 

  1. How much of your life is about sharing the Gospel and life of Jesus with others? Big?  Little?  None?  It will impact your joy.

APP:  Where and with whom is God inviting me to share the Gospel of Christ?  (Easter weekend invites after church next week?)

  1. How much of your life are you making about experiencing Jesus? My joy will either be larger or lesser depending on how much of my life I make about Christ. 

APP:  In what experiences of your life is God wanting you to be open to more of Christ…and thus more of His joy?

  1. What in your life is about helping others encounter and grow in Jesus?

APP:  Is God inviting you into ministry with Him in some way right now?  Living by faith will always mean we are stretching beyond our comfort zone.  When was the last time you sought to minister to others in a way that did that?  If you need a fresh ministry challenge, talk to a ministry leader in any ministry or get a hold of one of your pastors. 

  1. Call to Christ: Have you passed the Prime Minister Gladstone test yet?  Are you one who could not say with certainty, “If I died today, I’m not sure I could say with Paul, ‘…to die is gain.’  I’m not sure I would be headed into an eternity of knowing God better and forever.  I can’t say with confidence where I’ll be spending eternity.”???  (Call to faith in Christ.)