Thoughts from Philippians 1:18-26.
As we pursue our goals in life, both for personal living and for ministry, we seek to know life’s highest motivation. In our text, Paul makes it clear that this motivation is Christ-centeredness. As believers, all that we think, have, are, and do should be centered in Christ.
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a man who was in college when I was. We worked together as editors of the college annual. He and his wife became missionaries to Latin America. He found Christ early in life, maintained his hope and faith in Him, and lived for Him, and gave a lifetime in missionary ministry. Christ was at the center of His life. Now, he is with Christ. We know that Christ will give him his eternal reward.
The Christ-centeredness of Christian funerals stands out. Family and friends experience sorrow and grief, but in the long run, hope overrides the sorrow. To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote (4:13): “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.” Because we have hope, we have a pathway to victory. It may not be easy to overcome grief, but the Holy Spirit will comfort and assist us.
We see Paul’s passion for Christ throughout his epistle to the Philippians, but I will concentrate our discussion for several days on 1:18-26. Several points stand out. We notice that Paul maintained his Christ-centeredness without regard to circumstances, that his desire to conform to Christ motivated him whether in life or death and that his passion moved him to enrich others. The apostle Paul gives us a high example. We are to follow him as he followed Christ.
More Thoughts from Philippians 1:18-26.
Our subject, based on this text, is the importance of being Christ-centered in all that we are and do. Today, my thoughts gather around being centered in Christ without regard to our circumstances.
The apostle Paul was in prison and facing trial, but he was able to write: “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for 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. 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.” (NIV)
When Paul speaks about his deliverance, he may have referred to not showing any weakness under trial. Another possibility is that he may have referred to the ultimate consummation of his salvation. We do not need to limit the meaning of deliverance. He simply could have been referring to deliverance in all its forms. The key point is that whatever circumstances he faced, he remained Christ-centered. This was his highest motivation.
Many people today face death because of their stance on Christ. Our text is especially relevant for them. Most of us do not face such drastic persecution. Many of our problems have to do with living conditions, getting along with the people, adjusting to a new culture, having needed transportation, not being appreciated, lack of funds, and many others. As we deal with these problems, our motivation as believers must be Christ-centered. Romans 8:28 was not just a verse that Paul wrote; it was a life that he lived. When we are Christ-centered, what happens to us will turn out for our “deliverance.”
More Thoughts from Philippians 1:18-26.
The highest motivation in life is to be Christ-centered. The apostle Paul was Christ-centered no matter what the circumstances. In verse 20 Paul’s passion for Christ reaches its apex. He writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (NIV).
Just what did Paul mean by this statement? As Hendriksen says, he meant: “to derive one’s strength from Christ (Phil. 4:13), to have the mind, the humble disposition of Christ (Phil. 2:5-11), to know Christ with the knowledge of Christian experience (Phil. 3:8), to be covered by Christ’s righteousness (Phil. 3:9), to rejoice in Christ (Phil. 3:1; 4:4), to live for Christ, that is, for his glory (II Cor. 5:15), to rest one’s faith on Christ and to love him in return for his love (Gal. 2:20).”
This does not mean that we should have no other motivations. Within limits, some secondary motivations are normal in the Christian life. Most of us are motivated to some extent by a desire for significance and social acceptance. We must, however, keep these motivations under discipline and watchful care. Our responsibility is to always keep such drives subject to the will of God. When the Christ-centered person knows His will, other considerations will be deliberately set aside.
Quite often we are quick to accuse others of self-centeredness but do not see this in ourselves. About others, we must exercise care. We cannot observe motives. We can only monitor behavior. From behavior, we make judgments as to what a person’s motives are. Because the possibility of error is great, we must be cautious. As to ourselves, we can be blind to our motivations. We must unceasingly ask the Spirit to help us know ourselves. This will lead to victorious living.
This Christ-centeredness applies to death as well. Paul was not only willing to die for Christ; as it turned out, He did die for him. He was well prepared for this. For Paul death meant to be “with Christ.” Thus, death was a distinct gain for him. The highest privilege for the Christ-centered person is to be with Christ.
More Thoughts from Philippians 1:18-26.
The apostle Paul lived and ministered with Christ at the center. His highest motivation was to be in full harmony with Jesus Christ, his Savior, and Lord. He was in prison and facing possible death when he wrote our text. He was growing old and was near the end of his ministry.
While in prison, Paul wrote: “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! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 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 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” (NIV)
Did Paul prefer to live or to die? He confessed to being torn between the two. As far as he was concerned, it would be better to depart and be with Christ. But he was moved to think of the Philippians. For their spiritual enrichment, it was better for him to live on. He laid aside his preference and acknowledged the necessity of his ministry to them. His passion for Christ was now expressed in his concern for them!
When we are living a Christ-centered life, we will have compassion for a lost world. A passion for Christ will produce a passion to win people to Christ and to teach them. The closer we are to Christ, the more we will think His thoughts, feels His compassion, and act by His commands. This is the outward impact of having Christ central in our lives.
More Thoughts From Philippians 1:18-26.
As Paul indicates, the highest motivation for believers is to be Christ-centered. This is true in all circumstances, whether in life or death. That motivation moves us to proclaim the gospel to all people.
Without question, the life of Paul was Christ-centered. This motivation was foundational to everything he did. Paul was writing from prison. One of his goals, as he indicated in Romans 15:28) was to go to Spain. Another goal, expressed in our text, was to return to Philippi.
Without question, the life of Paul; was Christ-centered. With his Christ-centeredness came goals to be accomplished for the Lord. Paul was in Corinth on his way to Jerusalem when he wrote to the Romans that he wanted to go to Spain (Romans 15:28). Many believe that he did go to Spain.
Another one of his goals was to return to Philippi. He wrote to the Philippians (2:24): “And I trust in the Lord that I also will be coming shortly.” According to Hendriksen, “All the historical evidence points to the fact that Paul’s expectation was fulfilled, and that, having been released, he visited the Philippians once more.”
Paul was writing to the Philippians from prison. Lenski writes: “He was released from his imprisonment and lived on for a few years. Then came his second and fatal imprisonment, during which he wrote in an entirely different way (2 Tim. 4:6-8).” This time Paul knew the end of his ministry on earth was near. He did not express any ambivalence about living or dying. He simply was looking forward to being in Christ’s presence and to receiving the crown of righteousness.
George M. Flattery, Ph.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.