Title: Don’t Waste Your Life
Series: Philippians (9/20)
Reference: Philippians 1:21-26
We have been studying through the book of Philippians on Sunday mornings, we are still on chapter one. The title of today’s message is Don’t Waste Your Life – Don’t Waste Your Life. I will begin reading with verse 21 and I am going to ask, if you are physically able, let’s all stand in honor and reverence for the reading of God’s Holy Word.
And the Word of God says in Philippians, chapter 1, beginning with verse 21:
“For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain, but if I am to live on in the flesh this will mean fruitful labor for me and I do not know which to choose, but I am hard pressed from both directions having the desire to depart and be with Christ for that is very much better, yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.”
Father, would you add your blessing upon the proclamation of your Word and it is in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. You can be seated.
In 1993 a fellow by the name of Bill Jeracki was fishing at St. Mary’s Glacier in Colorado. As he was fishing on a nearby mountainside there was a rockslide and a bunch of boulders began to approach their way toward him and before Bill could get out of the way, before he could really react and get into a safe place, his leg had become trapped under a massive bolder. He tried everything he could to get loose. He tried for hours upon hours to try to somehow get enough leverage to move this massive rock off of his leg but nothing worked. No one else was around, he had no form of communication, and to make matters worse, a storm was approaching. In a desperate attempt to save his life, Bill took off his shirt and he used it as a tourniquet, and he took out his fishing knife and he began to cut off his own leg right at the knee. Once he had cut off his own leg, he took his fishing pliers and locked them around the bleeding arteries and then crab walked his way to his truck where he was able to climb in and drive to the nearest hospital.
In 2003 Aron Ralston had a similar experience. Aron was hiking in Utah, there was a rockslide, a bolder falls and pins his right arm against the mountainside. He waits six days for help to come, and nobody comes. Again, in a desperate attempt to save his own life, Aron knew he had no other choice so he takes out his Swiss Army knife and he begins to slowly and deliberately cut off his right forearm.
What do these stories like this teach us? Well, besides for some basic survival skills for your next camping trip, stories like this teach us that humanity, human beings, we will do some pretty remarkable things in order to live, to live longer. Just think about this, we spend endless dollars on the best doctors to perform the very best surgeries, we cultivate entirely new eating habits, we will embrace a completely new lifestyle, we will even pack up our family and move to a completely new climate all in the hopes of living longer. We will do remarkable things in order to live.
But the bigger question is not what you will do to live, but the bigger question is what are you living for? You only have one life to live, one life to live, one chance at this thing we call life; you don’t know how long you will live, you don’t know if your life will be a long life, will it be a short life measured in human terms, and so I think the bigger question is not what extremes would you go to to live, but the bigger question is what will you live for?
We have been studying the book of Philippians on Sunday mornings and we have come to that section of scripture where Paul shares his philosophy of life, where Paul shares what it is that he lives for. The heart of what he wants to say is captured in verse 21, probably the most well-known verse in the entire book of Philippians. In there Paul declares, for to me to live is Christ, for to me to live is Christ. Now keep in mind that these words are not coming from some academic philosopher who doesn’t really know what it means to suffer for his faith. These words are coming from a guy who is suffering for his faith, right? Let me remind you that as Paul writes these words he finds himself in jail, he is awaiting his trial, he is waiting in a very real sense on the proclamation or the declaration upon whether he will be sentenced to death or if he will go free. And so when Paul makes a statement like this, this is not theoretical for Paul. He knows that he could lose his life. He knows that his life is in the hands of Caesar as it were, and yet as he awaits this verdict, he is not fearful, his heart is not filled with anxiety, his heart is not overtaken by grief, or remorse, or any kind of regret. He is a man at peace I believe because he is a man who has learned what it really means to live life.
So if you are taking notes this morning I just want to point out and share with you three observations, three observations to sort of hang your hat on and help this passage of scripture unfold with us. So number one on your notes is Paul’s dedication. Paul’s dedication, verse 21, Paul began and he said: For to me to live is Christ. Now, notice how personal this is for Paul. He says for to me, right. Forget about you, for to me to live is Christ. It is as if Paul is saying, if I am being persecuted for my faith, I don’t care if I die for my faith, for to me to live is Christ. When Paul uses the word live here he is not merely talking about existing. He is talking about living, he is talking about living as God designed for you to live, he is talking about living with a God-birthed passion and purpose in your heart that only he could put there through the Holy Spirit. It is a deep soul satisfaction in life. Paul said for to me to live is Christ.
Just from what we have learned about the Apostle Paul, even in studying this letter, his entire life is wrapped up in Jesus Christ. I mean Paul has centered his life on Jesus. Jesus is everything to Paul, right? Jesus is the goal of his life, Jesus is the pattern of his life, Jesus is reason for his life, Jesus is the pursuit of his life. I mean everything is wrapped up in Jesus Christ. Now think about it, can you say that? Can you make that same kind of declaration, for to me to live is Christ? How would you finish that statement? If you just had to finish it today, to me to live is blank, and you just fill in the blank. What are you living for? What is the thing that excites you in life? What is the thing that you get passionate about in life? What is the thing that you sort of come alive to, right, and whatever you are coming alive to, that is what you are living for. And the sad reality is, often, often, our lives become centered on lesser pursuits, and that is just truth, that is the honest truth. Often we just get caught up on lesser things. Maybe good things, maybe gifts that God has given us to enjoy, but this world and the things of this world, they make great gifts to enjoy, they make terrible gods to revolve your whole life around because nothing satisfies the soul like Jesus satisfies the soul. Great gifts, terrible gods; what are you living for?
Paul says for me to live is Christ and then look what he says here in verse 21, and to die, to die is gain. The word gain there means profit, it means benefit. Paul said for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain, to die is benefit. That is such a strange perspective on death. We hardly ever think of death as a benefit unless a person has lived a really long life, right, or unless they have some kind of sickness or disease and they are suffering in their life. And usually only in those two examples would we say death is a benefit. But look guys, when Paul writes this it is not like he is camping out at the nursing home. This is a vibrant, sold-out, strong believer for the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not like the best of Paul’s life is in the past, it is before him. And yet Paul has this perspective where he is able to say for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. How can death be gain when you are not suffering? How can death be gain when the best years of your life are in front of you, not behind you?
Well for Paul, and really for all believers, death is gain, death should be viewed as gain, because death gives us more of Christ. This is what makes death gain for God’s people. It is not about going to a better place, although to be sure that is a great attraction, that is a big draw in our hearts. What makes heaven heaven is not the place, it is the person of Jesus Christ. That is the draw of heaven, to be with the one who has saved us, to be with the one that has taken all of our sins, every sin that you could ever commit and he has completely atoned for that, completely paid for that, made you right with God, filled your heart with peace and purpose. The world can never understand, the one that is deep, deep in your heart, the one you really long for, the one you really want to be with, the one you really want to imitate and be like in life. Look, what makes heaven heaven is not the place, but it is the person, it is the unhindered capacity to know, to love, to serve Jesus Christ and whether you realize it or not, that is exactly what your heart has been created to do. To know, to love, to serve Jesus Christ and heaven ushers in that capacity in a way that we could never realize on this earth.
So Paul says for me to live is Christ, to die, to die is gain. And the reality is if you finish the first part of that verse with anything other than Christ, you cannot look at the last part of that verse and say it is gain. You cannot say for to me to live is blank if your blank is anything other than Jesus. Death is not gain. Do you realize that, it is not gain. If you say for to me living is about being successful, it is about climbing the corporate ladder and reaching the pinnacle of my potential, if that is you, if that is what you are aligned to, death for you will not be gain. It will be a loss. Anything, you could even say good things. You could say for me to live is my family, it’s my loved ones, it’s the people I do life with, I mean it is a great thing, but if your life revolves around that, then death is not gain for you, death is loss for you. The only way this works is with Jesus. You could say anything. You could say for to me living is sports, for to me living is my recreational pursuits, my hobbies, for to me living is about having the biggest house, the fastest boat, anything, if your life is centered on anything or anyone other than Jesus, death is not gain, death is loss. But when Jesus is our greatest pursuit, when Jesus is the greatest longing of our heart, when he is the hottest trail we are after, then death becomes gain. The sting of death is taken away and we are ushered in to a new capacity to know, to love, to serve Jesus Christ. What are you living for? If it is anything or anyone other than Jesus, death will not be gain to you. Death will be loss.
Number two on your notes is Paul’s dilemma. Paul’s dedication, Paul was so dedicated to the Lord Jesus that it actually puts him in this kind of between a rock and a hard place here. He says this in verse 22, he says but if I am to live on in the flesh, so he is talking about this body, he is talking about this life. He has in his mind when I stand before Caesar and all of the evidence is presented and if my life is spared, he says if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Which is still about Christ. Paul says for me to live is Christ, if I die it’s Christ, death is gain. Paul’s whole life, whether he lives or dies, is all centered on Jesus Christ. So he says if I live on in the flesh it will mean fruitful labor for me. He is talking about building up the church, investing in the Kingdom of God, strengthening believers in their faith, starting new churches, raising up leaders that will faithfully lay their hand on the spiritual plow and take ground for Jesus. Paul said if to live is Christ, to die is gain, but if I live, then you know what, if my life is spared I am going to just keep on keeping on, keep on doing what I am doing, and investing, pouring out my life in Kingdom work.
This dilemma, this tension is so great. Look at what Paul says, he continues on in verse 22: I do not know which to choose. Isn’t this just crazy. Don’t we read something like this and we say: Ha, I know which to choose, I choose life! Isn’t it just crazy that we read this and Paul says for me to live is Christ, to die is gain, and I don’t know what is going to happen. If I do live I am just going to keep pouring into the Kingdom, and I honestly don’t know what to choose. Does this say something about maybe the reason why the thought of death is so unattractive to us, maybe that says something about our affection for Jesus. Maybe it says something about how much we have been attached to a place that is not our home. To a place where we are not, we are not created to be here, and maybe the reality, we can’t even get it in our minds, that perspective of saying I would much rather die and be with Jesus. Paul is going to say that here in just a little bit. That is very much better for me. Right? Very much better. And maybe the reason we cannot understand that perspective is because we have grown so accustomed to living in a world that is not our home.
This is an amazing example. How spiritually mature is Paul? To be able to say I do not know which to choose. Now, of course, we know the choice is really in the hand of God. Proverbs 21 in verse 1 says this, great verse to remember around election time. The verse says the king’s heart is like channels of water in the hands of the Lord. He turns it, that is the Lord, God, turns it wherever he wishes. So we recognize, ultimately, the choice is out of Paul’s control, but he is honestly struggling with this. This is a real dilemma in his heart. He says I don’t know what to choose. I could die here and I would go on to be with Jesus and that is a great thing, that would just resonate with my heart so much, but I recognize the need in the church of God and if I stay here I can give myself to more fruitful work building up the church, investing into the Kingdom of God, and that is a great thing as well. And he goes on to say in verse 23, I am hard pressed, hard pressed from both directions. It is like a tug-of-war match going on inside of his heart. His heart longs for both, his heart is passionate for both. This is such a real struggle Paul is facing here. He would love to be with Christ but yet the need in the church is so great, there is so much work that needs to be done, and Paul says I just don’t which to give my heart to. What a strange dilemma. For us the answer is easy, again for us this seems like a no brainer, and how spiritually mature must Paul be to have a heart that is torn, going through the reality of physical death and being with Jesus or pouring his heart into the church. He is torn between these two options.
As I thought about this past week, I thought our dilemma looks nothing like this. Our dilemma looks like church or soccer. Our dilemma is church or sports. Church or sleeping in. Serving Christ or being involved in some other humanitarian pursuit. Our dilemma looks nothing like this. And maybe, again, maybe all of this is just pointing to priorities and affections in our hearts and maybe we don’t sense this struggle and have this dilemma because our affection for Christ is not what it should be. But what a challenging example for all of us because the reality is, as strange as it is for us to think about this, this should be our dilemma. This should be the dilemma we should have, to so love the Lord Jesus that our hearts long to be with him more than anyone or anything else and yet to so love Jesus that our heart’s desire to pour in, to building up his Kingdom and his church.
This should be our dilemma as we walk through life. It should not be the dilemma between do I serve Jesus or do I advance my career? Do I serve Jesus or do I accumulate more money? Do I serve Jesus or do I chase after power through success? Do I serve Jesus or do I give my heart to sports? Do I serve Jesus or do I focus on my family, my vacation, my time and I realize there is a place in the pie for all of that, but at the center of the pie ought to be Jesus Christ. How vastly different our churches and our nation would look if believers put Jesus in the middle and put everything else revolving around Jesus instead of trying to squeeze Jesus into an already busy and hurried schedule. How different our church, our nation, our witness would look.
Paul said I am hard pressed from both directions having the desire to depart, he is talking about death there. I think that is an interesting choice of words there to speak of death. Go ahead and circle that in your Bible, having the desire to depart and be with Christ. The word depart is used in a variety of ways in the New Testament.
For example, Paul will use this same word in II Corinthians, chapter 5 to build up the analogy of breaking camp. Like you are camping, you have got your tents set up and it is the next morning and it is time to depart, it is time to break camp, it is time to leave the temporary dwelling place and head to the permanent dwelling place, right. And when it is time for you to break camp where does your heart long for? It doesn’t long for the temporary structure, it longs for the permanent structure, right? With the nice shower and the comfy bed. That’s depart, that is just one use of the word, and yet the word is also used to speak of putting a boat out to water. So the fishermen, they come in and they tie their boat to the dock and they go and I don’t know, get a sandwich, get a sloppy joe, I don’t know. They go and they come back, it is time to go fishing, they get in the boat and they lean over and they untie it and the boat departs, the wind picks up and picks up in the sail and it pushes it out and it departs from the dock. The same word is used to speak of freeing a prisoner from his or her chains. The same word is used for unloading an animal of its burden. The same word is used in solving a hard problem.
All of those meanings are bound up in this one word and when you look at them all together I think they give us different perspectives on what it means to physically die. Paul says I am hard pressed from both directions, I have the desire to depart and be with Christ. Paul says I have the desire to be done with this temporary tent, to be done with this temporary dwelling place. I want to move on where my permanent home is, I want to move on where my permanent shell is going to be. He says I desire to be loosed from this world, freed to sail on the sea of eternity, to be freed, right, freed from the prison of the flesh, freed from an inability to love the Lord like we really want to love the Lord, to serve the Lord like we really desire to serve the Lord, to unload all of the earthly burdens that we have to carry around, to solve all the earthly problems that we are torn in-between, for all of these reasons Paul says, I desire to depart and to be with Christ.
But more than any of those reasons, notice what he says in verse 23. The biggest reason of all, Paul says I am hard pressed from both directions having the desire to depart and be with Christ. And I love this, he says for that, being with Jesus, is very much better. I love that. That is not good grammar, but boy, that is good theology. He could have just said for that would be better. And we would have said, okay, we know what that means. He could have said that would be much better. Well, yeah, he wants to emphasize it. But he takes this to the triple level and he says for that would be very much better.
Yet, verse 24, yet and again there is that tug-of-war going on in the inside of his heart, to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. So Paul knows there is a lot of work to do in the church there, there are a lot of things that need to be built up and established, and while his heart would rather be with Jesus and while he acknowledges that, that would be very much better, he would love to be freed from his burdens, freed from all the problems, freed from the limitations of this life, he said being with Jesus would be very much better, yet to remain on in the flesh in this life, he said it is more necessary for you. What an example of self-sacrifice, of putting self in the backseat, putting someone else in front of you. Paul says I don’t know how this thing is going to work, I don’t know how this thing is going to end up, but if I had to choose now, I don’t know if I could choose. I don’t know if I could make that choice. To go and be with Jesus or to stay here for me, for me being with Jesus is very much better, but for you, right, but for me it is better to go and be with Jesus, for you it is probably better to stay and help out with the church and Paul says he is just torn in this internal struggle, this internal dilemma.
So we have seen his dedication, his dilemma, notice the last one on your notes. Number three: Paul’s decision. Paul’s decision. He says convinced of this I know I will remain and continue with you all. I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all.
Now when Paul says I know that I will remain I don’t think he said that because God had told him that. To be fair there are some students of the Bible that would teach that. They believe that God has somehow given him a supernatural revelation and Paul knows that he is going to get out of jail and he is going to be free to do more ministry, but I don’t think that is the sense here because if that is the sense, then there is no point in the struggle. If Paul knows he is going to be free, why is he struggling about what to do? Why is he struggling about what to give his heart to, what to turn his affections toward? So if he knows, then why are the believers in Philippi worried? Paul could just write back to them and say hey folks, it is going to be okay, I have heard from God, I will be home for Christmas. But the struggle is very real, the struggle is very real for Paul when he says I don’t know what to do and so when he says here in verse 25 I know that I will remain, I believe that as Paul has gone through this struggle and has gone through this internal wrestling match with God and what is God’s will for his life as he surveys and thinks about the need in the church in Philippi, the need in churches all around, I think Paul comes to peace with this. Maybe the Holy Spirit gives him peace. Maybe one of the palace guards that has come to faith was able to hear something, hear Caesar say something and he brings word back to Paul and he says, you know, Caesar likes you, it is going to be okay. He likes you and this is going to work out well for you and so we don’t know really the details of how Paul arrives at this, but we do know the reason why. And he tells us that, it says in verse 25, I know that I will remain and continue with you all.
And so the question is, okay, so why Paul? Why is now not the right time for death? Why is now not the right time to pack up that tent and set sail on that sea and be done with all of those burdens, to be released of all of those limitations of this life, why is not the timing right? He goes on in verse 25, for your progress and joy in the faith. Paul says for you. It is not right, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith. And again what a great image of the gospel. What a great image, we are not even out of chapter one and we have seen this over and over again, this theme of how the gospel calls us to put the needs of others first even above your own personal comfort. What a great example for Paul, for him to be able to say for to me to live is Christ, to die is gain, I don’t know which way this is going but to me to depart and go with Christ, that is very much better for me, but for your sake, for your sake, it is better that I stay and remain and help continue to pour into the church. What a great picture of the gospel and how the gospel calls us to invest our lives, to give away our life. What are you living for? To give away our life pouring into other people.
So let me give you two take-aways. So what? Okay, two questions real quick and make a few comments for us to pray through and think about how God is calling us to action in light of this truth in the scripture.
Number one: What are you living for? What are you living for? What is that thing, that person, that activity that you come alive to? Whatever it is that you are alive to, it is very likely that is what you are living for and if that is not Jesus, there may be temporary pleasures here and there in life but I am telling you, you are setting yourself up for big time disappointment because only Jesus satisfies. Only Jesus never disappoints. What are you living for?
Second question: Are you actively engaged in serving? Are you actively engaged in serving? For Paul life in the flesh was about fruitful labor in the Kingdom of God. That means serving for the progress of others in the faith. Alright, for Paul life was about fruitful labor in the Kingdom of God. That means serving so that others may, here’s the way we are beginning to say it at Vista, serving so that others may know and grow in Jesus, or the motto, right, who can tell me the motto without me saying it, somebody … please. Say it loud now, it is not a question, it is a declaration. What’s the motto? Making and maturing disciples. That was pretty good, let’s try that again, okay. Making and maturing disciples. What’s the motto? Making and maturing disciples. What is the mission? Making and maturing disciples. What is the thing we are going to live for? Making and maturing disciples. What is the work we going to put our hands to? Making and maturing disciples. Of all the things we could be involved in with this church, what are we going to be busy about? Making and maturing disciples. Let me ask you something. Are you actively serving to make and mature disciples in the church? Are you doing that? You look at the example of Paul, Paul said I don’t know which to choose, to go and be with Jesus or to stay here and build up the church. Do we have that same struggle? Do we have that same dilemma? Do we love the church and love pouring into the church as much as we love the savior who died for the church? Are you actively engaged in serving so that others may come to know and grow in Jesus Christ? What are you living for, and are you serving in fruitful labor for the Kingdom of God?
Father, we, Lord we thank you for this time together in your Word. We thank you for your spirit that helps us to get it. Lord we thank you for the example of Paul here. Lord, in our hearts this is where we want to be. We want to love you and we want to love your church, we want to love your cause, we want to love your Kingdom, and Lord we want to live for both. But Father, that is hard. That is really hard when we live in a world that is so inwardly focused, when we live in a world that is constantly saying that you have to look out for yourself and you have to do what is right for you. Lord, your gospel comes in and it just flips that upside down Father and you tell us to serve others, to put others first, to lay down our life pouring into other people, pouring into your Kingdom so that others may come to know and to grow in their faith. Father, that is where our hearts want to be, but Lord, if we are just honest there is not a person in this room, there is not a person listening to this on the internet that cannot admit that that is just hard. There is such a struggle there Father. So what I pray that through your spirit working in us Lord that you would change our affections to love you more, to want you more, to be willing Father to sacrifice even more for your gospel, your Kingdom, your cause. Father work in our hearts to this end for we ask it in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.