Reflections on Philippians 1:18-26
Society readily acknowledges those individuals who achieve within the social sphere, be it on an academic, business, sporting or cultural level. Just take some time to visit with folk in their homes and experience the sense of pride as they direct you to the mantle-piece lined with awards or the wall-space covered in photographic evidence of children or grand-children receiving accolades. It would be true to say that remarkable achievements have been attained by many through physical prowess or mental acumen, and family or friends spontaneously make much of these achievements. These expressions of praise reveal something of the value or the worth that is afforded those achievements.
In the passage under consideration we discover a very similar practice from Paul the Apostle. He has something to show us of considerable worth but he won’t simply take us to a mantle-piece or wall-space, he will display this remarkable worth through his very life. He writes, “…that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death” (Php.1:20).
The most significant achievement ever attained was that of Christ Jesus who took the sin of the world upon Himself and as a perfect sacrifice paid the penalty by suffering death on the cross. However, He did not remain in the grave He rose on the third day and is now seated at His father’s right hand in heaven. So remarkable is this achievement that Paul’s life charter centres on it. He writes; “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Php.1:21) or literally translated, “to live Christ, to die gain.” Wow! What a statement? What a life charter?
Here we begin to talk about the sufficiency of Christ, the fact that Christ is enough and nothing else is needed. The evidence of this is unquestionable as we consider the transformation that took place in the life of this educated professional assassin Saul, who became Paul the foremost promoter of the message he once tried to silence.
Here we find him concerned about one thing. He puts it like this; “my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death” (Php.1:20). He is not concerned about what the verdict would be concerning his trial or concerned about his immediate physical needs. In fact he says a little further on,
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Php.4:11-12).
He was only concerned about failing to display the surpassing worth or value of Christ.
I fear too many of us place our joy and life's worth on something that can be displayed on a mantle-piece or printed on a certificate. Will your life charter be exposed as the socially acknowledged achievements of academia, business, sport or the arts? Instead, if there is any evidence of the most remarkable achievement of Christ let it be your transformed life. May your life charter be, with Paul, 'to live is Christ, to die is gain' - His glory, my passion!
Ps. Deon Lombard
Being a servant of Jesus makes it a delight to reflect and write about all that God has revealed about Himself in His Word.