So, I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to the book of Philippians, Philippians chapter 1. I want to continue to dig down into this wonderful epistle of the book of Philippians. And I feel like this church is my Philippi. And so, this book has a very special place in my heart, as you have in my heart. Philippians chapter 1. Today I want us to look at verses 15 through 20. The title of the message is I Will Rejoice. I trust that that will be your resolution and testimony this day, “I will rejoice.” I want to begin reading in verse 15, Philippians chapter 1. The apostle Paul writes:
15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
The great German Reformer, Martin Luther, in the 16th century was the leader of the Reformation. Great responsibility laid upon his shoulder to lead a nation and a continent in this Reformation movement. And with all of this responsibility upon him, Luther often became overwhelmed with bouts of despair and gloom. It was at such low points that joy evaded him. One day when he was especially low and discouraged, his wife Katie dressed up in all black as though she were going to a funeral and walked into his study. And Luther looked up at her and said, “Who died?” She said very curtly, “God.” He said, “My soul, woman, don't talk that way!” She said, “Then don't live that way.” What a message that is for us and to be reminded that God is upon His throne, and God is the living God. And as long as God is upon His throne, He is causing all things to work together for our good and for His glory. And because God is upon His throne, no matter what it is that we may face as far as difficult circumstances or because of great trials, we may have joy in our hearts, even in our darkest hours, because God is the God of the living.
If you know anything about the book of Philippians, you know that this book is all about joy. It is the dominant theme that runs through this book. It is the golden thread of joy that really each section hangs upon it. And not only does Paul give us instruction about joy: what it is, where we may find it, what causes joy; Paul also gives testimony of joy in his own life. In other words, not only does he talk about joy, but he walks the walk of joy in his own life. Paul is in prison as you know in Rome in the midst of terribly trying circumstances. And yet, we read here in verse 18, “In this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.” How can we live like this? What is it that was so strong in the heart and the soul of Paul that he could live triumphantly over his circumstances and not be pulled down? What was it that Paul found that enabled him to so rightly live a life of joy? Whatever it is, I desperately need it. You desperately need it as well, because we are all too often subject to the circumstances that are unfolding in our lives. And so many times it steals our joy and robs us of the gladness that we should have.
Well, in this passage, it is a very practical passage, we see the secret of Paul's joy here. And it is no secret. The secret is there is no secret. Paul makes it known in this very text. And what he says is the source of his joy is that he lives for Jesus Christ and lives for His gospel. And as he sees the gospel spreading through even the most difficult trials, he has every reason to rejoice.
Now, here is an interesting fact about this first chapter in Philippians. In Philippians chapter 1, just the first chapter, there are three words that are repeated so often. The first is “Christ.” Christ is mentioned 18 times in this first chapter. I do not know that there is another chapter in the Bible in which Christ is mentioned so many times again, and again, and again, and again. This is a Christ-centered chapter, and Paul was a Christ-centered author, a Christ-centered believer. So, that is the first key. If we are to have joy, we must be Christ-saturated, Christ-dominated.
The second word that is used so repeatedly is “gospel.” The word “gospel,” I've circled it every time that it is used in chapter 1 in my Bible, is six times. That is a plethora of times for the word “gospel” to be used in just this one chapter. So, the secret to joy is somehow, someway, going to be tied together with “Christ” and “gospel.”
And then in chapter 1 the word “joy” is found four times. When we connect these three dots, “Christ,” “gospel,” and “joy,” it becomes abundantly clear why it is that Paul had such joy. His joy was directly attached to Jesus Christ and to the gospel. And not just the knowledge of the gospel which is cause for joy enough, but for the spread of the gospel, for the advancement of the gospel, for the progress of the gospel. “It makes no difference,” Paul says, “what happens to me just as long as Christ is glorified and just as long as the gospel is shared with others. That is what brings me joy.” Paul has truly died to himself, and he is alive unto Christ. And it is this that has caused such joy in his life. This is a truth that all of us need to hear today. I trust that your ears are open at this very moment. In our difficulties, we can rejoice because it is a time for the gospel to advance to others. Adversity is a great evangelist, and during times of adversity is when so often the gospel spreads to others.
Well, as we look at these verses, verses 15 through 20, it will be a joy for us to look carefully at what Paul writes. But I want you to note three headings with me. In verses 15 and 17, “The Challenge to Paul's Joy.” There were some very real challenges to his joy, just as there are to your joy and my joy. And then second, in verse 18, we are going to see, “The Cause of Paul's Joy.” And we need to know what this cause is. And then finally in verses 19 and 20, “The Confidence of Paul's Joy.” So, I think it will be very easy for you to follow along in what Paul is saying in these verses.
I. The Challenge to Joy (Phil. 1:15-17)
First of all, The Challenge to Paul's Joy. And the challenge to joy is always the same. It is threatening circumstances in our lives or those that are surrounding us. And that is precisely the kind of challenge that Paul faced. Let us begin reading in verse 15. Here is the challenge to Paul's joy. He said, “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife.” Now these of whom Paul makes mention here are preachers, preachers of Christ. These are not false teachers. These are not the Judaizers that will be mentioned later in chapter 3. These are preachers who lived in Rome. And verse 17 says they were causing Paul distress. And the reason that they are causing Paul distress is because they have become very jealous of Paul. Because Paul is so gifted, so influential, so powerful, that with Paul in town in Rome the people, the believers, the church, has their attention drawn to Paul. And as Paul, even though he is in prison, is the talk on the streets, there are small-minded preachers in Rome, little fish in a little pond, whose feelings have become hurt because they no longer are in the center place. And so, they have now become filled with envy and jealousy towards Paul.
Now, please notice as they are preaching Christ, in verse 15, “Some to be sure.” There is no doubt about it. He is saying this with absolute certainty. He is not saying they need to be saved. He is saying, “No, they are preaching Christ. They have the right gospel. They have the right message. They have the right emphasis. They have the right method. They are preachers who are preaching.” This is in the present tense. It means they are faithful to be always preaching. And they have the right emphasis. They are preaching Christ. And by that we can surmise they are preaching Christ and Him crucified. And yet, strangely enough, though they have the right message, they have the wrong motives. They have become incredibly carnal, fleshly. And they are filled with envy. And we are to understand this envy is directed towards Paul.
This word “envy” means “jealousy.” It is rooted in an ill will feeling towards others, in this case, Paul. Envy is the feeling of displeasure produced by seeing or hearing about the advantage of someone else. Someone else gets a promotion. Someone else is asked to teach. Someone else is asked to sing. Someone else is asked to do something. And rather than being content with where you are and what you have, and rather than rejoicing that they are elevated, suddenly there are seeds of envy that are sown into the heart. And it begins to bear fruit. Galatians 5:19 and following says, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident which are,” and on this hit list is envying. Envying is wishing others do not have what they have, and instead, wishing you could trade places with them and have what they have. They were envious of Paul's towering intellect. They were envious of his gifted speech. They were envious of his ministry influence and his ministry success. And so, they considered Paul to be a threat to the success of their own ministries. Much like the Pharisees felt when Jesus stepped onto the scene and the crowds began to follow Jesus and they left the Pharisees and the Pharisees became filled with envy. And the result of the envy we see in verse 15 is “and strife.” Strife is the result of their envy.
This word “strife” means that it created divisions in the churches. It created division among believers because it forced people to have to make a choice. Will they stand with Paul or will they stand with these preachers in Rome? The word “strife” means “contention,” “quarreling,” “wrangling of words,” “unhealthy debate,” “arguing.” And this strife was devastating to the spiritual health of these churches, of the church in Rome. I say churches, plural. There were multiple house churches, and one church there in Rome. And this envy was dividing believers because the preachers were slandering Paul. They were attacking his reputation. They have a cunning way of just casting doubt, even maybe putting it in the form of a question. “Say, have you heard about Paul?” And maybe even insinuating that the reason Paul is in prison is the result of God's chastisement upon his life. If Paul was truly walking with the Lord like we are, he would not be in prison. And they began to work on the minds and the hearts of people. It is amazing how gullible people are to buy into gossip. And people were now being divided and being moved away from their support of the greatest preacher who ever lived, the greatest Christian whoever lived, the apostle Paul.
Now, that is on one side, these preachers of envy. And what a sad thing it is that a man called of God into the ministry who is set apart to preach the word of God would be so infantile and so childish and so immature as to plot against the greatest preacher of that generation or any generation. But that is the sad fact and speaks to the depravity and a corruption in a heart.
But he says, “some also from good well.” So, there were other preachers who were preaching Christ who did not buy into the propaganda that was being spread. And they chose to take a high road. And they chose to preach Christ with different motives, with good will, which means pure motives and could motives. They desire to promote what is edifying, and what is profitable, and what will build up others. And so, they were preaching Christ from good will. He says in verse 16, “the latter do it out of love.” “The latter” refers to the second group who preach Christ out of good will. He says they do it out of love. Love and envy cannot dwell the same heart at the same time. When envy moves in love moves out. And only when Christ truly is reigning in a heart does love dwell there. And so, he says, “the latter do it out of love.” And we are not told the object of this love. But it is reasonable to assume that they do it out of love for God, out of love for the gospel, out of love for Christ, and out of love for Paul, and out of love for Christian unity. We are to understand that they are deeply concerned for Paul who is now suffering imprisonment here in Rome. This is no time to pile on with Paul and take cheap shots at Paul and speak where they have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever. This is a time to stand with the man of God, who preaches the word of God, in the power of the Spirit of God. This is the time for other preachers and for believers to stand shoulder with shoulder with Paul even though they are not in prison with him, for there to be a solidarity within the body of Christ. And a solidarity within the body of Christ is a powerful witness in Rome. And it testifies to the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But where there is this fracturing, the unbelieving world sees yet more Christians being petty and childish and comes to the conclusion that there is no reality about what they say they believe. They cannot even get along with themselves. It has been well said, “the Christian army is the only army that shoots its own soldiers.” And that is what these envious preachers, these small-minded, fleshly, carnal, preachers are doing.
Now, in verse 16 he goes on to talk about this latter group who preach Christ out of love. Notice what it says. Paul writes, “Knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.” Paul says they know and are persuaded of something about me. And that is that I have been appointed for the defense of the gospel. Please note that Paul did not self-appoint himself. Paul was appointed by a higher power, that being God Himself. It was God who put him into the ministry, and he has been sovereignly appointed by God for the defense of the gospel. And so, therefore, these preachers are understanding Paul is here in prison by divine appointment. This is the sovereign will of God. This is the price of suffering for the message that Paul brings as he is appointed for the defense of the gospel.
By the way, this word “defense,” apologia, you can hear the word “apologetics” in that word. Apologetics is the study of giving a rightful defense of the truth that we believe. Apologetics does not mean that we apologize for the truth, the very opposite. Apologetics means that we give a defense of the truth. And Paul here is an apologist, as he will give a defense for the gospel. And the context would indicate that when Paul comes to trial and when he will stand before the imperial might of Rome, that he understands that he is sovereignly appointed by God to give a clear defense of what it is that he believes and why he believes it, and no doubt, why Christ is the only way of salvation. So Paul understands that is why he is here. But these other preachers understand why it is that Paul is suffering. It is because of his appointment for the gospel.
Now note verse 17. “The former,” and that refers back to the first group at the beginning of verse 15, the group that preach Christ from envy and strife. “The former proclaim Christ.” Here is the second time we are told they proclaim Christ. There will be a third time later in this section, in verse 18. Three times we are told they proclaim Christ. And it really speaks to how it is possible for the message to be orthodox and for the heart to be filled with sin. “The former proclaim Christ out of,” and Paul says, “out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives.” The “selfish ambition” means they are self-seeking. What a contradiction in terms, to proclaim Christ and at the same time be self-seeking. In other words, they are using their platform as a preacher. They are using their position of proclaiming Christ for selfish ambition, for self-promotion, to elevate themselves above the people and also above Paul. In fact, this word “selfish ambition” is one word in the original language. And it originally meant “one working for hire.” It was used of someone who could be bought in order to carry out a dastardly deed. And these envious preachers who are self-driven are those who really are in the ministry for what they can derive from it.
It says at the end of verse 17, or in the middle of 17, “rather than from pure motives.” Their motives are impure. And motives are very important. It is not just what we say and what we do, but why we do it. It is so very important to God. And that motive must be to do all things for the glory of God, for the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the salvation of others, and for the building up of the church. Those are noble and lofty motives. But here Paul says they fail that test and do not have pure motives. They are insincere. They cover up their true motives by preaching Christ. They use Christ as a cover-up to hide their own egotistical agenda. And Paul's imprisonment has given them now this chance to take back center stage, if you will, and to be the center of attention in Rome. Paul's presence here has drawn attention away from them to his confinement. And they now desire to steal the spotlight back from Paul, and this is their chance to diminish Paul's stature and influence.
So, Paul goes on in verse 17 as he is discussing this, as he refers to them saying, “thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.” This is very intentional. This is not something that “accidentally happened.” No, they thought about it. They carried out their intentional purpose to cause Paul distress. And distress is an attempt to shape public opinion against Paul, to slander his character, to discredit his motives, just so they can gain back their following and the spotlight. This word “distress” refers to the emotional anguish that they would be causing Paul, the personal shame as his reputation is degraded, the relational loss of people pulling away from him, and ministerial suffering. This was the challenge to Paul's joy. Paul is facing a real challenge, very personal, as he finds himself in prison. But to add to that, and perhaps more hurting to his own heart, is not what the unbelievers in Rome were doing to him, but what the believers in Rome were doing to him. And not just believers, but the leaders in other churches, those to be most respected and to be most highly thought of, they are doing everything they can to degrade Paul's ministry.
Well, there are similar type challenges that every one of us face on an ongoing basis just in living in a fallen world. We two face challenges to joy. As Christians we are not removed from the difficulties of life. It may be the care of a parent that would challenge your joy. It may be the loss of a job. It may be the death of a spouse. It may be the unconverted state of a loved one. It may be the contraction of cancer. There are many forces that would be brought to bear upon a believer’s life just like they were brought upon Paul that would threatened to take away our joy.
II. The Cause of Joy (Phil. 1:18)
Well, second, I want you to note The Cause of Paul's Joy. In the midst of such conflict and the resulting challenges to Paul's joy, the apostle tells us what is, nevertheless, the cause of his enlarging joy. Let us look what he says. He begins verse 18, “What then?” That means, “So what is my response to this? How should I then live? What is my reaction? What really matters? What effect does this have on me?” And that is a question you should ask this morning. “What then about this difficulty, this trial, this challenge, that is staring you in the face? What then?” Paul says, “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this.” The “this” refers to the fact that Christ is proclaimed. Paul says, “In this I rejoice.” And then he steps back and says it again. “Yes, and I will rejoice.” What a victorious Christian life this man is living. Even when he is thrown into prison, even when others are turning against him, even when his good name is being called into question, Paul is rejoicing in the Lord, just like you and I must rejoice in the Lord.
He says, “Only that in every way.” And when he says in every way, he is really saying, “in either way, whether in pretense or in truth.” Now, it was these envious preachers who were carrying out their ministry in pretense, and the godly preachers were carrying out their ministry in truth. That is the contrast here in verse 18. Paul still has these preachers in mind in verse 18. Some carry out their ministry in pretense. Others carry out their ministry in truth.
Now, the word “pretense” is a very loaded word. It indicates hypocrisy and duplicity. It is a cover-up of real motives. It is a façade. That is what the word “hypocrisy” means. Out of the original Greek language, it really means “to put on a mask.” And to put on a mask was the idea in the Greek culture of the day, was an actor, a Greek actor would go on to a stage and play a role. He would assume a character, and he would have a script given to him. And when he would come onto the stage, he would put the mask on. And in Greek drama, it would be a smiling mask, or it would be a frowning mask, and it would just cover him up. And onstage, he would be, he would carry out a role. He would play a part. Someone of whom he was not. And then when the play was over, he would step off the stage and take the mask off and go back to being the real person that he is all along. That is what the word “hypocrisy” means.
And these preachers were coming to church and putting on a mask and trying to sound so pious and trying to sound so godly as they would speak and to give the appearance that they are so close to God. But it was all a cover-up so that they could use their position of influence to sway people and to manipulate people. Now, Paul saw it for what it was. Paul understands it is pretense. Paul has discernment. Paul has penetrating insight as he is receiving reports from the different Christians who are coming to sit in his house arrest where he is. And so, Paul knows it is pretense. Paul knows it is hypocrisy. Paul knows that it is done with a rotten deception.
And then he says, “or in truth.” And this refers to the second group of preachers, those mentioned in verse 16, and at the end of verse 15, those who preach Christ from good will, those who preach Christ out of love, those who preach Christ knowing that Paul is appointed for the defense of the gospel. Now, those in pretense, preaching Christ in pretense, they also preached in truth. They were not false prophets. And so, truth here refers not to the message, but to the truthfulness of their motives, that they were open before God. They were truthful with God as they lived in the presence of God. They were not trying to cover-up their lives from before God.
And it is the way that each and every one of us must be here today. We must live our lives in truth, not just in what we believe, but in the way that we live in the presence of God. And we are truthful with God as we worship Him, as we hear the word of God preached, that we know that there is sin in our lives that we must confess. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; and the truth is not in us.” And so, these other preachers were living their lives in truth, just like you and I must be living in truth, not living a lie. If we believe one thing and live another way, we are living a lie. And so, he says here in verse 18, “Only that in every way,” one, “whether in pretense,” or two, “in truth, Christ is proclaimed.”
Now, please notice Paul's focus is on Christ. This is the third time he has said, “Christ is proclaimed.” That is what is dominant in Paul's mind. It is not his own suffering. It is not his own trials. It is not to build this insurmountable case against these other preachers who are against him. Paul has a higher agenda. There is a higher mountain to which Paul has ascended. And it is the summit of Christ. He is concerned about the name of Christ going forward. And so, he says, “Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” What an amazing Christian the apostle Paul was. Would to God that we could attain by God's grace to such maturity, to truly rejoice in the midst of our sufferings as the name of Christ goes forward even by those who would be opposing us and causing us great harm. And so he says, “In this I rejoice.” For Paul it made no difference what happened to Paul as long as Christ is glorified, as long as the gospel is advanced. Paul rejoiced in spite of his circumstances because in this, in Christ being preached, Paul rejoiced.
But about you? Do you rejoice in the midst of your suffering? I will tell you it is a lot easier to preach this than it is to live this. It is a challenge for each and every one of us. And God has placed all of us at different places of adversity and different forces that are being brought to bear upon our lives. For some of us here today it is a health issue. For some of us it is a relational issue. For some of us it is a family issue. For some of us it is a career issue. Whatever it may be, can we truly rejoice in the Lord in the midst of our difficulty? And what is the trigger point for Paul that pulls him up out of a wallowing pool of self-pity is the fact that through this, Christ is being preached. In other words, Paul is saying, “It is not about me. It is not about me having a comfortable life. It is not about me being in the spotlight. It is all about Christ, and Christ being in the spotlight, and people coming to believe in Christ, and people hearing the truth about Christ.” Paul says, “That is what it is about.” And then he circles back, and he says, “Yes, and I will rejoice.”
There is a note of resolution here. There is a note of certainty here. And even as he looks to the future, and what lies in his future is he will stand trial before the imperial powers of Rome. And they will have the power of life and death. And that is hanging over him like a dark cloud. And he has been in this prison for two long years. And, nevertheless, he says, “Not only do I rejoice, I will rejoice. And I am not going to be pulled down into the valley of despair. I will rejoice.” And at the end of the day, it is a choice to not allow our emotions to dominate our lives, but the anchor point to be what we believe and what we know to be true. And so, Paul says, “Yes.” And what a positive affirmative that is. “Yes, and I will rejoice.” Despite his personal pain, the name of Christ is being honored, and His gospel is moving forward. And in this Paul rejoices.
As you think about the trials in your life, as you think about the difficult circumstances, can you see with eyes of faith how God is actively at work in your circumstances spreading the gospel through this trial, through this difficulty? It may be that you have a loved one in the hospital, but it becomes a way for the gospel to work its way to the nurses and to the doctors. It may be the loss of a loved one in your family, but it is an opportunity for there to be a funeral and to hear the gospel preached at that funeral. It may be a trip to the doctor, but it is an opportunity to tell your neighbor and to tell someone else who does not know the Lord, “Pray for me,” and to live in a vibrant, dynamic way. Whatever the challenge is, it may be that you are married to an unbeliever and great stress has been brought upon you as you are unequally yoked. But yet, is it not an opportunity for the gospel to go forward to your unbelieving spouse? It may be that you are in a quandary about your in-laws, or about those in your extended family, and wondering how did I marry into this family? I really did not marry far beyond just the person. But I married the outlaws as well as the in-laws, the whole group. Do you see how your place in this family is God's way to bring the gospel into this extended circle of people, and how you should rejoice in the midst of the difficulty, perhaps even while they are belittling you, or while they are cutting you out of conversation? Nevertheless, your presence there, you are an ambassador for the Lord Jesus Christ. And in this you should rejoice that God has placed you where He has in this world.
III. The Confidence of Joy (Phil. 1:19-20)
Third and finally, The Confidence of Paul's Joy. In verses 19 and 20, Paul's joy was rooted and grounded in a deep confidence in the Lord's sovereign purposes for his life. In fact, if someone does not believe in the sovereignty of God, I think you just discount the joy factor 50%. You have far less reason to be joyful if you do not hold to the truth of the supreme authority of God over all things. Spurgeon said, “The sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which I lay my head at night. It is that which brings joy to my heart, that God is overruling in the storms of life and using it for great good.” How could you have any joy if you thought that everything is just random and by chance. There is no joy in that.
Well, Paul, notice beginning in verse 19, Paul has joy. Notice he says, “For I know,” not I feel. “I know.” This word for “to know” means “to know something was certainty, bedrock certainty.” Paul's joy is rooted and grounded in the depth of his convictions about God. “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance.” And the “this” refers to this whole imprisonment, awaiting trial before Caesar, all of this entire present suffering in which he finds himself. He says, “This will turn out for my deliverance. I am coming out of this prison cell one or the other. So, either it will be in my release, or it will be in my execution. But one way or another, I know this is going to work out.” And it is going to work out, what is implied here, “as God would have it to work out.” Paul's life he has placed into the open hands of God and has given himself over God.
Now, this does not in any way diminish human responsibility and our part in the sovereignty of God. And he says how this will work out practically speaking in Paul's life. He says two things, “Through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Prayers and the provision of the Spirit. God works through means. God works through channels. And these two channels are critically important, and Paul acknowledges this. One is through prayer, the prayers of the Philippians, the prayers of others. Paul knows that God's will is going to work out because of the prayers of people. Sometimes people say, “Well, if God is sovereign, why pray?” Have you ever heard someone say that? Have you ever thought that yourself? Any thinking person would think that. If God is sovereign, why pray? I’ve got a better one for you. If is God is not sovereign, why pray? Why are you talking to God about it if God is not sovereign? If God cannot intervene, if God cannot overrule, if God cannot step into the midst of the situation as the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, then you have no reason whatsoever to pray to God. You need to go talk to people around you, or speak to yourself. God would be the last person you would talk to if God is not sovereign. But because God is sovereign, that is why we do pray, because God can make a difference, and nothing is impossible with God. What is impossible to man, is possible to God. That is why we have confidence to pray. And that is why Paul glories in the prayers of the Philippians. They are going to pray him into God's will, whichever way this will go. It is as if Paul is down in the well, and the Philippians are holding him in a bucket, holding the rope as he is in a bucket. They are holding him up in prayer.
And then he says, “and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” That is a reference to the Holy Spirit of God. And “the provision of the Holy Spirit” is the power that Paul needs that only the Holy Spirit can give him to remain steadfast in this difficult time. It refers to the wisdom and perseverance and steadfastness that comes from the Holy Spirit in tough times. This is what you and I need when we find ourselves in places like Paul. We need for others to pray for us, and we need the full all-sufficient provision of the Holy Spirit of God. His supply far exceeds our needs. It would be like trying to pour the Atlantic Ocean into a thimble for all of the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit to be poured into our tiny little life. We could not even begin to take it all in. He is more than able to sustain us in the midst of our difficulties.
And then he says in verse 20, “according to my earnest expectation and hope.” This word “earnest expectation” is a very technical Greek word. I am not going to take the time to break it out. It is actually three words in one. But the idea is “to stretch the neck forward, to stretch the neck towards.” And the idea is “looking ahead with concentration towards the future,” and “leaning towards the future” in a very positive way, this earnest expectation. “And hope.” The word “hope” does not mean “wish.” The word “hope” means “a certain confidence about the future.” And that certain confidence is that God holds the future and that God will work out the future in my life. This is the grounds for Paul's joy, that God is sovereignly in control of his life and of his circumstances, and not just of his life but the imperial powers that he will stand before when he stands trial, as well as even these petty little preachers in Rome. God has the whole situation and palm of His hand.
And so, he has an “earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything.” And the reference there is that when he does stand trial, and when he is pressed about his faith in Christ, that he will be bold. He will be strong. He will be confident. And he will not be put to shame in anything, that he will speak up. And that is part of what the prayers of the Philippians were was so that Paul would have boldness. In fact, at the same time he is writing the book of Ephesians while he is in his imprisonment, in Ephesians 6, verse 19, Paul says, “Pray on my behalf that boldness may be given to me for the speaking of the mystery of the gospel.” Paul is asking for the churches to the pray for him that he will have boldness. And in Colossians 4, verse 3, another Prison Epistle written at this very same time, Paul says, “Pray for us that God will open up to us a door for the word; so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have been imprisoned.” Paul is a remarkable man. What has caused him to be in prison is because he preaches Christ. What has caused these jealous preachers to try to malign him is because he preaches Christ. And so, you would think someone might want to back off of preaching Christ just so I can have an easier life. And Paul is saying here in verse 20, “No, I do not want to be put to shame in anything. I am going to keep on preaching Christ.” And he says, “with all boldness.” Do you see that? The word “boldness” means “all speech,” or “all openness in speech,” “to hold back nothing.” The word “boldness” means “to tell it all.” It means “to testify to the full truth,” and in this case, the gospel.
He concludes in verse 20. He says, “Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body.” Again, his concern is Christ. Paul's concern is not himself. Everything is about Christ. That is why says in the next verse, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” “because I will go be with Christ.” Everything is about Christ. Every trial is seen through the lens of Christ. Every circumstance is sized up by how this advances the name of Christ. And so he says that, “Christ will even now, as always, be exalted,” meaning “be magnified,” “be glorified.” And when he says, “in my body,” he means, “The life that I am now living in my body, it is all about Christ.”
He concludes, “whether by life or by death.” It is apparent he does not know which way this will turn out; he does not know what the verdict will be. He does not know what the outcome will be. He will be released from this first Roman imprisonment to serve and preach another six years. But at this point, he does not know which way it will go. He is literally on death row, staring death in the face, awaiting his trial, not knowing what the outcome will be. And Paul says, “It is in God's hands. I have a hope. I have an eager expectation. And that can only be that God will work out His perfect plan and sovereign will in my life.” This is what gives concrete to Paul's faith, but it is also that which gives joy to Paul. I want to say again, there could be no joy in Paul's life if there was not this faith and trust and belief in knowing that God is in control and that God will carry out His purpose in Paul's life.
Let it be said that our greatest joy is to know Jesus Christ, is it not? Our greatest joy is more than merely knowing about Christ. It is to personally, intimately, relationally, experientially, know Christ. Our greatest joy is to know Christ in the depth of our soul. Our greatest joy is having Christ live in us and for us to live for Christ. Our greatest joy is transcendent. It rises above the circumstances because Christ rises above the circumstances.
Paul was like Peter. When Peter saw Christ on the Sea of Galilee, he said, “Bid me to come to you.” And Peter stepped out of the boat and began to walk on water. And he was walking on water as long as he had his eyes on Christ. And he then began to look at the waves around him and the threatening storm and the threatening circumstances around him. And as he took his eyes off Christ, and as he looked at the waves and the storm that threatened him, he began to sink. He began to go down, just like you and I; when we take our eyes off Christ, we go down. We begin to sink. And sometimes is just a tiny little thing. It could be missing a green light or something. And we just have an emotional meltdown, the smallest little thing, because we have taken our eyes off of Christ. But Peter said, “Lord, save me.” It is the best prayer in the Bible. And the Lord reached out His hand, and the next thing we read they are in the boat safe.
Do you need to recast your eyes on Christ today, to refocus upon Christ? Could it be the threatening waves that are crashing around you, and the dark storm is why you are beginning to sink, and why you are so emotionally weak, and why there is nothing to hang on, and why it feels as if you are going down? Look to Christ. This moment say, “Christ, save me! Lord, save me!” And He is right there. He will reach out, and He will pull you up. There was no time for Peter to go do anything, to go learn anything, to go earn anything. It is just in the cry to the Lord. “Lord, save me!” And immediately the Lord pulled him up, and they were in the boat. He will do the same for you today. “Him who comes unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” His arms are open wide. He is walking towards you right now as He was on that Sea of Galilee so long ago. If you will look to Him and cry out, “Lord, save me!” He will. He will immediately save you. He has not come to play games. He has come to save. And He has come to save His people from their sins. If you have never called upon the Lord, maybe for the very first time you need to say, “Lord, save me!” He will save you. And maybe you are already saved, but you are drowning in difficulty. You are going under it feels like. “Call upon Him while He is near.” “Seek the Lord while He may be found.” “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” What a glorious Savior He is. And do you know what? No one has ever called on Him in true faith and ever slipped out of His hands. It is not a matter of us holding on to Him. It is a matter Him holding onto us. And He will never let go. His grip is so secure. You need a Savior today and there is only one, Jesus Christ our Lord.