6th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, I’m sure you know what it’s like. At some point or another I’m sure it’s happened to you. Monday morning rolls around- and you hear it – that rude, annoying, disrupting, offensive sound – BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! “What! Morning already! It can’t be! Come on! You’re kidding!” The moment’s rest is up, it’s over and it’s back to the old, daily, rigorous grind again and all you want to do is stuff your head back in the pillow and push the big pause button on life. Just want everything to stop so you don’t have to face the day. Have you ever been there before? Your body aches as you stumble out of bed… “Here we go again. Another day.” How do you wake up in the morning?
It can be easy for us to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning, drag ourselves off to work, drag ourselves through the day and then repeat it all over again and again and again. No doubt that’s exactly how many people go through life. Ho-hum, just making it through, just surviving, etc. But is that really what God wants for us? Is that really God’s will and plan for Christians like you and me? How does God want us to view life?
We’ve been working our way through the book of Philippians. God’s inspired apostle Paul was most likely sitting in house arrest in Rome when he wrote the letter to the Christians living in Philippi. He was awaiting his trial before the emperor or one of the emperor’s officials. He’s on trial not because of a crime he committed but because he was preaching the gospel about Jesus. There’s apparently a possibility that Paul could be sentenced to death – and to Paul that’d be fine with him. From our perspective looking back we’re able to know that Paul was in fact released from this first imprisonment. A few years after this, however, Paul would again be arrested and then put in a dungeon and suffer a martyr’s death. But at this point there is a greater possibility that Paul will be set free – that he will go on living.
Now God has given us the example of the apostle Paul for our learning. How do you suppose the apostle Paul approached living day to day, getting up in the morning, facing life? We get a bit of a picture in verse 20, don’t we? He said, “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.” Does this sound like the words of a man who approached life: Well, here we go again, another day, back to the old grind, what’s the use, etc? Hardly! No, these are the words of someone with purpose, determination, meaning in life. You see, the purpose for which Paul viewed his life was always to exalt or glorify Christ in every way. No matter what happened Paul continued to have a positive outlook on life and a joyful attitude no matter what the circumstance was.
We are always faced with a dilemma in every situation that we find ourselves in: Glorify the Lord OR something else. When I wake up in the morning: today is a day full opportunities to serve and exalt my Savior! OR Here goes another day, what can I get done for myself today, etc. If something good happens, either take the credit or give all glory to God. If something bad happens, either become bitter, angry, upset, or trust in the Lord to take care of us and continually serve him.
As Christians we’re faced with dilemmas, decisions, choices every day of our lives. Every day is a battle between the believer side of me, my new man, and my old sinful flesh that will cling to me until my dying day. My sinful flesh wants nothing to do with God, the last thing it wants is to glorify God. My sinful flesh views life from a purely selfish position: how can I please me? How can I glorify me? How can I exalt me? It’s prone laziness and loves to give us and others the impression that life in general is intolerable, oppressive, unbearable, what’s the point. And if we’re honest with ourselves each of us has to admit we’ve given in to our sinful side again and again and the result is never satisfying, is never fulfilling, because that’s not what God created us for. The result of listening to our sinful side is that it drives us further from God and further from true and lasting joy.
But was Paul any different? Did he not have a sinful side too? Certainly. But he had exactly what you and I have too. When you were baptized your sinful nature was drown and God gave you a new man, a believer side of you. And your believer side has a limitless source of ammunition in its daily battle against your sinful flesh: the gospel. In these 7 verses Paul mentioned the word “Christ” 5 times. Knowing Christ made all the difference to him and it still does for us. Jesus used His entire life to glorify God, everything He did He did it to glorify and exalt God’s name. And He did so for you! In your place! And what exactly brought the most glory to God? It was for Jesus to take His perfect life and willingly lay it down in the most unglorious way on the cross. Why? To redeem, purchase, and win your soul, to rescue you and me from hell and to give us the ultimate glory of heaven.
Knowing that can’t help but change our approach to life in general. Since God has already done everything needed for my salvation and has given me heaven as a free gift, I can’t help but rejoice! I can’t help but live to give Him glory. If I were to tell you, “Wow! My wife is such an awesome cook! You’ve got to try one of these amazing cookies she made!” Saying something like that would be “glorifying” her name. Our opportunities for glorifying our God’s name abound. God says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Eating your supper can be a way of glorifying God as you do so to care for your God-given body and with a thankful heart to God for providing it for you. Going to work each day can be done to glorify God as you work hard and are diligent because you work for your employer as if you’re working for God. And knowing this gives meaning to life. If you’re looking for meaning and purpose in life when you get out of the bed in the morning ask yourself, “Am I using my life to give glory to God?” The ultimate fulfillment in life is found in glorifying God’s name, in exalting His name. And when you do that, when you ask yourself that question, “How can I give glory to God in this situation?” “How can I uplift God’s name in this circumstance?” When you do that you will have more contentment, more hopefulness in life, and more joy. Why? Because you’re using your life for the way that God intended it to be used.
The second half of our text gives us the second aspect to living for Christ. Earlier in his ministry Paul had been given a glimpse of heaven. He saw a glimpse of what life is like after this life. He knew purely for himself that dying would be better by far because he would be with Christ. But notice what he said, “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.”
Thankfully the ultimate authority of Paul’s life or death was determined by God. But notice Paul’s heart of service. He knows being with Jesus is better by far, but for the sake of the Philippians and other Christians he knows he will go on living so that their faith and joy may increase through him. He is confident that God will work things out for his release so that he will be permitted to return and share the gospel with the Philippians. He knows that his life has an effect on others and that God will use him for fruitful labor for others.
The same is true for you and me. If you are alive, if your heart is beating, if your lungs continue to inhale and exhale, if your body temperature is still around 98 degrees, that means God has fruitful labor for you, God has work for you to do, you have opportunity to live for Christ.
Someone once commented that every day is like Christmas to God. He lays out all these different good things before each one of His people, opportunities to serve Him, opportunities to serve Him by serving other people, opportunities to encourage, to teach, to share the gospel, to care for others, etc. Then God watches and smiles wondering which ones His children are going to open today.
So, how are you going to wake up tomorrow morning? Another day of the same old, same old, another day of the grind, ho-hum? Hardly! Every day you are alive you get to bask in the joy of living for Christ- using your life to give Him glory and remaining here for fruitful labor! Amen.