Philippians 1:24-26

Sermon preached on September 12, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

The summer job I had for three or four years while I was in university was working as a stevedore on the docks in my hometown. In a lot of ways it was a great summer job. You were always on call and they'd call you when they needed you. If you didn't want to work you'd just tell them that and they'd book you off. They didn't care about that at all. I rarely did that as I wanted to make as much money as I could. But the other thing about it was if they called you for the dayshift, you could tell them you didn't want to work that, that you wanted to work the afternoon shift or the midnight shift. The flexibility was great. The other nice thing about it was that there was quite a bit of variety to the job. You could be assigned to unload a boxcar, or you could be inside a ship loading it; or you could be assigned to a passenger ship, catching the lines of a ship, tying down cars, directing traffic; or you could be assigned to a railcar ferry and load trains onto a ship. The work usually wasn't that hard, the only cargo we really hated was the 100 bags of fishmeal. Those bags were heavy, they were a little bit porous so we'd get some of it over us—and it didn't smell very good at all. So it was a good job—except when we got a certain foremen. I'd say there were probably a couple of dozen foremen that worked there and from day to day you never knew which of them you'd be working under. Most of them were pretty good—but there was one guy who was a terror. He was horrible. He'd yell at people even when they weren't doing anything wrong. He was so verbally abusive that I can still remember some of the times he berated us. He had a very severe drinking problem and my guess is that he must have been very unhappy about his life and so he took out his frustrations on those that were under him. The good thing was that he didn't have time to spend too much time with one gang—and so even though his outbursts were furious, they only lasted five or ten minutes and then they'd be over, he'd be gone. And most of his flare-ups were so ridiculous that we soon learned to laugh them off and we didn't let them affect us too much. But believe me, whenever we had him as our foreman, it was not a good day.

But there was another foreman we had and he was the best of the best. His name was Dougie Poole and he was the best foreman on the docks. He had a way of dealing with people that was wonderful. I can't put my finger on any one characteristic that stood out—but it was a combination of things—some of it had to do with the fact that he really knew his stuff—he knew how each job should be done and he would explain it to you very clearly. He taught us a lot about the job and the safety things related to it. Another part of it was the quiet way he spoke to you, the way he treated you. Even though he was our boss and was a no-nonsense guy—there was no arrogance to him. He made it that you really wanted to do a good job for him. We really loved it when he was our foreman. I'm sure we worked harder for him than anyone else.

I remember one particular shift we were working that not too long after we started Dougie came to our gang and said that there was serious time pressure to get to get two boxcars unloaded and the cargo loaded into the hold of a particular ship. He told us that if we worked through all our breaks we could go home as soon as we were finished. We were working the 3 PM to 11 shift and we all thought it would be great to get home about 8 or 8:30 instead of 11. So we agreed to it. We worked as fast as we could and when we were almost done with our boxcars—Dougie came up to us and said that he had made a mistake, that there were four boxcars to be unloaded, not two, and that we had to do both of them. He felt really bad about his mistake and apologized to us. We all knew that it meant that not only would we have to stay until the ship was loaded, but that we would have to work even harder to so that the ship would be able to sail on time. But not one of us complained or said anything to Dougie, except that it was okay. We didn't mind at all. Dougie was a straight shooter and had made an honest mistake. It was always good working for him. Compared to working for that bad foreman—it was such a joy working for Dougie.

Are you a joy to other Christians? Do you help them grow in grace? Does your interaction with them cause them to glory in Jesus Christ? In our text the apostle Paul described his interaction with the Philippians. He really wanted to depart and be with Christ—but he saw at least three benefits from his remaining on this earth—he wrote,

"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."

Christian, why are you still alive? Why has God left you here? What is your purpose here? Imagine that you have a few more years to live on this earth. Why has God granted them to you? What does he want you to concentrate on? How should your final years on this earth be summarized? How are you supposed to be living?

Those are important questions. You need to make sure you get them right. We must not think that Paul's example was okay for an apostle, but that it little applies to us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just like Paul summarized his final years as those that were used to be a blessing to others—that should summarize your life. For instance 1 Peter 4:10 says,

"Each one should use
whatever gift he has received
to serve others,
faithfully administering God's grace
in its various forms."

And 1 Corinthians 12:7 states,

"Now to each one
the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for the common good."

No, your final years should be summarized just like the apostle Paul's. In our text Paul gives three out-workings of living for Christ—three things that summed up Paul's life, three reasons why God didn't take him to heaven sooner. We should pay very close attention to them for they show us much of what Christian living is about.

But before we look to the three reasons I want to make a preliminary point that we should keep in mind as we go through Paul's reasons. This preliminary point is by way of contrast. For what we see is that

there was nothing of 'self' in Paul's reasons for continued living.

Paul's life was not about himself—it was about Christ and His glory and helping other Christians be better Christians.

So often today we find Christians who are not focusing on Christ like they should. They're all about themselves. They want to be noticed. They want to be honored. They want to be praised. Their needs, their desires—those are the things that are important. It's all about them.

This past week I was reading a blog of a Christian software company and the guy who wrote it told a story from his youth. He said that a Bible study leader relayed what a girl he knew had said about him. She said,

"David's a nice guy but he sure talks about himself a lot."

It reminded me of the joke about the egotistical person who finished talking about himself by saying,

"I've said enough about myself. Now, tell me, what do you think of me?"

There was nothing like that in Paul. Paul put himself last and put others first. He truly practiced what he preached. In Philippians 2:3–8 Paul commanded the Philippian Christians with these words,

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition
or vain conceit,
but in humility consider
others better than yourselves.
Each of you should look
not only to your own interests,
but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same
as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant…"

Paul truly had the attitude of John the Baptist had, that every Christian should have. In John 3:30 (ESV) John said about Jesus,

"He must increase,
but I must decrease."

So as we go through the reasons why God left Paul on earth for the last years of his life, notice how Paul was not living for himself, for his good, for his pleasure, for his own satisfaction, for his glory. Quite the contrary, he was living for Christ, for His kingdom, for His glory.

So, keeping that in mind, let's look at the three reasons why God allowed Paul to go on living.

First of all, Paul said that God allowed him to remain alive

so that other Christians would progress in the faith.

One of Paul's great goals was to help the Philippian Christians make progress in the faith.

We Christians are supposed to be growing in the faith. We are to use the means of grace so that you will not stay the same but make progress and become better Christians, better servants of Jesus Christ.

Not one of us is perfect. Not one of us is without sin. We all have growing to do. As Paul wrote about himself in Philippians 3:12–15,

"Not that I have already obtained all this,
or have already been made perfect,
but I press on to take hold of that
for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Brothers, I do not consider myself
yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind
and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win the prize
for which God has called me
heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are mature
should take such a view of things."

This applies to all of us. Christians are to be growing in grace. As Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:15,

"Be diligent in these matters;
give yourself wholly to them,
so that everyone may see your progress."

According to Philippians 1:9 your love is to be growing. Paul wrote,

"And this is my prayer:
that your love may abound
more and more in knowledge
and depth of insight,"

According to Philippians 2:12 you are to be growing in obedience—you are to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. In Philippians 1:11 Paul also told them that he wanted them to be,

"filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ—
to the glory and praise of God."

The more one has the fruit of righteousness, the more God is honored and praised.

The great truth we see here is that
Paul was going to help the Philippians make progress in the faith. His contact with them was going to be for their good. He was very good at what the author of Hebrews wrote about in Hebrews 10:24–25,

"And let us consider how we may
spur one another on
toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together,
as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another—
and all the more as you see
the Day approaching."

Paul knew how to do that. You are to know how to do that. In Romans 15:14 he wrote these words to the Roman Christians,

"I myself am convinced, my brothers,
that you yourselves are full of goodness,
complete in knowledge
and competent to instruct one another."

And in Colossians 3:16 Paul wrote,

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
as you teach and admonish one another
with all wisdom, and as you sing
psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God."

And in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 he wrote,

"Therefore encourage one another
and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing."

Are you good at helping other Christians grow in the faith? You should be. That's one of the primary reasons you are here.

Of we have to be careful here.

We have to beware of being like the Pharisees who were blind to their own sin and focused on the sin of others. In Matthew 7:3–5 Jesus said to them,

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust
in your brother's eye and pay no attention
to the plank in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
'Let me take the speck out of your eye,'
when all the time there is a plank
in your own eye? You hypocrite,
first take the plank out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly
to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

You must not go around being all super spiritual, being puffed up with pride and pretend that you have it all together and that all you have left to do is to help others.

If you're truly going to be a blessing to others you need first to be
rigorous with yourself, in self-examination, in struggling against sin, in being somewhat successful in rooting it out of your life. But no matter how well you do that, you're never going to be perfect in this life. (1 John 1:8, Philippians 3:12) Thus if you're going to be a blessing to others you need to be humble and depend for your strength on Jesus. You'll put yourself last and esteem others better than yourself and seek to serve them for their spiritual good. As Peter put it in 1 Peter 4:11

"If anyone serves,
he should do it
with the strength God provides,
so that in all things God
may be praised through Jesus Christ."

It's not about you. It's about God's glory, about God being praised. You are to make it so evident that it is not you, but God's grace—that people are not to focus on you—but are to look past you to God and His glory. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:16

"In the same way,
let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds
and praise your Father in heaven."

The second reason God allowed Paul to remain alive was

so that other Christians would have joy in the faith.

Paul continued to live for the Philippians 'progress and joy in the faith'. You Christians should have great joy. You have Christ. Having Him you have the greatest thing in the world. You have the pearl of great price. You have the Good Shepherd. You have the greatest treasure of all. In Christ you have everything. As Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, (1 Corinthians 3:21–23)

"All things are yours,
whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas
or the world or life or death
or the present or the future—all are yours,
and you are of Christ,
and Christ is of God."

Not matter what your earthly circumstances you ought to be realize what you have in Christ and be rejoicing in Him. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy. In this letter to the Philippians Paul was constantly reminding the Philippians to rejoice. As he said in Philippians 4:4

"Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it again: Rejoice!"

Do you help other Christians have joy? I actually think this is one of the greatest failings of many of us Christians today. We don't realize what we have in Christ and we go about moaning and complaining like the Israelites under Moses. We're downers. Paul had to tell the Philippians not to be like that. In Philippians 2:14 he wrote,

"Do everything
without complaining or arguing,"

The only possible way you can help other Christians have joy in the faith is by yourself knowing the joy that only the Lord can give.

Don't be a downer. Don't ever be like that. Be a Christian who lives in such a way that when other Christians see you, they won't want to avoid you—but they'll want to be around you, because you help them have joy in the Lord.

The third reason God allowed Paul to remain alive was

so that the Philippians would have abounding glory in Christ through Paul.

The NIV reads,

"so that through my being with you again
your joy in Christ Jesus
will overflow on account of me."

The word that is translated 'joy' here is not the same word that occurred in the previous verse. Joy is a good translation, but it's perhaps not the best. The word here is a stronger word. (Silva, Philippians p. 76) The word denotes 'boasting' in a good sense, it denotes 'glorying'. Paul says that his being with them will cause their glorying in Jesus to overflow. That's what's in view here—glorying in Jesus Christ—enjoying Him and His salvation—and praising and lifting His name high.

You all know 1 Corinthians 1:31 which says,

"Let him who boasts
boast in the Lord."

You Christians are to glory in Christ. As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:3 spoke of Jewish Christians and said,

"For it is we who are the circumcision,
we who worship by the Spirit of God,
who glory in Christ Jesus,
and who put no confidence in the flesh—"

But the great point here is that you aren't just to glory in Christ yourself, you are to help others boast and glory in Him too.

Do you do that? Unfortunately we know very few people who help us exult in Christ.
But that's what you are called to. You are to live so that others will see Christ living in you. Your life, your presences is to cause others to overflow in glorying in Jesus. There's only one way to do that—as Paul summarized his life in verse 21,

"For to me, to live is Christ"

Live for Jesus, shine for Him, and glory in Him. Help others to do the same.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. I urge you,

don't waste any more of your life.

God has given you the last few months you've had on this earth to bring him glory. But you haven't. You've wasted those months. You dare not waste any more. In Luke 13:6–9 Jesus told a parable that you need to pay attention take to heart. He said,

"A man had a fig tree,
planted in his vineyard,
and he went to look for fruit on it,
but did not find any.
So he said to the man
who took care of the vineyard,
'For three years now I've been coming
to look for fruit on this fig tree
and haven't found any.
Cut it down!
Why should it use up the soil?'
'Sir,' the man replied,
'leave it alone for one more year,
and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.
If it bears fruit next year, fine!
If not, then cut it down."

Produce fruit before it's too late. Go to Jesus. Only He can make you fruitful.