Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were in Philippi. More specifically today’s passage begins with the twentieth verse of the first chapter and continues through to the eighteenth verse of the second chapter. “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better; Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy and faith; that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again” (Philippians 1:20-26).
“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which to them is an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Philippians 1:27-30).
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus ever knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-11).
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only , but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:12-18).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul expressing an internal conflict he had within his own heart and soul. As you read the words presented in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul writing unto the saints which were at Philippi and speaking of the chains, the bonds and afflictions he was presently experiencing. The apostle Paul would indeed write unto the saints which were at Philippi of his belief and conviction that these things would turn out for his deliverance through the prayers of these saints and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Moreover the apostle Paul would also speak of his earnest expectation and hope that in nothing he would be ashamed but with all boldness—as always—that Christ would be magnified in his body whether by life or death. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the absolute confidence the apostle Paul had within his heart and soul concerning the work of the Spirit within his life. The apostle Paul was confident of and through the prayers of the saints as well as the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. What’s more is the apostle Paul also went on to describe and speak of the earnest expectation and hope that in nothing he would be ashamed but would instead walk in all boldness. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely powerful these words truly are for they bring us face to face with the confidence that is and/or can be found within our own hearts and souls.
I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in these verses and I am brought face to face with this tremendous confidence the apostle Paul had in the mist of his chains, in the midst of his afflictions, in the midst of his suffering, in the face of persecution, in the midst of suffering and even in the midst of being in prison. What’s more is that when you read the words which are found in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth you will find him writing and speaking of the many things he suffered for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this being said it’s important to recognize that even before the apostle Paul received his sight, was baptized and received the Spirit of the LORD and began calling upon the name of the Lord it was revealed unto Ananias the great things he must suffer for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the very beginning of his conversion and experience and before he began teaching and preaching a single word unto the Jews and unto the Gentiles the apostle Paul would be one who was destined for suffering, affliction, persecution and many trials, troubles and tribulations. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the fact that when speaking unto the churches at the end of his first apostolic missionary journey he would emphatically declare unto them how they must through many trials and tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven. Not only this but when the apostle Paul was speaking unto the elders of the Ephesian church he would speak of the witness of the Spirit and how the Spirit bore witness with him that in every city bonds and afflictions awaited him. What’s more is the apostle Paul would go on to declare that none of these things moved him that he might finish his course with joy and in all pleasing unto the Lord Jesus. As if this weren’t enough the apostle Paul would also declare unto Timothy that he had fought the good fight of faith, that he had run his course and that he was ready to be poured out as a drink offering unto the Lord. The apostle Paul would also instruct Timothy to endure hardship as a good soldier in Jesus Christ and that all who would live godly in Christ Jesus in this life would experience suffering and affliction.
With all of this being said I invite you to consider the following words which were just referenced in the New Testament book of Acts as well as within the first and second epistles which were written by the apostle unto Timothy who was his spiritual son in the faith. I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us as the saints of God and as the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the suffering, the affliction, the trials and the troubles we will face in this life. What’s more is I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which our Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples and unto the multitudes which are recorded for us in the fifth, tenth, sixteenth and twenty-fourth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as the words which are found in the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John. Consider if you will the following words which are found in these passages of Scripture beginning with the words which our Lord spoke unto the disciples and multitudes as they were recorded in the New Testament gospel narratives written by the apostle Matthew, the apostle John and even the beloved physician Luke:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take y away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And now one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whosever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives Him who sent me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:16-42).
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he giants the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).
“And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to the tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come. Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads let him understand) then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But worse to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ! Or, There! Do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, Look, He is the desert! Do not go out. Or, Look, He is in the inner rooms! Do not believe it” (Matthew 24:4-26).
“Then Peter began to say to Him, see, we have left all and followed you. So Jesus answered and said, Assuredly, I say yo you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last and the last first” (Mark 10:28-31).
“Now great multitudes went with Him. And he turned and said to them, If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciples. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:25-35).
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you> If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you. A a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for my name’s sake, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sins. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both me and my Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which was written in in their law, They hated me without a cause” (John 15:18-25).
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor more. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I have told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you” (John 16:1-4).
“These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for within them we are confronted with the truth of Jesus—not only the truth of Jesus as it pertains to the last days but also the truth of Jesus concerning discipleship. If you truly take the time to read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture you can and will be brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding Jesus’ understanding of discipleship and what it meant to be a disciple. Jesus made it very clear that whoever did not hate mother or father, brother or sister and even their own life would and could not be his disciple. Jesus made it very clear that whoever did not deny themselves and take up their cross would and could not be His disciple. Not only this but Jesus declared that in this world we would have great tribulation but to be of good cheer for He had overcome the world. Our Lord emphatically declared that we would be hated of all men in this world for His name’s sake and that if they hated Him so too will they hate us. What’s more is Jesus would even speak unto the apostle Peter and the other disciples concerning that which they would receive in this life in response to their forsaking everything for Him. The apostle Peter would speak of Jesus of how both he and the other disciples had forsaken everything to follow Him and Jesus responded by declaring that no one who has left and forsaken anything in this life will not receive a hundred fold more in this life—with persecutions—as well as in the nexts life. Jesus made it very clear that those who would walk with and follow Him and those who would be His disciples would indeed be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Jesus described how they would be reviled and persecuted and how men would say all kinds of evil against them falsely for His name’s sake. In addition to all of this Jesus would speak of blessing those who cursed them, doing good to those who hated them, praying for those who spitefully used them and persecuted them that they might sons of His Father which was in heaven.
We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they help to set the stage for those things which the apostle Paul suffer in this life for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul made it perfectly clear that he boasted and rejoiced in his afflictions, in his trials, in his tribulations, in his troubles and those things which he faced in this life. What makes the narrative of the apostle Paul so incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it is when you understand that the apostle Paul knew that serving the Lord and walking before Him faithfully would mean suffering, affliction and persecution in this life. It was revealed unto Ananias while Paul was in the house of Judas at the street called Straight those things which he would suffer for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before the apostle Paul began calling on the name of the Lord, before the apostle Paul would believe on the name of the Lord Jesus, before he was baptized in water and received the Holy Spirit it was revealed concerning those thins which he must needs suffer for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. This is critical for us to recognize and understand for the apostle Paul knew going into walking with and serving the Lord what it would mean for him—and not only what it would mean for him but what it would cost him. This is something for us to consider within our own hearts and lives for it calls and draws our attention to whether or not we know what walking with, following and serving the Lord means to us and what it can and will indeed cost us. Not only this but we must needs ask ourselves if our walking with and serving the Lord has in fact cost us anything in this life. If you were truly honest with yourself and with the living and eternal God can you indeed admit that walking with and serving the Lord has in deed and has it fact cost you something in this life?
I sit here today thinking about the words of our Lord Jesus and even that which was written by and concerning the apostle Paul and I am brought face to face with whether or not we as the saints of God and we who would profess to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ have truly experienced the cost of discipleship. Have any of us truly received the gospel with joy—even in the midst of affliction, suffering, persecution, trials, troubles and tribulations? Have any of us made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ know that it can and will cost us absolutely everything we have within this life? In the Old Testament David made an incredibly powerful statement to Ornan the Jebusite when he offered to give him the threshingfloor, the oxen for burnt offerings, the threshing implements for wood and the what for the grain offering. Ornan the Jebusite was willing to give all of this unto the king without cost and yet David not only rejected it but would also make a powerful statement unto him there in the mountains of Moriah. David the king would respond unto Ornan the Jebusite and declare that he would buy the threshing floor and everything that was connected to the burnt offering for he would not take what is his for the LORD nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs him nothing. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible this truly is for it brings us face to face with David’s refusal to offer before and unto the Lord that which cost him nothing. David was determined to offer unto the LORD only that which cost him something. Oh there is a great need for us to recognize and pay attention to this for how many of us would attempt to offer unto the LORD that which has cost us nothing? How many of us truly do not understand the cost of discipleship and what it means to walk with, follow and serve the Lord Jesus Christ?
The more I think about the narrative of the apostle Paul the more I am brought face to face and confronted with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding whether or not our walking with, following and serving the Lord has indeed cost us something in this life. If we are truly honest with ourselves and with the living and eternal God has walking with and following the Lord Jesus cost us something? Have we truly abandoned and forsaken everything in this life? Simon called Peter spoke unto Jesus of everything he and the other disciples had forsaken to walk with and follow Him and yet Jesus didn’t acknowledge that which they forsook and left. Instead that which Jesus did was declare unto him that no man who in this life did not forsake houses, and mother, and father, and brother, and sister, and land, and possessions and the like would not receive in this life a hundred fold with persecutions and in the next life. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for within this passage of Scripture we are directly confronted with the reality of how walking with, following and serving the Lord Jesus Christ does indeed and does in fact require a great deal of us. With this being said I would suggest and believe with my heart that many among us within our churches today don’t truly recognize and understand that which it means to walk with and follow Jesus as one of His disciples. There are many among us within our churches today who have not lost nor even forsaken everything in this life for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts concerning that which was revealed concerning the apostle Paul. What’s more is I would also like to call and draw your attention to the words which the apostle Paul spoke concerning suffering and affliction in this life and even the presence of such realities within his life. The words which we find in this New Testament book helps us understand just how much the apostle Paul recognized what walking with, following and serving the Lord Jesus truly meant for himself—and not only for himself but also for those who would walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ in this life. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the ninth chapter and that which the Lord spoke unto Ananias concerning Saul of Tarsus:
“Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Here I am, Lord. So the Lord said to him, Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name. But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus” (Acts 9:10-19).
“And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God. So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples” (Acts 14:21-28).
“From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them: dYou know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and alto to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations away me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel and grace of God” (Acts 20:17-24).
“And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemaic, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day. One the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed there with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judaea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus says the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with Him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:7-14).
It is quite clear from the words which are found in these passages of Scripture that the apostle Paul not only knew going into walking with and following the Lord Jesus what it would cost him. The apostle Paul knew from the beginning that he must needs suffer many things for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was absolutely no mistaking the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the knowledge the apostle Paul concerning the suffering he would experience in this life for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul knew that in this world he would have many trials, many troubles and many tribulations. The apostle Paul did not count his life as being dear unto him that he might be poured out as a drink offering in the sight of the living God. For the apostle Paul his life was nothing more than a vapor and an offering which he could offer back unto the living and eternal God. This is something we dare not mind must not miss and lose sight of for when we think about the words which are found concerning the apostle Paul we must needs recognize that nothing he faced nor anything he suffered in this life phased or moved him. The apostle Paul made it very clear unto the elders of the Ephesian church that none of those things which he was about to face nor even that which the Holy Spirit would testify and bear witness unto Him moved him. This is something truly captivating for the apostle Paul was never one who would complain, murmur and grumble concerning those things which he faced within this life. The apostle Paul would never turn back his suffering before and in the presence of the Lord in complaining and in murmuring. For the apostle Paul those things which he suffered in this life were such that were the means and method whereby he might glorify the living and eternal God.
The more you think about and consider the narrative and account of the apostle Paul in the New Testament book of Acts as well as the words which he wrote in his epistles the more you can and will be brought face to face with the tremendous truth that the apostle Paul viewed his life as a living sacrifice which was not only holy and acceptable in the sight of the living God but also as something which he would turn back to the living and eternal God as a spiritual offering and act of worship. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for when we acknowledge this reality we begin to recognize that our lives our not our own for we have indeed been bought with a price. We as the saints of God and we who claim and profess to be disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs recognize that we have been called to be those who recognize that our lives are nothing more than a vapor in this life. Moreover our lives are indeed an offering which is to be presented before and unto the Lord—and not only an offering that would be turned back to the Lord but that which would be poured out before Him in His sight and presence. This is something we must needs acknowledge for our lives were never intended nor were they meant to be something we hold on to ourselves according to our own will, our own plan(s) and our own purpose(s). Our lives have never belonged and will never belong to us and as such they are to be turned back unto the living and eternal God. OH it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the third chapter of this epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi. I would also like to call and draw your attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in each of the epistles written unto him as well as the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome:
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind” (Philippians 3:7-16).
“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:11-16).
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he completes according to the rules. The hard worship farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things” (2 Timothy 2:1-7).
“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:10-17).
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous ness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits fo rthe revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth paints together until now. Not a only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weakness. For we not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these he also called; whom He called, these he also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is He who condemned? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecutions, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, not things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:18-39).
These passages must needs be recognized and carefully considered for they call and draw our attention to the words the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Philippi. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the first chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul you will find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring that in nothing he would be ashamed but with all boldness that Christ would be magnified in his body whether by life or by death. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul’s understanding of the afflictions, the suffering, the trials, the troubles, the tribulations he would indeed face within this life. The apostle Paul was neither surprised nor shocked when he faced and experienced suffering and affliction within this life. The apostle Paul was very much aware of the suffering he would indeed face within this life. The apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering, to affliction, to trials, to troubles nor to tribulation in this life. The apostle Paul was very much aware that in this life he would indeed experience suffering, affliction, persecution and that there was no way around it. It was predetermined that the apostle Paul would indeed suffer many things for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. With that being said, however, it’s important to recognize the apostle Paul’s understanding of those things which he suffered for he knew and understood that those things he suffered in this world and in the flesh were not for his sake nor for his benefit alone. The apostle Paul knew and recognized that he would indeed suffer many things for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in this life for the sake of the saints and for the sake of those who would hear the gospel. What’s more is the apostle Paul recognized that those things which he suffered were for the benefit of those who would hear the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that they might not only know what it means to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and not only might see what it means to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus but also that they might recognize that they too would experience suffering in this life if they wished to live godly in Christ Jesus and wished to walk with and follow Him.
As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul struggling with two differing opinions. Upon careful review of the words the apostle Paul wrote in the opening chapter of this epistle you will find that he struggled and was conflicted with being absent from the body which meant to be present with the Lord and remaining with the body and being of benefit and service to the churches. If you take the time to read the words presented within these passages you will find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring that for him to live was Christ and to die was gain. This is something worth recognizing and understanding when reading these words for the apostle Paul would declare that if he lived on in the flesh it would mean fruit from his labor. With this being said, however, he held no punches and declared that he was hard pressed between the two having a desire to depart and be with Christ which was far better. Having said this, however, the apostle Paul would declare that remaining in the flesh was more needful for them being confidence that he would remain and continue with them all for their progress and joy of faith that their rejoicing for him might be more abundant in Jesus Christ by his coming again unto them. This is in direct alignment with that which the apostle Paul wrote earlier on in the epistle when he declared that he was confident in this one thing—that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it unto the coming of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote and spoke of their fellowship in the gospel from the first day until the time of the writing of this epistle and knowing that the living God who had begun a good work in them would be faithful to complete it until the coming and day of Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul prayed that their love might abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment that they might approve the things that are excellent that they might be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote this epistle unto the Philippian saints and would speak of the conflict and struggle that existed within his heart and soul. The apostle Paul knew and recognized that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord and that—to him—was far better and a far greater pleasure. Despite that particular reality, however, the apostle Paul recognized that so long as he was present within this earthly dwelling and tent he would labor on behalf of the churches. Although his freedoms and liberties were stripped at the time of this writing due to his being in prison, in bonds and in chains he could still labor for them in the Spirit through prayer and intercession. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words found in these passages of Scripture it’s that the apostle Paul earnestly and eagerly lifted the churches and the saints of God before the throne of God in prayer and intercession. The apostle Paul would continue to labor on behalf of the churches through prayer and intercession—even while he was in prison bound by chains and shackles. Consider that it was in Philippi where the apostle Paul and Silas were not only imprisoned and not only secured in the innermost prison but were also secured with fetters upon their feet. Luke writes how while they were there in the prison cell they would sing praises unto the living God and would lift up prayers before and unto them. If there is one thing we must needs acknowledge when reading this passage it’s the apostle Paul’s refusal to be bound in his spirit, bound within his mind, bound within his heart and bound in the inner man. The apostle Paul knew that he was free indeed internally and that the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus would and could never be bound. As a direct result the apostle Paul was free to sing praises together with Silas in the prison call and offer prayers and petitions unto the living and eternal God.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for although the apostle Paul was bound in the flesh secured in a prison cell and with chains and shackles he was completely and utterly free in the spirit. The apostle Paul could not labor on behalf of and in the midst of the churches as he once did being bound and in prison, however, the apostle Paul could labor for them in the Spirit through prayer and intercession. This is what the apostle Paul would indeed reference in the opening chapter of this epistle and how he thanked his God upon every remembrance of them always in every prayer making his request for them with all joy. This is something we must needs pay close attention to when reading the words found in this epistle for within it we are brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul continuing to labor in the Spirit through prayer and intercession—despite the fact that he was bound in prison and secured in chains and shackles. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this as it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of the apostle Paul not only laboring for them through prayer and intercession but also knowing that he would labor through the epistles he would write unto them. Scripture makes it very clear that there were indeed companions of the apostle Paul who would visit him while he was in prison and would even tend and care for him. There is not a doubt in my mind the apostle Paul not only labored on behalf of the churches through prayer and intercession, and not only labored for them through the writing of his epistles but he also labored for them when they would come unto him and visit while he was in prison. I would dare say that although the apostle Paul was indeed bound in prison and no longer free as he once was he would continue to be of service unto the saints that their faith, their hope, their confidence and their love might be strengthened and grow.
As you read the words presented within this epistle you will find the apostle Paul clearly stating and declaring that his bonds and his afflictions served a greater purpose than he himself. The apostle Paul recognized that so long as he was present within this earthly and natural tent he would suffer trials, troubles and tribulations. With this being said, however, the apostle Paul also recognized that his suffering, his afflictions and his tribulations served a greater purpose for and on behalf of the early church. The apostle Paul understood that the things which he suffered was for the strengthening of the faith, the confidence and the hope of the saints of God in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul knew that hearing and receiving the gospel and name of Jesus Christ through suffering, afflictions and persecutions would indeed produce disciples and followers of Jesus Christ who knew and understood the true cost of walking with and following Him. The apostle Paul admonished the Philippian saints to let their conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ so that they might stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. What’s more is the apostle Paul goes on to write and admonish them that they would not in any way be tarried by their adversaries which is to them a proof of perdition but to them of salvation.
I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular epistle and I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful reality of his earnest and eager desire for the Philippian saints to be strong, to be courageous, to quit them like men and to be valiant in the sight of the living God. Despite the opposition, despite the afflictions, despite the suffering they might face they were to not be afraid nor fear but were to remain strong in their faith. Oh there is great wisdom and understanding in this passage of Scripture for the apostle Paul desired that these dear saints would not in any way be tarried by their adversaries. In fact this is in direct alignment with that which is found in the ninety-first chapter of the Old Testament book of Psalms as well as the twenty-seventh and eighteenth chapters of the same Old Testament book. There is a great need for us as the saints of God to recognize and understand that we have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, of love and of a sound mind. We as the saints of God have indeed been called to be such who are strong and courageous knowing that every place the sole of our foot treads that has the Lord giving unto us. What’s more is that those places where are feet do in fact tread might very well be places the enemy and adversary dwelt and occupied and we have the responsibility of dispossessing them from the land and driving them out. We ought not to be tarried by our adversaries and must needs remember that all things have been placed under the feet and under the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is the Lord Jesus who conquered death, hell and the grave and who rose holding the keys to death, hell and the grave and is alive forevermore. We as the saints of God and we as the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs recognize that we ought not be terrified by our adversaries and by those who would oppose us nor the opposition by and through which they oppose us. We might be surrounded by enemies on all sides and yet in everything we are more than conquerors through Him who strengthens us. Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in these three Old Testament passages of Scripture beginning with the ninety-first chapter of the book of the Psalms:
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the Fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you shall take refuge; his truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all. Your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. Because he has set his love upon me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation” (Psalm 97:1-16).
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confidence. One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; he shall set me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in his tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When you said, Seek my face, My heart said to you, Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me; do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my help; do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take care of me” (Psalm 27:1-10).
“I will love you, O LORD my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. The pangs of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. IN my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also and came down with darkness under his feet. And he rose upon a cherub, and flew; he flew upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his canopy around him was dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before him, his thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, lightnings in abundance, and he vanquished them. Then the challenge of the sea were seen, the foundations of the world were uncovered at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:1-19).
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the final verses of the first chapter. The apostle Paul emphatically and clearly wrote unto these saints that they not be terrified by their adversaries. These words do indeed and do in fact suggest that there were those who were adversaries and enemies of the saints of God—those who would enter in among them and trouble and distress them. The apostle Paul deliberately and intentionally sought to declare unto these saints that He who began a good work in them will be faithful to complete it unto the end. Not only this but the apostle Paul earnestly desired that they recognize and understand that they had a great need to be courageous and strong in the faith and hope in the Lord. This is something we as the saints of God must needs recognize when reading the words found in this epistle for we must needs be confident in the work that was begun in us, the work being finished in us and the strength that is available unto us. It was at the end of this epistle the apostle Paul admonished these saints to be anxious for nothing but in everting by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving letting their requests be made known to God. Not only this but the apostle Paul also declared concerning the peace of God that it not only surpasses all understanding but would also guard their hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. There is a great need for us as the saints of God and those who profess to be disciples of the Lord Jesus to be courageous, to be strong, and to be those who walk by faith and not by sight. We must needs be those who acknowledge that His grace is indeed sufficient for us and that His strength is made perfect in our weakness and that we have everything we need in and through Christ Jesus who is our Lord.