LIVING WITH THE RIGHT DESIRE
Philippians 1:19-26 Princeton Christian Church 27 September 2020
C. S. Lewis, in his well-known and much read book, Mere Christianity, says this about desire: Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water….. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
So, there are many varieties and levels of desire in each of our lives. Today we are looking at our need to live with the right desire. The Apostle Paul shows us, from his own life, two kinds of desire that we need to have.
In these verses, Paul is suggesting something that is essential to the Christian life. If we are going to live together in Christ, we need to have the right desire.
Because Paul had the right desire, he could be encouraged about what would happen through his present situation. Remember: Paul is writing this letter to the church at Phillipi from his prison cell in Rome. In Christ, we can have that same kind of encouragement and desire no matter what our circumstances.
So, in this passage, Paul shows us from his own life two kinds of desire that we need to have.
I. DESIRE TO EXALT CHRIST – Vs. 20.
A. We see this first in the negative: We need to live so as to not be ashamed.
In one particular M*A*S*H episode, the character of Charles Emerson Winchester III has been on leave, only to have a woman show up at the unit who he had met on leave and claimed to be his wife. He, of course, being a from an aristocratic type family, was appalled to find out he had acted on leave in such a manner as to lose control of himself. The wedding was only a fabrication of one evening’s partying, but that was not the way a Winchester acted, and he was ashamed.
Paul had said elsewhere that he was not ashamed, and strived to be sure not to behave in a manner that might bring shame upon him, and of more concern, that his actions would not bring shame against Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, he suggested that he was not ashamed of building the Corinthians up, though they thought he should be.
In Romans 1:16, he indicated that he was not ashamed of the Gospel by saying, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”
Now he had the intense desire that he would never be ashamed in his life as he sat in prison and later stood before a Roman judge.
This tells us that he knew full well that on his own he could fall. So he needed to continue placing his complete trust in God.
Paul had a well-founded hope that he would not be ashamed:
He refers to the handling of his case before the judge.
He may also refer to his judgment before Christ.
He knew he need never be ashamed of the Gospel or of building people up.
Now he indicates he could also stand unashamed as long as he had the right desire (verses 23-24). He knows that to die and be with the Lord is the best of all situations. But, he also knows that at that time it is not the right desire for him. He knows that it is necessary that he remain. He had other work to do which would glorify Christ more and would also bring others to know Christ as Lord and Savior.
We know we need never be ashamed of the Gospel or of serving Christ, but we need also to seek to never be ashamed by our actions when placed on trial.
We do not face the possibility of standing before a real judge for our faith. However, a time may come when we might have to defend our faith before a secular judge. But, even now, today, we are placed in positions nearly every day where our desire will either cause us to honor or deny Christ. It is a certainty that we all will one day stand before Christ who is the Ultimate Judge.
We should strive to be unashamed of the Gospel so that Christ is exalted.
In his book, Touch and Live, George Vandeman wrote:
"A young stranger to the Alps was making his first climb, accompanied by two very experienced guides. It was a steep, hazardous ascent. But he felt secure with one guide ahead and one following. For hours they climbed. And now they reached for those rocks, protruding through the snow above them—they were at the summit – their goal.
"The guide ahead wished to let the stranger have the first glorious view of heaven and earth, and moved aside to let him go first. Forgetting about the strong winds that would blow across those summit rocks, the young man leaped to his feet. But the chief guide dragged him down. Calling out to the young climber, he shouted ’On your knees!.’ ’You are never safe here except on your knees.’"
That is how Paul desired to live life unashamed, always on his knees to exalt Christ. That is how we will also live life unashamed – on our knees before our Lord..
Paul talks about his imprisonment earlier in this Philippians passage. He refers to three purposes of his ministry that his imprisonment cannot destroy.
Verse. 13 – Christ is made known, despite circumstances.
Verse. 18 – Christ is preached, despite critics.
Verse. 20 – Now Christ is magnified or exalted, despite crisis.
Nothing would, or could, keep him from his greatest desire --- proclaiming Christ and spreading the Good News of the Gospel.
Paul still faced the possibility of execution for being a traitor to the Roman government. But his right desire, no matter how things turned out, was to exalt Christ
There are two ways to magnify something:
1. You can magnify with a telescope. The stars are much bigger than the telescope, yet the telescope magnifies the stars by bringing them closer.
We can be a telescope that brings Jesus Christ closer to people. To the average person, Christ is a mystical figure in history who lived centuries ago. But as the unbeliever watches the believer and sees what his real desire in life is, they must see Jesus magnified and brought so much closer to reality and the knowledge that they can be saved by Him.
2. You can magnify with a microscope. It makes tiny things look big. To the unbeliever, Jesus is not very big. Other things and other people are far more important. But as the unbeliever watches the believer and what his real desire in life is, they ought to be able to see how vital a relationship with Jesus really is to us. They must see in us that Jesus Christ is more important than anything else in life.
That ought to be our desire in life.
David Brainerd said to Jonathan Edwards once: "I do not go to heaven to be advanced but to give honor to God. It is no matter where I shall be stationed in heaven, whether I have a high or low seat there, but to live and please and glorify God.... My heaven is to please God and glorify Him, and give all to Him, and to be wholly devoted to His glory."
II. DESIRE TO MINISTER – Vss. 21-26.
The Chronicle of Higher Education in 1991 quoted a headline from The Ram Page, the paper at Angelo State University: "DEATH HAS IMPACT ON LIVES."
Paul saw death having an impact on his life, and it should on ours in a different way.
Verse 21 is one of the familiar passages of Scripture. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
We usually see that as a bold statement of Paul’s attitude about death, and it is certainly that.
It is also important to see it as a statement of Paul’s attitude toward ministry.
Paul is making a difficult decision here between what he desires and what is necessary.
1. He desired to depart and be with Christ – verse 23. That is what he wanted to do and certainly that had a lot of advantages to him. Look at the word depart:
a. It was used by soldiers and meant to take down your tent and move on. That is what we do in death, and Paul was ready to do that.
b. It was used by sailors and meant to loosen a ship and set sail. Certainly the Christian sets sail into a greater life in death.
c. It was used as a political term to describe the setting free of a prisoner. That happens to us in death. Christians are in bondage because of the limitations of the body and the temptations of the flesh, but death frees us.
d. It was used by farmers to refer to unyoking the oxen. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:22-12:10 of the burdens he bore in life. Certainly we bear burdens in this life, but to depart and be with Christ means laying aside the burdens of this life.
Look, though, at what Paul says is necessary. That is what he desires.
It was necessary for him to remain and minister to the Philippians – verse 24, so that is what he desired.
Verse. 22 – He not only wanted to remain with them, but his desire was to work hard laboring for the Lord.
Here, as always, Paul was driven by necessity and not by his own needsor his own desires.. He is willing to postpone heaven in order to help Christians grow.
Let me ask the question - Do you desire to labor for the Lord, ministering to the unbeliever, to that extent?
The church will grow, not when we have the right buildings or the right leaders, hut when we have the desire to minister and to put other’s needs above our own.
Don DeWelt, a Christian Church preacher and professor at Ozark Bible College, in the Spring 1986, issue of the publication, One Body tells of his heart attack in 1982 that left him dead. They continued to work on him and revived him. He said one of his first thoughts was "Why am I still here? -- quote. After that he had a desire to minister in a new way.
Later at 9:30 that same morning, I suffered another heart attack and "code blue" rang out through the corridors as they hurried my wife into the chapel to prepare her for my death. After anxious moments of intense efforts by the special cardiac crew I was revived. One of my first thoughts (no 1 didn’t see anything or hear anything while dead) was "Why am I still here? Why was I returned to life?" It would have been far better to have died; it seemed a loss not a gain, for me to return to this world. Why, then was I returned? Of course I was glad to see my dear family and yes, I wanted to continue to teach at Ozark Bible College, which I eventually did, But was there any special one reason? Was this just a continuation of the same things I had been doing (for the past 40 years)? I really did wonder!
It was to be answered in the few days interim between my heart attack and my open-heart surgery. Returning home for a few days I continued my early morning personal worship. By reason of my circumstances the day of my original heart attack I had not been able to get to my desk for my daily time of prayer and writing. Had I kept that daily tryst, the on going scripture I would have studied was John 17:21-24. The impact of that text had never before hit me with the force I now believe the Lord intended. The more I thought about it the more I knew this is one reason I am alive today.
What is your desire in life? Do you have the right desire? Perhaps, like me, you may agree with Maltbie Babcock, who wrote; "This Is My Father’s World" has said, "Life is what we are alive to. "The things that excite us are really life to us, that is our real desire in life.
Paul says Christ was his life. Christ excited him. Does he excite you? Is he your life? Is exalting Him and serving Him your desire? Examine yourself in light of Vs. 21:
Fill in the blanks: "For to me, to live is _______ and to die is _______ Some might fill in the blanks like this:
"For to me to live is money and to die is to leave it all behind."
"For to me to live is fame and to die is to be forgotten.
"For to me to live is power and to die is to lose it all."
We must instead take Paul’s convictions, and live by his desire. Yet this passage should also affect our thinking about death. We do face death as Christians, and we need to see it as a gain.
We, who believe in Jesus and in his death and resurrection, do have the assurance that death is not the end for us, but only the beginning.
Are you ready? Ready for either – life or death?