Scripture: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Philippians 1:21-24 ESV
Observation: Incarcerated in Rome, Paul writes this letter to the Philippians to encourage them to press on in their faith, confident of God working in their lives to the very end (1:6). Knowing the Lord’s grace and spiritual protection, Paul upholds himself as an example of what it means to share in the sufferings of Christ, that he might attain the power of the resurrection from the dead (3:10). Now, at life’s end, Paul is content with his present circumstances (4:11) and intends to finish strong—pressing on toward the prize (3:12-16). For this reason, even though to die and be present with Christ is far better than carrying on with life here on earth, Paul (in chains) will continue to expend himself of what resources he still possesses for the sake of the Philippian church (1:24).
Takeaway: All of us reach points in our lives when we are weary of the challenges we face and the failures we encounter. For some, the prolonged journeys through the valleys of trials and suffering provoke dark thoughts that the Enemy can exploit. I lost my oldest brother to suicide when he was 41 years old. He regretted his past and saw no purpose in his future. Often, those who attempt suicide believe the lie that their friends and family would be better off without them—a lie from the pit of hell. The truth is that we are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). No matter our past and present failures or our physical and mental limitations, like Paul, the Lord is working through us for the sake of others. Even if we are limping and drooling toward the finish line, others are watching, and the Holy Spirit is encouraging them to press on to life’s end, that they too may grow his kingdom and glorify his name.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who for the sake of others endured the cross, scorning its shame, and now intercedes for us. Would you grant us your grace to follow your Son’s example and carry our crosses of pain and anguish to the finish line, that we might encourage others to do the same? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling