June 30, 2010 David Balzer

Philippians 1:12-26: Something worth dying for

Is there anything you’d consider DYING FOR?  Two animal rights activists in Bonn, Germany, thought ANIMAL RIGHTS were worth dying for. They were protesting the cruelty of an abattoir. They decided to free a herd of pigs who were waiting to be slaughtered. When they opened the gate, suddenly all two thousand pigs stampeded through the gate, and trampled the protesters to .

Iraqi ist Khay Rahnajet, thought his POLITICAL cause was worth dying for. He didn’t put enough postage on a letter , and it came back marked “return to sender.” He opened the package and was blown away.  Hard to believe. But it must be true. I found it on the internet!

But the ultimate prize goes to Robert Uhlenake (24) and Ormond Young (27) of George, Wisconsin. Who thought a Metallica concert was worth dying for. The ultimate fans.  They were both found at the George Amphitheatre after the Metallica concert in 2001. Uhlenake was in the driver’s seat of a pickup truck/ which had landed on top of Young at the bottom of an 8 m cliff. Young was found with severe lacerations, a stab wound in his leg, numerous fractures, and most of his pants in a tree some 5 m above him.

After considerable investigation, Police Commissioner Appleton was able to report the following. The two men had tried to get tickets to the sold out concert. When that didn’t work, they decided to stay in the car park outside and drink. After they’d consumed 18 beers, they resolved to sneak in. They reversed their truck up to the fence, climbed on the back, and then Young jumped over the 7 foot security fence.

What he hadn’t counted on however was the 8 m drop on the other side of the fence. Young, about 115 kgs and drunk as a skunk, fell down the cliff, but his fall was broken halfway down by a large tree. The tree also broke his arm, and snagged his shorts.

In considerable pain, he cut his shorts free using a knife. As he fell, he dropped the knife, and then landed in a large holly bush, suffering considerable cuts, and impaling himself on a branch.

The knife then landed and stabbed him in the left thigh.

His friend, Uhlenake, also drunk as a skunk, decided to help his friend. He hit upon the idea of lowering a rope to his friend. But because he was outweighed by his friend by about 30 kg, he decided to use the pickup to haul him up.

Unfortunately, because of his state, Uhlenake put the truck in reverse, rather than drive, broke through the fence, landed on Young, him. Uhlenake subsequently died of internal injuries.

“So that’s how a 255 lb man came to be , with no pants on, a stab wound in his leg, a truck on top of him, and impaled on a branch,” concluded Commissioner Appleton.

Animal rights? Political liberation? Metallica? Is there anything YOU would consider DYING FOR?

For Paul, there’s no question. He’s prepared to die FOR THE GOSPEL. The good news about Jesus.

There’s NOTHING he wouldn’t do/ if it meant the message of forgiveness went to more people. V18. As long as Christ is being preached, then he’ll REJOICE.

Doesn’t matter that he’s stuck in prison, Christ is being preached. So he’ll rejoice.

Doesn’t matter that rivals are ruining his reputation, and making things even more difficult for him. Christ is being preached. So he’ll rejoice.

Doesn’t matter that is just around the corner! Christ is being preached. So he’ll rejoice.

What are YOU giving up so that Jesus can be proclaimed?

Let’s spend a few minutes looking at these extraordinary claims of Paul’s. And may we be encouraged to do the same.

1. Trouble from the OUTSIDE advances the gospel

And the first lesson we learn/ goes against common-sense. Trouble from the outside ADVANCES the gospel. Persecution actually serves to THE MESSAGE. Look at v12.

(Phil 1:12 NIV)  Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to ADVANCE the gospel.

He’s talking about his imprisonment. And the Romans’ theory/ was that prison would STOP the message. That’s the NORMAL way of doing things. You want someone to stop something, you put pressure on them – make things difficult, inflict some pain – until they do.

But in Paul’s case THE OPPOSITE’s happened. And he goes on to describe how that works for both non-Christians AND Christians. Look at v13. That’s the non-Christians.

(Phil 1:13 NIV)  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

Paul was no ordinary prisoner. It wasn’t robbery, or treason, or kidnapping, or even JAY-WALKING that had put Paul there. He was there because of Christ. And all the prison guards knew it.

Paul might have been stuck in one place, but he was making the most of his opportunities. Acts 28 tells us that was in Rome under house arrest for TWO YEARS. And that he boldly and without hindrance preached to all who came to see him.

And his time in prison also affected Christians. Look at v14.

(Phil 1:14 NIV)  Because of my chains, most of the BROTHERS IN THE LORD have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

What a miracle! Rather than Paul’s imprisonment DISCOURAGING everyone else. It’s actually done THE OPPOSITE.

They’d been reminded of the IMPORTANCE of the message. The message of Jesus is LIFE OR . And Paul in prison, under real threat of , brought that home again.

Paul took the message SO SERIOUSLY, he was prepared to do ANYTHING to see it go out. How could THEY just sit back and not do anything with it.

Paul’s situation focused their energies. And reset their priorities. Following Jesus WASN’T just PART of life. Something extra to be added onto family and work and social events and sport. Something else to fit into the week. Following Jesus WAS life. Paul says it down in v21. For me, to live/ IS CHRIST.

Following Jesus was WHO THEY WERE. It defined them. Gave them a purpose. And set their place in the scheme of things.

And Paul’s imprisonment REMINDED them of that.

What about you? What defines you? What does YOUR LIFE say about WHO YOU ARE? What means more than life or to you?

Triple M have a new competition at the moment. A private detective is following someone around. And he’ll give clues about who the person is. If it’s you, and you recognises yourself, and tell Triple M, you win $20, 000.

If a private detective was following YOU around. What would his video show? What would his report say? What would your activities say about you?

Is the gospel just an ADD-ON for you?/ Or is it central? Doesn’t it DEFINE WHO YOU ARE? Let Paul’s situation in jail REMIND you of the LIFE AND IMPORTANCE of the gospel message. Let it encourage YOU to speak the work of God more courageously and fearlessly.

The imprisonment of Paul advanced the gospel. And it’s worked the same way for Christians SINCE then. Governments down through the ages/ like Russia or China have tried to wipe out Christianity. Yet the more they persecute the church, the stronger it grows. Tough laws don’t work. Hard labour camps don’t work. Brutal doesn’t work.

Just this week at Presbytery we heard from Darren and Naomi Read. They’re from Blaxland Pressies, and they’re going to Nepal to work with Interserve later this year. And they told us that Nepal has the fastest growing Christian population in the world!

And that’s with a hostile Hindu government. Who refuse to allow Christian missionaries into the country. And who jail Nepali Christians for trying to convert their neighbours!

The Reads are coming to visit us in August before they go.

What a miracle that trouble from the outside actually ADVANCES the gospel. Because God uses persecution to grow his faithful church.

2. Trouble from the INSIDE advances the gospel

That’s the first point. The second point in the outline is that trouble from the INSIDE ALSO advances the gospel.

It wasn’t just GOOD things happening for the Christians. They were OTHER Christians. They were encouraged to preach the gospel, all right. But it wasn’t because they wanted to see people become Christians. They had a DIFFERENT agenda. These people actually quite LIKED the fact that Paul was in prison. Look at v15.

(Phil 1:15 NIV)  It is true that SOME PREACH CHRIST OUT OF ENVY AND RIVALRY,

And again in v17.

(Phil 1:17 NIV)  (They) preach Christ OUT OF SELFISH AMBITION, NOT SINCERELY, supposing that they can STIR UP TROUBLE FOR ME while I am in chains.

These Christians were the vultures of the community. Eager to pick Paul’s bones for anything they could find. They were AMBITIOUS. They wanted to be TOP DOG. To have the top billing at Katoomba convention. The book deal. The movie rights. And Paul was standing in their way.

And so they couldn’t believe their luck when he ended up in prison. And so didn’t waste any time in jumping into his shoes. They preached Christ for all they were worth. Any church who’d have them. Anything to make a name for themselves.

But they weren’t just making the most of the opportunity. Using Paul’s situation to raise their own profile. You could ALMOST understand that! They were actually doing it for the purpose of MAKING THINGS MORE DIFFICULT for Paul. That’s what v17 says. To stir up trouble for Paul.

You see, the more noise they made, the more ANNOYED the Jewish leaders and the Romans would become. And the harder they’d make things for Paul. That’s what these vultures were thinking. How awful!

What sort of motives do WE have when we do good things? The desire to be noticed is a common one. Doing things so people will think what a great person you are. How gifted, or generous, or compassionate, or patient.

And even though we know we’re saved by grace alone. There’s always that little nagging voice. That God will accept us more, or love us more, if we just do a few more things for him. TO pay him back. And that’s a wrong motive.

Or you do it for your own ego. Your self-esteem. To compare yourself more favourably to other people. How often do you find yourself measuring yourself against other people.

I think most of us only have a go at the things we already can do well, so that we can compare favourably to those who can do them so well.

If we had a go at something we WEREN’T good at, we would look so good. So we don’t have a go.

And then there’s ambition. The desire for power. To get ahead.

And these people in Paul’s day had ALL sorts of bad motives. But despite their treachery, Paul has something amazing to say. Despite the fact that these people were dragging his good name through the mud. Despite the fact that it was dragging out his trial and imprisonment even longer. Look at what Paul is able to say in v18.

(Phil 1:18 NIV)  But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

If the true message of the gospel is being proclaimed, Paul doesn’t care WHAT the motives are. And he doesn’t care what TROUBLE it causes for him. Because lives are still being touched. Trouble form the inside STILL advances the gospel.

You see, Paul has a high view of God’s providence. That’s a fancy way of saying he knows that God’s in control whatever happens.

And the way that works with EVANGELISM/ is that God can still use blunt instruments to shape a wonderful project. He’s the master craftsmen.

Whenever I mess up a project, I blame the tools. The tape measure was wrong. The saw was blunt. The level was out. But God can still use poor tools. Sinful people. With imperfect motives. And impure thoughts. And self-centred goals. To bring about his perfect and pure and God-centred plans!

And that’s great news for US! It means the success of our puny efforts doesn’t depend on our perfection.

Even bad motives, and poor skills, can cause Christ to be proclaimed. Don’t wait until you’ve got every piece in place. (You know the answer to every question, got just the right amount of enthusiasm and godliness. You’ve made sure you’ve had your quiet time, and prayed). That’s trusting in YOUR EFFORTS, rather than God.

Trust God. Do it even when you don’t FEEL like it. Do it even though you don’t feel as well-trained, or confident, or capable as you could be. Do it anyway.

Blacktown Festival and the Doonside Festival are coming up. Are you going to use excuses? Or are you going to trust God?

The important thing in every situation. Is that Christ is preached! That’s worth rejoicing about.

3. A difficult choice:

And Paul didn’t just rejoice about what was happening in the present. Look at the end of v18. “Yes, and I will CONTINUE to rejoice.” His eyes were on TOMORROW. On the time he’d finally be delivered. That’s there in v19.

Now, we might assume he’s talking about getting out of prison, and getting back to work. But in v20, we see that the REASON he’s so confident, is because he’s covering all his bases.

(Phil 1:20 NIV)  I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, WHETHER BY LIFE OR BY .

He’s confident he’ll be delivered. It’s a 100% certainty. He’ll either be delivered by . Or he’ll be set free to keep LIVING. Either way, he’s delivered.

And when he thinks about it, Paul’s got a hard choice deciding which he’d prefer.

A Christian friend of mine struggles with depression. And he said to me that when he’s depressed, seems a very attractive option. There’s nothing he can see in this life that makes him want to hang around. And he can understand why people .

And Paul has to have a good long think about which of these two good options he’d prefer. Look at v21.

“To live is Christ”. He’s the centre of my existence. My purpose. My goal. My hope and joy. My master. My friend. Life IS Christ.

But on the other hand. How much better would be? Because then I’d be with Christ in a much GREATER way.

Life would mean fruitful labour. More people hearing the gospel. “Yet what shall I choose? I do not know. I an torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it’s more necessary for YOU that I remain in the body”

And it’s his concern FOR OTHERS that finally swings it. V25.

(Phil 1:25 NIV)  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,

The gospel meant SO MUCH to Paul, that he was prepared to LIVE to see it furthered. That’s how important it is! He was prepared to wait for heaven so that more people would be there to enjoy it with him! What a claim!

How much does the gospel mean to you? That’s the question I started the talk with – is there anything you’d consider dying for? But for many Christians today, it’s not just a theoretical question.

Like our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. For several years now, radical Muslims in northern and central Nigeria have been carrying out a ‘holy’ war, or jihad, against Christians.

“Voice of the Martyrs” reports that the attackers use guns and machetes. They make no distinction between men, women, and children. Hundreds have been killed in Christian villages throughout the state. Many more suffer bullet wounds, and deep slash marks on their necks and heads.

Nvou Dauda is a young lady whose father-in-law was killed, and husband badly injured with a machete. Then, during a second attack on her village, they forced their way into her house. Nvou said, “Because I wouldn’t become a Muslim, they shot me in the hand, and in the stomach. And when I tried to escape they shot me in the leg and I fell down.”

Up until that point Nvou had been carrying her 2-year old son on her back. She added, “I don’t know when my child fell off my back. After me, they set the house on fire. So while crawling out of the house I got a burned hand, and the child was burned in the fire.” She showed me her fire-scarred hand. She was taken to the hospital in critical condition. She would later learn her unborn baby had died of a gunshot wound. Nvou explained, “I’ve handed everything over to God, and pray that God will take care of me.” She added, “Despite all that’s happened I will continue to work for God. And even if I’m killed, it will mean I was killed in the name of God.”

If that was YOU. And the Muslims said to you, with a raised machete above your head, “Will you become a Muslim?” What would you say?

Will you be ENCOURAGED by the plight of Nvou, to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly?

Will you be encouraged by the imprisonment of Paul, to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly?

Do you have something worth dying for?

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