By Brooke Holt
“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. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.” Philippians 1:21-26
If anyone understood the tribulations of this world, it was the Apostle Paul. When Paul penned this letter to the church in Phillipi, he was not sitting at his desk in a comfortable office as I am today. Instead, Paul sat locked in a Roman jail cell. Arrested for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul became even more fervent. Nothing seemed to deter this man - not imprisonments, beatings, being stoned or shipwrecked (for a full list see 2 Corinthians 11:24-31). Paul was on a mission to make Jesus known to this world, and he fully acknowledged his mission entailed tribulation.
It might be tempting to read these words of Paul, to consider what he faced, and to think he was a superhuman, but do not let yourself off the hook that easily. Paul was a man who felt the same bodily anguish you feel. He suffered from loneliness, discouragement, anxiety, and grief. Yet, his challenges and emotions did not define him: “For me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). Christ was everything to Paul, and it was the Spirit of Christ that defined Paul, led and empowered Paul, and comforted Paul.
If the Lord kept Paul in that prison cell, Paul would use the time to preach to his guards, to write letters, and to preach the Gospel to all who could hear him. Paul seized every opportunity to live and preach the Gospel. That purpose and intentionality led Paul to experience joy even behind prison walls. Though written from a prison cell, joy fills this letter to the Philippians. Paul persevered through the tribulation, and he teaches you how to do the same.
How do you deal with tribulation in this world? Many Christians expect to live a pain-free life. Yet, Jesus told us to expect hardship, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Tribulation in your life provides an opportunity to give witness to the Lord. No magical pill will get you through the pain, yet the Holy Spirit will guide and empower you through any and every travail.
The question to ponder is whether you are living for Christ. Do you see each day, each situation of the day as an opportunity to glorify him, to share the Gospel, and to give testimony to what he has done in your life? Do you acknowledge he has a calling on your life in the good times and the challenging times?
Paul was called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in his day. You are called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ today and every day that you abide here on this earth. Can you proclaim with him, “For me to live is Christ”? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a "gift" who will guide us, lead us, and empower us. Yet many believers don't experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This unique Christian small group Bible study provides a space in which we can explore what it truly means to "walk in the Spirit" on a daily basis. The Spirit-Filled Life small group curriculum centers on a 6-part video teaching series examining the life-giving and creative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Begin to experience the gift today!
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