Paul is crazy
Paul is crazy. This guy is either out of his mind or he is fooling himself into thinking that it’s better to die - and be with Christ, so he says - than to be freed from prison. People are making fun of him - no surprise why. And what is his reaction?
“I don’t care.”
Who are you kidding, Paul? Do you seriously expect us to believe it doesn’t bother you that pastors are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ with selfish ambition in their hearts?
Friends, I don’t mean to be disrespectful. But I want to be honest about our reaction to Paul. I know we’ve all heard that sermon by John Piper; the one where he says, “To die is… gain!” All of us went, “Yes!” … in the comfort of our living rooms in front of our laptop screens.
A friend of mine has months to live. With each day he gets weaker. With each day the pain gets worse. Let me tell you: Death is grim, not gain. And, let’s be honest: We don’t know what it’s like to be in prison. We don’t know what it means to face death.
But here’s the thing. Paul wants us to know. He says, in verse 12:
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.
Because of my chains
He says, “It’s become clear - it’s become obvious - that I am in chains for Christ.” Because of these chains, non-Christians are paying attention to this gospel. Because of these chains, Christians are opening their mouths to speak this gospel.
Paul wants us to know: that God uses chains - God uses suffering - to advance the gospel. But verse 15 tells us: Not everyone sees it this way.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry... (verse 17) They preach Christ out of selfish ambition, supposing they can stir up trouble for me (Literally, it says, ‘Supposing they can add to my chains’).
Do you know why Paul is in prison when he wrote this letter? Acts 26, verse 32; King Agrippa says, “This man could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.” Meaning: If he’d kept his big mouth shut he wouldn’t be in situation. It’s his own fault!
What started out as a small incident in Jerusalem was now a big court case in Rome, it was threatening to affect the rest of us law-abiding, peace-loving Christians. “Thank you, Mr Apostle. Thanks, for nothing.” That’s what these guys were saying.
What Paul is saying is:, “Thank God. Thank God that you are finally talking about Jesus with your friends.” Verse 18: “...whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
It doesn’t mean Paul wasn’t hurt by their comments. It means he sees the big picture. God uses suffering. God uses chains. God uses critical Christians to advance the gospel.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
Is he saying, “Thank you for praying. I think I’ve got a good chance of getting out”? Is that what he’s saying? No, it’s actually the opposite. It’s a quote from Job 13, “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him… Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance.” Even if this court condemns me to death, I will appear before a heavenly court, before a heavenly Judge. And He will vindicate me to life.
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage (meaning: This is not easy) so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
I assume you’ve heard of something called Two Ways To Live; A way of telling people the gospel: You live God’s way or you live your own way. There are Two Ways To Live.
Today I am going to tell you Two Ways To Die. Brand new. You heard it first here at TEAM. Two Ways To Die. Get Rico Tice on the phone.
Two ways to Die
Two Ways to Die. It goes like this: It’s the day you die.
You are surrounded by people you love. You’ve lived a good life. You’ve been faithful, loving. You are a sinner. But you trust in Christ’s righteousness, not your own. And on this last day you say goodbye. You close your eyes and wake up to see Jesus embracing you into his kingdom. That’s a good way to die.
But there is another way. You die in prison. You die in agony and worse of all, you die alone. You know there are those who love you with a fierce love. But you also know there are those who hate your guts.
And your concern is for those you are leaving behind. If you had one more day, you would write one more email, one more text. You would say, “Hang on to Jesus. Keep on trusting in Jesus.”
But day has come when the silver cord is cut. You wake up and see Jesus. And something inside you says, “Gain.”
Now, both ways are good - good ways to die - if you’re a Christian. (If you’re not a Christian, we need to talk after this.) But Paul wants us to know that this second way is not a bad way to go. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be ashamed of this second way. God has given us a Saviour worth living and dying for.
What are you going to do after TEAM? Here we are learning to preach the gospel. What are you going to do with this knowledge? Join another course? What is the most risky - I’m not saying, foolish - but what’s the most risky thing you could do with your life - if you weren’t worried about comfort or approval or death? Where could you go? What could you do?
Paul says: It is my eager expectation and hope that I will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body. Whether by life or by death.