October 14, 2018


"Find Joy in Hope" - Philippians 1:19-26

 - if you ever listen to the politicians at their conventions, both main parties & candidates for President often like to try to present themselves as the optimists; they like to convey the idea - "we're the ones who can give people hope for the future"; they recognize that it's important for people to have hope - a hope that things are going to get better, a hope that things will work out alright, a hope that good things are waiting around the corner of our future

- I told someone recently that I didn't have much hope - but I was referring specifically to hope for our country - hope that it would turn around - hope for people & our culture to get more in line with God & His Word; I'm afraid that we might be in that period of "falling away" that the Bible refers to & there won't be a turnaround; I hope I'm wrong; certainly God is able - I just don't know if people will repent & submit to Him; but it seems like we're sliding down that slope toward lawlessness & apostasy & persecution of believers & facing God's judgment because of it

- but I do still have hope in general, & I hope you do too, regardless of our hope or lack of hope in connection with our nation & its future; as we continue in the book of Philippians talking about finding joy & having our joy in the Lord restored, we ought to recognize the fact that people without hope don't have much joy

- when you think of someone without hope, think about a football team in the Super Bowl losing by three or four touchdowns, the other team has the ball, no timeouts left, & the final seconds are ticking off the clock; there's no hope of winning; you don't see that team rejoicing; instead you see long faces, sometimes tears, shoulders slumped in discouragement & dejection as they sit on the sidelines watching those last seconds go by; there's no joy when there's no hope

- but where there's hope, there's joy; in baseball, there's almost always a glimmer of hope, even when you're losing late in a game - even when you get down to the last out in the last inning; even if you're losing by three runs & there are two outs & the batter has two strikes, he could still get a hit & the next batter get on base & then the next batter hit a home run to tie it up; it really isn't over until it's over; & all it takes is for a batter to get on base & for the team to start rallying as the Braves did late in games so often this past season, & the fans start hollering & jumping up & down & smiling & doing the tomahawk chop & laughing; there's excitement in the air; there's hope; & there's joy

- quite a contrast between those two situations; in the football game, the team was behind, coming to the end of the game, without hope & without joy; in the baseball game, the team was behind, coming to the end of the game, but there was still hope & there was joy

- if some of our joy has faded in our lives, it could be the result of us letting our hope fade away; if our hope fades, our joy will too; so if we want our joy restored, maybe what we need is to have our hope renewed

- the Apostle Paul could rejoice because he had hope - he had a sure, expectant, optimistic outlook for the future based on his faith in God & in God's promises; it comes out in this next passage from Philippians, as we continue where we left off last week - Phil. 1:19-26 (read)

- one time a politician referred to himself as the most optimistic man in America; I believe the Apostle Paul must have been the most optimistic man in Rome; because remember where he was & what his circumstances were; he had been taken to Rome as a prisoner; he was under house arrest; he was facing the possibility of being put to death; & yet he had hope

- you do find some uncertainty in this passage; the Apostle Paul didn't know what was going to happen to him in the future; he didn't know how all this going on in his life was going to play out; he didn't know if he would live or die; but he believed it would turn out for his good & that Christ would be magnified thru it; he thought he might be released, & some scholars believe he was released for a while, & then later imprisoned again before finally being put to death for his faith; he didn't know - just like you & I don't know what tomorrow holds for us; but he had hope - an earnest expectation based on his faith in God; & that's what we need to have too

- first of all, we see here a hope regarding life; it's sad when people lose hope regarding life; problems come, & they don't see any way out or any relief; (some who lost their homes in the hurricane might be tempted to feel that way); it looks like life is just a mess & they don't find any hope of it getting better; so some try to escape life & its problems thru drugs, alcohol - some try to do it by throwing themselves into their work or their recreational activities; others even go so far as to try to escape life by means of death - by taking their own lives

- maybe a serious illness is diagnosed & some lose hope in life; for others, a loved one dies & life seems to lose its meaning; I saw a post on Facebook from someone this week who had lost his wife in the last couple of years & he posted that he was having a particularly hard time that night

- for others, it may not take a crisis or major problem; it just seems like you're stuck in the same old rut of living, & as a result hope regarding life fades away

- the Apostle Paul had hope & joy regarding the prospects of his life - just as every believer ought to have; he lets it be known here that if the Lord saw fit to spare his life, if he didn't die for his faith on this occasion, he had hope regarding life - he was an optimist about what the future would hold - he found joy in the prospect that he might continue to live

- for one thing, for Paul life meant Christ; he says in v.21 - "for to me, to live is Christ"; for Paul, for you & me, for every person who knows Christ as Savior, life means Christ; life means that there is the opportunity of Christ living in us & through us; it's not our lives - it's His; remember Paul told the Galatians - "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; & the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God"; life means Christ living thru us; life means Christ working thru us to touch others; life means Christ working in us to make us more like Himself; life has meaning & purpose in Christ; there's hope & joy in life when that life is "in Christ"

- so no matter how big the problem, no matter how horrible the mess, no matter how bad the devastation after the storm, no matter how serious the disease, no matter how grievous the loss & loneliness, there's reason to be an optimist about your life - because no matter what comes, if you will trust & obey the Lord & fully surrender to Him, He will live in you & work thru you to turn things out for your good & to glorify Himself; to live is Christ

- Paul also had hope regarding life because he knew if he lived it would mean more fruit from his labor (v.22); continuing to live would give Paul more time to work & share the gospel & be a light in the world & bring others into the kingdom; he'd have more fruit to show for his labor when he stood before Christ one day; for Paul, living meant serving God & looking for Him to bless that work & make Him a blessing to others

- the Lord calls each of us to serve Him in various ways; & life gives us that opportunity; regardless of what our circumstances are, God can use us in some way; & as we pointed out last week, sometimes it's thru those very problems & difficulties & messes in our lives that tempt us to give up hope - it's thru those hardships that God can use us to shine the brightest; there's hope & joy in life because there are opportunities for us to serve & bear fruit for the Lord

- along those same lines, Paul found hope & joy in the prospect of living, because he knew that it would be most needful & helpful to others (v.24-25); he knew if the Lord allowed him to live, there would be a purpose in it; he believed that his life & his continued ministry in life would be more beneficial to others than his death would be; he wasn't just looking at what was best for himself - he was looking at what was best for others; he believed if he hung around in this life, the Lord could use him to help people like the Philippian Christians make progress in their walk with God

- people who let their hope fade about life, tend to focus more on themselves than on others; they like to throw little pity-parties for themselves; but we need to focus on others too; maybe it would be best for us if the Lord would just take us home to be with Him; but maybe it's more needful for others that we keep on living

- someday we may find ourselves in a situation where we might think we're a burden on others & it would just be best for everyone if the Lord would just let us die; but that's not our call; that's God's choice & we need to leave it up to Him; if He continues to give us life, we need to trust He has purpose in it & that it's best for us & for others; God can still use you to be a blessing & benefit to others

- so don't lose hope regarding life & living, no matter your circumstances; if Christ is living in you, your life is still worthwhile, it's purposeful, it's useful to Him & needful to others

- but in this same passage, we also find hope, & even a joy, regarding death; what if Paul didn't live? What if he was executed? Did the prospect of that scenario leave him without hope & joy? Not at all! His faith in God & in His promises gave Paul hope & joy if death, rather than life, is what he'd have to face in the near future

- Paul said "to live is Christ" - but then he added "to die is gain"; the average person usually doesn't think of death as gain but as loss; that's the way we talk about death - calling it the "loss of life" - & it implies the loss of everything associated with life

- so I got to thinking about some of the things Christians lose when we die; I made a list; we lose having to make house payments & pay taxes; we lose having to deal with car problems & other mechanical things that break down & don't work right; we lose having to ride thru hurricanes; we lose computer errors & traffic jams; we lose our eyeglasses & hearing aids; we lose our crutches & wheelchairs & Kleenex for wiping tears or blowing runny noses; we lose aching muscles - hurting backs - flu, fevers, allergies, & cancer; we'll lost being limited by time & distance which means we'll lose our wristwatches & calendars & airplanes; we won't need hospitals & vaccinations; we'll lose Pepto Bismol & Tums & cough medicine & all our prescription drugs; we'll lose or won't need guns, & nuclear weapons, & prisons; we won't need funeral homes; & the list could just go on & on; isn't it terrible what all we're going to lose when we die?

- Paul had hope & joy because he knew that to die was gain; he himself would not lose - he would gain; he would gain a heavenly home - beautiful, glorious, & eternal; he would gain a spiritual body - one that never grows old or will be diseased - one without the limitations & defects of these earthly bodies; he would gain the fellowship of saints from across time & eternity - like Abraham, Enoch, David, & others; death is not a loss for a Christian - to die is gain

- in v.23, Paul makes reference to the biggest gain of all; for the believer, departing this life means being with Christ; we're blessed with the presence of the Lord now - His Holy Spirit being with us & living in us; we couldn't live for the Lord or make it to heaven without the Holy Spirit being our Guide, Strength, Comforter, & Companion day in & day out; so the Lord is with us in a real sense now

- but as good as that is, it won't compare to seeing my Savior face-to-face, bowing before Him in love & gratitude for His salvation & grace, & spending eternity living & reigning with Him

- as Paul says here, being with Jesus will be "far better" for all of us than anything this life can offer; think of the best this life has to offer, even for the Christian - that marriage ceremony - that baby being born - kids opening presents on Christmas morning - the Braves winning the World Series - family loving & supporting each other - believers gathering for worship - beautiful sunsets - feeling the cool spray from a waterfall - times alone in prayer & in God's Word; those kind of things are nice; we ought to enjoy them & be thankful for them; but they won't compare to what's coming; it's going to be "far better" for the believer one day when he/she departs to be with Christ

- so yes, we ought to find hope & joy not only in regard to life, but regarding death too

- Paul found joy & hope & we can too - not based on what any politician promises to do, but based on our faith in God & His promises; as long as God chooses to give us life & breath, we need to look ahead at life with hope - trusting that it will mean Christ living & working thru us to touch others

- & when He decides it's time for us to depart this life, we can have hope knowing that we're about to gain so much, including going to be with Jesus

- if you're saved & living for the Lord today, there's no reason for you not to have hope; trust God & His Word; believe what He says about your future; & let Him not only renew your hope, but restore your joy