So, there he is, Paul, sitting in his prison cell for preaching the gospel. This is a man who once was persecuting Christians. In modern language he was a terrorist – a terrorist to the faith. But now he is a missionary and has suffered much. Check out what he says in 2 Corinthians:
“I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (vs. 23-28).
So, he has been through a rough patch to say the least. He kept going no matter what. For him,” to live is Christ and die is gain”, everything was loss “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”, and he pressed on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:21; 2:8, 14). He lived and sought to do nothing of selfish ambition but to count others more significant then himself, looking to the interest of others. But what kept Paul going? Why did he do these things? Did he do and command these things so that he can be right with God?
Paul saw the beauty of Christ! He beheld the king in his glory1! He saw that despite his rebellion against God, Christ died for him. He fought against the king, and the king died for him. Through faith and repentance (changing his mind about who really God is in his life2, turning from sin to God), he was saved. He was saved from perfect justice. Jesus humbled himself to the point of death, and defeated it by rising on the third day! Jesus became Paul’s Lord and savior! This is what kept him going, what gave him joy - the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He beheld Jesus’ beauty and wanted to live for his glory.
We have started our study on Philippians last week. We will talk about the first 11 verses next week! This is why the Church keeps going, why we serve and do what we do – the Gospel of Jesus. This is why we do youth group on Sunday and bible study on Monday. This is why we have hangout on Wednesday and serve on Thursday. We do these things because we love God and love people. We do not do them to be saved but because we are saved. We are not perfect, but Christ has set us free.