What do you live for?
What gets you up in the morning? What drives the decisions you make in life? What gives you the most meaning and fulfillment in life? Where do you find meaning in life? Try and think about things that are not simply moments of fulfillment.
Some things that are inconsequential may wake me up in the morning. Maybe something like a new episode of my favorite show, or the thought of a recent online purchase coming in the mail. But it’s not going to do anything for me if there is an emergency and something terrible happens. I’m not going to remind myself of my favorite show or a package coming in the mail and find comfort there. So that’s not the kinds of things I’m talking about. Hype dies fast when life gets serious.
I’d like us to think about things that will stick with us beyond death. Think about things that you find meaning and purpose from.
A recent 2017 survey by the pew research center asked that very same question, “Where do you find meaning in life?” Overwhelmingly 69% said family. Second at 34% was career. And coming in between 23 to 19% in order of greatest to least was money, spirituality/faith, friends, and activities.
The statistics make sense. It is the people, the relationships, that remain with you that give you the most meaning and purpose in life. And your career provides a clear purpose to getting up each morning and doing your best at work. To build that career, and as a sister recently put it, “become somebody.”
But you know, what happens when relationships end? What happens when they end hard? When parents divorce, when there’s abuse and betrayal? When there is nobody you feel you can truly trust?
Honestly, all these things that people gain meaning from, at the core of it, they are things that make us feel secure. And you realize that we find meaning and purpose in life by the things that make us feel secure.
What happens when that security disappears? There are two main options. One is obvious. Simply be in despair, distrust, hopelessness, depression. The second is also simple. Look for other securities to rely on. But the more times things disappoint you, especially people, the harder it becomes for you to put your trust in other things. So what can we really rely on? Where can we find a security that will not disappoint or fail?
The Apostle Paul is someone who is familiar with suffering. He is someone who is familiar with failure and disappointment.
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.2 Corinthians 11:24-28
This is a guy who knows hardship. But how is it that he writes in Philippians 1:18-20, “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”?
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we see him responding to them after a brother from the church of Philippi comes to visit Paul in prison with gifts from the church. He is writing this letter as a thank you but even more than that, he is writing to affirm their hearts for the Lord.
He wants to encourage and remind the church in Philippi that these gifts and all the serving and caring that they showed to him comes from a purpose much greater than simply to care for Paul as a person.
Paul wanted to tell the Christians in Philippi that what they give for, what they serve for, what they live for is for Christ. For the Christian, the purpose of life, the hope in life, the reason for life is unequivocally and completely for Jesus Christ. And if you consider yourself a Christian today, I pray this truth resonates with you.
Everyone living in this world is looking for meaning, to be of worth and value, to succeed and be recognized for it. But it really doesn’t matter if you have a mountain of gold if you have all of that and you’re stuck on an island with no rescue in sight. Value is something that must be given. It can never be made on it’s own.
Value is something that must be given.
It can never be made on it’s own.
And who you get this value from makes all the difference in the world. The thing that makes you feel like you’re a somebody. Whatever that is, makes all the difference. And try and put whatever you can to provide you value, nothing can compare to the value you receive from God. I pray that our value would come from Christ.
To clarify what value we have been given through Christ, we need to first talk about this thing called salvation.
The Meaning of our Salvation
Do you know that we were not only saved from something but we were also saved to something? Everything I’m about to talk about hinges on how we understand what salvation means to us. The more complete our understanding of salvation is, the more value and worth you will see in living for Christ.
So this illustration is commonly known as the cross chart. Beginning at conversion, our eyes are opened to the cross. And the value and worth of the cross literally gets bigger in front of our eyes.
As our eyes are more open or made more aware of
- What we have been saved from (which is our sinfulness) and
- What we have been saved to (which is God’s holiness)
And it’s when a believer is not living solely for God, that we stop fully experiencing the power of faith and the fruit of God’s blessings. Because it is the cross of Jesus alone that has brought us salvation. With anything other than the cross before our eyes, we lose sight of what we have been saved from (our sinfulness) and what we have been saved to (God’s holiness).
Galatians 6:7-8 gives us fair warning of this when Paul says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
So the reason why there is nothing in this world that can give us greater worth and value and purpose than Jesus is in our understanding of our salvation. On what we have been saved from and what we have been saved to.
Maybe you’ve never believed the Gospel had any relevance in your life. God himself came to earth to die for our sins because there was no other way for us to reach him so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. Or maybe you have so many other things that you are living for that you’ve lost sight of the cross and lost sight of what you were saved from and what you were saved to.
To find a purpose and value that will never fail, Jesus Christ alone must become our sole purpose, hope and meaning in life. He must become more to us than all that we lose in death. He must become more to us than all that we have in life. We must be able to confess with our whole hearts that “to live is Christ.”
I’d like to highlight three ways in which to live is Christ becomes our reality.
- The purpose of life
- Our hope in life
- The reason for life
The Purpose of Life
The purpose of life is to live for the advancement of the Gospel. In light of the reality of salvation, of what we have been saved from and what we have been saved to, life after conversion is a transformation of all things in life. Not only a new spirit, not only a restored relationship with God, not only salvation from eternal hell, but also a calling. A new, or more accurately, a renewed purpose. And it is when we do not live out this purpose that we get into all kinds of trouble.
Jesus calls us to come and take up our cross and follow him. He commissions us. He commands us. There is a reason why Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to those who believe. And it is not for us to simply be comforted when the storms of life and a world against God whirls around us. It is to live for the advancement of the Gospel.
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.Philippians 1:12-14
It is clear in our passage that the focus of Paul’s life and his expectation for us as partners in his ministry is to be focused on one single thing and that is the advancement of the Gospel. He did not ask for prayers to be freed from his imprisonment. He did not pray for his problems to go away. He wasn’t complaining that he wasn’t able to reach more people. He wasn’t complaining that he could be doing so much more if he wasn’t in prison.
For Paul, it wasn’t about being able to do more for God. It was about how every opportunity, every person he met, every single moment was being turned to the glory of Christ. His focus wasn’t on the situation. His focus wasn’t on the opportunity. His focus wasn’t on the moment. His focus was on the glory of Christ namely by the advancement of the Gospel.
Is your purposed based on results? Is it based on your accomplishments? Is it based on your situation? If it is, when things go bad like it was going for Paul, you’d feel like a failure. But Paul wasn’t afraid and he wasn’t wallowing in failure. It was because his purpose was based on the glory of Christ by the advancement of the Gospel.
It’s good for us at this point to ask ourselves, how am I living to advance the Gospel? What about my life life explicitly displays the Gospel? Or are there actually things in my life that are taking away from the Gospel? Do the people you work with, study with, live with, do they know I am a Christian? A more pointed question is, do they have a good opinion of Christianity because of me? And if they do, is it despite you? Or do they have a bad opinion of Jesus because of you?
If you are not concerned for the advancement of the Gospel, if you are not concerned for the cross of Christ, your faith will soon fall apart or you will be easily swayed by false teaching. When you are not living out the purpose of your life, the purpose God has given to you now through salvation, the Christian life becomes void of meaning and power because your faith is placed elsewhere. Your value is given by something other than God.
Our Hope in Life
Our hope in life must be in Jesus being glorified, and for Christ to be honored not only in our lives, but even in our death. For Jesus to be honored not only in our successes, but even in our struggles. And this hope does not simply end in on a personal level. As it says in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
And we also see this in Paul’s letter to the Philippians as well. There were those who served in pretense, with other motives. They stumble on their pride and gained purpose by their results and how they compare to others.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.Philippians 1:15-17
But get this! The intention of these people are of no concern to Paul. He says in verse 18 right afterwards, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
Once again, Paul wasn’t focused on the situation. He wasn’t focused on the motive or intent. His focus was on the glory of Christ. And no matter what, his trust was in God. He knew very well the Truth that Jesus preached. Paul knew that Jesus is the final vindicator and judge of all things. And as long as Christ is proclaimed, Paul’s hope was not in man and man’s will and intent but in God alone. His sight was set on the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. He wasn’t anxious about the situation, about the pretense.
Where is our hope in life? Because some people during Paul’s time in prison were being Christians out of envy and rivalry. They had selfish ambition and ulterior motives. But even through that, Paul says he will simply rejoice in Christ being proclaimed.
I know a lot of Christians struggle with where we put our hope in. Why can’t ministries and churches partner more? Why do we feel more divided within the Church? Why does church serving many times feel like politics? Because people are insecure and because their hope is in things that are based on circumstances and in themselves and not in God receiving all the glory. You can’t but help but feel insecure when your hopes are on things that can change or fail.
So when someone judges you or says something you’ve done for God is not good enough, that’s why you get hurt so easily. Because your hope is not in God receiving all the glory. By placing your hope on something else, you invite envy, rivalry, selfish ambition and pretense into your heart. You give room for Satan to dance around you.
Do you find yourself hurt by people’s comments? Do you find your faith being tested by the opinion of others? Do you find yourself comparing your faith with those around you?
Who cares if other people are better than you, as long as God is glorified, rejoice! Who cares if people judge you, as long as God is glorified, rejoice! Who cares if other people’s intentions are not holy, as long as God is glorified, rejoice! The more pressing issue is what is your own intentions.
Put your hope in God receiving all the glory. If God is glorified in you being mocked and put to shame, so be it! To live is Christ means that the focus is on Jesus.
The Reason for Life
25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. 27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospelPhilippians 1:25-27
The reason that we live, that we remain and continue in life is for the progress and joy of other people in the faith. The reason we live is to build up the church. The reason we live is to be a blessing, to become a cause to glory in Christ. The only aim of a life that is living for Christ is to spur others on to a life that is worthy of the gospel of Christ.
This is characterized by Paul as a life that is committed to a body of believers. He speaks of what it means to live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ by telling us he wants to see us “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel.”
Are you living for the progress and joy of others in the faith? Or are you focused on just your own faith? Are there any priorities you need to change? Are there anything that has blocked your view of the cross? Are there anything in your life right now that is hindering the glory of God from being seen through you? If someone were to ask your best friends and family, what you are most passionate about, would Jesus Christ be their answer? Have you put your hope and value in things other than Jesus? If you find yourself comparing or affected more by the opinion of others, put your hope in Christ. Do you have people in your life who you are investing in, sowing into, encouraging, discipling? If not, we will always be fighting the fight of faith with both hands tied to our backs.
Jesus must become more to us
than all that we lose in death.
Jesus must become more to us
than all that we have in life.
In Christ, we have the ultimate meaning, purpose, value and reason for living. In Christ, we will never be disappointed and we will never fail.