Bible Ballistics: Vol. 12 No. 01 Don’t Miss The Little Things!!!
We often look at scripture cursorily (going rapidly over something, without noticing details; hastily; superficially) and miss things that can make a difference in how we understand what we are reading. I want us to consider a passage that has some small words that make a real difference.
“For to me
and to die
is gain.” Philippians 1:21
We often hear this verse quoted as “to live is Christ, and to dies is gain”, and while that is partially true, it gives a false impression of what Paul is saying, so we must look at the extended context of this passage and find that Paul said that “to me”, “to live is Christ”! Paul is encouraging the Philippian believers by sharing his sufferings for the sake of the gospel with them, he points out that many were being encouraged to boldness because of his perseverance in suffering. Yet not everyone was ‘living’ for Christ Jesus!
“And many of the brethren in the Lord,
waxing confident by my bonds,
are much more bold
to speak the word
15 Some indeed preach Christ
even of envy
and some also
of good will:
16 The one preach Christ of contention,
supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
17 But the other of love,
knowing that I am set
for the defence of the gospel.
18 What then?
notwithstanding, every way,
whether in pretence,
or in truth,
Christ is preached;
and I therein do rejoice,
yea, and will rejoice.
19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation
through your prayer,
and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20 According to my earnest expectation
and my hope,
that in nothing I shall be ashamed,
but that with all boldness,
so now also
Christ shall be magnified
in my body,
whether it be by life,
or by death.” Philippians 1:14-20
Paul can rejoice, though he is in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, glad that his fellow believers in Philippi are being encouraged and growing in grace despite his suffering (and theirs) for the Gospel of Jesus! He also reminds them that the gospel has not only genuine followers, but also detractors—yet God is still in charge!
Paul reminds them and us that we can have total confidence in truth, because God is ever at work in “all things” and that he was assured that “whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached”, and we can trust our God to glorify HIS Son! At the same time, I pray that we will grasp the confidence that Paul is sharing with us, that we can depend on our God to accomplish HIS purpose, even when we don’t understand what is going on as we work and testify for HIM! Paul reiterates His confidence in the faithfulness of God, the Philippians, and even shares his confidence that God will deliver him (“my salvation”=his salvation from prison not from sin!) through their prayers for him. All of this context leads to verse 21 that we started with—that Paul is confident in God’s plan for him whether he lives or dies—that is why he could proclaim that “to me to live, is Christ”, and while he would love to continue his ministry for Jesus in the flesh—he longs to be with Jesus—that is “gain”!!! Yet Paul was willing to do whatever God had for him to do, for as long as God saw fit for him to help others! How do we assess things—by God’s standard or our own? Are we serving God? Others? Or self? Can we take Paul’s words for our own?
“For to me
and to die
22 But if I live in the flesh,
this is the fruit of my labour:
yet what I shall choose
I wot not.
23 For I am in a strait betwixt two,
having a desire to depart,
and to be with Christ;
which is far better:
24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh
is more needful for you.” Philippians 1:21-24
This is the same principle that Paul shared with the Galatians in a little different way! To be where God wants us to be, doing what God wants us to do—for HIS glory, and the good of others as well as ourselves—the crucified life:
“I am crucified with Christ:
nevertheless I live;
yet not I,
but Christ liveth in me:
and the life which I now live
in the flesh
I live by the faith
of the Son of God,
who loved me,
and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
So as we consider these things, may we truly say that “to me” to lives is Jesus ‘living in me’? It is the prayer of my heart—that I can truly be a reflection of Jesus to those God places in my path, and you and I/we can only accomplish that as we “walk in the Spirit” and “abide” in Jesus.
“Abide in me,
and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,
except it abide in the vine;
no more can ye,
except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine,
ye are the branches:
He that abideth in me,
and I in him,
the same bringeth forth much fruit:
for without me
ye can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
It’s all about leaning to ‘abide’ in HIM and ‘walk’ in the power and direction of His Holy Spirit, so that we can produce real fruit that brings Him glory—because it is all:
“For of him,
and through him,
and to him,
are all things:
to whom be glory
for ever. Amen.” Romans 11:36
We need a mindset focused on pursuing God, continually desiring to hear “well done, thou good and faithful servant”, but the choice is ours. We choose the building materials of our life, and Paul describes the difference in his letter to the Corinthians. Paul had laid a foundation of truth when he shared the Gospel of Jesus with them—the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, for our sin (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-7)–and we can only build on that foundation—the only foundation, Jesus—“the way….the truth….the life…” for “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”—there is only One Way! When we belong to Jesus we can choose to yield to His Spirit’s work and leading in us or we can try to “wing it” in our own strength and will—a blueprint for trouble—the difference between the precious building materials that Paul calls ‘gold, silver and precious stones’ and the futility of earthly things of ‘wood, hay and stubble’! What will you choose?
“According to the grace of God
which is given unto me,
as a wise masterbuilder,
I have laid the foundation,
and another buildeth thereon.
But let every man take heed
how he buildeth thereupon.
11 For other foundation
can no man lay
than that is laid,
which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest:
for the day shall declare it,
because it shall be revealed by fire;
and the fire shall try every man’s work
of what sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide
which he hath built thereupon,
he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned,
he shall suffer loss:
but he himself shall be saved;
yet so as by fire.
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God
dwelleth in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:10-16
We can please God only when we do things His way, with His provision—only God can create ‘gold, silver and precious stones’—the are material elements of creation. On the other hand we can grow the basics materials of ‘wood, hay and stubble’—but the fire is the test. The things of God will pass through the fire; the other will leave only a pile of ashes!!! May we follow the example of our Savior and seek to do God’s work, God’s way!
“Jesus saith unto them,
My meat is to do the will of him
that sent me,
and to finish his work.” John 4:34
And to know God’s will and way we must pursue and long for His Words—even the small ones, if not especially the small ones! Paul faced these issues many years ago, yet they are still “alive and well” in our culture today. We must choose each day whether we will go His way or not! We must read all the words—big and small—and apply them to our lives, not just pick and choose to go our own way, justifying our disobedient choices as we go!
“This I say then,
Walk in the Spirit,
and ye shall not fulfil
the lust of the flesh…….
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is
against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ’s
have crucified the flesh
with the affections
25 If we live in the Spirit,
let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not be desirous of
provoking one another,
envying one another.” Galatians 5:16, 22-26
Did you notice that little word, “if”? If we “live in the Spirit” we ought to “walk in the Spirit”, rather than to pursue “vain glory”, or to be “provoking”, or “envying one another”! Our “walk” needs to match our “talk”, as we sometimes hear in the modern proverb, “You may talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?” Many around us today are busy talking in a way that is provocative, full of envy and vain glory—self seeking seems to be the order of the day, rather than selfless pursuit of God’s purposes—may we ever choose Jesus’ way!
Simply put, I pray that we will keep our focus on our Lord Jesus, pursuing His pleasure not our own—not missing the little things because we’re in a hurry, or just don’t want to be bothered by the truth—feasting on His words, all of them! Glorying in Jesus not anything else!
“But God forbid that I should glory,
save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom the world is crucified unto me,
and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14
May we ever keep our focus on the cross, and the Savior who gave Himself for us there, growing more and more into HIS image. Looking to HIM in all things.
“Looking unto Jesus
of our faith;
who for the joy that was set before him
endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and is set down
at the right hand
of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
May we join the faithful mentioned in Hebrews 11, and as the gospel song says, “May all who come behind us find us faithful” (Find Us Faithful, by John Mohr), remembering that God is ever at work in us all the time—
in every way— in every situation—
in every crisis— in every triumph—
for our good and His glory—and God never says “oops”!
Amen and Amen!!!