Stretching forward

Philippians 1: 20-26

“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.”

Background:

  • “Expect” and “hope” are connected in the Greek noun apokaradokia meaning “stretching the head forward.”  While Paul was waiting in prison for his trial, he was spiritually stretching forward to be bold for Christ.
  • Paul says he trusts that Christ will be honored in his life.  “The apostle was not relying on his own courage, but on the action of the Holy Spirit who would produce this result in response to the prayers of Paul and the Philippians.”
  • Paul says to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If you change the word “Christ” to anything else (to live is…. my family, my job, my appearance, my friends, my popularity) then to die is loss.  Only living for Christ means death is gain.
  • Paul doesn’t know if the outcome of his trial will result in his death or his freedom to continue to minister.  He longs to keep producing fruit in ministry but doesn’t see this as an easy life. “His labors in establishing churches and nurturing them toward maturity were characterized by frequent opposition, physical hardships, and much spiritual anguish.”  (Expositors Bible Commentary)
  • Paul’s goal was to help the people at Philippi grow and experience joy in their faith.  He wanted his life to cause others to look to Christ.

Application Questions:

  • If you are in a time of waiting or feeling stuck, are you stretching forward in hope spiritually or giving into circumstantial despair?
  • Are you relying on the Holy Spirit through prayer to honor Christ through your life today?
  • Is your relationship with Christ so central in your life that you could see death as gain because it would bring you into His presence?
  • Today, what is one way you can encourage others to grow in their faith and experience joy in Christ?

Prayer

Adoration: Praise God that He gives us fruitfulness in this life and even death is gain for us because we will be in His presence without sin.

Confession: Confess our failures to see things with an eternal perspective  – realizing that we can have joy in ministry in this life and hope even in physical death.

Thanksgiving:  Thank God that He does the work through us as we rely on Him to produce fruit in our lives.

Supplication: Ask God to help you stretch your head forward spiritually looking for the good things He wants to do in your life today even in the midst of hardships.

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