Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

To Live Is Christ


In the letter to the Philippians, Paul exclaimed, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" (4:4). For some this might seem like an unrealistic goal, and it would be if Paul had simply said, "Rejoice always". In fact, many people are trying to rejoice always and failing, because they are linking their joy with some sort of external circumstance, whether wealth, health, pleasure, fame, or possessions. How wonderful that the joy in this letter is not tied to outward circumstances.


"I know how to get along with humble means and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need"

These verses give us a wide range of insight into the personal life of Paul. He had experienced prosperity and poverty and everything in between.

Christ and not Happenings

Observe that Paul said he had learned to be content in whatever circumstances he was presently experiencing (4:11). He had learned that happiness does not rest upon "happenings" (circumstances) but rather, true joy rests upon Christ. Most people today are still trying to find a happiness that rests upon "happenings", that is, prosperity, parties, outward pleasures, and so on. One might ask, "So what is it about Christ that is the key to our happiness?"


"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in the appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross"

  • I can put others first (2:4), and disconnect my happiness or joy from external pleasures, because Jesus, who is God, gave up all the pleasures of intimacy with the Father in heaven, and came to this earth, lived as a servant, and died for me.

  • I can be happy in all circumstances because, no matter what the circumstance may be, I know there is something far more essential and important; I am loved by God and Jesus died for me.


"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ"

  • The fact that Jesus had died for Paul, automatically put all other earthly achievements, goals, former loves, and pleasures in their proper perspective. Being a Pharisee had been important to Paul and so had his earthly heritage, but it could not even compare with being a Christian and having the hope of eternal life (3:3-6).

  • "In Paul's thinking, the decision he had made was not the decision to go from good to better, nor was it the surrender of a valued possession. It was an abandoning of a loss. He perceived with horror that the things he had hitherto viewed as benefiting him had in reality been working to destroy him because they were blinding him to his need for the real righteousness which God required" (Hawthorne pp. 135-136). "All that he had formerly prized and valued, all that the world had to offer, he counted 'to be loss', a real liability, an actual disadvantage, if they stood between himself and Christ" (Erdman p. 117).

  • This is one reason why Paul did not longingly pine for his former lifestyle; neither did he view Christianity as something that had come between him and the things he really wanted to do. Paul realized that what he had previously viewed as "gain" was actually working against his salvation, and this realization helped him have fond memories of his new life rather than of his old life.

  • "Paul has given up all other forms of 'gain' in order that he might get the true 'gain' which is Christ. Or in other words, were Paul to place the whole world with its wealth and power and advantages, its prestige and accolades and rewards in one scale-pan of the balance and Christ in the other, Christ alone would overwhelming outweigh everything else in terms of real worth. Hence, from the standpoint of simple logic Paul cannot afford to gain the whole world if it means losing Christ' (Hawthorne p. 139).

  • The thing of surpassing value, or of ultimate value, is having a relationship with Christ (3:8). This is the one thing worth striving after with all your energy.

"For whom I have suffered the loss of all things"

  • The expression "all things" can include prestige, earthly fame and honor, position, privilege, friends and family, and wealth. Yet, Jesus did something very similar for us (2:6).

  • The inference here is that Paul willingly and joyfully let all lesser loves and goals go for the sake of Christ.

  • As he looks back upon what he lost, he is not bitter or sorrowful, neither is his mind stuck in the past – rather, he says, I count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ. In other words, compared to Christ, nothing else matters, to the point that all previous goals, loves and dreams are considered as not merely second place prizes, but actual rubbish, things that can be easily discarded and forgotten.


"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better"

  • Paul could rejoice always because, for the Christian, life is always good. Dying is good, and living is good. He was "hard pressed", but not in a bad sense – rather, he presently stood between two great options, two great blessings, two wonderful experiences; being with Christ and fruitful labor among God's people.

  • Erdman is right when he says, "Paul does not mean that to die is gain because life is so intolerable, but because death issues in what is so desirable" (p. 65).

  • "I live only to serve Him, only to commune with Him; I have no conception of life apart from Him. This is the passionate view of Christianity which, unfortunately, so many members of the church have never fathomed. Being a Christian is not a part-time hobby; it is a consuming career" (Jackson p. 33).

  • Thus, for the Christian, the future is always bright, for death will only liberate us so we can have a much closer relationship with the God who loves us, or living will only result in more accomplished here for Christ (1:24).

The Silver Lining

Another reason why Paul had learned to be content in all his circumstances, and could rejoice always, was that in every circumstance, even difficult ones, things turned out for the better:

  • His imprisonment had resulted in more opportunities to preach the gospel (1:12), and it had actually encouraged other Christians to become aggressive in their preaching as well (1:14). Yes, there were problems (1:15), yet Paul refused to focus on the negative news, but always kept in mind the bigger picture (1:18).

  • When we see the big picture and see all the blessings that even come from hard circumstance, we will naturally become more optimistic like Paul and will end up saying things like, "I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance" (1:19).

  • Seeing the big picture also helps when it comes to curbing one's habit of complaining (2:14). That is, stop complaining because you are probably missing a blessing and an opportunity.


"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things"

  • In a sense, the entire book contains true, honorable, right, pure and lovely things to dwell upon and contemplate.

  • Paul does not try to beat temptation by merely avoiding evil mental thoughts, rather, the best way to beat temptation is to fill one's mind with good thoughts. "Our thoughts are the fabric with which we weave our character and destiny. We must actively fight off thoughts of impurity. But the key to doing this is not simply saying, 'I will not lust' - that often has the same effect as saying, 'I will not think of purple elephants'. We must cultivate our hearts and minds with what is godly"(Sexual Temptation. How Christian workers can win the battle, Randy Alcorn, p. 17).

  • Rejoicing happens when we allow ourselves to focus on Christ and become so captivated by His love that everything else diminishes in comparison.