What is the meaning of life?


Peninsula Community Church 

June 9, 2019

Philippians 1:21-26 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

To live is Christ, to die is gain. What a powerful statement! What a statement of resolve! Someone has said that we cannot truly live until we are ready to die. What I love here is that Paul is honest in his appraisal of the situation. He is honest when he says that he would rather be with Christ in heaven but he knows there is a plan for his life here on earth. There is a tearing and pulling in his heart. He is battling being ushered into the ultimate life with Christ in heaven and living life in abundance here on earth. What he is saying is that no matter what happens He wins. He wins in this life because his life is in Christ and that means everything. If he dies, so what, because to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). You see Paul wins either way. 

It is this understanding of life that allows Paul to be secure in knowing the meaning of life for him and his purpose in life. The fact is throughout history mankind has been searching for meaning in life. They want to know that their life will count for something. They want to know that when they die they have made a difference. The question of course is what does that means to each individual and how is that played out for each person. 

We just celebrated D-Day, the invasion at Normandy. The men who stormed the beaches at Normandy served their country well. They were willing to give their life because they knew it meant freedom and overcoming the force of Hitler’s army. They knew they had to take the embankments ahead of them. They had to overcome the machine gun nests. They knew they had to make a difference. Their life had meaning and all of society owes them a debt of gratitude. 

To fully understand Paul’s attitude, we must look at the historical perspective in the day that he writes this passage. Of note this was not written by Paul in the palace or by the lake where he was fishing. This was written from prison. It was written in A. D. 61 when Paul was in the Roman prison awaiting trial before Caesar. He had been arrested as an insurrectionist against the Roman Empire. He faced the real possibility of losing his life for his faith in Jesus Christ. He knew that Caesar had the power of life and death and that he would use that power without hesitation. That is the circumstance that Paul is writing this message to the Church at Philippi. 

It is also noteworthy that this was not always Paul’s mindset. When we are first introduced to Paul, in the book of Acts, he was not a follower of Christ. He was totally the opposite. He was an enemy of the Christian community and was a passionate follower of Caesar and the Roman government. At the hands of Paul many died a horrible death. It was Paul that stood on the sidelines as Stephen, the passionate deacon of the early church, was stoned to death (Acts 8). 

But God had a plan for Paul’s life. God saw something in Paul that was needed for the kingdom of God. It was God who had created Paul with this innate ability to lead and an innate passion to serve wholeheartedly. To capture Paul’s heart, Paul had a miraculous encounter with Christ. It was so miraculous that Paul was knocked to the ground and was blinded by the glory of God that was revealed in that moment.

You see this story is really a tale of two men. Both men were fully dedicated to the cause they supported. Prior to his conversion to Christ, Saul was passionately committed to killing and eradicating Christians from Roman society. When Stephen was stoned, Scripture states that those who did the stoning took their garments and laid them at the feet of Saul. This is significant for two reasons. In part, they had to remove their outer garments in order to stone Stephen, but they also recognized Saul was their leader. He was the one who ordered the stoning of Stephen. 

This same man, who had been an enemy of God, was now a friend of God. He understood the power of transformation more than anyone else in his day. He understood the power of a changed life. He was transformed from being a murderer to being a healer. He was transformed from being a purveyor of death to being a minister of grace, life, and salvation. He was moved from honoring and serving Caesar, the god of Rome, to honoring and serving the God of the universe and all of creation. He was a changed man.

 

Paul was transformed in his thinking and in his understanding of what was important. He knew his focus was now on serving the living God. That is what gave his life meaning. Two times he alludes to the primary purpose of serving Christ and that is to bring glory to Christ. As believers we are to glorify His name. Listen to Paul’s own words. 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. Did you catch that? Paul’s desire was that whether he lived or he died he wanted to honor Christ and His sacrifice for him. 

We see this again in verse 25-26. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Paul wanted to glorify Christ but He wanted others to glorify Christ by the way he lived and the witness of how he handled the stressors in his life. In other words, he wanted to glorify Christ in order to motivate others to glorify Christ. That is where our life really begins to have meaning. Our life has its greatest meaning when we live, act, and speak in a way that brings glory to Christ.

So let us bring this home in order to understand how to apply this into our life so that our life has maximum meaning and purpose. Here is the deal, our life has the most meaning when we are glorifying Christ in our life and when we are encouraging others to glorify Christ. When we are pointing people to Christ, we are then living with meaning and purpose. 

So, the question for us today is how is my life glorifying Christ? Do I glorify Him on my job? Do I glorify God in how I handle my finances? Do I glorify God in how I give to support the ministry of God? Do I glorify God in my private time, when no one else sees what I do? Do I glorify God in how I deal with my children regardless of how old they are? Do I glorify God in my community? Do I glorify God in the way I treat my wife? All we do must glorify God and lead others to glorify Him and not the opposite. 

Paul knew that what he did here in this life would affect his future. You see we cannot live meaningless lives here and expect to live through eternity with joy. Paul understood a principle that we need to understand. How we live now affects how we will live for eternity. Imagine this cord in my hand is eternity. Imagine this cord is so long that it circles the globe a number of times. (Francis Chan illustration) That is a great distance, but when compared to eternity it would be just the beginning. 

This red area that I have marked here represents the timeline of your existence. It is only an inch or two on this long cord. For that reason we have but a small imprint on the scope of eternity. That is why what we do here is so important. Paul knew that, and he knew that he had committed himself to live for Christ and that no matter what happened the rest of his life in eternity would be okey. His greatest desire was to reach others for Christ and to model how to glorify Christ. 

You see there is a lot that I do today because of my past, but I am learning to do more because of my future. It means fulfilling the call to honor God in all I do. When we see Jesus we will receive reward or will we regret the things we did. How did I use my time? How did I use my finances? Too many today want to live for themselves and do no worry about eternal issues. They believe that they can live any way they want to and that will be okey. But one day, they will have to give an account of what they have done. This short space of time called our lives changes everything. 

The choice is to glorify self or glorify God. To glorify yourself is to receive your reward now and not in eternity. We see actions being taken today to satisfy oneself and to make a name for oneself. These things will be burned up in the end of time but what is done for God will last forever. What we do on this red line makes all of the difference. So how is your red line? Are you more focused on your self or on what is ahead. Is your focus on the past and its failures or do you focus on what is to come in your life and the glory that is to come? So, how will you live your red line.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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