Welcome back everyone to week three of our study on the book of Philippians that we are calling “The Ultimate Guide to Life & Love.”  I’m so excited about this and am hoping that three weeks in you are already understanding just how relevant and timely the book of Philippians can be for our lives today.  We are living in difficult and confusing times.  It feels like we cannot turn on the TV or open our phones or get into a conversation with a neighbor or colleague without a look at the tension and issues that we are facing today.  As a people, we are worried and stressed out.  People are tense and fighting in what feels like a very divisive time.   We are seeing marriages ending, suicide rates rising, less people attending their local churches than ever before…and frankly I think many people have lost hope and are giving up.  Now, we can all point to our reasons for this, global pandemics, lockdowns, social unrest, politics, and just so much uncertainty and fear and confusion in the circumstances of our lives today…but the reality is, we are not the first people to live through difficulty and challenges, and I think that is some of the common ground that we have with Paul, and the Philippian church.  They were walking through tough times, extremely challenging circumstances as a people, and this letter from Paul to these people, was most definitely written by a man who was walking in extreme adversity in his life too.  But the wildest part of this letter that Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, is that this is Paul’s most joyous letter, referred to by some theologians as “The Epistle of Joy.”

So, if you remember back to the introduction of this series, that was a big part of what we looked at…the context of this letter, and we had some fun walking through Acts 16 looking at how the church in Philippi was born and looking at the reality of life and our best laid plans for life and just how often life hits so much differently than we would draw things up in our heads. The context the letter is the challenges, adversity, and difficulty that Paul wrote this letter from…Paul walks in constant adversity, as he does his best to encourage and motivate the Philippian church and all of us to stay focused and live with joy in a world that just seems to push against us staying focused and living with joy in every way.  Paul just has an ability to stay focused, and seems almost indestructible because he lives fully centered on Jesus, and because of that, he lives a life where he just can’t lose…regardless of what external circumstance comes his way, or how horrific the situation he is in seems to be, and we can live that way too, which we will talk more about here today.

Then last week Ken really kicked off our study looking at the foundational key to our faith.  He took us through the first 11 verses of chapter one, and if you remember he very clearly showed us the key to our faith and the key to Paul living the way he lived, do you remember what it is?  It’s surrender.  The core of Christianity is surrendering our lives to God.  That means our lives are now God’s, not our own.  Paul lets us know that in all areas of our lives we should live and have the attitude of Christ.  In your relationships, you humble yourself and love each other.  We help others get ahead.  We don’t try to leverage and manipulate or be weird and try to get a title or be obsessed with getting our own advantage, we are to quit focusing on ourselves long enough to help others.  And if it becomes hard for you, remember this is what Jesus did for you.

Then Ken said something that I’m hopeful you all took some time and tried to picture…he said, “imagine if we lived this out.” So…can you?  Can you picture it?  Living out that type of life?  You may struggle to see it…especially in the times we live today.  I mean we talked about it as we started this talk, you can’t turn on the TV or open your phone or talk to anybody without feeling the strain and tension that we are living in today.  I mean with less hope, more confusion, less peace, and more divisiveness than ever…and not to mention less God in our lives and culture than ever…how could we ever live the kind of life that Paul challenges us to live?  A life of joy, and focus, and peace regardless of what life throws at us…well I believe Paul reveals a lot to us in the section of Scripture we are studying today on how to live a victorious life and I would add to that, a victorious life regardless of what you are walking through.  You can walk in victory even when it looks like you are failing to human eyes.  Think about it…Paul was in prison waiting to die, to most humans this is not a guy who is winning in life…but he is walking in victory.  He is free even while he is in chains.  He is in the light even while he is in darkness, and he reveals to the Philippian church and all of us how he does it.  So, today we are studying Philippians 1:12-26, and it picks up after Paul’s prayer for this young church, and all of us really, which I think is so beautiful…

Philippians 1:9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. NLT

He speaks of the joy he has for them, and then shares this prayer that love will overflow more and more and that they will continue to grow, and center on Jesus, rallying around their salvation, and living all about Christ.  Which is a recurring theme and key for Paul!  Then he starts to get into teaching on how to live a victorious life…but I think to see it, we must slow down and be looking for it, so I’m excited to jump into this with you today.  So, for the purpose of this study, we will read a few verses, then stop and talk about what Paul is saying…so let’s get started and just read the first couple of verses here, where I believe we see Paul showing and teaching us something so important…it’s all about a victorious mindset and how someone with this mindset views their circumstances.

Philippians 1:12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. NLT

So, let’s slow down for a moment here, and think about what Paul is saying…and I will tell you there is a word that really stands out to me, and that word is “everything.”  Paul says that everything that has happened to him is good and then explains why it is so good!  It’s good because it has helped him share Jesus, it’s spreading the Gospel.  Now that term “everything” for Paul covers a lot…remember what all Paul has walked through?  Beatings, shipwrecks, dark dungeons, prison cells, angry riots, scary trials and more…yet Paul views it all as good!  Do you see it?  This is an unstoppable, victorious way to live…and we saw him live this out when he planted the church of Philippi was stripped naked, beaten severely, and chained up in prison and what was he doing in the middle of the night?  He was worshiping.

Acts 16:22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. 25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. NLT

Who does this?  Well, I will tell you who, someone who has fully surrendered their life over to God, and lives with the victorious mindset that Paul has…understanding that every circumstance is an opportunity, not a roadblock or an obstacle…In this mindset, everything that happens to me is good.  So, before I move on, I want us to really personalize this and ask ourselves some important questions.

How do you view the circumstances that you find yourself in?  Do you view every circumstance as an opportunity in your life or do you see obstacles?  Can I tell you something, I think it is easy to see opportunity in a circumstance that is going the way I would want it to go, and I think it is very difficult to see anything but obstacles in the challenging circumstances that we all face in life.  Where do you come out on this?   Do you sulk and get angry with God when things aren’t going the way you want, or do you see it as an opportunity?  Do you see this victorious mindset of Paul here?  This isn’t the only place we can read about how we should view difficult circumstances that we face in life.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. NIV

Paul reminds us of this often…here’s a great example of this from Paul before we move on…

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. NLT

Paul is showing us a victorious mindset, he views every circumstance as an opportunity not a roadblock and so should we.  Then in the next few verses we get another important lesson from Paul…

Philippians 1:15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.  18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice. NIV

So, Paul is addressing others getting involved in preaching Christ, and he admits that some preach with good hearts and motives, and some do not.  So, he is sitting in jail and people are out there doing ministry for all kinds of different motives.  But instead of comparing, and competing with others what does Paul do?  He chooses to celebrate them, not compete with them, or tear them down with his words.  This is another way to live in victory and avoid discouragement and defeat…choose to rejoice and celebrate others, don’t compare, contrast, and compete.  When we slip into the competition game, we can really be miserable and feel like less.  And I want to point this out to you, we live in a world that seems to pit us against each other constantly…and I think at times we don’t even know it is happening and it’s easy to get sucked into this world of trying to out-do everyone around you…and there just is no peace in it.  There is nothing that leads us to more discouragement and restlessness than competing, comparing, and trying to outdo others…and it’s a very common issue in our culture today.  You know, the flip side is true too, there is no way to find more peace in your life than to choose to celebrate others, and uplift people rather than competing with them.  Think about the peace you would walk in if you weren’t looking over your shoulder and keeping up with others, or constantly trying to get ahead…just sounds nice, doesn’t it?   So, let’s personalize this again for a moment, and let me ask you an important question or two.

Do you celebrate others and build up or are you competing with them and running them down?

Romans 15:2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” NIV

That is a powerful statement, isn’t it?  There is no greater way to walk through life restless and discouraged than to compete with others and tear down, we must choose to celebrate and build up!  So, one more question before we move on because I think this subject is so important.

Do you compete and compare yourself to others or are you at peace and confident in who God made you to be and what God called you to do?

1 Corinthians 4:7 For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? 8 You already have all you need. MSG

So, if Paul’s words here are true, that would mean that everything we have, and everything we are, are gifts from God so why are we comparing and competing?  Huge to think through, and something to center on!  People do this in their lives and get jealous and wonder why others have things they don’t without seeing the blessing and gift of what God has given them!  This makes me think of the first foreman I ever had in the construction industry.  He told me Sam if you can do three things you will do just fine on jobsites.  He said 1st never put your hands in your pockets.  2nd remember to always be smarter than the object you’re working on and 3rd never ever talk about your paycheck.  That third one really is what we are talking about, and it sure held true on the job sites!  When we start comparing and competing, we get restless, aren’t happy with what we were once happy with, and it leads to a lot of volatility in our lives doesn’t it? Check this out in Galatians.

Galatians 6:4 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. MSG

Are you doing this?  Seeing what God gave you and the purpose God has for you and diving into it or are you worried about what others have around you!   One more place to go in Scripture before we move on…

James 3:16 Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats. MSG

This is something we need to watch out for because we can get sucked into the competing and comparing game quickly.  We need to watch out for this and look at what Paul is teaching and modeling for us here.  He doesn’t need credit.  He doesn’t work for selfish gain so he can peacefully choose to celebrate and build up rather than add to the divisiveness and tension we people tend to drift into.   So, think about your own life a bit.  How are you doing in this area?  Can you celebrate others at school, at work, or at church?  Do you see the good in people and build others up and support them or do you tend to get jealous, see positions and power seats and wonder why you aren’t where someone else is?  Can you go to your child’s sporting event and cheer for a more talented player than your own?  Well, I know, I know no one is more talented than our child but can you cheer for those who are more productive on the field?  Can you support and build up those who may look like they are getting ahead of you or lead you?  Can you look at other churches and be thankful for what God has given them and still be grateful for what God has given you and us to do?  This is so important; we want to live victorious lives and I think Paul has already given us two amazing ways to do so.  First, we need to look at how we view our circumstances, and second and this is so important because it is such an issue in our culture today…we must choose to celebrate others, not compete with them.  Let’s move on to our last section of Philippians that we are studying today…where Paul starts talking about their prayers for him and his deliverance…

Philippians 1:18 Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.  20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  NIV

So, he moves from this talk of their prayers and whether or not he will get out of the situation he is in, to something really profound and once again takes us to this victorious mindset that Paul lives in…did you pick up on what Paul was saying there in verse 20?  He wants to have enough courage so that no matter what happens next, whether in life or by his death, he will honor Christ!  Wow…let’s continue.

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. NIV

So, Paul lives in complete peace in the midst of some of the most intense circumstances imaginable. He isn’t wrestling for control of his life and his future, he is fully surrendered to God and because of this, Paul is unstoppable.  Nothing can take away the victory that He walks in…did you see verse 21 there?

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. NIV

Paul is letting the Philippian church and all of us see the mindset we should be walking in.  I mean, from a human perspective Paul is losing, he is in a terrible spot, but for Paul he is in a win-win situation, and I will tell you why that is…it’s because Paul’s number one priority in life is Jesus.  The number one value above all else in Paul’s life is Christ…which means nothing else really matters.  His circumstances don’t matter.  How people view him doesn’t matter.  If someone else has a more successful church or life than him doesn’t matter.  Why?  Because what matters most to Paul is Christ Jesus.  So, everything Paul does is viewed through that perspective.  So, he is sitting in jail, awaiting trial over his faith that could very well lead to his death and what does he say?  He says to live is Christ.  What he means is if he gets to live it’s awesome because he can spread the Gospel and continue to live out his glorious purpose that God has for his time on this Earth!  But he also adds that to die is gain, well he says that because he knows that if he dies, he actually gets to go be with Jesus which is amazing too!  Paul can’t lose because Christ is the most important thing in his life and everything centers around Jesus!   This is a victorious mindset, and it comes through placing Christ first in our lives.  Paul has something figured out that Jesus tried to teach us here in Matthew 6…

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. NIV

Do you see it?  When Christ is the highest priority in our lives, our circumstances, and futures are secure regardless of the Earthly outcomes…and Paul walks in it and teaches us this very same mindset.  So once again let’s stop and personalize this with a few questions.

When you look at your life, what is your highest priority?  What do you value most?  If you aren’t sure, I can help you figure out what matters most to you.  Just take a moment and look at where your time, your money, your thoughts, and your energy goes…that is what matters most to you.  Do you see how placing Christ first and the highest value of your life can lead to this life of victory where you can’t lose?  That is pretty awesome, isn’t it?

So, as we start to land the plane here today, I wonder how you are feeling right now?  I know we pulled some big principles out of these 14 verses, and I threw a lot of Scripture at you, but I’m wondering if some of how Paul challenges us to live didn’t convict or hit your heart and really make you wonder how you are doing in some of these areas.  Look, we live in difficult times, but so did Paul and so did these people in Philippi.  So, from that common ground I believe we can start working towards a new way to live, a victorious way to live…in a time when most of us can’t seem to see up from down and certainly aren’t feeling too victorious.  Too many of us, have lived beaten up, defeated, and hopeless lives for too long, and if that is you, I want you to hear what Paul is saying today.  That isn’t how a disciple of Christ should live.  We can live and walk-through life in victory, in strength, and with courage regardless of what happens next and regardless of what difficult circumstance life throws at us, and I’m just going to tell you, life will continue throwing stuff at you, more difficulty is coming…but it doesn’t have to pull you away from God, and it doesn’t have to determine how you walk through life.  I don’t know about you but for me I have walked through a lot of discouragement in the past few years, and I’m seeing my need to step into this life and mindset of victory like Paul…so how did he do it?  Well, he shows us some important ways to live a victorious life.

First, we saw that we need to view our circumstances as opportunities not obstacles.

Paul said what?  He said that everything that has happened to Him was good and led to him sharing Jesus with more and more people!  For so many of us, me included when things don’t go the way I want I sulk, or get angry, I want to quit, or distance my self from God because things don’t look right…and Paul shows us the key to this victorious mindset is in how we see what we walk through!

Second, we say that we need to choose to celebrate and build up others not get sucked into the competing and comparing game!

Paul said what?  He said that regardless of heart or motives for those who may be competing with Him, he is choosing to celebrate and rejoice in what they do!  Then we read what Paul wrote in Corinthians…

1 Corinthians 4:7 For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? 8 You already have all you need. MSG

Everything we have, everything we are, and everything we do are sheer gifts from God so we need to stop this comparing and competing game…nothing will discourage you more than sliding into that nonsense.  You want to live in victory you must choose to celebrate others and build them up.

Lastly, we must make God the highest priority in our lives and then view life through that value system.  

Paul said what?  He said that whether he lived and got out of jail or was executed over his faith didn’t really matter because Christ was the most important thing in His life and death meant he would be with Christ and life meant he would continue to live in God’s purpose of sharing Jesus with the world.  He was unstoppable and victorious regardless of what he walked through because he wasn’t looking at it through human perspective but through the lens of Christ being first in everything he does.

I don’t know about you, but I want this victorious mindset.  I want to live my life in such a way that I can be described as someone who lives with freedom and joy and not pain and misery.  So, as we close think this all through.

Do you see the good in everything you do?  Are you able to look at your circumstances and see them as opportunities or do you see the tough circumstances as obstacles in your life?

Would you describe yourself as a person living in victory?

Does your relationship with God get derailed when tough times hit your life, or do you draw closer to Him in those difficult circumstances?

Do you celebrate others?  Do you build others up?  Or do you find yourself competing and comparing yourself to others?

Is God first in your life?  If God isn’t what is?  Do you see how your value system can lead you to greater peace and to this victorious life?

Are you spending the necessary time with God consistently and daily to walk victoriously through life regardless of all that life throws at you?  If the answer is yes that is awesome, if the answer is no, what do you need to do and what do you need to stop doing to engage your Heavenly Father in this way…daily, consistently, and effectively?

Listen we love you, and we want you walking in victory.  And for many of us we look at life, and our circumstances and all that life hits us with and think it is impossible to live victoriously…but here in Philippians I believe Paul is showing us how to walk and stand in that victorious life that Christ can provide regardless of what we are walking through.