On Palm Sunday of Holy Week, we studied a letter that Paul had written to some friends of his in a place called Philippi (which today would be found in northeastern Greece). He wrote the letter a couple of thousands of years ago, but that doesn’t mean it isn't irrelevant. The things he spoke of with his friends are things we still need to hear, which is why we are carrying our study of what he said right on through Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I’d like to look at a portion of it right now, 3:7-11 and 4:1:
3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as [excrement], in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
4:1 Therefore, my brothers [and sisters], whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
There are four things I’d like us to observe from what Paul had to say to his friends:
A Problem we must face.
A Prize we should seek.
A Pathway to achieve it.
And a Purpose to live for.
A Problem We Must Face
According to surveys performed by the Gallup organization, 88% of Americans say that they have never doubted the existence of God; and 81% believe in a day of judgment where they will “be called before God to answer for their sins;” and 71% believe in life after death (curious that—some believe in judgment, but do not necessarily believe in life after that judgment and their death).
While Mr. Gallup, Jr. did not ask the question, I would venture to say that 100% of the respondents would say what we know to be true; namely, that 100% of Americans will die. The evidence is overwhelming. Everyone will lose in the end. Death is coming for every single one of us. Death is coming for you. This is part of the gift of Good Friday—it is a day about death, it is here to force us, though we might otherwise not consider it, to think of and remember where all this is headed.
Paul clearly understood the Problem we all face. He names it right there in 3:11—death. And his whole life had been geared toward addressing that problem. Like most of you reading this (if you are representative of the survey results): Paul never doubted that God exists, he believed in a day of judgment, and he believed in an afterlife. And because of that, what was clear to Paul next was the Prize he should seek.
I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon on Philippians to hear the remaining three observations from Paul’s letter. If you’d like some additional resources on his letter to the Philippians, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.
May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.
1 Survey results cited in Philippians, by Ralph P. Martin, p. 189.
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