‘For to me to live is Christ’, Phil. 1. 21
Do not go back
Paul resolutely cut himself off from his past life when he became the Lord’s. He explains to the Philippians those things in which once he had satisfaction, ‘but what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ’. The knowledge of Christ consumed him, and made the things of earth less attractive. Now he wanted to know Christ. He knew he had a long way to go, but ‘one thing’ only now captivated all his thinking as he pressed onward. People heard about it, ‘He which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed’. After he was saved, Paul spent his whole life following Christ, reaching after Him, stretching himself as a runner with his eye on the prize.
Going after Christ in our devotional life is important. In the Song of Solomon, the bride is waiting for her Lord, and she longs to be with Him. ‘Draw me’, she says, and then, in fellowship with others, ‘we will run after thee’. His presence is real to her, although He is absent. She hears His words, she tells others of His perfections, she opens the door of her heart, she sits under His shadow with great delight, and in the secret places of the stairs, she has communion with Him. At first He is her Beloved; then she says they belong to each other, but finally she understands, ‘I am my Beloved’s’. She will keep herself for Him, as a fragrant, enclosed garden, is kept for the one to whom it belongs. It is a mystery, says Paul, concerning the bond of marriage, and he refers it to ‘Christ and the church’. This is a common theme in the Old Testament, the love between the Lord and His people. How sad to read in this context of those who by their conduct are ‘the enemies of the cross of Christ’, and who ‘mind earthly things’. To be an enemy of the cross of Christ is to behave unworthily of the gospel, not to render it our full allegiance, and forgetting the Saviour whose gospel it is. ‘Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour’. Let us not have cause to be ‘ashamed before him at His coming’.6
Nothing is impossible
We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord alway’, be noted for our moderation in relations with others, and be anxious for nothing. We have a sure and complete resource in prayer for everything that concerns us. Let the peace of God keep our hearts and minds. Let us turn away from the grubby things of the world and the unworthy thoughts of men, to embrace all that is true, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue and praise. Our newspapers and other things will push unwholesome things into our minds, but if the things are of God what we hold onto we will be strengthened, so we may overcome in every adverse circumstance of life. Paul’s own life was a disciplined one. He had learnt many lessons. He was able to cope with every condition, and he is ‘able to do all things through Christ’. All the pressures, the anxieties must have been enormous, but he knows the Lord will never let him down.7
When he wrote this letter, Paul was in bonds and imprisoned, and the outcome of his appeal to the emperor was still uncertain, but he is still singing in his prison. He is there for ‘the defence and confirmation of the gospel’. Not his personal defence here, when he would have to stand before the emperor, but he was there to defend the gospel of Christ from its detractors and enemies. Paul knew the wiles of the adversary, and the absurdity of wicked men with no faith, but he will bear his testimony to the end bravely. Even where he was the Lord was with him, and blessed his testimony. He is able to send greetings from the brethren with him, ‘and all the saints salute you, chiefly they who are of Caesar’s household’. The Lord has turned his seeming adversities into blessings, and there were those saved even in the imperial household.8
We may be unable to attain to Paul’s level of devotion to the Saviour ourselves, but we can honour the Saviour by keeping ‘the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace’, by putting others first, by being determined to go on, and by believing with all our hearts that nothing is impossible. We can do all things through Christ. Let God reveal His mind to us, whatever the level of our attainment, and give us the grace we need to go on for Him.