PAUL’S STRUGGLE – Philippians 1:22-26

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INTRODUCTION: A certain preacher once asked his congregation, “How many of you are anxious to go to heaven?” Every hand in the room went up. But when he said, “How many want to go right now?” their hands dropped so quickly it seemed as though someone had pulled a switch!

I. THE STRUGGLE (verses 22-24)

As Christians, we all want to go to heaven, but we are pulled in two directions because this life also has its joys and opportunities. We are like the youngster in Sunday School who listened intently while the teacher told about all the beauties of heaven. She concluded by saying, “All who are glad you are going to heaven, raise your hands”. Every hand shot up immediately except one. “Why don’t you want to go to heaven, Johnnie?” “Well”, he replied, “when I left home, mom was baking an apple pie!” Now we should not feel guilty for having a strong desire to enjoy life with all its goodness. But if the delights of our earthly home are so attractive that we lose sight of God’s purpose for putting us here, something’s wrong. A poem puts it this way:

We do not know when Christ may call
By death or with the trumpet sound,
So as we serve Him day by day
Let’s be prepared to go, but glad to stay.

The Apostle Paul had mixed feelings too. Although he believed he would be released from prison, he also knew that he could be killed by the Emperor Nero of Rome. This created a conflict. He longed to be with Christ, for that would be “far better”, as he says in verse 23, than anything this world had for him. But he also wanted to live, not merely to enjoy life, but because he was needed. We find this in verse 24. So Paul was torn between his desire to be with Christ and his calling to minister to people.

If you have trusted Christ as your Savior and Lord, you can understand Paul’s dilemma. You look forward to being with Christ, yet you realize that God has a reason for you to stay on this troubled planet. To stay or to go?

II. THE SOLUTION (verses 25-26)

Paul discusses the solution to his dilemma in verses 25 and 26. Think of it! Heaven was such a reality to Paul that he could not wait to see Christ face to face, to be in His presence and enjoy the glories of heaven forever. Yet he was willing to remain in his human body, though personally this would be his second choice. What a man of God the apostle Paul was, by the power of the Spirit of God! He was willing to postpone heaven in order to help Christians grow, and Romans 9 tells us that he was willing to go to hell if God would allow him to win his fellow Israelites to Christ.

Many people feel no need to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. They live in prosperity, enjoy good health, and live an upright life. There have been no difficult trials in their lives to force them to reconsider the direction they have taken. They are on the broad way that leads to destruction but they have no idea that at some point their journey will bring them to the brink of eternity. What then?

There was an American Indian chief who heard the gospel but would not accept Christ. “This Jesus road is good”, he said to the missionary, “but I have followed the Indian road all my life. I will follow it to the end.” Later, when the chief lay dying, he sought a way through the darkness. He asked the missionary, “Can I turn to the Jesus road now? My road stops here. There’s no path through the valley.”

Life’s highway may be smooth for us, and it may seen to stretch on indefinitely. But beware! There’s a barricade ahead marked “death”. Will your road end there, with only the blackness of eternal separation from God before you? Receive Christ and take the highway to heaven.

Astronaut Shannon Lucid had been on the Russian space station “Mir” for more than four months when hurricanes and equipment trouble forced NASA to delay her scheduled ride home. She had to wait another seven months before the space shuttle “Atlantis” could be launched to bring her back to earth. Christians are waiting for a ride home in the other direction, from earth to heaven, to be with Jesus. When death seems needlessly delayed for ourselves or someone we love who is terminally ill, we wonder why God leaves His children here on earth with a lingering illness instead of quickly taking them to heaven.

In verses 25 and 26, the apostle Paul understood his purpose for staying here on this earth. But even when we can’t understand God’s purpose, we can choose to trust in His wisdom. Christ’s understanding and His love are unfailing. He cares for His suffering children, as well as for their friends and family.

To us, the departure from this earth may seem delayed. But from God’s perspective, each of His children is brought to his heavenly home right on time. The time for you to leave this world is God’s decision. Make the most of your life while you’re here.

Years ago an elderly Christian lady was crossing the Atlantic Ocean to visit her daughter Martha in New York. A terrible storm arose which threatened to sink the ship. The captain, trying to quiet the passengers, came by the cabin of this old saint and heard singing instead of moaning and crying. Thinking her to be mad with fear, he said, “Madam, do you know our ship may sink at any moment? How can you sing?” She replied, “I have two daughters. One, Martha, lives in New York; the other, Mary, lives in heaven, where she went fifteen years ago when death took her. If the ship does not sink, I’ll be with Martha in the morning; and if it does sink, I’ll be with Mary in Glory. Either way it will be a happy meeting!” Would you have the same confidence if this were your last hour?

There is no denying that death is an enemy.   But it is a defeated enemy. Until we are saved, death holds out no glimmer of hope; but after we are saved, death becomes a door which closes upon our earthly life and opens into the eternal glory of heaven. So let’s live for our Lord Jesus Christ with joy each day and leave our lives in God’s loving hands.


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The following are a few statements made by people who are said to have brilliant minds, but who don’t know the truths of God’s Word.  “Man is a sick fly, taking a dizzy ride on a gigantic wheel.”  “Man’s life has no more meaning than the humblest insect, crawling from one destruction to another.”  “Men are but tiny lumps of carbon and water, who crawl about for a few years until they dissolve again.”

What low estimates!  What empty and pitiful comments about the meaning of our existence!  How refreshing are these inspired words of the apostle Paul:  “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain”.


In the first half of verse 21, Paul says, “to live is Christ”. “Existence” is the lot of every person.  But “life”, real life, belongs only to those who have been joined to Christ through salvation.

What has life meant to you as you’ve grown and matured?  This poem gives us something to think about:

“What is life?” asked a little child as he romped on a golden day.
Out of his life the answer came:  “Life is play!  Life is play!”
“What is life?” asked the sturdy man as he toiled through the sun and rain.
And the woe in his heart cried out aloud  “Life is pain!  Life is pain!”
“What is life?” asked the old, old man as he gazed on the stars above. And his wise, wise heart sang joyfully, “Life is Christ!  Life is love!”

Is your journey here on earth mere existence?  Remember, life begins when Jesus comes in!  This Scripture verse we’re studying today sums up the Christian’s philosophy of life in just twelve simple one-syllable words.  “For to me, to life is Christ, and to die is gain.”  When the wife of missionary, Adoniram Judson, told him that a newspaper article compared him to some of the apostles, Judson replied, “I don’t want to be like a Paul . . . or any other man.  I want to be like Christ.”  May Christ be the object of our love, the joy of our lives, and the one we aspire to be like.  May Jesus Christ be our whole purpose for living.

II.  TO DIE IS GAIN (verse 21b)

In the second half of verse 21, Paul says, “to die is gain”.  The author, Isaac Asimov, tells the story of a rough ocean crossing during which Mr. Jones became terribly seasick.  At an especially rough time, a friendly steward patted Mr. Jones on the shoulder and said, “I know, sir, that it seems awful.  But remember, no man ever died of seasickness.”  Mr. Jones lifted his head to look at the steward’s concerned face and replied, “Man, don’t say that!  It’s only the wonderful hope of dying that keeps me alive!”

In these words to the church at Philippi, Paul said that the wonderful hope of dying kept him going.  Yet Paul wasn’t merely looking for relief from suffering.  Paul’s hope was rooted in Christ who died on the cross for sinners, rose victorious from the grave, is alive and reigning in heaven, and who would one day take Paul into His presence.

But how did the hope of seeing Christ keep the apostle Paul going?  It gave meaning to every moment.  It gave Paul a reason to live for Christ, and it gave Paul the incentive to focus his attention on others who needed his encouragement.  Paul had come to know Jesus Christ as his very life.

There was a radio station that featured an on-the-air obituary column.  Its purpose was to inform people in the community of any deaths of its citizens during the previous day.  On one of those broadcasts, after an introduction, the announcer said thoughtlessly, “We’re sorry to report that there were no deaths in our county during the past 24 hours”.  As soon as these words left his mouth, he knew that what he said was inappropriate.  Have we ever written to express our sympathy to someone who has lost a Christian family member through death, and said something like “I was so sorry to hear about the home-going of your loved one”?  But something doesn’t sound right, does it?  Naturally, we feel sorrow for those who grieve.  It hurts when family ties are broken.  But should we feel sorry for Christians who have gone to be with their Lord?  Never!  II Corinthians 5 says, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”.  We have reason to rejoice, even in our sorrow.

Philippians 1:21 is a valuable test for each of us to take concerning our lives.  “For to me, to live is …………………., and to die is …………………..        Fill in the blanks yourself for your own life.  A young man named William Anderson of Dallas, Texas, had been ill with an incurable disease.  Although he had rallied and seemed to be somewhat better, he knew in his heart that his time to leave this earth was near.  So, calling his mother to come closer to his bed, he whispered, “I want to tell you something.  In spite of what the doctors are saying, I’m going to get to heaven before you do.”  Then, smiling peacefully, he shut his eyes, and within a few minutes his soul had winged its way to glory.  Because William’s faith was fixed on Jesus, fear was gone, and he joyfully anticipated going to be with the Lord.

Fellow believers in Jesus Christ, be assured that your final farewell to this world will bring you into the joys of heaven for eternity. Because our Savior and Lord paid the price for your sins and conquered the grave, your death will be gain.  The first stanza of a popular old hymn says it so well you’ll want to be singing it:

When all my labors and trials are o’er
And I am safe on that beautiful shore
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore
Will through the ages be glory for me.

Death for the Christian is not gloom but glory.  If we want to make the most of today, let’s keep eternity with Christ on our minds.  Then our lives will be filled with joy!


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It’s hard to believe that any Christian would oppose the apostle Paul, but there were believers in Rome doing just that.  The churches in Rome seemed to be divided into two groups.

I.  THE TWO GROUPS (verses 15-17)

The first group of Christians that Paul mentions, in verses 15 and 16, preached Christ insincerely out of envy and strife.  Those two words go together, just as love and unity go together.  They were jealous of Paul, and therefore they wanted to cause trouble for him.  Verse 17 tells us that this group “preached Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives”.  They envied Paul’s reputation and the following he had among Christians. Their goal was to make Paul miserable and upset.  They wanted him to become afraid of losing his reputation and his followers.  They thought that what would worry Paul the most would be for him to hear about the success of their ministry.  The apostle James said it well in James 3:16, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”

These Christians that Paul is talking about, in verses 15 and 17, had the aim of promoting themselves and winning a following of their own.  Instead of asking, “Have you trusted in Christ”, they may have been asking, “Whose side are you on, ours or Paul’s?”  Sadly, this kind of religious politics is sometimes practiced today.  We are always going to be living around, or dealing with, ungrateful people. But we should not become offended or stop doing good because of a lack of gratitude.

There is also another group of Christians in this passage of Scripture.  They are proclaiming Christ out of love for Him and for others, following the example of the apostle Paul.  In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul acknowledges this group of faithful believers in Rome in order that they might be an encouragement to his readers in Philippi.

II.  PAUL’S RESPONSE (verses 18-20)

How does the apostle Paul respond to the divisive group in the church at Rome?  Paul was encouraged by the fact that Jesus Christ was being proclaimed, whether the motivation was true of not.  In verse 18 Paul says, “in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice”.  Paul found something to rejoice in, even though the motives of many of the Christians in Rome were wrong.

ILLUSTRATION:  It’s a historical fact that the two great British evangelists , John Wesley and George Whitefield, disagreed on some doctrinal matters.  Both of them were very successful, preaching to thousands of people, and seeing multitudes come to Christ.  It’s reported that someone asked Wesley if he expected to see Whitefield in heaven, and Wesley replied, “No, I do not”.  “Then do you think that Whitefield is a converted man?”  “Of course He’s a converted man”, Wesley said, “but I do not expect to see him in heaven because he will be so close to the throne of God and I will be so far away that I will not be able to see him”.  Though he differed from his brother in Christ in some matters, Wesley did not have any envy in his heart, nor did he seek to oppose Whitefield’s ministry.

Criticism is usually hard to accept, isn’t it?  How was the apostle Paul able to rejoice, even in the face of criticism?  Paul was single-minded, and saw his critics as another opportunity for the furtherance of the Gospel.  He rejoiced, not in the selfishness of his critics, but in the fact that Christ was being preached.  His attitude toward such people was to look for the good in their actions.  As Paul said in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.

Verse 19 indicates that Paul expected his case to turn out victoriously because of the prayers of his friends and the provision of the Holy Spirit.  From the Greek word for “provision” we get our English word “chorus”.  Whenever a Greek city was going to have a special festival, someone had to pay for the singers and dancers.  The donation had to be a very large one, so this word came to mean, “to provide generously and lavishly.”  Paul was depending on the generous resources of God, given by the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s desire, his hope, and his goal in verse 20 was that Christ might be magnified in his body, whether it be by life or by death.  Does Christ need to be magnified?  How can a mere man magnify God?  Well, the stars are much bigger than the telescope, and yet the telescope magnifies them and brings them closer.  The Christian’s body is to be a telescope that brings Jesus Christ close to people.  To the average person, Christ is a mysterious person in history who lived centuries ago. But as the unsaved watch a believer go through a crisis, they can see Jesus magnified and brought much closer.  A microscope makes tiny things look big.  To the unbeliever, Jesus is not very big.  Other people and other things are far more important.  But as the unbeliever watches the Christian go through a difficult and painful experience, he ought to be able to see how big Jesus really is.  The Christian’s life is a “lens” that makes a “little Christ” look very big, and a “distant Christ” come very close.

We might ask ourselves these questions.  Are the things we are living for worth dying for?  As people get to know us, are they also getting to know Christ better?

When William Carey, the great missionary to India, was dying, many of his close friends and acquaintances visited him.  Among them was Alexander Duff, who deeply admired the great missionary statesman.  Because of his appreciation for him, he talked at length with Carey about his active life of service to the Lord.  Finally the dying man said “pray”.  He did so; then he bid farewell to that valiant soldier of the cross, not knowing if he’d ever see him again in this life.  He no sooner closed the door than he heard someone call his name.  It was Carey, wanting one last word with him.  “Duff”,  he said, “when I am gone,  say nothing about me – speak only about my Savior “.  These words remind us of the desire of Paul’s heart expressed in this passage of Scripture.  May the aspirations of the apostle Paul and William Carey become the pattern for our lives.  May the motivation to exalt our living Savior so dominate our lives and our service that we would seek no praise for ourselves, but only desire that Christ would be magnified.  As the hymn writer put it:

O to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer;                                                                                           This is my constant longing and prayer.                                                                                  Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,                                                                                   Jesus Thy perfect likeness to wear.

PAUL’S CHAINS – Philippians 1:12-14

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The apostle Paul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, but instead, he went as a prisoner!  In verse 12 of Philippians, chapter 1, he sums it up as “my circumstances”.  He could have written a long letter about that experience alone.  The things that happened to him are written in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 21-28.  It began when Paul was arrested in the temple in Jerusalem.  The Jews thought that he had desecrated the temple by bringing Gentiles into it, and the Romans thought that Paul was an Egyptian renegade who was on their “most wanted list”.  Paul remained in prison in Caesarea for two years.  When he finally appealed to Caesar, as a Roman citizen, he was sent to Rome.  On the way, the ship was wrecked in a storm.  Paul’s courage and faith during that storm makes it one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible (Acts 27).

HIS CHAINS (verse 12)

To many, all of these circumstances may have looked like a failure, but not for this man with a “single mind” to share Christ and the Gospel message.  In verse 12, Paul says, “My circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel”.  The words, “greater progress” mean “pioneer advance”.  It is a Greek military term referring to the army engineers who went ahead of the soldiers to remove obstacles and open the way into new territory.  Paul discovered that his circumstances really opened up new areas of ministry.  If you’ve ever done any sailing, you may have heard this saying:  “We cannot control the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”  Many of us have heard of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous British preacher, but few know the story about his wife, Suzannah.  Early in their married life, Mrs. Spurgeon became an invalid.  It looked as though her only ministry would be that of encouraging her husband and praying for his work.  But God gave her a burden to share her husband’s books with pastors who couldn’t afford to purchase them.  This burden soon led to the founding of the “Book Fund”.  As a work of faith, the “Book Fund” provided thousands of pastors with tools for their ministry.  All of this was supervised by Mrs. Spurgeon from her home.


In verse 13, Paul tells us that the chains attached to his wrists gave him contact with non-Christians.  He was chained to a Roman soldier 24 hours a day!  The shifts changed every six hours, which meant that Paul could witness to at least four soldiers each day.  Paul was proclaiming the Gospel to the praetorian guard; something he could not have done as a free man.  Historians tell us that there were about 9000 men who were part of the praetorian guard.  These elite soldiers were the bodyguards for Caesar and his palace.  It’s very possible that these guards looked forward to the opportunity to guard the apostle Paul.  Being chained to a prisoner for six hours at a time must have been a very boring task, but it wouldn’t be if they were chained to the apostle Paul, because he was filled with joy, and he had something interesting to listen to and discuss.   Eventually, one by one, many of these guards probably became Christians.

Sometimes God has put “chains”, so to speak, on His people, in order to enable them to accomplish something that could never happen any other way.  Suzannah Wesley was the mother of 19 children, and this was before the days of labor-saving devices such a washing machines and disposable diapers.  How could she find the time to share the Gospel?  Well, from her large family came John and Charles Wesley, whose combined ministries shook Great Britain.

Fanny Crosby was blinded at six weeks of age, but even as a youngster she determined not to be confined by the chains of darkness.  In time she became a mighty force for God through her hymns and gospel songs.  She wrote over 8000 hymns during her lifetime!

The secret is this:  when you have a single mind, you look at circumstances as God-given opportunities for the furtherance of the Gospel, and you rejoice at what God is going to do, instead of complaining about what God did not do.


Paul’s chains not only gave him contact with the lost, but they also gave courage to the saved.  Many of the Christians in Rome received new courage when they saw Paul’s faith and determination.  Discouragement has a way of spreading, but so does encouragement.  Because of Paul’s joyful attitude, many Christians began to witness boldly for Christ.

Something within a person responds to bravery in others.  When I was in Air Force boot camp in San Antonio, Texas, I visited the Alamo.  My first response was, “It sure is small!” It was in that little mission church that a small group of men, 180 to be exact, faced a big decision when a large army of Mexican soldiers set up camp nearby.  Colonel Travis drew a line in the dust with his sword, challenging the men to step across if they were willing to fight to the death.  Every man but one responded to the challenge.  Even Colonel Jim Bowie, who lay dying on a cot, shouted to his comrades, “carry me across the line!”

Every man was killed, including Jim Bowie, who fought off the enemy the best he could from his deathbed.  The only survivors were two women and two children.  Was this a waste of lives?  Not at all!  This heroic action stirred up all the Texans to fight.  “Remember the Alamo” was the Texans’ battle cry, and six weeks later Texas won its independence.

Most Americans “remember the Alamo”.  But do we Christians remember the Christians who suffered and even died because of their faith in Jesus Christ, and their willingness to proclaim it?  Our commitment to our Savior and Lord needs to be strong enough to be contagious.  Enthusiasm for Christ is contagious.  Has anyone caught it from you?  We’ll never find peace and real joy unless we learn to live above our circumstances.

What are your “chains”?  If you are confined by illness, or limited in any way by circumstances beyond your control, start looking for, and asking God for, a ministry.  God may have put you just where you are at in order that you might say with the Apostle Paul, “My circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the Gospel”.

We need to get above our circumstances.  That’s where God is waiting to help and strengthen us, so that He can use us, in His way, by His power, and for His glory.  Read on in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, and share in Paul’s unwavering joy!


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INTRODUCTION:   How many Christians can you name with whom you feel you have a  “deep relationship”?  If you can name them on one hand, you’re probably about normal.  If your list is too long, you may not know what deep relationships are.  In Philippians 1:1-11, the apostle Paul demonstrates true Christian fellowship.

I.  THE GREETING (vs. 1-2)

Notice that Paul begins his letter by saying:  “Paul and Timothy”.  Is Timothy in prison at Rome along with Paul?  No, but Timothy was with Paul when Paul first came to Philippi, and he helped Paul start the church there.  Timothy may have also been Paul’s “stenographer”, listening to Paul as he dictated his letter, and writing down every word.

We also know from Acts 19 and 20 that Timothy visited the church in Philippi at least twice before Paul wrote this letter.  Paul refers to himself and Timothy as “bondservants of Jesus Christ”.  Exodus 21:5,6 beautifully illustrates this relationship of a servant’s total and loving submission to his master.  This is what it says:  “But if the slave plainly says, “I love my master, my wife and children;  I will not go out as a free man”, then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost.  And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.”

Then Paul gives his usual greeting in verse 2.  “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Sometimes we tend to forget the greatness of God’s grace and the reasons for His grace.  ILLUSTRATION:  After the communists took control of mainland China by force in 1949, tens of thousands of refugees flooded into Hong Kong, bringing with them poverty, misery, and despair.  A Christian man who worked there recalls feeling great pity for the little children in rags that he saw playing in the streets.  He came to know and love a few of them very dearly, however, and what a difference that made!  One child he had known for several years showed him her shoes.  Both of them had holes in their soles, exposing her bare feet.  Without hesitation the man bought her a new pair of shoes and pretty new dress.  “When I gave them to her”, he recalls, “she climbed on my knee and buried her head into my shoulder.  Her heart was too full for words.”  That man’s deed was grace in action.  And it was grace motivated by love.

So too, it was God’s great love for you and I that moved Him to meet our deepest need by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins.  Now we have peace with God, and true joy, if the risen Christ lives in us.


In verses 3-6, Paul is saying to them, “I have you on my mind.”  In verse 3 he says, “I thank God in all my remembrance of you.”  Paul reminds himself of their “participation in the gospel” in verse 5.  Not only have they been sharing their faith in Jesus Christ, and the church has  been growing, but they were also giving financially to Paul’s support.  Paul was confident that they would excel in the good works they were doing by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

ILLUSTRATION:  A preacher asked an elderly man how long he had been a Christian.  “Fifty years”, he replied.  “Well”, said the minister, “after keeping the faith for so long, you must be pretty confident of holding out to the end.”  “Brother”, the man said, “it’s not a question of my ‘holding out’;  it’s whether the Lord is ‘holding on’ to me.  And the Bible assures me that I can trust Him for that!”

In verses 7 and 8, Paul tells them that his concern for them is even deeper when he says, “I have you in my heart”.  They have been ministering to Paul, and his love was overflowing because it was Christ’s love flowing through him.  Paul’s words in verse 8 depict the closeness of his relationship with the Philippian church.  He is saying, “I long to be with you again”,  “I have an affection for you”.  Are we channels of God’s love, allowing Jesus Christ to fill us with his love for others, and to use us to minister to others?

Thirdly, in verses 9 to 11, Paul demonstrated his fellowship with them by praying for them.  It’s a real encouragement to know that we are being prayed for by our friends, isn’t it?  It’s especially encouraging when they tell us specifically what they are praying for us.  Paul prays that their love would grow and mature in several areas.  First, “that their love might abound more and more in real knowledge”.  This occurs as we spend more and more time beholding Christ in God’s Word.  Secondly, Paul prays for growth in discernment:   making good judgments and right decisions.  Thirdly, Paul prays that they might be “sincere and blameless”.  The world needs to see Christians who are genuine, and whose lives don’t cause others to stumble.  A person who is true to God will never be false to others

Fourthly, Paul prays that they might mature in their Christian service, bearing fruit in their own lives and also in the lives of others.  Bearing fruit is a work that Christ accomplishes through us when we rely on His strength and give all the praise and glory to Him.   This is true Christian fellowship, the kind of fellowship that produces joy no matter what the circumstances may be.  Let your circumstances bring you closer to God and to God’s people.  ILLUSTRATION:  A man named Jerry had to go to New York City for a special surgery, and he hated to go.  “Why can’t we have it done at home?”, he asked his doctor.  “I don’t know a soul in that big, unfriendly city!”  But when he and his wife arrived at the hospital, there was a pastor to meet them and invite them to stay at his home until they got settled.  The operation was serious, and the wait in the hospital was long and difficult, but the fellowship of the pastor and is wife brought a new joy to Jerry and his wife.  They learned that circumstances need not deprive them of joy if they will permit these circumstances to strengthen their fellowship with God and with other Christians.

How would you evaluate your life today as compared with a year ago?    Have you grown in your love for God and for others?  If so, give God the glory, and let your heart be filled with joy.  If not, speak to God in prayer today.  Ask God to fill your heart with love for Him, and for the people that cross your path; and spend time daily enjoying God as you read, study, and respond to His Word.   A greater joy awaits you!

Philippians: Background and Survey

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Jesus Christ was described in Scripture as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  Yet He possessed a deep joy that was beyond anything the world could offer.  As He faced the cruel death on the cross at Mount Calvary, Jesus said to His followers, “These things I have spoken to you that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be made full.”  About thirty years after the death of Christ, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Philippi from his cell in a prison at Rome.  Yet his letter is filled with joy.


Paul first came to the city of Philippi about ten years earlier while he was on his second missionary journey.  Philippi was named after Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great.  The city at that time had a population of close to half a million people.  Most of them were Greeks, with a small group of Jews and Romans.

The first converts to Christianity were Lydia, a dealer in crimson fabrics, and the town’s jailor.  The members of their families also became Christians.  The church at Philippi was the first church in Europe.  It has been referred to as the birthplace of European Christianity.  Most of the congregation were Greeks, along with some converted Jews.  By the time Paul wrote this epistle, the church at Philippi had grown and become well-organized.  It had both elders and deacons.

Philippians has been called Paul’s love letter to the church at Philippi.  It contains less correction and more praise than any other epistle.  Many Bible scholars have called it “the epistle of joy”.


Here is a simple outline to Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Chapter l – The Joy of Christ Our Life

Chapter 2 – The Joy of Christ Our Example

Chapter 3 – The Joy of Christ Our Goal

Chapter 4 – The Joy of Christ Our Sufficiency


The epistle of Paul to the Philippians talks about four thieves that can rob you and I of Joy:


Most of us would have to agree that when things are “going our way”, we feel a lot happier, and we are much easier to live with.   Little Peggy said to her girlfriend one day, “Dad must have had an easy day at the office.  He didn’t squeal the tires when he pulled into the driveway, and he didn’t slam the door when he came into the house; and he even gave Mommy a kiss!”

But have you ever considered how few of the circumstances of life are really under our control?  We have no control over the weather or over the things people say and do.  The person whose happiness depends on ideal circumstances is going to be miserable most of the time.  And yet here is the apostle Paul in the worst of circumstances, writing a letter filled with joy.


A second thief that can rob us of joy is people.  A little girl jumped off the school bus as it stopped in front of her home and slammed her way through the front door.  She marched up the stairs with an angry look on her face, went into her room and again slammed the door.  All the time she was muttering under her breath, “People . . . people . . .people . . . PEOPLE!”  Her father went to her door and knocked softly.  “May I come in?”  She answered, “No!”  The father asked, “Why can’t I come in?”  She answered:  “Because you’re a people!”

All of us have lost our joy because of people, haven’t we?  Maybe it was because of the way they were, or what they said or did.  And no doubt we’ve helped make someone else unhappy.  It works both ways, doesn’t it?  But we have to live and work with people.  We can’t isolate ourselves and still live to glorify Christ.  The apostle Paul was in prison with some of the cruelist and most sinful people, yet he still had joy.


A third thief that robs us of joy is things.  A wealthy man was moving into his mansion, and his Quaker neighbor, who believed in simplicity of life, was watching the activities carefully.  The neighbor counted the chairs and tables, and the vast amount of knicknacks that were being carried into the house.  Finally, he said to the owner of the mansion:  “Neighbor, if thou dost need anything, come to see me and I will tell thee how to get along without it!”

Abraham Lincoln was walking down the street with his two sons, who were crying and fighting.  “What’s the matter with the boys?” a friend asked.  “The same thing that’s wrong with the whole world”, Lincoln replied.  “I have three walnuts and each of the boys wants two!”

Things!  What thieves they can be!  Yet Jesus said, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against laying up treasures on earth.  They aren’t safe, they don’t last, and they never satisfy.  Yet most people today think that joy comes from the things that they own.  Actually, things can rob us of the only joy that really exists.


The last thief that robs of joy is worry, and this is the worst thief of all.  How many people have been robbed of peace and fulfillment because of worry.  You can purchase “sleep” at the drug store, but you cannot purchase “rest”.  If the apostle Paul wanted to worry, he had plenty of reasons.  He was a prisoner facing possible execution.  He had no mission board supporting him and no Legal Aid Society defending him.  But in spite of these difficulties, Paul does not worry.  Instead, he writes a letter filled with joy, and tells us how to stop worrying.

Worry is actually wrong thinking and wrong feeling about circumstances, people, and things.  Philippians 4 tells us that we have God’s peace, God’s power, and God’s provision available to us.  With resources like these, why should we worry?


Bible sermons, Christmas Eve

Personal Background:   My name is Tom Drenoske.  I am the third in a line of four with that name and currently live in a suburb of Portland, Oregon.  I became a Christian on Christmas Eve, 1970, in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand,  through the ministry of Paul Kelley, an Overseas Christian Servicemen’s Center director.  He became my spiritual father, mentor, and discipler.  When I was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1972, I attended California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, California because Paul was the director of the Navigator ministry on that campus.  After receiving degrees in Business Administration and Social Sciences, I worked for two years in industrial sales.  With a desire to serve the Lord in full-time ministry, I attended Multnomah School of the Bible’s one-year graduate program and graduated in 1978.  Four years later I graduated from Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary while serving with Campus Ambassadors, the campus ministry of the Conservative Baptist Home Missions Society.  I have enjoyed over 30 years of ministry as a campus minister, pastor, interim pastor, and chaplain.

Purpose:  Studying and preaching through various books of the New Testament has been an exciting and fulfilling experience for me.  Knowing God through His Word, and responding to Him, can be the richest experience of all.  I am sharing these messages in the hope that God will use them to draw you closer to Himself.

Introduction:  We will be meeting with Him regularly, as we start by studying the book of PHILIPPIANS, the “Epistle of Joy”, beginning with a background study and survey of the book.  I don’t know about you, but I could certainly benefit from an extra dose of joy!  These are short sermons, approximately 15-20 minutes in length when preached.  The sermons will be stored in this site so that the most recent sermon appears first.

Over the past four years, I’ve studied Philippians, the epistle of James, the book of Jonah, and a few topical and seasonal messages.  I am currently studying the Gospel of John and there will probably be at least another year of messages from John’s Gospel.  The purpose of each sermon is, not only to gain an understanding of the passage of Scripture but also to draw principles from the passage that we can apply to our lives.  The goal is to become more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ in our attitudes and actions (II Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:7-14).

Question:  Are you ready to meet your Maker today?  About 50 years ago, on Christmas Eve, I was asked the following question:  “If you died tonight, and you stood before God in judgment, and God said to you, ‘Give Me one reason why I should let you into My heaven’, what would you say?”  I wasn’t prepared to answer that question, but the person who asked it showed me, in the Scriptures, how I could have a personal relationship with God, and spend eternity with Him.  Romans 3:23 and Isaiah 53:6 say that I am a sinner, separated from God.  Romans 6:23 and Hebrews 9:27 say that the penalty for my sin is death and judgment.  Ephesians 2:8,9 says that I can’t earn my way to heaven by my works or good deeds.  I Peter 3:18 says that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my sins by His death on the cross.  John 5:18 and 14:8-10 say the Jesus Christ is God, the second Person of the Trinity.  Mark 1:15, John 1:12, and John 10:27-30 say that a relationship with Christ, and His gift of eternal life, come as a result of repenting of, or turning away from, my sins, inviting Jesus Christ into my life as my Savior and Lord, and following Him.  I hope you are truly His child today.  I became a child of God that night when I responded to God’s Word and invited Jesus Christ to come into my life and be my Savior and Lord.  That night I memorized several verses of Scripture (I John 5:11-13, John 5:24, John 10:27-30, and Romans 10:9-13) to remind me and assure me that Jesus Christ was living in me and that I had eternal life.

There are many, many more Scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments that describe who Jesus Christ is, and how to have a personal relationship with Him.  If you desire a deeper understanding of any aspect of God, the Person and work of Jesus Christ, and what it means to have a personal relationship with Him, and receive His gift of eternal life, please let me know.  I would be glad to answer your questions with Scripture.