"It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 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." (1:15-18)
As I read this I couldn't understand how someone who is sharing the gospel, a missionary, could be preaching out of 'envy and rivalry.' If you are sharing the LOVE, MERCY, GRACE, and FORGIVING POWER of Jesus Christ, how can you do it with hatred, malice or resentment? It doesn't make sense, but then I read the commentary. "Those who preach with wrong, insincere motives do so out of a sense of competition with Paul and so think they are making his imprisonment more difficult to bear,..." Then I looked up this verse in, The One Volume Bible Commentary, by J.R. Dummellow. "they were jealous of St. Paul's ascendancy, and regarded him as an interloper...(ascendancy means governing or controlling influence and interloper means a person who encroaches on the rights of others, Merriam-Webster). Basically, they were jealous of Paul's leadership and influence over the church. They were jealous of Paul's calling. God specially called Paul to, "Go! This is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:15-16) Not only were they jealous they were also looking and hoping that in some way they would make his time in prison even harder. What kind of Christians are these? Make his imprisonment more difficult?! seriously! This is what I call, 'Lost Christians.' People who call themselves Christians and yet plot your demise. Their jealousy makes them blinded to God's love. They are out for their own glory and praise no matter how much it destroys others. I have actually met 'Christians' like these men. And I will say, it has been a struggle to love them and to see the good that they are doing in Christ's name. But Paul didn't! "The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice." (1:18) Paul focused on the goal- the Gospel being preached, and not on how they were so cruel. He focused on 'Christ is preached' and with that rejoiced! Oh! How I would have stewed in prison! I would have told the other inmates about the two types of Christians and how they don't know the true love of Christ. I would have gossiped and moaned and groaned. (I do not say this with any pride). Paul is my role- model. How was he not offended? Hurt? bitter? He truly understood what it is to keep our eyes on Jesus. To love and forgive freely. I have a lot to learn.
Okay, so remember that this is a letter that Paul wrote to be read to the church of the Philippians. Why is this important? Well, it's not like this is an account of what one person heard Paul say, this is actually what Paul wrote to the whole church to hear. Why does that matter? Well, he is teaching them not to hate. Not to separate from the other brothers. He is teaching them that though the other missionaries are preaching out of false motives, not to focus on that, but focus on the fact that God is still using them to see the lost set free. He himself is rejoicing, so they can rejoice. He didn't write a letter out of self-pity. Remember that Paul was human. Not perfect. He could have written: 'Oh, I am being persecuted by our very own brothers, but don't worry about me - you rejoice and keep on preaching the Good News!' (That would have been the kind of letter I would have written- shameful). He could have been so discouraged about being in jail and being persecuted by the brothers in Christ that he could have written a letter saying, 'My time is over. I have run the race. I will rot here in this prison, but you go on. Pick up the baton I dropped and keep going." (How depressing). No, Paul deflects his own persecution and rejoices, which in turn helps the church to do the same. Paul is powerfully living for Christ even in jail.
"Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 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. 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 death." (1:18b-20) Can you see why I love this Book so much?! To rejoice in all circumstances! To live in hope! To live with an expectant heart that God will see us through and we will be victorious in Jesus' Name. To rely on each other to pray and lift each other up.
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (1:21) I used to be so afraid of dying. Before I knew Christ and even into the first few year of salvation. I remember the first time I read this verse I had to read it over and over. 'to die is gain!' Not possible! I couldn't imagine thinking that to die was greater than living here on earth. But now, I see. Heaven is wonderful. To be in the presence of Jesus every day, magnificent. To never cry again. Never get hurt again. To never see evil again. How precious that will be. So, Paul says the choice is: to live for Christ. To seek Him and His will and do it here on earth or die, and be with Jesus, which is far better. Well, I'm here on earth- I can't say that I'm doing a great job living for Christ, but that should be my number one or only goal while on this earth.
"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! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 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, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me." (1:22-26) Paul knew that he would not die in prison because God wanted to use him to carry on the faith. Paul also knew or wanted to continue to share his "joy in the faith" and "so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me." His joy astounds me. No matter what he is going through he has joy. The Lord is his joy. And that is where is focus is- Jesus, who is joy.
Father, people have come into my life throughout the years and have hurt me deeply. I remember as they thought they were, figuratively, backing me up into a corner how afraid I was and then at just the right moment that 'corner' opened up and I was able to walk away. Not only did I walk away, but you have lead me down some glorious paths. Through the trial I did not have joy. I could not see joy. I could not see a way out, but then you did it. Father, my heart's desire is to trust you and have joy in you no matter who or what comes my way. Teach me to not be offended, as Paul wasn't. Teach me to keep my eyes on you and not the circumstances. I love you, Lord. Be my joy. Amen