Paul’s Optimism

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 1:20-26

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what He is doing through me.


Not many of us can state our life’s purpose in one word but Paul could. Most of us have many interest: Paul had only one. I have a wife to please but Paul was married to Jesus. His entire life could be summed up in one word–Christ. He had narrowed his interest to one thing–Christ. He was passionate about one thing–Christ. Tonight I want to share the message under four headings:


I know we do not think of the great apostle as a worrier but literally translated, earnest expectations means ‘an anxious looking ahead’. Personally, I don’t see how Paul could have been human and not had some anxiety. He was in prison and Nero was the Emperor. If I were awaiting trial under Nero, I would be worried. Nero was a sexual pervert and he was insane. Since Nero was gay, he would have probably made me a human torch. Evangelist Phil Glisson from Memphis was preaching at our local Pastor’s conference a few weeks back and he said, “There is coming a day in the near future, when preachers will be locked up for preaching the truth about the evil of homosexuality and Jack Bailey will be one of the first they arrest. He puts out a news letter that would burn a hole through one of these tables.” I have some earnest expectations just like Paul. Paul was tested; he was tried and true. To date, all I have done is run my mouth. I don’t know what I will do when they come to get me. I pray God will give me grace but I have never been persecuted so I don’t know what I will do. Paul had three concerns that were sincere desires of his heart.

  1. He did not want to be ashamed of Christ. Paul had never, since his conversion, been ashamed of Christ but he does not want to make the same mistake that Peter made and become over confident.  This is a deep concern to Paul: to deny Christ would be paramount to an unpardonable sin to him. I doubt that your average professing Christian gives much thought to this fear. I am not in Paul’s league but I think about this often. What would I do if put to the test? Like Paul, I do not want to be ashamed of Jesus but I have acted cowardly before. Paul had a great track record, I don’t but I am telling you, it is a source of anxiety with me. Will I be faithful to stand unashamedly for Christ? Paul’s prayer was that he would ‘never’ be ashamed of Jesus.
  2. Paul’s second desire is that he will continue to be BOLD for Christ. Paul was a little man but he had a big heart and a lot of back bone. He confronted Peter in public: how much courage did that take? I heard Adrian Rogers do something that upset me. He got on to a woman because her baby was crying. It was blood chilling. I know the big wigs enforce nursery and do not allow infants into the sanctuary but that is offensive to me. I guess that is why they are huge churches and I am at a rural cross roads but I do not think Jesus got glory out of what he did. Would I have confronted him? No way Hosea! I reached a point where I did not even stand in line to speak to the man. I admired his preaching and I stood in awe of his brilliance but I lacked the courage to confront such a man. Paul would have if he had felt the need.
  3. Paul desire was to magnify Christ. The Greek word Paul uses is megalynō and you know what mega means. Mega means great, big, huge and lyno means to make. So literally, the word means to make big. I have to have glasses to read. The lens in my glasses make the letters bigger. It the print is large enough: I don’t have to have glasses. Paul wanted to make Christ big by the way he lived. He wanted to bring honor to Christ. I think this desire make a great purpose statement for an individual or a church. I think it would be huge to keep in mind always that our goal is to honor Christ.


As I mentioned earlier, few people can state their creed in one word; Paul said for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain{1:21, NASB}. The NLT says…For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. The CEV reads…If I live, it will be for Christ, and if I die, I will gain even more. The GWT…Christ means everything to me in this life, and when I die I’ll have even more. The ERV… To me, the only important thing about living is Christ. And even death would be for my benefit. The VOICE which I am currently reading translates it…For my life is about the Anointed and Him alone. And my death, when that comes, will mean great gain for me. I have translated this verse, “For me to live is Christ and to die is a promotion.” I seldom use the words funeral or death in regards to a fellow believer. I refer to them as being ‘Promoted’ and I use the term CELEBRATION OF LIFE in place of funeral. I don’t like the way funeral sounds. I have my celebration planned and so does my wife. I think she is kidding but she tells folks that they are going to sing “To God Be The Glory” when I am promoted. I agree with Paul, physical death means a promotion. Jesus saves the best for last: heaven is infinitely better than earth. For a child of God, physical death is a gain, a win-win.


The AV translates verses 23-24 like this…For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. The NASB reads…But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. When it came to departing this world, Paul had mixed emotions which I think is rather common. Who does not want to be free of sin and temptation. Even young believers with good healthy bodies should have such a desire. Most Senior adults are ready to give up the temple of clay because with time, it develops a lot of problems. Life is a process of giving up things and the older you get, the more you give up or lose. I am losing hair, sight, hearing, brain cells, muscle, energy and on and on I could go. When Paul wrote this letter, he was about my age so I do not think he minded giving up the physical body. The dilemma he faced was to be with Christ or to be with His Church here on earth. He felt that heavenly tug and longed to be with Christ but he knew that he was needed here on earth so he felt a tug in both direction. Paul said, “I think about both and I really don’t know which is better for me.” Before he finishes this passage, he is confident that he will stay here on earth longer but there were times when he did not know what he wanted the most. It is not a bad problem to have.


Paul begins verse 25 with the word pā’-thō , convinced, persuaded…literally it would read, “Convinced I am or Persuaded I am”. As best I can understand, the word indicates a very strong confidence, like a conviction. Paul feels strongly that he will remain here on earth to complete the mission God has called him to. This conviction he has is so strong and deep, that Paul has no doubts. He is assured that he will stay on a while longer.

Let me tell you what is amazing about this conviction. There is a lot of evidence, although not clearly stated in N.T., that Paul was acquitted because the Jews never brought an official charge to Rome. Many scholars believe that Paul stayed in Rome two years under house arrest and then was set free. There is evidence that he traveled to Troas and other places after this imprisonment. Some even believe he returned to the holy land and to Antioch of Syria. Some think he made a trip to Spain. Here is something to consider: if Paul is not freed from this imprisonment, then his heart played a cruel trick on him because here he is confident that he will return to the churches in Macedonia. We do know this: In II Timothy, his last letter, Paul had a conviction that the end was near. This leads me to believe that there was indeed two imprisonments in Rome. How and why he was arrested the second time we do not know. Some have suggested that between his first and second imprisonment, Nero declared war on the Christians; probably about two years after Paul was released. When Paul came back to visit the Roman church, he was arrested and executed along with Peter and others. The first persecution was Jewish; the Romans did not get into it until Nero about 65 AD. The Romans would lead the way for the next 300 years.


This section closes with verse 26…And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what He is doing through me. The NASB translates verse 26…so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. The word abound means to exceed the fixed measures, to over flow, to burst out like steam in a pressure cooker. It means a joy that is uncontainable. A joy you can’t keep the lid on. The VOICE has the right idea…When I return to you, we will celebrate Jesus the Anointed even more. Heaven will be an eternal CELEBRATION OF JESUS and Paul said, “The next time I come to you, we are going to have a celebration of Jesus.” The Tyndale Commentary says, “Rejoicing is too mild of a word for the word Paul uses here.”