A Life Lived for God’s Glory

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14)

We ended last time with one of the most important thoughts that we as people can know and embrace ever. In fact it is a truth that should be our guide in every decision, in every thought, in every act, it should ring in our ears when we are happy or sad, when we have it all under control or when all looks like chaos. This truth of which I speak can guide us and make our path straight when all is crooked; if we embrace it, it drives us even to experience peace and joy. Do you know of what truth I am talking about? It is the last phrase in Philippians 1:11, which says, “to the glory and praise of God.” 

When Paul mentions that, “to the glory and praise of God,” he is letting us in on what is the greatest thing we, as people, can live for. Does life seem meaningless and empty at times? Well then maybe you are living for the wrong things!

As I shared last week, some say, “There has to be more to life than what I know or have experienced. There must be something I am missing.” Do you hear that? What is it? “I go to church, I read my bible, I do good things for my neighbor, I’m as good as the next guy, I try to love my family, I work hard at my job. I pray, I do all these things, but I’m still stuck, just not really happy with things. I don’t have much peace. I do these things but it’s just not paying off for me.” Maybe you are doing some good things but for the wrong reasons.

We talked about how if we find ourselves there, we’ve got to get out of that. Today, I want to help you here with this. Who wants to live a life, go through all of life, and never understand what abundant, full, meaningful life is right now on this earth? I mean this is not heaven, I think we are all reminded of this daily. This will never be heaven, not until we die and see Christ face-to-face; however, God has given us a life to live and big and great things to live for right now, and so a full, meaningful life is possible now, if our minds are rightly focused on what? Christ in me, my Savior in me, forever in me, having died for me, and the greatness of God that my life is to reflect right now. I love Him, so I want Him to be known to all the world. He is the greatest being, the greatest entity possible, and so I want to line up with Him, make Him known, reflect Him, praise Him, worship Him, in all things I do and say that is, living for His glory. And that, my friends, is big! And if that overshadows all other things in our lives and our circumstances, or feelings, and everything else falls well below that goal, then life now is abundant, full of peace, and free.

We have to live for something bigger, and the biggest thing, the greatest thing to live for is God, because He is God. To live for Him because He is God. To love Him because He is God. He is a God who intervenes in our evil world and lives and raises us up into the heavens. He forgives our sins, He cleanses us from all the junk of our lives, He washes us clean from the filth that we have wallowed in, He makes us new, He redeems us from the grave, he takes away the sting of death and makes death a glorious event. He does all this and says, “Live for me! Take up your cross and follow me!” And we get to do that! And as we do, as He empowers us to do just that, we bring attention to His name, we live as if He is great. We don’t just say He is great, we live as if He is great, because He is great. Our lives point to a fantastic, beautiful, perfect, loving, forgiving God, we say He is great! We make Him known! To the praise of the glory of His grace! We are nothing and He is everything, that is what our lives proclaim!

”to the glory and praise of God.” It is time to ask why. Why wouldn’t that excite you? And honestly answering that by discovering what in your life is competing with Him, you can repent of those idols – that is what they are – and forsake them, and refocus on what is greater than any other person or thing. What are we living for? The answer to that question will determine whether or not we will have contentment and joy and peace in life, or whether we will not. Are we finding our delight in Him?

Now today we get to see this played out in Paul’s life, what living for God’s glory looked like in Paul’s life. So far this may seem way too theoretical for you. This living for God’s glory in all things, what does that really look like when I live life outside of these doors? Well let’s look at Paul; what did it look like for him?

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14)

It is unusual for Paul to speak so quickly about himself in one of his letters. But here, in Philippians, Paul was aware of the love and concern that His fellow Christians in Philippi had for him. They, the church, had sent one of their own to check on Paul and see how he was doing in Rome as a prisoner of Rome, and so Paul wants to quickly comfort them regarding his condition. No one wanted to be in prison. Who wants to be in prison right? So they were concerned for him.

Paul, knowing then that they were concerned for him, he chooses to update them from a godly perspective. He didn’t do what I would probably do: “You’ve got to come get me out of this filthy place. Come quickly and plead my case, I can’t stand this anymore, get me out of here!” I mean, I don’t know how I would respond, but for many of us it may not be the way Paul responds. Paul’s response was, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,”

Rather than detail his hardships, he recognized that all events, including his current ones, could be redeemed for the Lord’s sake, and he took what advantage he could to continue his mission. The primary concern that he carried with him, wherever he went, was that the gospel message of salvation in Christ, and in Christ alone, that it go forward. This happened through adverse circumstances, but as long as it happened, Paul could be joyful!

It goes back to the end of verse 11: “to the glory and praise of God.” Paul was living life “to the glory and praise of God.” This was not theory for him, it was real life, this is where he was. Paul was not living for the comfort and ease of self. If Paul was living for himself and for his own little kingdom in his own little world, if his goal was that he be on the throne in his life and rule his little world around him, then this whole prison thing would never allow joy in his life, but would be devastating. But Paul wasn’t living for his fleshly desires to be fulfilled, but for God’s glory in the advance of the gospel, and so his joy could not be ripped away by Rome, or soldiers, or a cold, damp prison, or really bad food, or anything else, because that was not what he was living for!

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, (Philippians 1:12)

I don’t know about you, but in my life, when I lose sight of the goal – loving God, advancing the gospel, all glory to Him in all things – when I begin to lose sight of that divine perspective, things get bad really quickly. I mean that things get bad emotionally. What happens is fear creeps in, worry, feelings of hopelessness, sadness, sometimes an overwhelming feeling of just weight on my shoulders. But when I remember God and His glorious attributes – His sovereignty, His faithfulness, His grace and mercy and power and might, and that He never sleeps, He is never unaware or unloving toward me, He is everywhere and is protecting me and protecting His church and His message – then strength comes, and it is as overwhelming as the bad feelings that had proceeded it.

Don’t you think that Paul had to spend some time in prison preaching to himself, reminding himself of these truths? Reminding himself that his goal and aim in life is to glorify another, glorify God? That it is his high privilege to live for God, to make God known to everyone around Him, to raise up the name of our great God. Do you think he had to remind himself that every step he takes, every word out of his mouth, every thought, every deed, every interaction with another person, that all of that, each one, was an opportunity to say or demonstrate that God is great, trustworthy, sufficient? Either we proclaim that loudly, or we say and demonstrate, “My God is incompetent to care for me right now.” Which message do we proclaim? Do you see the choice, do you see the difference? Who or what was Paul living for? For God’s glory no matter what!

In Ephesians 3 Paul was writing about ministry, about living life for God’s glory, about God’s work and His might and His power. He was overwhelmed by God and that he, Paul, of all people would be invited into the family of God and be given the opportunity to serve God as a child of God. For Paul that was an overwhelming thought, that a person who had been a persecutor of the church, a murderer, an enemy of Christ, that God would still look on him with compassion and care and love and say, “Do my work, live for me!” That was almost unbelievable to Paul, and so at the end of Ephesians 3 he prays. Listen to how he prays:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Here is the point: When God’s glory is the main thing for us, making Him known by what we do and how we do it, when the gospel message is of utmost concern to us – the coming of Christ, the work of Christ, the death and suffering of Christ for us, the resurrection of Christ, the ascension of Christ into heaven, the coming again of Christ – when these are what we are consumed with, then little things – I mean little relative to God’s glory and the gospel truths – little things like a prison stay in Paul’s case, will not bring devastation to our lives. Why? Because the goal, our goal in life, Paul’s goal in life, was not to stay out of prison at all costs, no, his goal was to faithfully glorify God wherever God took him.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, (2 Corinthians 4:17)

So if our goal is a great marriage or family, however we would define that, or a lot of money, or a great education for ourselves or our kids, or safety, good health, or positive attention from other people, or being thought well of, or just having a car that starts every morning when you turn the key, or a good night’s sleep for once, or whatever, then just get ready, hold on, because if any of those things are your goals, then your world will be rocked, it will be shaken.

If your goal is to glorify God, however, to do what is pleasing to God and represent His glory well in living out the gospel and proclaiming it, if this is your goal – and it is your goal when your marriage and children are not perfect, and when you run out of money, and if you can’t get the education you want, and when other people run you down and think little of you, and when your car won’t start, and when sleep doesn’t come – then you can stand through it all and turn adversity into an opportunity to say, “In this I will trust my God, because He is trustworthy. I will remain under a sincere belief that He knows what is best and in what circumstances I can best glorify Him.” It is in those times we can say:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:1-3)

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:10-11)

Living for God’s glory in adversity!

Paul gets more specific, he gives us more. His imprisonment has furthered the gospel in that the imperial guards are hearing about Christ.

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. (Philippians 1:12-13)

The imperial guards, the keepers of the most powerful empire in all the world, are hearing about what? Christ and His gospel message! Okay, now we can stand back and say, since we know the whole story here, “Now that was a good plan. I mean God really had a good plan here. Take the most outspoken gospel preacher ever, put him in prison, rubbing shoulders with the guardians of the empire, the Roman empire, and let him preach away. I mean, how else might the gospel spread better and among a people who no one else could really get to? Paul gets to preach on their turf, right? Great plan!” Wouldn’t you say that is a great plan?

We can say, “Yes, I see how that would glorify God. Way to go God; way to be submissive and faithful Paul. God was in that!” But wait. As a believer in Jesus and as those having faith in Him alone for salvation, aren’t His plans for us just as good? Isn’t where we are right now a perfect place to be faithful, as was Paul? Isn’t God still sovereign over our circumstances? Aren’t we as called as Paul to glorify God wherever we are? Yes, we can cheer Paul on as we read through Philippians 1, but are we as cheerful where we are with the opportunities He has given us?

You may feel like you are in prison right now. Bound with difficult things, emotions, relationships, just worldly troubles. What do you do with that? Do you have a divine perspective, a right perspective? Yes, life gets hard! But God is with you if you belong to Him.

How do we know that Paul was cheerful? Look at verse 18: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice”

What would it be like if the sting of really hard realities of life was replaced with an ever-deepening love and dependance on God and His wisdom? What would it be like if we stopped getting so wound up over circumstances that steal our joy? What would it be like if we trusted God in all things, good or bad, welcome and unwelcome intrusions? I think it would look like what we see in Paul’s life. Joy, rejoicing, not because life is hard, that would be strange, but because in what is hard, God is working, His plan is in play, and we can focus on Him and His glory.

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8)

Isn’t that great? Isn’t it great to have a divine perspective? That is where God wants us to be.

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. (Philippians 1:12-13)