Heavenly Citizens: Hardship Not Comfort

May 18, 2022
Topic: Hardships , Hope

Speaker: Michael Dennis

Bible Passage: Philippians 1:19-26

We’ve titled this series “Heavenly Citizens” out of Philippians chapter 3 where God’s Word refers to those who are in Christ as “citizens of heaven.”  This doesn’t mean we are waiting for heaven but that when we are in Christ, we are no longer citizens of Mexico, India, China, United Kingdom, or United States but in Christ we are citizens of heaven.
Right now, in the news we see a lot of coverage on immigration.  We see a lot of debate about how a country organizes its boarder.  We see debate about how do you bring someone into your country? God’s Word teaches us that how we become “citizens of heaven” is not through a class, not through filling out paperwork, not through hiring a lawyer, but the only way we become “citizens of heaven” is by grace through faith alone in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
That’s it.  Jesus lives the perfect life.  Jesus pays the price for our sin at the cross.  Jesus conquers death in the resurrection.  Jesus invites all people to trust in Him, believe in Him and by grace through faith in Jesus we are given His righteousness, and, in that moment, we become “citizens of heaven.” Just as the Statue of Liberty calls out to the nations, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” we see Jesus calling out to all people to trust in Him, respond to Him, believe in Him and the moment we do we become “citizens of heaven.”
This morning God’s Word makes it really clear that our “citizenship of heaven” is glorious, but our “citizenship of heaven” also brings hardship, so that this morning we are going to see three sub-points; 1. Hardships.  2.  Hope.  3. Christ is worth it!

1. Hardships.

Philippians 1:19-21, “19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

In the context of Philippians, we know the Apostle Paul is writing this letter from prison based on verse 12 from last Sunday.  Didn’t Roberto Moctezuma do great last Sunday?  That was awesome!  This Sunday he’s working with kids! The Apostle Paul is writing to the Philippian church.  The Philippian church is discouraged because the Apostle Paul is in prison.  The Apostle Paul is at the height of his influence.  Churches are getting started.  Lives are being transformed through faith in Jesus, and Paul is in prison in chains. In fact, the Apostle Paul is in prison chained to a Praetorian Guard.  These Praetorian Guards would be chained to Paul 24-7.  They ate with Paul, they slept near Paul, they were there when Paul would go to the bathroom, with Paul when he is writing this letter, and in verse 19 the Apostle Paul encourages the Philippian church by reminding that he is confident of his “deliverance.”  Do you see that in verse 19?
The “deliverance” isn’t necessarily a deliverance from prison because in verse 20 it appears Paul’s life is hanging in the balance.  Do you see that at the end of verse 20?  Don’t look at me.  Look at God’s Word, “Whether by life or by death.” Therefore, when we talk about hardships in life it is clear the Apostle Paul found himself smack dab in the middle of hardships.  He is in prison, chained to a guard, wondering if he is going to live or die, so that in verse 21 Paul writes these immortal words, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
To live is Christ is to approach all of life as a follower of Jesus.  Does that make sense?  To live is Christ is to approach our career as a follower of Jesus would approach their career, our parenting as a follower of Jesus, our politics as a follower of Jesus, our nationality, our sexuality, our finances, friendships, our pain, our joy; all of life!  But then the Apostle Paul follows up those powerful words with “to die is gain” which doesn’t exactly get stitched on as many pillows.  Lots of people love the phrase “For me, to live is Christ” but you don’t see a lot of “to die is gain.”  What does that mean?
In the context of the passage, we have to remember the Apostle Paul is going through incredible hardship.  The Apostle Paul is in prison, chained to a guard going through rejection over and over and over and is honestly thinking to himself, “It would be easier to simply die and be face to face with Jesus.” I am guessing that some of us have been confronted with those types of thoughts and feelings before.  Perhaps we haven’t been imprisoned and chained to a guard, but I am guessing that some of us have been so overwhelmed with the weight of life that we become “home sick” and think to ourselves, “I would rather be face to face with Jesus.”  This is real!
What I want us to see in the second part of 21 is that God’s Word doesn’t mask over the pain and misery in life.  There are other faiths of the world that will tell you that pain isn’t real.  Pain is just something you must block out.  Pain is something you try to escape through career and relationships and meditation. But God’s Word meets us in the hardships of life and acknowledges that pain is real and in Philippians 1 we get to see how God’s people walk through real pain and hardship.

2.  Hope.

Philippians 1:22-24, “22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” 

Is to die gain?  It is for the Apostle Paul.  At the end of verse 22 he writes, “I do not know which to choose, life or death.”  Verse 23, “I am hard-pressed from both directions.”  The word “hard-pressed” in the original language means “to be distressed.”  It means the Apostle Paul is sitting in prison, life being threatened and genuinely thinking to himself, “the desire to be face to face with Jesus Christ is very much better than where he is in that moment.”
Have you else ever had those thoughts about life?  Has anyone been face to face with so much hardship that you can’t wait to get face to face with Jesus?  Right now, travel companies are doubling down on this desire.  Have you noticed?  Right now, travel companies know we have all been cooped up the last two years so every, beat down by hardship, so every ad right now for travel is all revolving around, “Getting away.” There’s one with Ewan McGregor, Obie Wan, walking through a television set asking us, “Do you think we’re going to look back on life and wish we had a better smart phone, more hours at the office, thinner television, or (the hope for humanity) are we going to look back on life and think about the places we’ve gone!”  And then door opens to some exotic destination, and we eat it up.  We are like, “Yes, why am I at church in Austin, TX when I could be on an exotic beach with Obie Wan Kenobi!” Why?  It’s because in life when we are face to face with hardship we think about quitting.  Maybe some of us are there right now?
I want you to see God’s Word meet us in our hardship.  I want you to see vacations are nice, enjoy a vacation, but vacations are momentary.  Vacations are fleeting.  Vacations come and go but look at where the Apostle Paul finds hope in verse 24.  Where does the Apostle Paul find his hope to keep fighting the hardships of life?  He writes, “Yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake!”  The Philippian Church!  Sit in that for a second. Yes, our hope is in Christ, and we will get to that in a second, but the Apostle Paul is looking at the reality of the pain and hardship in his life and he concludes “pouring his life into the Philippians church is more important than escaping the hardships of life.”
Listen to me, it doesn’t mean pain isn’t real.  It doesn’t mean pain doesn’t matter.  But instead, the Apostle Paul looks at the glorious eternal life he has in Christ, and he wants others to have that knowledge of the glorious eternal life in Christ also, so it spurs him to keep fighting.

  1. Christ Is Worth It!

Philippians 1:25-26, “25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.”

Convinced of what?  Convinced that he will remain on earth in the flesh proclaiming the name of Jesus. The word “progress” in verse 25 means to “advance.”  It is to move toward their spiritual growth and maturity, so that the Philippians confidence would abound, not in Paul, but in Christ Jesus.  Do you see that?  Paul wants them to be in awe of Jesus! This is difficult to grasp but think of it like this; our typical default toward hardship is to avoid hardship, right?
We want to get around hardship, get through hardship, avoid hardship, do anything we can to get away from hardship.  It might be our job.  It might be our family.  It might be our relationships in church.  It might be in our community group.  But God’s Word is teaching us to find hope in hardship by pouring our life into the things of Christ.  In verse 24 the Apostle Paul is in hardship, and he says, “But for sake I will keep going.” In verse 26 the Philippians are in hardship and the Apostle Paul says, “Look forward to my coming.”  It isn’t so that the Philippians would become the focus because the focus is about Jesus, and it isn’t so that Paul would become the focus because the focus is about Jesus. So practically as I walk through grief in my life personally my impulse is to pull away from others, suppress grief, block it out, and right now I have a strong pull to keep everyone alive around me. But God’s Word is teaching me to lean into the things of Jesus.  Especially when we are confronted with life and death, there’s nothing more important than Jesus.
Today we are celebrating Motherhood and I am sure there are some hardships in motherhood.  Right now, our culture teaches young females that there are so many hardships in motherhood they should forsake motherhood and just nurture a career, right? But God’s Word teaches our mothers the work they do of pouring God’s Word into children is a glorious work.  Teaching children about Jesus is a glorious work.  Especially teaching those children about the One who will carry them through any hardship! Jesus is the One who dwell in the eternal city of heaven and yet gave it all up so that we might become citizens of heaven. Philippians 2 teaches us that Jesus did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, so Jesus lays it aside to take on flesh in the form of a man. Jesus is the One who takes on the greatest hardship of death on a cross so that we might not have to face the hardships of life for eternity.
That’s why we are focused on “Look Around” this year.  That’s why God’s Word reminds us we are “heavenly citizens.”  That’s why we have these cards to share the gospel this year. But listen to me, there must be a “for me” in our life.  Does that make sense?  Our relationship with Jesus is personal.  There has a to be a “for me.”  Has that happened in your life?  If that hasn’t happened in your life then you need to do that right now, believe in Jesus.  Will you pray with me?