Philippians 1:19–30: Confidence
Despite Paul’s own ability to rejoice in the midst of his suffering, the apostle recognizes that most people struggle to recognize suffering as a cause for rejoicing. Paul has explained that the advance of the gospel of Christ causes him to rejoice, regardless of his personal suffering in prison or from rivals preaching against him in Philippians 1:18. Now, he spends the rest of the first chapter of Philippians filling us in on the reasons behind that surprising attitude. To help us recognize that this is what he is doing, Paul transitions into Philippians 1:19 with the conjunction “for,” a word that gives the cause or the reason behind what he has just said about rejoicing in the midst of deep suffering. He can rejoice for he knows something that he will now explain to us (Phil. 1:19). Paul has posed the riddle of his cruciform mindset, and now he begins the process of explaining how his joy could possibly be real.
In this section, then, Paul reiterates and expands upon his radical perspective on life. He is not ultimately seeking peace, security, and comfort, but only for Christ to be glorified in and through his life. It isn’t that Paul enjoys suffering, since he would far rather depart from his suffering to be with Christ (Phil 1:23). Instead, Paul recognizes the critical role that suffering plays in the life of the believer by confirming the share that we have in Christ. To Paul, suffering does not represent evidence against God’s favor toward us. Instead, suffering is proof that God is committed to doing everything necessary for bringing us into glory as he leads us down the same path that Jesus himself walked on his way to the cross.
1. When you pray for deliverance in your own life, where are you putting your hope? Do you pray for God to build your faith in his unshakable salvation, or will you be disappointed if God does not give you success and comfort in this life? What part of Paul’s confidence in his own “deliverance” might you meditate upon prayerfully to grow in this area?
2. What constitutes life for you? That is, where do you find your greatest pleasure, hope, and exhilaration? What constitutes gain to you? That is, where are you willing to make significant investments of time, energy, and resources for the sake of what you might receive as a return? What would happen if you lost the things that you are living for?
3. How does your gospel citizenship clash with the benefits and responsibilities of the citizenship you enjoy in your country? Your school or workplace? Your home? What practical steps do you need to step out of conformity with your worldly citizenships in order to grow in conformity with your gospel citizenship?
4. Are you frustrated with God over some part of your suffering? Because of that suffering, in what ways do you question his love for you? What might change if you instead saw your temporary suffering in this life as evidence of his eternal love for you? How might God be using your suffering and discipline for your eternal benefit?