Written by Dave Urbanski
Did you know there’s a secret ingredient to staying emotionally healthy?
Paul describes it in the first chapter of his letter to the Philippians, and it was the main thrust of our study of verses 20 through 26 on Sunday.
“It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death,” Paul tells his brothers and sisters.
As we know, the apostle is very much in danger of execution. In the very moment he pens his letter, he’s under house arrest in Rome and could at any minute succumb to the axe by the emperor’s decree.
Like any of us, the possibility of death dials into focus what’s truly important to Paul, and he’s determined to live whatever number of days he has left on earth by honoring Jesus “whether by life or by death.” Whichever outcome is fine by him. There are advantages to both. If he lives, he will continue to preach the gospel and lead others to Christ; if he dies, he will be with the Lord for all eternity.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” he continues in verse 21. “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”
The ultimate win-win. And as Paul embraces this truth, his emotional life follows suit and stabilizes. Pastor Scott expanded on this idea by describing to us our hearts as the place where our emotions dwell. One part of the heart contains the “desires of our heart” — our longings, hopes, and dreams. Another is where raw emotions dwell (happiness, sadness, anger, etc.). Yet another is how we react to circumstances and develop beliefs. But in the center of the heart is a space with a chair … and if we’ve invited Christ into our lives and let him guide us, he’s sitting in that chair and running our whole emotional show.
However, Jesus only sits there if we let him. He’s not a party crasher. He wants to be invited to sit in that center chair — and take center stage. And sometimes he’s not sitting there because we’ve squeezed him out when we give reign to ungodly desires and emotions, which typically lead to sinful behavior.
So, when Paul notes that he wants to honor Christ in his body, Pastor Scott said the idea is to magnify Jesus — to make him bigger. To have him sit in the center of our hearts.
One of the coolest parts of Pastor Scott’s sermon was his breakdown of another verb Paul uses in this passage: to depart (“My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”) He explained that “depart” in ancient Greek can be viewed illustratively in a number of ways: A soldier leaving a camp and going off to the next place; the ropes holding a boat to a dock being released so it can sail away; a farmer removing the yoke of the oxen when their work is over. It’s quite the image. It signifies the end of work labor and movement toward something great.
If we’re believers in Jesus, like Paul we know where we’re headed when we die. And like Paul, we need to be about making a difference for Christ’s glory while we’re still walking on this planet. How do we do that? Well, Paul explains toward the end of the passage in verse 25: “I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”
For Paul, it is a joy to see his fellow believers grow in their faith. And he longs to be with his brothers and sisters in Philippi. It should be the same with us. We should be about devoting our time and energy and resources to others, believers and non-believers alike, and encouraging them toward Christ. And such actions naturally lead to joy.
Pastor Scott also rightly pointed out that when we give too much time and attention to our difficult emotions, we become more self-focused. Life becomes all about me and my pain. But when we make the active decision to let Jesus sit on the throne in the middle of our hearts, our emotions can be in check, and we can become more useful to him.
Many people — even some Christians — live life mainly to be entertained until it ends, Pastor Scott added. So … how are you living your life today? May we all be locked in on our mission to magnify Christ in our bodies, place him on the thrones in our hearts, and devote ourselves to making a difference for him as we reach out to others.