A Life Eclipsed
Key text: Phil 1:18-30
So I have become less and less convinced of my superhero ability to change the world by my own self-will.
However, in this, I have not become a cynic in this either. I have not fallen into the trap of being deluded by my own significance in the world, I have learned to accept it as in fact I was created to be second not created to not matter rather created for someone else!
This has not come because I have figured it out or because I have learned it by my own, rather Jesus has broken me in many ways over the last few years to humble me into accepting that my life is not as important as I once thought it was.
In fact, what has become centred to me is the idea that I am here for him more than I am here for me. This fundamental shift in ideology has caused me to then, weirdly (I know), appreciate more the things that are given to me because no longer do I live for them as an end in themselves, rather are seen for what they are; blessings.
So I want to talk to you today about how you can live a life eclipsed. What is a life eclipsed? It is a life that has become centred upon who He is in order to find our real place in this world.
You see church the older I get the more convinced of this; we are not designed to be the centre of the universe, and in fact it is damaging to us and those around us if we even perceive that we are simply the centre of our own universe.
Paul in this passage addresses an interesting reality of what his life is to him. He states that to him death is gain (and he says this not in a depressed way, rather in a positive and powerful display of the focus of his life).
It must be said that this is right after he reports how many other preachers have made his life difficult and have tried to threaten his life work.
It is here in this place that Paul says the following:
18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.https://www.bible.com/assets/footnote.png 20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
What gripped me again about this passage is when Paul says that to live is Christ and to die is gain; he means this on the most fundamental level. Not just on a level that is aimed to make him look religious.
Paul didn’t just mean that He lived for Christ so that He was not afraid of dying, He meant that his life was truly lived at the mercy of his God and that his only goal was to honour Christ.
When I realise this truly – to say to live is Christ and to die is gain – it becomes a life changing concept.
You see Paul meant that to live is Christ means that nothing else matters to him but Christ and the mission that Christ has committed him to.
Paul lived a life where every aspect of his life was eclipsed by who Christ is and what He means.
So can I ask you church is Christ…
1.Eclipsing our Ambition
When we read this passage we have to read it in its context. Paul says in verse 12-17 how there are other preacher who are preaching Christ, and there is this whole dialogue of how some are preaching out of good motives, some out of bad, and in fact some are preaching and making his life difficult because of their preaching, they long to “Stir up trouble…” for him.
I don’t know about you, but I would not respond as Paul did if someone was actively trying to sabotage me. I wondered in reflecting about this what was Paul’s world view that He could so easily brush off these attacks.
Well he could do this because his life had been eclipsed by the glory and wonder of Christ. Everything had been placed second to Christ and the mission of Christ in his life (which is the gospel going out and people responding to the love of God in Christ).
I believe this is something that God does to us when we start living for Him, He starts to break us so that we can actually see that He is, indeed, all that matters.
I must admit my journey to this has been one of God humbling me rather than me being humble to this; however, God is gracious and has allowed me to truly see my place in all this.
But when we actually start to think about it; it makes sense. Let us remember that Jesus; in the beginning simply said let the be light, and light responded in obedience to Him. He said let the be land and oceans and plants and creatures and all came into existence in simple obedience.
Colossians reminds us all things were made by Him and for Him.
It then is peculiar that we live for ourselves if everything that you can see and the things you can’t see are made by His will and for His glory.
It is contrary to live for anything else but him if we were made for him and by him.
Its kind of like when I was 18 all my friends were into “modding” their cars, and so they bought new grills and scoops etc. It is the older I get that the more that whole culture just doesn’t connect with me.
The people who design and build those cars are not some side road mechanic, they are the best of the best, hired by the top car manufactures in the world (their whole life is building and designing cars). And then some teenager things He can make it better.
What inevitably happens is the car is ruined by theses new additions to it.
I mean I remember talking to the the chief designer of Bentley who bemoaned thousands of his cars going off to the United States; ‘cause he knows that the people who buy them there put new rims on and completely mod the car, effectively destroying the original design and purpose of the car.
Church you were not designed to live for your own glory or adulation; you were designed for the glory of another. now you can like those teenagers “mod” your life to be lived for yourself; but like those “modded” cars you will cut the reliability and enjoyment of that life because of this.
Paul could cut short even his ambition of those preaching against Him as long as Christ was being gloried and the gospel was going out. Why? Because Paul’s life had been eclipsed by Christ.
Paul doesn’t only say to live is Christ; he states something more he says to die is gain.
So let me ask you the second question this morning, church, is Christ…
2.Eclipsing our Gain
Paul justifies this in the rest of this passage; telling the church to die is better because He will go to be with God yet he longs to stay for the benefit of the church.
Now we get this; I hope, but I want to truly challenge you this morning on this point; is dying gain to you.
Again I think we reconcile this in almost a depressed way; you know; “The world is so rubbish, everything is going to pot, so it would be better for me to die.”
If I look at the rest of the writings of Paul and I understand the message of Christ; don’t think that is the full picture.
Yes things are bad, yes we have our troubles, but the scriptures never call us to live in an escapist mentality.
Now of course there will be a release from the troubles of this world when we die; we will no longer suffer with pain and sorrow, nor sin and personal struggles. However, if that is all that we gain in death then we have missed why we are alive.
I believe Paul meant that to die is gain, meant to die for me will be better than any glory I can gain in this life.
Let me put it this way. Let us for a second imagine the single best experience in our life, for some of us it was getting married, for some of us it was the birth of our children, for others a thrilling experience or holiday or vista or even an experience beyond our means, like going in an expensive car, or seeing a truly amazing painting.
I think Paul truly meant that He has understood Christ, and has been griped by the glory of who Christ in such a way, that if you were to offer him all the treasures and experiences of the world, and ask him to chose between them and Christ there would be no contest, let me die and gain in Christ.
I think so many of us live our lives with our gain actually invested here. We haven’t actually perceived fully the beauty and wonder of Christ and His gospel and so parts of us are here in this life; and for us to die would be loss, yes we would escape our sorrows, but that is about it.
Church I want to present you with what we are missing out when we live a life that is not engaged with who Christ is, not only do we miss out on the hope which actually awaits us when we die, but we also miss out on the glory that awaits us when we live.
Christ is more than our security, or our protection from hell, He is the glory of heaven, He is the hope of the world, He is power, and wonder and love and peace and joy. He is more than this world and all its glories could ever offer us, and He is more than we could ever achieve if we lived for ourselves.
And we know this; every small wonder that we enjoy on this world calls for us to seek more. I mean I have never gone on a holiday that truly satisfied my hunger for adventure. I have never had my full of beauty or wonder or joy, my heart is constantly longing for more.
And maybe it is longing for more because there is more, but it is not found in this world it is found in the one who called this world into existence.
When you get this church, when you truly see the one who made all things for Himself you will see that your life is meant to be lived and poured out for Him and His glory. You will see that He truly eclipses you because He is, in reality, greater.
I pray that He would show Himself to you and you too would be able to say in confidence; to me to live is Christ and to die; I gain!