For an introduction to this series, click here.
Philippians is another of the prison epistles, along with Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon.
Paul starts off his letter with some words of reassurance:
"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (1:3-11)
I am thankful that the Lord is at work and will continue to work in my life. It is wonderful that the Lord does not give up on us, even when we stray from his plan.
The next section is very interesting:
"I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice." (1:12-18)
This is interesting to me. I would like to know what exactly was happening when these people were preaching out of envy and rivalry. But Paul was going to rejoice that the Gospel was being preached, even when people were preaching for the wrong motives. I think this can apply to those who hold odd beliefs but still preach the Gospel. Yes they have problems, but they are still preaching the Gospel and carrying forward the work of God, so in that we can be glad.
"Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as 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. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 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. Convinced of this, 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." (1:18-26, ESV)
Paul was never the same after his vision of heaven. He knew what he was missing by staying here. But he also knew that once we get to heaven, it is all over. He wanted to do more for the Lord on this earth. So he was in an odd situation. But this is the way any true believer should feel. Our true home is heaven, and we should be looking forward to being there, because that is where our heart is.