The Christ-Centered Life | Philippians 1:12-26
Brian Hedges | May 17, 2020
Turn in your Bibles this morning to Philippians 1. We’re going to be in verses 12-26. While you’re turning there, let me read something to you from C.S. Lewis. This was written in 1948. This was just three years after the end of World War II, and everyone was concerned about the atomic bomb and the devastating power of the atomic bomb. C.S. Lewis wrote an article called “On Living in an Atomic Age.” He asks this question, “How are we to live in an atomic age?”
He begins by saying, “I’m tempted to reply, ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century, when the plague visited London almost every year; or, indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, he’s saying we should live, even in the possibility of a nuclear fallout, an atomic bomb, of massive death on national or even a global scale, we should continue to live as we’ve lived throughout the centuries, with the reality of death.
He goes on to say, “Do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented. It is perfectly ridiculous,” he says, “to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances, and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. What the wars and the atomic bomb have really done is to remind us forcibly of the sort of world we are living in, and which during the prosperous period before 1914 [that was World War I] we were beginning to forget. This reminder is, so far as it goes, a good thing.”
Then listen to this, one more sentence from this paragraph. He says, “We have been waked up from a pretty dream, and now we can begin to talk of realities.”
Now, it doesn’t take much imagination to supply the words “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” or “pandemic” for “atomic bomb” in Lewis’s article; in fact, many people have done that online, and perhaps you’ve seen excerpts of this article over the last several weeks. Certainly, the pandemic that we have been experiencing has been a harsh reminder of a basic fact of our existence, and that is our mortality. We were already sentenced to death, and the pandemic has just made that more obvious to us. So, as Lewis says, we have been awakened from a pretty dream. We’ve been reminded of our mortality, and now that we are awake, we can begin to think about what really matters, we can begin to talk about reality.
I find that a helpful introduction into the passage that we’re going to look at this week in Philippians 1, because it’s written by a man who was faced every day with his morality. It was written by the apostle Paul while he was in prison. We think it was written when he was in Rome under house-arrest, awaiting trial before Caesar, and he didn’t know whether he would live or die. Yet, in the midst of that uncertainty, in the midst of the impending possibility of his own death, he was utterly focused on Christ and on the gospel.
We talk pretty often in our church and within our circles, within our stream of Christendom, about living a Christ-centered life, but I wonder if we know what that means. Well, the passage that we’re going to study this morning I think shows us exactly what it means to be a Christ-centered person, to live a Christ-centered life. As we work through this passage together, I think we will see three expressions of a Christ-centered life, three ways in which a Christ-centered life manifests itself in the apostle Paul, and he serves as a model for us.
Let’s begin by reading this passage, Philippians 1:12-26. Paul says,
“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 selfish ambition, 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.
“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.”
This is God’s word.
What I want us to see are three ways in which the Christ-centeredness of Paul expresses itself. These are, I think, three ways in which we should also show Christ-centeredness in our lives.
1. Commitment to Advancing the Gospel of Christ
Here’s the first. We see Paul’s Christ-centeredness in his commitment to advancing the gospel of Christ. You see it in verses 12-18. Just read again verse 12. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
When he says, “What has happened to me,” he has in mind, of course, his imprisonment, which he mentions in verse 13. He’s already mentioned it once in this letter. The word “imprisonment” literally means “chains,” so Paul here is speaking of his condition as a prisoner, as he is literally in bonds, literally in chains. He says that this has really served to advance the gospel.
The word “advance” is an important word, and it’s a word that’s used twice in our passage. It’s used here in verse 12 and then again in verse 25 when he talks about the “progress and joy in the faith” of the Philippian believers. The word “progress” in verse 25 and the word “advance” here are exactly the same word in Greek.
It’s a military word. William Barclay in his commentary tells us that it was a word used to describe an army that would be advancing into a new territory as it would remove trees and build roads and make a way, build a way into a new territory or a new region. That’s the idea of advancing or making progress.
Paul says that his chains, his imprisonment, his suffering have caused the gospel to advance, to move forward. By the gospel, of course, he means the message of Jesus, he means the good news, he means Christ being proclaimed in his death, his burial, and resurrection. As you read through this passage, the emphasis on proclaiming Christ or preaching Christ in verses 15, 17, and 18 make that really clear.
So, Paul here is telling us that, in spite of his adverse circumstances, he was committed to the advancing of the gospel of Christ, and in fact he saw his adverse circumstances through that lens. He saw his circumstances as an opportunity for the gospel of Christ to move forward.
I love the words of Alec Motyer in his commentary. He says that “Paul does not concentrate our gaze on the chained wrist, but, as it were holding up the chain before our eyes, he makes us look through its links at the effect of these bonds upon the work of the church.” Indeed, in this paragraph we see two effects. These are the two ways in which the gospel advanced through the imprisonment and the chains of Paul.
(1) First of all, through Paul’s preaching. Look at verse 13. He says his imprisonment 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,” or literally, “my imprisonment is in Christ.” Paul’s using his in Christ, union with Christ language again here as he speaks of his imprisonment.
So, he is saying here that the gospel has advanced through his imprisonment, because through it the gospel has been made known throughout the whole imperial guard. That phrase “whole imperial guard” translates a word that refers to the praetorian guard. It was an elite group of 9,000 Romans soldiers. They were the soldiers who made up the most elite in the Roman army, including the bodyguards of Caesar. It’s very probably that as Paul was under house arrest in Rome that it was a rotation of some of these guards from the praetorian guard who were guarding Paul.
You can just imagine that as the Philippian believers are reading this letter and they hear Paul say that through his chains, through his imprisonment the gospel is spreading through the whole imperial guard, that there was at least one believer, at least one family in the Philippian church that probably cracked a smile. You remember there was another occasion when Paul was in jail, and it was through his witness when he was in jail that the Philippian jailer came to Christ.
Well, Paul’s doing the same thing here. As he’s in prison or under house arrest in Rome, in these chains, he is constantly sharing Christ, he’s using his adverse circumstances as an opportunity to preach the gospel, so that the gospel’s being spread.
Brothers and sisters, this has always been the case in the Christian church, that when the church has been persecuted, when the church has been under fire, when the church has faced the most adverse possible circumstances, that has been the occasion where the gospel has spread. You remember that phrase attributed to the church father Tertullian, that "the blood of the martyrs is seed"—the seed of the church. You kill Christians, and what does it do? It causes the gospel to spread. Well, you see that impulse right here in Paul.
It’s important for us to understand here that Paul knew that he had been placed in these circumstances by God himself. In fact, he uses the word in verse 16 when he says, “I am put here for the defense of the gospel.” That word “put here” literally means to be appointed. Paul viewed his imprisonment as being directly under the hand of God, so that God had placed him in exactly those circumstances for the purpose of the gospel.
This is counterintuitive. This is not the way we tend to think. We don’t tend to think that adverse circumstances lead to the prosperity of the gospel, the progress of the gospel, and the advancement of the cause of Christ. We would think that a missionary would be better if he was free, free to move around and go to various places. Here Paul is confined to quarters in Rome, and yet the gospel is spreading.
I think there’s a lesson for us here, that even for us, when we’re not being persecuted, still we can say that our difficult circumstances are also gospel opportunities. Our difficult situations in life, whether we’re thinking of COVID-19 and a pandemic or we’re thinking of other limitations in our lives, they are opportunities for the gospel, if we are centered on Christ, we will see them as gospel opportunities.
None of us are in chains, but it may be that you sometimes feel like you’re in chains. You may feel like you’re trapped in a situation that you don’t like. You may feel like you’re trapped in a job that you don’t particularly enjoy, a career that is not what you anticipated. You may feel trapped in a difficult marriage or a difficult home situation. You may feel like you’re limited in all kinds of ways by your health or other kinds of limitations, and yet those very limitations, those circumstances in your life, are the circumstances in which God has placed you and can be gospel opportunities.
Here’s just one real-life example. I know of a woman who’s a very sweet Christian woman who is chronically ill with multiple diseases. For as long as I’ve known her, she’s been in and out of the hospital, sometimes multiple times in one year. Yet every time I speak with her, she’s telling me about the nurses that she shared Christ with or about answered prayer or about her walk with the Lord. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her complain once. She just seems to instinctively view her illness, her confinements, her limitations in life, as opportunities for sharing Christ with others. You and I must learn to do the same. Paul in his imprisonment saw it as an opportunity to advance the gospel.
(2) Here’s the other way the gospel is advancing. You see it in verses 14-18. It was through the preaching of others, because through Paul’s imprisonment, other people were being emboldened to share Christ as well. Look at verse 14. It says, “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
I think, for example, of many situations throughout church history where believers have been persecuted or believers have suffered for the sake of Christ, and it led to others being more courageous as a result.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this is David Brainerd. David Brainerd was that missionary to Native Americans in the 1700s. He lived for two years out in the wilderness with these Native Americans, sharing Christ with them, and actually saw many of them come to Christ and be converted. He was in horrible living conditions, and he got tuberculosis.
He was only in his 20s, dying of tuberculosis, and as he was coming back into the colonies he ended up living with Jonathan Edwards for a period of time, and in fact, eventually died in Jonathan Edwards’ household, where Edwards’ daughter was caring for him. Edwards’ daughter also contracted TB as a result of that, and she died a few months later.
But Brainerd entrusted to Edwards his papers, his diaries, his journals, and Jonathan Edwards was so deeply impressed with the godliness and the piety and the self-sacrifice of this young man that he published those journals and diaries and effectively gave the world its first ever missionary biography.
That was the spark that ignited the first real missions movement in the late 18th century. You can go through the stories of missionaries such as Henry Martyn or Adoniram Judson or many others, even down to Jim Elliott in the present day, who were inspired by David Brainerd. They saw his sacrifice, they saw his suffering, they saw his courage, and as Henry Martyn said after reading those journals, “I must be like that man.”
Well, that’s often the case, and it was the case with Paul. His courage in the midst of difficult circumstances led others to be bold in sharing Christ.
Then in verses 15-17 Paul takes a little bit of an aside as he is honest with a situation, that there were actually two different groups of people who were sharing Christ. One group was preaching the gospel, but doing so with mixed motives.
Listen to what he says. This is verse 15. He says, “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 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 selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.”
We have to ask, Who was this group of preachers who were preaching not sincerely, but in order to afflict Paul? Probably they were people who belonged to a church in Rome or in the area of Rome who were not friends with Paul. Maybe they were embarrassed by Paul. Maybe they didn’t like Paul’s claims of authority. We don’t know exactly what the circumstances were, but they felt a rivalry with Paul. They were in competition with Paul. They envied something in Paul. So, as they preached, they actually viewed it as an occasion for somehow making Paul’s imprisonment worse. They were preaching with terrible motives.
Sometimes there are people even within the church who preach the true gospel but do so with terrible motives. It’s interesting that Paul here does not rebuke their message, as he would have done if they had been preaching a false gospel. Just think about his words in Galatians 1, “If anyone preaches another gospel, let him be accursed.” That’s not what Paul says; instead, you see something amazing in Paul’s heart in verse 18.
He says, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I will rejoice.” What a heart this man had. It just shows the priority that Paul placed on the gospel itself. Even when there were people who were preaching with mixed motives or with insincere motives, as long as the word was getting out, as long as the gospel was going forth, as long as Christ was being proclaimed, Paul was able to rejoice. You see his Christ-centeredness that’s revealed here in his commitment to the advancing of the gospel, even through difficult circumstances.
2. Ambition to Magnify the Worth of Christ
Here’s the second way we see Paul’s Christ-centeredness, and it’s in his ambition to magnify the worth of Christ. If it’s in his commitment to advance the gospel of Christ, it’s also in his ambition to magnify the worth of Christ.
Again, pick up at the end of verse 18. He says, “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 [or for my salvation], 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 there’s any place in Paul’s letters that gives us the mission statement of Paul, it’s right here. He says, “It is my eager expectation and hope, my ambition, that I will not be ashamed, but that with full courage Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” He envisions, in other words, two possible outcomes to his situation. Either he will live, or he will die, and he’s saying, “Either way, my ambition, my mission, my calling in life is Christ. If I am to live, well, for to me to live is Christ; and if I am to die, to die is gain.”
What an amazing statement. He just boils it down to the most simple possible outcomes in life, and I think we could all say the same in our own lives. We will either live or we will die, and to live is Christ, to die is gain, if we are Christ-centered, as Paul was.
Just think about these words, “to live is Christ.” What did he mean by that? Well, I think he meant that his ambition in life was to glorify Christ, it was to honor Christ, it was to live for Christ, it was to live by the power of Christ, it was to preach Christ, it was to do everything he could do for the name of Jesus. In fact, as he says I think is to the Colossian believers, “In everything you do, do it all for the name of Christ,” that’s the way Paul lived. That was his ambition, that was his mission statement, that was his life.
I love the way commentator John Eadie put it in his commentary on Philippians. He says, “For to me to live is Christ: the preaching of Christ the business of my life, the presence of Christ the cheer of my life, the image of Christ the crown of my life, the Spirit of Christ the life of my life, the love of Christ the power of my life, the will of Christ the law of my life, and the glory of Christ the end of my life. Christ was the absorbing element in [Paul’s] life." To live is Christ!
It causes us to ask a question as well, doesn’t it? What do we live for? What are you living for? Are you living for your work, living for your career? Are you living for your family? Are you living for pleasure? Are you living for money, for the things that you can possess? Are you living for fame? Are you living for honor?
Here’s the deal. Anything that you live for that is not Christ could be taken away from you. It will be taken away from you at the end. It’s transitory, it’s passing, it will not last. Sooner or later, every single one of us will lose everything, either as everything is gradually taken away from us as we grow older, or at the moment of death. We lose it all, but we don’t lose Christ himself.
Paul understood that. He understood his mortality, he understood the simplicity that that brought to his life, and he understood that Christ gave him everything that he needed. So he could say, “To me to live is Christ.”
But he also says, “To die is gain.” You might think of Paul as kind of imagining in his mind a profit and loss column, columns of profit and loss as he thinks about his life. What will he lose if he dies, and what will he gain if he dies?
You could do the same in your own life. Think about everything that you lose if you die. If you die, you lose the immediate presence of your family, you lose your possessions, you may lose your health on the way to death, you lose bodily, physical life itself. We lose everything that we can see, everything that’s tangible in this world; that’s what we lose. But Paul says, “If I lose all of that when I die, I’m still gaining?”
Why does he say that? Because he knew that if he died he would gain Christ Jesus himself. Look at his explanation in verses 22-23. He says, “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me [I’ll come back to that in a minute], 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.”
Have you ever wondered what happens to a Christian when a Christian dies? Well, Paul tells us right here. To depart is to be with Christ, which is far better. When the Christian dies, it’s true that we lose our earthly bodies for a period of time. That body will be resurrected when Jesus returns. Paul tells us in Philippians 3 that we are waiting for a Savior who will come from heaven, and he will “transform these lowly bodies and make them like unto his glorious body.” We’re waiting for that, we’re looking for that. When we die we lose our physical bodies, and it’s not resurrection that those bodies are resurrected and transformed and glorified; but, when you and I die, though we lose this physical, earthly frame, what we gain is the immediate presence of Jesus Christ. To depart is to be with Christ, and Paul says it’s better. He says it’s far better. To be with Christ is far better.
As someone put it on poetry,
“It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road,
And, ’midst the brotherhood on high,
To be at home with God.
It is not death to close
The eye long dimmed with tears
And wake in glorious repose
To spend eternal years.”
For the Christian, it is not death to die. To die is to depart and to be with Christ, and Paul says that is far better.
In fact, as he evaluates these two possible outcomes in his life, to live (which means to live for Christ) or to die (which is gain), Paul says, “I have a hard time choosing which one I would rather have.” He says, “I am hard pressed between the two.” You might say that Paul was between the proverbial rock and hard place. Here are these two choices; here’s the dilemma in his life. “Will I live or will I die?” It’s not that he actually can choose, he doesn’t know what will happen in his life, but he’s saying, “If I could choose, I don’t know which I would choose, because to be with Christ is far better.”
3. Devotion to Serving the People of Christ
But then notice what he says in verses 24 and following. This shows the third way in which Paul’s Christ-centeredness reveals itself. In verse 24 he says, “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.”
Paul was a Christ-centered man, and his Christ-centeredness is seen in his commitment to advance the gospel of Christ, in his ambition to magnify the worth of Christ, and in his devotion to serve the people of Christ. When Paul says, “I’m hard pressed between these two choices, whether to live or to die. This is what I know: to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account, and therefore I’m willing to live, because to live is Christ. To live is fruitful labor. To live is to live for you, for your benefit.” He shows that in his life he is utterly devoted to the people of God, to the people of Christ.
If we ask the question, What does it mean to say, “To live is Christ”? it’s true to say everything I said in the second point. We’re living for Christ’s glory and his honor and his fellowship and living in the power of his Spirit and in his life, that Christ is valuable. But listen, when Paul actually begins to flesh out what it means to live for Christ, this is what he says. “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me, and it is more necessary [to remain in the flesh] on your account.”
In other words, when Paul says, “To live is Christ,” the way that gets fleshed out practically is living for the people of Christ. It’s devoting himself to the church.
Notice specifically what devotion to the church, devotion to the people of Christ, looks like, in verse 25. He says, “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress—” there’s that word “advancing”; it’s the same word that was used in verse 12 “—for your [advancing, or] progress and joy in the faith.”
In other words, to devote ourselves to the people of Christ means to pursue two objectives in their lives: their growth in the gospel, their progress in the faith (and by the faith I think he means the body of the faith, the body of truth, the content of the faith, so basically the gospel). It means growth in the gospel and it means joy in the gospel. To devote ourselves to the people of Christ is to be Christ-centered in our relationships, and we do that as we devote ourselves to other people growing in the gospel and their joy in the gospel. Their growth in Christ, their joy in Christ. That was Paul’s heart, that was Paul’s desire.
I think the very simple application for us is simply this, that too often we Christians today, living in a very individualistic culture, we try to isolate our personal relationship with Jesus Christ from our commitment to his people. Scripture won’t let us do that. We can’t say that we love God while we don’t love our brothers and sisters, the apostle John says. We can’t really say that we are devoted to Christ if we are not devoted to his people. We can’t say that we serve Christ if we don’t serve his people. Those two things go together.
You remember that story in John 21 when Peter is reconciled by the Lord Jesus. You remember Peter had denied Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, and now Jesus is resurrected from the dead. In John 21, Jesus comes to Peter and he asks him three questions. He actually asks him one question three times, I think once for each denial. “Do you love me?” Remember this? And Peter says, “Lord, you know that I love you. Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” You remember what Jesus says to him? “Feed my sheep.”
You know what that’s showing us? It’s showing us that if you love Jesus, the way you express love to Jesus is by feeding his sheep, it’s by taking care of his flock, it’s by loving the church. In other words, to be Christ-centered is to adopt the mind of Christ and to put the interests of Christ’s people ahead of our own interests.
To be Christ-centered, to sum up, is expressed in these three ways: in our commitment to advance the gospel of Christ no matter what our circumstances are—no matter how difficult, no matter how trying, no matter what we face as individuals, as families, or as a church, we maintain our commitment to advance the gospel and to believe that God in his providence will use even the most difficult, adverse circumstances for the sake of the gospel. To be Christ-centered is to make it our mission in life, our ambition in life to magnify the worth of Christ, whether we live or die. It’s a simple choice. We either live or we die. Those are the only two alternatives, and to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
When we live for him, it shows that he is glorious, it shows that he is great, it magnifies his worth, it honors him. To be Christ-centered is to devote our energies to serving the people of Christ. It is to live and to make our lives all about fruitful labor and serving others for the sake of Christ as we pursue their growth in grace, their growth in the gospel, and their joy in Christ.
Let me conclude with one more missionary story. It’s one of my favorite stories of all. It’s about John Paton, who was this Scottish missionary, I believe it was in the 19th century, who was sent to the New Hebrides islands and did pioneering missionary work there. Those islands were known as islands inhabited by cannibals. In fact, there had actually been missionaries who had gone to these islands before who had been slaughtered within days of landing and had been eaten by these cannibal tribes.
As John Paton has this ambition to go, there was an elderly gentleman in his church named Mr. Dixon who said to Paton, “If you go, you’ll be eaten by cannibals!”
John Paton’s response is very apostle Paul-like, and I want you to hear what he said. He said, “Mr. Dixon, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms. I confess to you that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms. In the great day, my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”
You know what John Paton understood? He understood that our lives are mortal. He understood that we’re already under a death sentence. He understood that dying is inevitable, but he understood that to live is Christ and to die is gain. That’s the mentality that you and I need, brothers and sisters. Whatever we face in coming weeks, in coming months, to live is Christ, to die is gain. That doesn’t mean we’re foolhardy, it doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind, but it certainly means that we keep the priority of Christ himself at the center of our hearts, at the center of our lives, at the center of our church; that we live Christ-centered lives so that Christ will be glorified through it all. Let’s pray together.
Gracious God, we thank you for the example of the apostle Paul and of so many faithful Christians, known and unknown, through the history of the church and even today, people who have viewed their lives as opportunities for glorifying Christ, for sharing Christ, for advancing the gospel of Christ.
Lord, I pray that we would learn from Paul. I pray that your word would work in our hearts, that it would bring conviction where that’s needed; also that it would just simplify our situation, that we would recognize that we live mortal lives, that death is inevitable, but that we are living in an opportunity, we’re living in a time, in a season where people are more aware of mortality than ever before and where the need for the gospel is as great as ever. So would you help us be able to take Paul’s mission as our own, to be able to say from our heart of hearts that to live is Christ and to die is gain? Would you help us to glorify and honor Christ in all things? We pray that you would do this in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen.