Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh is the Senior Pastor of the Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Standing Firm - Philippians 1:21-30
Philippians 1:21-30 For
to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If 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! I am torn between the
two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that
I remain in the body. Convinced
of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for
your progress and joy in the faith, so
that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on
account of me. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the
gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my
absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man
for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who
oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you
will be saved-- and that by God. For
it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but
also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I
had, and now hear that I still have.
If there is one person in the Bible
who seemed to have a firm faith, it isSt.
in his writings in the New Testament is always talking in terms of “I am convinced.” “I am persuaded.” “I know.”
But strangely, there came a time when
some of Paul’s friends were worried that he might develop a crisis of
His friends were in thechurchofPhilippi. And they were very concerned about
their brother – their father and mentor in the faith.
Paul was in prison for preaching about
the Christian Faith. Now
they know that Paul has been in prison before, but this is different. In fact, Paul may well be near to
death – about to be executed for his faith.
So in their concern for Paul, and in
order to encourage him, they collect some gifts, possibly in the form of money,
to be sent to him by one of their own members.
And it works. Paul is encouraged by the actions of
the Philippians, and he in turn tells the Philippians that they should also
stand firm in the faith.
That is a strange reversal.
The Philippians are worried about Paul
standing firm in the faith because he is in prison.
But Paul, in turn, is worried about
the Philippians standing firm intheirfaith because they have to live out
their faith in the day to day world.
And Paul tells the Philippians church,
"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of
Christ. Then ... I will know that you stand firm.”
It is hard to stand firm in the faith.
Day after day after day.
I mean it’s one thing to come to
church and sing the old familiar hymns.
firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in God's
excellent Word! What more can be said than to you God
hath said, To you who for refuge to Jesus have
But on Monday morning, it may be
How do you live a Christian life in an
How does a young person stand firm in
the faith against taking drugs? Or
resist the peer pressure to join in bullying someone?
How does an adult maintain integrity
a person resist sexual temptation?
How do you stand firm in the faith in
such a way that you live life in a manner, as Paul says, worthy of the Gospel?”
It is interesting that Paul uses this
phrase aboutstandingfirmtwice in this very brief letter to the
First, he uses it here in the first
chapter, and then he uses it at the end of the book, in the last chapter. And at the end of the book he says,
“Therefore, my brothers ...
that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!"
By using the phrase that way, it is as
if Paul is saying that the entire book of Philippians is concerned with how to
stand firm in the faith.
When your faith is being challenged
day after day? How do you stand firm?
First, Paul says in this letter to the
Philippians, "Join with others in following myexample, brothers, and take
note of those who liveaccording
to the patternwe gave
To follow that example and that
pattern is to follow the Word of God.
In the New Testament book of II Timothy
(3:16), it says, “Allscriptureis
inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and
for training in righteousness.”
in the Old Testament there is a verse in Psalm 119 expressed it, "How can a young
man keep his way pure?" And
the answer the Psalmist gives is, "By living according to your word."
When workmen began to renovate Theatre
London inLondon,Ontario, they were determined to save the theatre's
greatest glory -- its splendid arch with its hand-painted murals. During the project's early stages they
discovered that one side of the arch was supported by nothing more than a
broken brick standing on loose sand. A
steel support was hastily erected before the arch collapsed!
That's the Word of God in our
lives. We can survive
without it, just like that arch building inOntariodid fine without having a strong support. But if any significant stress would
come along, everything would be in danger of collapsing.
And life has stress all the time – and
that’s when we need the Word of God to keep our lives from collapsing.
Keep focused on the laws and decrees
of God. Keep focused on the
Word of God.
That is the first thing we must do in
order to stand firm.Look to the
Word. A second thing we need to do is toLook
to Home. I don't mean
our earthly home, but our heavenly home.
Paul says, "For, as I have often
told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the
cross of Christ. Their
destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their
shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But
our citizenship is in heaven."
Our citizenship is in
heaven – keeping focus on our heavenly destination can help us to stand firm in
I heard an account of the Freedom
Riders on NPR radio not long ago. The
Freedom Riders were those groups of people who would ride the busses through
parts of theDeep Southduring the early 1960s as part of the Civil
Rights movement. In one
town ofAlabamathe people were removed from the bus by the
police and taken to jail. Now
the eyes of the entire nation were on this, so the police were very discrete in
their attempts to demoralize the group. The
first thing they did was to bring the Freedom Riders food, but it was so
heavily salted, no one could eat it. The
second thing they did was to taunt the prisoners. The salty food didn't break the spirit
of the group. The taunting
didn't break the spirit of the group. But
then the police came up with another plan. One by one, the police removed the
mattresses, so there were more prisoners than bed spaces. As time passed, the group
began to compete for the mattresses.
The morale was just about to be
broken, when someone began singing, "Amazing Grace."
Then another joined into the singing.
Until the whole jail block was singing
in unison, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like
me. I once was lost, but
now I'm found, was blind, but now I see."
The police officers came in to see
what the problem was.
And then someone took one of the
remaining mattresses, and pushed it through the bars.
And then another, and another until
there were no mattresses left.
In the interview, one of the Freedom
Riders reflected on his experiences from those many years ago and said,
"We started thinking of ourselves as prisoners. We started thinking that we belonged
in prison. That was our
mistake. Once we were able
to remember that we were just passing through, we didn't care if we had
mattresses or not. After
all, we weren't going to need them to sleep on a week down the road. Remembering that we were just passing
through helped us put up with anything the police could throw at us. You can salt my food, you can taunt
me, you can take away the mattresses and do whatever you can think of to make
my life miserable, but you cannot take away the faith on which I'm standing
If we keep our minds focused on the
fact that we don't belong on earth, but that we belong in heaven, we will stand
firm in our faith.
Paul, in another one of his letters,
we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are
being renewed day by day. For
our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far
outweighs them all. So we
fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is
temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor 4:16-18)
If we want to stand firm, we need to
keep our eyes fixed on our heavenly citizenship.
When I was in college, one of my
fellow students lived in the same dormitory, right down the hall from me, and I
would frequently visit him in his room.
He was not a good student. Not because he didn't have the ability
to study and learn, but because he enjoyed too many parties. He was having too good of a time at
One day I walked into his room and
hanging in his room, in full view, was a graduation cap and gown. Right next to
it, hanging on the wall, was a frame. But
it was an empty frame. I
asked him what that was all about.
"I hung those up there to remind
my why I'm really here," he said. "More
than anything, I want to graduate college, but at night and on weekends, I
forget about a college degree and graduation and I think about having a good
time. Someday, I plan to
wear that cap and gown, and someday, I'm going to put a college diploma into
Standing firm is not easy.
It doesn't matter if you are fighting
oppression and working for social change, or if you are a young person
surrounded by friends who use drugs, trying to stand firm against taking drugs.
Or a teenager with raging hormones
within, crying out for sexual fulfillment, trying to stand firm against sexual
Or a person in business trying to
resist the easy, unethical practices that everyone else seems to do.
How do you live a Christian life in an
Look beyond this world to your
When you deal with the present, keep
your eye on the future you have with Christ – and live your life worthy of that