It was needful

As I began to study through the book of Philippians, I must confess that I was looking forward to chapters 2-4.  Those are some of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  However, chapter one has held some wonderful surprises for me.   As I look back over my notes from this chapter I am overwhelmed by what I have seen of Paul’s love for the believers at Philippi.

I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be one of the Philippian believers hearing this letter read as Paul expresses his deep thankfulness to God for their faithful partnership with him in the gospel.   How their hearts must have been encouraged as Paul explained to them the hand of God at work in his imprisonment.  How this body of believers must have been strengthened by Paul’s exhortation to be faithful in the midst of their sufferings for Christ.  Paul cared for these people deeply.

But probably most revealing are verses 21-26.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.  For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.  And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

Even though Paul’s longing was to go be with Christ, which was by far much better than his current existence, yet he was willing to stay here to be of benefit to these people of God.  This is no small thing.  Paul’s life as a believer had been no picnic.  Full of persecutions and all manner of trouble, when Paul wasn’t imprisoned, he was frequently fleeing from one city only to be persecuted in the next.  Death would have been easier for Paul than life.  For Paul, life was painful.  And yet he says, “it is needful for you”.

How beautifully this portrays our Jesus, who thought not of His own comfort or convenience, but who left His eternal dwelling in glory to walk among us, to serve and give, to lay His life down.  This is something far more glorious than my mind can fully comprehend. “Why Lord?” I ask.  “Why did you do it?”

“Because it was needful for you”

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

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