“I thank my God every time I remember you. I always pray with joy in my every prayer for all of you…I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my situation has actually turned out to advance the gospel: The whole imperial guard and everyone else knows that I am in prison for the sake of Christ and most of the brothers and sisters, having confidence in the Lord, because of my imprisonment, now more than ever dare to speak the word…My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer. I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body. And since I am sure of this, I know I will remain with all of you for the sake of your progress and joy in the faith…only conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ so that – whether I come and see you or whether I remain absent – I should hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, by contending side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not being intimidated in any way by your opponents…Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in the spirit and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should in humility, be moved to treat others as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but the interest of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another as Christ Jesus had, who though He existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but He emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my dear friends, just as you have obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your faith with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort – for the sake of His good pleasure – is God.”She was definitely a Southern Belle. My MeMaw never learned to drive. She loved her jewelry, dresses and shoes. But she loved her God and family more. My PawPaw called her “The Prettiest Girl in the World” and I would have to agree. He wasn’t too bad looking himself. As a matter of fact, in his younger years, you might have mistaken him for Andy Griffith. He had a coarse approach to some things in life but I always knew he loved Jesus and he loved me.
After Jesus and family was music. My MeMaw taught piano lessons and was a church organist and my PawPaw sang in the choir. I would find myself racing to the piano at their house so that she could hold my hand and show me a note or two. I cannot even begin to tell you how many church services I sat in and simply breathed in the Holy Spirit through the songs they played / sung. I cannot tell you how many times, in the privacy of their living room, I would see her sit at the piano as he stood beside her singing to the hymns that she played. Their lives were a reflection of the work Christ did in them and because of that I learned a few things:
Work Hard but Pray Harder
Paul talks about, in verse 22 of chapter 1, that because he is still living that means he has work to do and that it will be productive work. PawPaw worked for US Steel, first in the Muscoda mine and then at the plant in Fairfield. He didn’t retire until later in life. He provided for his family, which was a large one: five girls and one boy. They weren’t rich by the world’s standards, but had more than enough by Heaven’s. Even though Paul mentions work in this chapter, it wasn’t the first thing on his mind. He started this letter to the church at Philippi with the statement that he prayed for them. Not just once in a while did he pray! He prayed for them EVERY TIME he remembered them. PawPaw may have had a little bit of a rough exterior but that exterior would crumble as he prayed to the Lord. He led our family in prayers at dinnertime. We would hold hands and he would say grace. I can’t tell you how often my PawPaw prayed. I can’t tell you that he remembered me in his prayers every day. I do know that there were many times I just “knew”…I just knew that if anyone was praying for me, it was them.
Treat Everyone as if They are Family
Paul states in verse 3 of chapter 2 that “instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should in humility, be moved to treat others as more important than yourself. “ I stated earlier that my PawPaw and MeMaw had a lot by Heaven’s standards. My mom tells stories of sitting down for dinner and never knowing who might be there. Don’t get me wrong; they ate as a family; all the children who were still at home were seated around the same table. What I mean is this: my PawPaw would bring men to eat at their dinner table…it might be someone from work who needed a hand or it might be a complete stranger. There were many times when my parents, as a young married couple, came home with bags of groceries taken directly off of my PawPaw and MeMaw’s pantry shelves. I’ve been the recipient of gifts that could not be described as coincidental…they would have to have been given at the prompting of the Holy Spirit and they would come “in the knick of time.” I have no doubt that they did that for others as well. I imagine that U-Haul truck was backing up to unload their crowns as Jesus stated “well done.” They were able to lay them at the feet of Jesus. This is what living is Christ “looks like.”
Hold Tight to Your Convictions
Even in prison Paul shared the gospel and urged other believers to live worthy of what Christ had done for them. Neither my PawPaw nor MeMaw were ever put in prison because of their beliefs, however, they lived out their convictions. My PawPaw was a missionary. He was a servant. They were givers. They were followers of Jesus. Their convictions took them to assisted living facilities to lead worship with senior citizens. His convictions took him to many parts of our country and to other countries on mission trips. His convictions urged him to ask my dad to go with him on mission trips. His convictions urged my dad to take my brother on mission trips. His convictions invited people to his dinner table. Paul’s urging was for the Philippians to “work out” their faith with awe and reverence. And that’s what my PawPaw did. Because he was saved he wanted to do things for others…not because he HAD to but because he GOT to.
Leave a Legacy
I see my parents holding up the values that my PawPaw and MeMaw (as well as several others) handed over to them. They left a legacy of Christ to their children and their children’s children. I thank God every time I remember them…their lives weren’t perfect. There were struggles that I heard stories about and there were struggles that I knew about first-hand. The one thing I could count on, however, is that through the storm, Jesus was their anchor. Through the storm, they praised anyway. Through the storm, they fed anyway. Through the storm, they served anyway. Through the storm, they took their granddaughter to lead worship in nursing homes. That’s a legacy that I don’t want to drop. TO LIVE IS CHRIST!
My MeMaw developed Alzheimer’s. She began a slow decline into the black abyss of forgetfulness. Dark clouds took over her body and mind; however, they didn’t (until her last days) take one part of her. Do you know what that was? It was her music. It was the way she praised her Lord and Savior. Close to the end of her life she could still sit down at a piano and play the hymns. PawPaw would stand beside her singing along.
God spared my PawPaw of the greatest decline in my MeMaw’s memory. HE took him after a very short illness (about 4 days). That was gain for my PawPaw. He walked into Jesus’ arms never knowing how far she would fall. It wasn’t too terribly long before Jesus escorted my MeMaw into HIS presence and healed her. EVERY SINGLE brain cell was healed…she knew Jesus, she knew my PawPaw and she knew complete worship of her Lord and Savior. TO DIE IS GAIN!
So the challenge is this…live like Christ, pass that on to your family and then walk… take that back, RUN, in full surrender, into the sweet arms of Jesus.