Reading: Philippians 1:19-30
Most people will recognize the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, otherwise known as the “Prince of Preachers” back in the mid-nineteenth century for his ferocious preaching ministry. However, few know of his wife, Susannah who had a very fruitful ministry of her own. After giving birth to twin boys, Susannah fell ill and never fully recovered. Much of Susannah’s life was spent suffering from physical ailments that kept her bedridden for long periods of time. Susannah was a devout wife and supporter of her husband’s ministry, often proofing his work and offering her opinions (he sought and enjoyed her opinions). On one occasion after reading some of Spurgeon’s lectures she expressed a desire for all the ministers in England to have access to it. To which he replied, “Then why not do so: how much will you give?” From this was birth the Book Fund, which provided ministers who couldn’t afford theological books for study and growth resources they could never have afforded. Pastors in that time had barely enough money to feed their families. Susannah used most of her own money and dedicated the remainder of her life, between supporting her husband and training her boys, to this fruitful ministry. As a work of faith, the Book Fund provided a couple thousand pastors with tools for their work and God’s glory. This pioneering ministry was all managed from Susannah’s home.
I loved reading about how Susannah used her circumstance, as misfortunate as it was, to further the work of Christ. Though she was bound with sickness, the gospel was not. Paul was imprisoned in Rome and wrote the letter to the Philippian church while in jail. Not the modern jail as we know it today, but he was chained to a guard for 24 hours a day, with changing shifts every 6 hours. Paul did not see his circumstances as grim, but as an opportunity given him to proclaim Christ! (Phil. 1:12-14) Phil 1:19-24 has that famous line that many of us know mentally but are not truly acquainted with, “always Christ will be honored in my [Paul’s] body, whether by life or by death. For to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” There is likely no greater example besides Jesus, of a man living more on mission than Paul who considered it his sole ambition to proclaim Jesus. The secret is this: When your sole purpose is to exalt Christ with your life, by the Spirit you’ll see every circumstance as a God-given opportunity to further the gospel AND rejoice at what God is going to do instead of complaining about what he hasn’t done. This is how we rejoice in the gospel no matter what the circumstances are and also how we experience more of what it means to imitate Jesus. Through personal trial in his service to the body of Christ, Paul experienced what no unbeliever or luke-warm Christian could ever experience, the joyful benefits of union with Christ through suffering (Phil. 2:1-7; Col. 1:24).
Paul said that to live was Christ and to die is gain. This means that no matter the circumstance, we can rejoice in the gospel even if we should lose our lives, because what we gain is invaluable and the blood of Christ insures it. We have the joy of a promise that continuously fills and will be fulfilled at the sure return of Christ (Phil. 1:6). Now, in response to this great news, we are to live lives that bare witness to this great God-given privilege, striving forward to see Jesus exulted in our lives and churches, standing firm in one spirit (vv. 26-27). For those of you that profess to believe in him, you have been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20) and the life you are living now is no longer your life to do what you want with. We must magnify Christ in every circumstance, to experience the true joy entrusted to us (Phil. 29-30). This is our mission and the will of God for which you fast, and that to be realigned to His will. Like Susanna Spurgeon and her famous husband and countless other hero’s of the faith; like Paul before all of them and him from our Lord Jesus Christ, in all that we do, we must do unto the glory of God. To him be all the glory and praise on earth and in heaven, forever and ever, Amen.
Prayer: Lord, thank You that I can rest assured that when I die physically, I will be present with You in eternity. However, the one thing I will not be able to do in heaven, is to share the gospel of life with those who don’t know You. So, while I am here on this earth, empower me to remain on mission to glorify You, to love You and to obey Your command to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that You commanded. Holy Spirit, thank You that You are reminding us at CityLights today to be about Jesus Christ’s mission, to seek and save the lost and to prepare the earth for His return!
Go Deeper: How do you feel when you consider that upon your death, you will arrive in the presence of God? What emotion does that invoke? What thoughts come to mind? Have you surrendered your will to the mission of God: glorifying Him through proclaiming the gospel and making disciples? Why or why not? What needs to change in your mind, heart or will to fully engage in being a disciple-maker who touches your world for the love of Jesus?
CityLights Prayer Focus: Finance Team- thank God for the integrity and divine placement of the individuals who help steward the finances of God’s church. Pray for God’s continued provision and proper stewardship of the finances.
Suggested song: “I Have Decided” by Elevation Church
Suggested Daily Memory Verse: Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
The Epistle of Joy – John MacArthur