"My Earnest Expectation"
A Sermon on Philippians 1:20 by Nate Wilson
I want to tell you a story about three people and what was most important to them.
The first man was named Kees. As the story goes, he was a government official in the Orient somewhere, and the most important thing to him was MONEY. Now, Kees, like every other official in that country, was corrupt. He could charge anything he wanted for fines and taxes and call in the police to make sure the people paid. The thing that got him out of bed in the morning was the thought that each day was a new opportunity to amass a fortune. Kees made his millions through extortion.
But God hadnít forgotten him. Kees became more and more dissatisfied with the wealth he was amassing and more and more eager for a new purpose in life. Now, Men of God were rare in his country, but Kees heard that there was one in the area. He had a reputation for speaking with authority from God, and it was even rumored that people had been healed when he prayed for them! An all-consuming desire grew in Kees that he HAD to meet this man. It became a passion. Nothing else mattered. He wasnít spending so much time in the office anymore. He asked everyone where he could find the Man of God. He talked of nothing else at mealtimes. When he laid on his bed at night, he could think of nothing else but his desire to meet this man.
When Kees heard that the Man of God was scheduled to drive through his town one morning, he rushed to the main highway to see if they could catch him. But there was one thing he hadnít banked on. Everybody ELSE in town also had the same idea! People had driven from miles around to line the street and watch for the Man of God! By the time Kees could get near the street, there were so many people there, he couldnít get through. He stood on tiptoe to somehow see over the crowd. He craned his neck to see past them... but it was no use. He was sweating with anxiety by now. What if he missed his only chance to find the meaning to life? In desperation, he ran behind the spectators, looking for an opening. And then he saw it: a lone tree. Dashing past his bodyguards, he scrambled madly up the tree. Nothing else mattered, He HAD to see...
Jesus was looking up at him in the tree! "ZaKees, come down; I want to stay with you tonight!" This was the climax of the most consuming passion of his life! This is what he had looked forward to so earnestly. It was almost too good to be true! Jesus was going to be with him!
Is this the way you feel about Jesus? Are you as consumed with seeking Him as Zacchaeus was?
Let me tell you a story about the second man. His name was Paul. Unlike Zacchaeus, Paul was never distracted by money. His passion was serving God. He even went to seminary! It must have been a liberal seminary, though, because it became his passion to suppress Christianity. He helped in the stoning of the first martyr, Stephen, and he gained a reputation for persecuting Christians in Jerusalem.
It was on the way to Damascus to do more of the same that God caught him, and Paulís all-consuming passion became to preach Christ. If you look at the letters he wrote in the Bible, he couldnít even write the name of Jesus down without a little doxology after it! Nothing else mattered but that Christ be glorified. Predictably, this got him in trouble with his liberal seminary professors and it resulted in more than one trip to the slammer. The text for today was written by Paul while he was in prison. Turn with me in your Bibles to Philippians 1:18.
Paul had been falsely accused, and the Jews were out to kill him. He had been arrested and had sat in jail for years, waiting for the courts to decide what to do with him. He had almost died on more than one occasion since his incarceration. On top of all this, he had received reports of people who were maligning him in the churches which he himself had started. What was Paul thinking?
"What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I am glad, but also I WILL be glad, because I know that this will turn out for me into deliverance through your petition and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ according to my eager expectation and hope that in nothing will I be ashamed but rather in all open speech, now as always, Christ will be made great through my body, whether through life or through death Ė for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
The main statement in this whole passage is "Christ is preached and I will be glad." I will be GLAD! Thatís Paulís response to all these terrible circumstances! Why, Paul? How on earth can you be glad after rotting in prison for four years? "because I KNOW that this will turn out for me into deliverance through your petition and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ," says Paul.
The Philippians are praying for Paul and he is also filled with the Holy Spirit, but how these things will effect Paulís "deliverance?" You can pick up five different commentaries and get five different interpretations. Some say Paul expects to be released from prison soon, others say, no, Paulís physical body will just stay healthy, still others say the word should be translated "salvation" and that Paul is looking forward to heaven, or to other people being saved through the preaching of the Gospel... From our perspective, a couple of millennia down the pike we see that all of these things came true, but Paul did not have our perspective of history on this matter. If someone were sitting in that prison cell with Paul, they might well say, "Thatís fine for you to hope for a good outcome, Paul, but youíre just pipe-dreaminí Ė unless you have some substantial basis for that knowledge. How do you KNOW that salvation will come?" Look at verse 20:
"according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing will I be ashamed but rather in all open speech, now as always, Christ will be made great through my body."
This is it! Here is the real reason why Paul could rejoice. Hereís the reason why he was sure of deliverance! This is why he knew he would not be ashamed: Paul was utterly absorbed in the goal of glorifying Christ. He was speaking openly of Christís greatness in whatever circumstances God placed him! Paul was not worried about his well-being. He was not preoccupied with the earnings from his business as Zacchaeus was. All he cared about was that Christ be made great!
The word translated "eager expectation" (write on whiteboard) is a fascinating one in Greek:apokaradokian. It could literally be pulled apart to mean "from-head-watch." It paints the picture of a person straining his head forward to watch with eager anticipation. Itís what reminded me of the story of Zacchaeus craning his neck to see over the crowd. Paulís earnest expectation was that Christ be made great (write on whiteboard). The word for "made great" (or "exalted" in the pew Bibles) is the Greek word used by the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew verb גדל - BIG. There are many lessons we can draw from this text, but I want to focus on this: Paulís "eager expectation that Christ will be made great."
Paul sets the example for us in the consuming passion of his life. All he cares about is that Christ be made great. Nothing else matters. How is Christ made great? Through the bold proclamation of who He is to others! Most English translations have the word "boldness" or "courage" here, but most exegetical commentators add to it the concept of speech because the Greek wordparrhsia has to do with openness of speech. When Christ is proclaimed through our teaching, preaching and writing, more people recognize how great He really is, and He becomes more and more great in the eyes of more and more people! Christ will become great! Paul knows this will happen whether he lives or dies, because Godís word promises that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord! AMEN?
This is what gave Paul a reason to rejoice despite his prison cell. This is what inspired him to get up in the morning. And this eager desire to magnify Christ is what should drive us, too!
Now, I told you that Iíd tell you the story of THREE people. The first was of Zacchaeus, eagerly anticipating meeting Christ. The second was of Paul, eagerly expecting Christ to be exalted in all he said. The third... is YOU. It is actually a story YOU should tell. What is YOUR eager expectation? What is it that fires you up? If you are a minister of Christ, you should be so wrapped up in Him that nothing else matters. You should be able to say with Paul:
I will be GLAD, because I KNOW ... according to my EARNEST EXPECTATION and hope that in nothing will I be ashamed but rather in all open speech, now as always, CHRIST WILL BE MADE GREAT through my body, whether through life or through death Ė for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.