6 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
The eternal weight of God’s glory and presence is precious in the heart of a believer. So dear is it to the heart of a faithful servant of God that all the labor of their hands and motivation of their hearts are for the purpose of God’s praise and eternity.
Paul urges the Philippians to maintain a consistent life of obedience to the gospel because he wants to insure that his work has not be wasted. Vanity is a constant reality for those who place their confidence in the temporal rewards of this life, be it money, fame, or number of people one claims as their own. If one desires to be thought a success in this life or to please men, then their end will be destruction. For Paul, the joy of his work and race here on earth is found in the steadfastness of the faith in those whom he has taught. Paul has spent all of his life on the gospel of Jesus Christ and has come away from that with a contentment that is impossible to find elsewhere. Only in pouring one’s life out for the gospel can such a content fulfilment be achieved.
Take note of the confidence with which Paul asserts this powerful and profound truth. Even if he dies, he is able to rejoice with the Philippian believers. This confidence exceeds all circumstance. Christians are able to say that they have joy no matter what the circumstance they find themselves in. This is the value of an eternal perspective: that your present condition is overruled and overwhelmed by your future reality. Remember: God’s proclamation overrules one’s present perception. So, if God says something is true of His people, then it is true regardless of their perceptions.
As a pastor in the west, I sometimes find it difficult not to associate my success with the standards that this world affirms. It is hard to seek to measure my work by the faithfulness and consistency of those I teach rather than the number of people who walk through my ministry. For my part, I take heart in the faithful examples of Scripture. I remind myself that Jeremiah was faithful to proclaim God’s word and only ever had a handful of converts. Apollos was one of the greatest orators in the New Testament and the church he pastored (Corinth) was one of the most morally bankrupt churches (although our modern western churches may be far worse). Paul started multiple churches and raised up numerous pastors whose names are lost to history but will be lauded in Heaven. Indeed, the number of obscure men and women who have changed the course of history through their faithful obedience is incalculable. At least, not in this life.
With a perspective such as Paul’s, Christians are unstoppable. When our barometer for success is the joy of fellowship with Christ and the faithful walk of holiness, then there is nothing to lose in this life. Oh Christian, reckon within yourself this truth: there is nothing for you to lose here. No fame, accolade, or reward on this earth can compare to the reward of heaven and the delight of God. Seek to obey and call others to obedience and you will find lasting joy in your Christian walk.
A special note to pastors:
When will you cease to judge your success by the standards forced upon you by a worldly system? Paul exemplifies for us our measurement: are our people faithful to the gospel. Your measure of success is not how many or how often or how much. Your measure of success is how faithful. First, how faithful am I. Then how faithful is what I teach. Then how faithful are my brothers and sisters.
In asking the first question we must be willing to be transparent. If you are not faithful to obedience and a consistent walk of holiness, then you need to repent and do so now! You must pursue holiness over success.
In the second question, you must seek understanding of Scripture. Your teaching must be consistent and devoted to truth of the gospel. Be faithful to teach the Bible for what the Bible says. Remember, God will judge teachers based on what and how they have taught.
Finally, labor hard to insure that your people are able to articulate the Gospel. Remember: it is the Spirit that changes the heart, it is your responsibility teach people what the Gospel says. It is His responsibility to convert the soul.