Meditating and Memorizing ~ Philippians 1:18-20

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April 7, 2021

I come from a long line of great “expectators.” The women in my family, including my daughters, all have grand plans that we like to see come to fruition. Not only do we want to see our plans fulfilled, we want to see them fulfilled the way we want to see them fulfilled. When our expectations are not met, we can take it personally and very passionately. It might not be anyone’s fault, but the hurt is real nonetheless.

Can you relate?

So, as I am taking my time and studying through the book of Philippians, I came across the 20th verse in the first chapter and the phrase “my eager expectation” seemed to jump off the page to hit me in the face. What could Paul be expecting? Is it alright, as a Christian to have expectations? I thought God was supposed to direct our steps! Who are we to “expect” anything from God?

Literally, over the last week and half, I have been “meditating and memorizing” this sentence. If you are familiar with the letter’s author, Paul, you know he is notorious for writing complicated, run-on sentences. He may have been a magnificent writer in the Greek language, but, let’s be honest, sometimes he is down-right hard to follow in English. As a result, it has taken me awhile to truly process what he is saying here about expectations.

“Yes and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the the help of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Philippians 1:18b-20 ESV

First, Paul’s expectation is based on knowledge AND that knowledge makes him joyful. It makes him happy. What is this knowledge? It is simple. He will be delivered. As he writes, Paul is prison for the gospel, he has other “Christians” seeking to afflict him in his imprisonment, and he doesn’t know if he will ever be a free man again. Yet, he knows he will be delivered and he is rejoicing.

How will he be delivered? Paul doesn’t know the specifics, but his knowledge is that it will be through two things: the prayers of the saints and the help of the Holy Spirit. In the prior verses of this letter, we learn of the sweet relationship Paul has with its recipients. He holds them in his heart and loves them with the affection of Christ Jesus. He calls them his partners in the gospel and partakers with him of grace. And while distance and prison bars may separate him from these dear friends, the Holy Spirit is also right there with him, helping him and never forsaking him. Paul is not alone.

This knowledge, combined with the prayer support of his faith family and the help of the Holy Spirit allows Paul to expect and to hope. His expectations are not passive. The passage describes them as “eager.” In Paul’s mind, his expectations are to be inevitably fulfilled. He is sure that he will not be disappointed. He is sure that his expectations will happen.

So what is it that Paul eagerly expects? I found three things:

  1. He will not be at all ashamed. No matter the outcome and no matter how it comes about, Paul knows Who is ultimately in charge and keeping score. He has no one other than Christ to answer to and he knows, that because of Christ, he stands before Him blameless and pure.
  2. He will face the future with full courage now as always. Paul’s courage isn’t half full or lacking in any way. It is full. Why? Because God has proven Himself faithful and true always. There isn’t room for Paul to be fearful or shameful, because his courage in Christ is complete. Paul knows he can expect God to take care of him because God has always cared for him before.
  3. Christ will be honored. Whatever happens to Paul physically – whether he lives or dies – is not important, because Christ is honored. Whether Paul lives in prison or dies there for Christ his expectation is not in either his release from prison or his death. But, Paul is confident that whatever happens, Christ will be honored. Paul’s life is not about Paul. He knows that. Paul simply and assuredly expects that whatever happens Jesus will be glorified.

By having this set of expectations, Paul is not worried about how men may view his life. From the outside, it may seem like a waste, to have such a preacher, church planter and advocate of early Christianity, locked up. If this is what following Jesus looks like, you would think it would dissuade others from the cause. Yet, it hasn’t. The imperial guard and all the rest have heard about Christ because of Paul’s imprisonment. Most of the brothers have found confidence in the Lord because of it and are much more bold to preach the word without fear.

Knowing God’s perspective, His promises and His ultimate purpose of being honored, Paul is safe to expect God to take care of all the details, no matter what happens. Paul will not be disappointed by failed expectations or hopes that do not come to fruition. 

So, what can I do about my own expectations?

  1. Evaluating my expectations. Usually my expectations are selfishly motivated. I am the main character in my dreamed up outcomes and I always dream up my own versions of a happy ending. Sometimes, I might extend my happily ever afters for others as well, but even then, my expectations for them are biased and prejudiced to what I think is best. I need to model my expectations after Paul’s. I should pray that God would give me His perspective to what He wants to accomplish and then set my expectations accordingly. After all His ways and plans are always better than mine. His ways are good and He has said He will take care of me and be glorified. This is what I should expect.
  2. Facing the future with courage and joy – not shame. By expecting the truth that Christ will be honored in my body (through my life), no matter what, I too can live in joy and face the future without worry. I don’t have to fear shame. Christ covers my shortcomings, failures and sin. Because I can expect God to be glorified in and through me, no matter what comes I can face it with courage. Paul didn’t have a road map or a check list letting him know how his future would unfold. He was okay with that. He didn’t need it. His eager expectation and hope was that God would be glorified.I can, like Paul, be alright and accept the facts I do not know. I can face what is to come with courage and joy.
  3. Seeking God’s perspective. In considering my present circumstances, I am facing some uncertainty. I don’t know how things will turn out. I don’t know how people will respond. I know what I want, but I am not sure what God may want. It is not a point of right or wrong, but trying to figure out what is good, better or best. One thing is certain though, Paul’s situation was much more dire than what I am facing right now. He was weighing life and death WHILE sitting in jail for proclaiming Christ. By comparison, my circumstances seem pretty petty. However, even if my situation was life or death, I could still expect God to provide the courage needed to persevere and rejoice.
  4. Take courage in fact that I am not alone. I too can KNOW that deliverance will come through the prayers of the saints and the help of the Holy Spirit When I ask for others to pray for me….….who am I asking? ….how am I asking? ….what am I asking them to pray for? I need to be asking my prayer warrior friends to pray that my expectations would be like Paul’s, in line with God’s will and for Christ to be honored. I also need to praise God for the help of His Spirit! I can rejoice that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in me AND that it is helping me. I can expect that I am never alone in facing any circumstance, situation or sin that I need deliverance from. In that I can definitely rejoice.

I won’t pretend that this will be easy. I won’t deny that I will still struggle with my expectations and the trouble they can get me into. I will look at them differently though. I am thankful for Paul’s expectations and I will strive to emulate them into how I pray, how I process “My Present Tense” and how I see the future.

I am sure I will have more meditations from Philippians soon . . .

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

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