I heard this quote during a Bible study last year. Since I heard it, it’s become something I keep written in my notebooks and planners, sometimes on my bathroom mirror, and always in the back of my head. When I apply this to everyday life, I find that suddenly what I thought was hard isn’t so bad after all, and the secular things that bother me the most suddenly don’t bother me at all.
“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (1:18b-21, NIV)
Paul put himself last. He found joy in preaching the gospel and glorifying God no matter what happened to him. He knew that nothing is impossible with God. Throughout the book of Philippians (and his other letters), he discussed his blessings, rejoicing in hope, and reaching toward a larger goal. He had a heavenly perspective. Later in Philippians, he wrote,
“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (3:13-14)
Christ is the ultimate example of “directing your mind upward.” He lived as any man; he experienced human feelings and temptations, yet he didn’t sin. He was mocked, ridiculed, and beaten. The very people He came here to save wanted to crucify Him for a crime He didn’t commit. But He never gave up, and He never gave in. Not only that, but He realized that these trials led to salvation for men, and He wanted to glorify His Father.
In a prayer before He is arrested to be crucified, Jesus prayed for Himself to be glorified, but only so that He may glorify God (John 17:1). He asked God to protect and sanctify His disciples: “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (17:19). He then prayed for all who hear His message.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me, where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (17:24-26)
Christ had determination and strength through God. No amount of brutality stopped Him from willingly going to the cross.