Slogans or Substance?


How nice would it be if life could be summed up in a slick little slogan? We’ve all heard, “Bloom where you’re planted” or “Yes We Can.” Or how about “Let Go and Let God”? Most of us know that life is too complex to wrap up in easy answers. Paul told his friends in Philippi, in as real and un-clichéd a way as he could, that although he would much prefer to be with Jesus, he would remain fully present there…in prison…in pain…in a really hard life. It was kind of raw. But you can’t always be slick when you’re being honest.

  • When was the last time you prayed, and truly meant, “Lord, please come back today?”
  • How is God using a pain, trial, or redundant circumstance to make himself more known to you or others in your life?


18b Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 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. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. How would you explain Paul’s outlook on life to a friend? Paul was torn; describe the two directions in which he was pulled. What did he desire?
  2. How did Paul put other people’s needs above his own desires?
  3. Write verse 21 in your own words as it applies to your life and current circumstances.
  4. For whom are you living for their “progress and joy in the faith”? How do you go about that?


Paul was able to live his life radically for others because he was convinced that the Spirit would give him courage—joy even—in whatever came his way so that Christ Jesus would be honored. How is to die a gain? Gain will mean death—and not just physically—to living our empty, self-centered snippets of half-truths. That’s hard to do, and requires daily determination and grace. But never forget the gain this death surrenders to…the beautiful, living, Christ in you.

  • Ask God to show you how you can live for the progress and joy in faith for others.
  • Talk to God about the things in your life to which you need to die. Ask God for strength and faith.