I’ve always found it fascinating (and amusing!) to compare the different success rates required in different professions! Maybe it’s because I experienced grading systems in several different countries growing up.
In school, we become familiar with the concept that 90% is an A. But how does that translate when we enter the workforce?
Do I expect my doctor to be 90% right? How about my surgeon? What about my pastor? Suddenly 90% might not ‘feel’ like an A anymore.
And then, on the other end of scale, we have meteorologists. In this profession you can be wrong most of the time and still keep your job. In fact, being 90% right would make you seem as if you had magical powers.
Clearly, what we consider to be success depends a lot upon our expectations. And we all want success!
We may not think we want success because we don’t want the things that most people define as success. But think of it this way, we all want our lives to work out the way we want them to work out. We want the things we’re hoping for. We want a happy life or a good life or whatever word we’d put there. We want our expectations met!
And if our expectations for life are met then usually we will be happy and feel good about life and feel that things are going well.
But what about being in prison?
Prison is not normally considered a success, not by anyone. And yet that’s exactly where Paul finds himself!
Paul being in prison is not a new thing for the Philippians, in fact in Acts 16 when Paul first brings the Good News of Jesus to Philippi, he and Silas are put in jail. But that was just one night in prison. Now Paul’s imprisonment is a more permanent thing (since this letter is probably written while under house arrest in Rome) and his Philippian friends are concerned for him.
And you can imagine that all of the Philippians believers would have been praying for Paul’s release, for his deliverance from imprisonment.
And while Paul is confident of this deliverance, he takes great care to re-define it.
Paul knows that this will turn out for his deliverance! Because it is his eager expectation and hope that what?
…That any day now an angel will appear and unlock all the doors and lead him out of this prison like it did for Peter?
…That any day now his appeal to Caesar will get processed and they’ll let him go because he’s a roman citizen?
…That Paul’s lawyer will tear apart all the charges brought against him?
Because it is Paul’s eager expectation and hope that he will not be ashamed and that Christ will be honored in him.
This is how Paul re-defines success – Christ being honored in his life!
And according to Paul, this can happen whether he lives or dies. In Paul’s particular circumstance, that refers to whether he is found not guilty of the charges and released (if he lives) or whether he is found guilty and executed (if he dies).
How can Paul be so certain?
Well it’s because he knows that he will not be put to shame. And what he means by that here is that he won’t be put to shame by God letting him down. He won’t be put to shame by God doing nothing with his faithful service or letting his sacrifice go to waste. He knows that God will be faithful to use Paul’s faithful service to bring glory and honor to Jesus and so success is guaranteed.
This is Paul’s success story. If our aim, above all else, is that our own lives would honor Christ, then our success story is guaranteed as well.
May it be our eager expectation and hope that Christ will be honored in our lives.