On November 26, Joe Boyachek died at age 42 after a battle with cancer. Joe pastored Richview Baptist Church in Etobicoke, a church that I pastored for 13 years before him.
Joe’s wife Heather has written about their lives these past few months on her blog. I’ve been humbled to read it.
This past Sunday, I returned to Richview to preach on the first Sunday after his passing. I don’t usually post my sermons this way — I save that for a different section — but I decided to post it today in place of my regular post.
Please pray for Richview and for Joe’s family.
Big Idea: What matters most isn’t whether we live or die, but that God is glorified.
When I heard that Joe had cancer, I sent him a note that said that I was sorry. This was his reply:
Thanks my friend.
I am so privileged to be counted worthy for this.
I knew God was preparing me for something a long time.
He will be glorified.
Joe had obviously spent some time in Philippians 1. I know he had because he stood up here in July and told you, “For crying out loud just sit down and read Philippians 1. It’s a great encouragement chapter where Paul whose in prison talks about how desperate and excited he is to go to Heaven. And I love his words. It’s been very encouraging to me.”
So let’s read it.
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the 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. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:18-26)
What Matters Most
It’s like Paul had a decision matrix about whether it’s better to live or die.
- Which will bring Jesus more honor? That’s a tough one, Paul said. Let’s call it a tie. Paul had one priority: that Jesus be honored in his body. He didn’t care if that happened by his life or his death. If Jesus was glorified, he was really okay with either one. So it’s a draw.
- Which one is better for me? That’s an easy one, Paul said. If he keeps living, there’s more labor. There are more headaches. If he dies, there’s Jesus. Let’s see, more labour and headaches, or Jesus? It’s not even close. Paul says it’s far better for him to die and be with Christ. That is so much better than anything. I hope you catch that: for the one who has trusted in Jesus, death is not the end, but it is the entrance into the presence of Jesus which is far better.
- Which one is better for you? Okay, so we have a tie, and one point for being with Jesus. Here’s the final factor: Which is better for the Philippian church? Paul says, “Okay, you’ve got me there. It’s probably better that I stay alive for now. So that settles it. I think I’ll live a bit longer.”
You know what amazes me about Paul, and also about Joe? What they care about. Not their own comfort. Not whether they live or die. Neither of those matter. What matters most isn’t whether we live or die, but that God is glorified. Everything else is secondary.
A friend asked Joe in August, “If there was one thing you would want people to know what would that be?” Here is Joe’s response:
That Jesus is so worth it. He is worth the Sunday Mornings, the ridicule, the discomfort, sometimes the pain and suffering. He is worth all your time and affection. He is so worth it…
All of us are going to lose everything anyway.
Before you long for a life that is imperishable, you must accept that you are perishing along with everyone you care about. You must recognize that anything you might accomplish or acquire in this world is already fading away. Only then will you crave the unfading glory of what Jesus has accomplished and acquired for you. (Remember Death)
Only Jesus matters! When you get that, everything becomes secondary. Jesus is so worth it. What matters most isn’t whether we live or die, but that we know that Jesus is worth it, and that more people believe in Jesus, and that God is glorified. When we get that straight, we’ll even be ready to die, and that will be okay.
That’s why I’m here today. I’m here to remind you what the Apostle Paul knew and what Joe knew: What matters most isn’t whether we live or die, but that more people believe in Jesus and that God is glorified.
Let’s Talk About You
Now let’s talk about you.
We’re mourning right now. There’s no way around it. To lose a pastor at such a young age is hard and not at all what we would have chosen.
What’s the best way to move forward?
I’m going to suggest that the best way to move forward is to live like Paul did and live like Joe did. The best way to move forward is for this entire church and the people within it to believe: What matters most isn’t whether we live or die, but that more people believe in Jesus and that God is glorified.
Look at what Paul writes in verses 27 and 28:
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. (Philippians 1:27-28)
What does Paul care about? Whether he’s there or not, he wants them to have the same passion that he does.
Paul says to let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. How do we do that? Three ways:
- that you stand firm in one spirit
- that you strive side by side for the faith of the gospel
- that you’re not frightened by your opponents
What Paul says here is so relevant to Richview at this moment: live with a unified, fearless striving for the gospel. Live with the same priorities that Paul and Joe held. What really matters is Jesus. In light of Jesus — in light of what he did at the cross to forgive sins and what he’s doing right now and what he will do, and in light of who he is — follow Jesus fearlessly. What matters most isn’t whether we live or die, but that more people believe in Jesus and that God is glorified. Tell everyone that Jesus is so worth it!
As Heather wrote on her blog the other day:
Our world feels empty for sure with him gone … Chandler asked tonight, “What are we going to do without Dad?” What are we going to do?
We are going to do what he told us months ago. Keep fighting with chutzpah to bring love and light to this broken world.
Richview, I love you. It is my privilege to be with you today as a former pastor and as someone who cares very much about you. Our lives are short.
What matters at this moment? In fact, what matters at any moment? Keep fighting with chutzpah to bring love and light to this broken world. What matters most isn’t whether we live or die, but that God is glorified.
So Lord, I pray for your comfort. I pray that our concern would not be whether we live or die, or how comfortable our lives are. I pray that you would help us to treasure Jesus. And I pray that we will live lives worthy of the gospel.
Lead this church to fearlessly stand together to tell the world that Jesus is so worth it. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.