It amazes me, every time I read through Philippians, how deeply steeped in encouragement this short book is from beginning to end. Chapter 2 continued with this momentum as Paul appeals to a unity and humility which can produce a LIGHT to point others towards Christ. Ultimately rounding out his statements in this section with simple examples of two men who modeled humble service-centered lives.
We began this chapter considering how joyful it can be when you know others are getting along. Jesus' parting words to his disciples in the book of John seem to resound in my own mind, as He implored them to be unified in love so that people would see Christ by the interconnection of the body.
We learned, too, from Paul, how it is OK to be ambitious, but never at the cost of the Gospel and connection within the body of believers. This would have spoke volumes to a culture which was quite self-centered and always vying for a 'front seat'. Like so much of God's message, and easily compared to today, this stance was quite counter-culture.
As a matter of fact, I believe it is still counter-culture to, "count others more significant than yourselves" (v2:3). So often, people "do" for others, giving the appearance of benevolence or service, when in fact, their hearts are set on the initial 'feel good' within themselves aspect, or the bigger 'look good to others' incentive. As Paul words it, "selfish ambition or conceit" (v2:3) Few, then and now, seem to understand the whole idea of the pouring out of ourselves and sacrificing.... as Jesus sacrificed.
Sacrifice indicates that helping others sometimes won't feel good! It may pull us out of our comfort zones, require more than we intended to give, it may even go un-noticed and un-validated but, if the drive is for Christ alone, none of those points should matter. Within this mindset, Paul's infamous words ring:
The ability to do ALL things (whether easy or hard... during good times and bad... for lovely people and not so lovely people) is really a cornerstone in the Christian faith. From Genesis to Revelation we see one example after another of how attitude, flowing from the heart and genuine motivation, affects EVERYTHING.
When Christ hung on the cross, he didn't do so grumbling and complaining - no, He stayed their with compassion and grace. To His very last breath he was about the business of the Lord. Does that mean we won't be unhappy at times with our situation and service? Not at all. But do we check-ourselves, check our hearts, check our motivation and really make ourselves available to God? Are we open to being a vessel of light in someone else's dark world? Are we OK with zero visibility, especially if it means Christ receives all the glory?
Gratitude does not come in recognition... at least, not Biblical gratitude. Choosing Gratitude comes in realizing how humbly and selflessly serving others produces a joy which shines brighter than all the self-achievement awards this world can offer. A joy AND unity which Paul uses the examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus to explain.
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel..... 25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy..... (Philippians 2....)
Through the whole of this chapter we can be encouraged by God's character which is...
- thoughtful, always thinking of others needs because each person is significant to God
- relational, choosing to reach mankind through Jesus and to set an example of humble, selfless service
- a master worker, actively involved in the intimate details of our lives as salvation is worked out
- flawless and a light, His Truth and character are chasing away darkness
- merciful, sparing hardships which may be too much to bear and sending people who can encourage when most needed.
Knowing this, how could we want to do any less than humbly serve Him by humbly serving others, that "in a crooked and twisted generation" we can "shine as lights in the world", that others might come to know Him too.
I pray this study is helping you find new ways to Choose Gratitude.
Be sure to grab your FREE copy of this month's "Choosing Gratitude" Bible Study on Philippians. Come follow along on Instagram and be sure to return next Wednesday for some more thoughts on our study!