“You’ll know if you’re a servant by how you react when people treat you like one.” —Jon Courson
This is one of my very favorite passages in all of scripture because it’s practical and poetic, filled with complex truth yet also rich in life applicable points that are fairly easy to grab hold of. I’ll try to stick to the life applicable stuff and save the juicier bits for another post, or maybe I’ll just leave those for the scholars to quibble over. I’m not sure yet.
At the end of chapter one, we found Paul exhorting the Philippian believers to walk worthy of the gospel, to actually live as citizens of the kingdom of God. He tells them to stand unified, to strive side by side for the gospel, and to even suffer for the sake of Christ. I spoke of this in my last post. How we do this life as Christians matters very, very much.
“The most important weapon against the enemy is not a stirring sermon or a powerful book; it is the consistent life of believers.” -Warren Wiersbe
So far in our Philippian journey we’ve seen a remarkable single-mindedness in Paul. His sole purpose is to glorify God, spreading the gospel and encouraging the saints. In my last post we saw that this singular focus brought a contentment to Paul that enabled him to yield completely to whatever the Lord brought his way and I hope it gave you as much to chew on as it did me.
My bible study has gotten a bit derailed by life, but we’re still plodding along after a brief hiatus. Last Sunday we covered the rest of chapter one and, as usual, several things jumped out at me.
We left Paul, if you remember, laying aside his own ego to rejoice that the gospel was being spread, even though some of those who were preaching were also trying to discredit or one-up Paul in the process. The important thing was that Christ was being preached. Period. Nothing else mattered in Paul’s mind.
Finishing the sentence I was reading, I glanced up at my daughter who had quietly entered the room. Standing beside my bed, she struggled to get the words out.
“I feel so guilty.” I watched as a wave crashed through her, spilling twin rivulets of sorrow down her flushed cheeks. “I should be able to control this by now!” She swiped her face with frustration.
When I began my study of this passage, I figured it was pretty straightforward. To be honest, I was a bit peevish to see that we would spend the whole Sunday School hour going over just 6 1/2 rather boring little verses. I mean, really. I figured it would take all of ten minutes to cover this passage. What in the world would we talk about for the other 50 minutes?
Then that whole living and active thing kicked in.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippians has been running through my mind all week. It’s one of those passages that leaps out and demands to be examined more thoroughly. The more I chew on it, the more tangents I could go off on, but I’ll strive to keep in line with a single train of thought. (Those who know me well know what a feat of constraint this is for me, the queen of rabbit-trails, but here goes!)
Paul’s letter to the Philippians starts out with the standard greeting, identifying himself (and often who he’s with), who the letter is intended for, followed by thanksgiving and prayer.
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice Paul is directing this message to all of God’s people, not just the overseers (those who oversaw the spiritual needs of the body) and the deacons (those who took care of the practical needs of the body). This means all, my friends, and that includes you and me.
Back in grade school I was taught to write stories using the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. It was a great way to remember all of the important bits to writing a story that would impress my teacher.
It’s rather funny, but studying a book of scripture requires a remarkably similar approach if we want to get the most out of our reading. We need to know who wrote it, what sort of writing it is, when it was written, where it was written from and for whom (if applicable), and why it was written in the first place.
I’m not much of a history buff. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that, until quite recently, I detested history. Back in my school days (oh, so long ago!) I found the study of history to be nauseatingly dull. However, as I’ve ripened with age, I find history to be rather fascinating, likely because after almost half a century on the planet, one has amassed enough general knowledge to understand its value.
Every culture and subculture has their own jargon, words and phrases that don’t make a lot of sense to those outside of it. Christianity is no exception. We use a lot of language that makes sense to us, but the meaning behind some words or phrases are really hard to articulate. The concept that God’s Word is ‘living and active’ is one such stumper. We accept that the Word is indeed living and active because it says so. But what exactly does that mean?