This fall, we’re studying Philippians and examining how we are to imitate Christ in a counterfeit world. For an index of all posts, go here.
How was your time in Philippians 2 last week? God had a rather… smelly lesson prepared for me. (For those of you with olfactory sensitivities, I apologize in advance.)
Have you ever scrubbed poop out of a onesie? It’s not a pretty sight… or smell… or feel! In fact, it’s offensive to all five senses! (Nope, I didn’t taste it; but I’m not even going there.)
There I am, scrubbing away, wishing I had a genie to command ten housemaids to do the dirty work for me. Or at least one. I would even settle for part-time help. But as I realize that’s not going to happen, I start wishing that my husband would walk by. I raise my head hoping to hear his steps coming toward the laundry area. But he doesn’t. And I look back toward the sink, my knuckles starting to ache.
I wouldn’t mind it, really, if I knew at least someone would appreciate what I was doing! But more than likely I would just finishing rubbing the stain out, drop the onesies in the washer, and eventually dry and fold them away. When my husband would pull one out of the dresser, he wouldn’t even realize the hard work I put into making it look like new.
And my heart sinks.
I want to be validated, applauded, appreciated. But under the hum of the halogen light, I scrub alone and grumble under my breath. I’m working hard and no one’s around to notice.
Paul probably dealt with his own desire for recognition and applause, and he writes Philippians 2 to remind believers to imitate Jesus in their selfless service to others.
Jesus didn’t have a personal agenda. His eyes were fixed on His Father and His heart beat for His followers. He emptied Himself of everything glorious (2:6-7, c.f., Is 53:1-3). He regarded others more important than Himself (2:3-4). He lived and died to benefit His cowardly disciples (2:8). He lived sacrificially without pomp or fanfare. Such self-abandon!
How could the Son of God live such a humble life of reckless love?
Jesus lived in humble obedience to the Father and served others without expecting praise because He knew that God would take care of Him and His “reputation.” And God the Father did: He “highly exalted Him” above all others so that everyone will recognize that Jesus Christ is Lord–to the glory of the Father.
We see a wonderful dynamic when each plays His role. Believers need to be humbly obedient to the Father and serve others without expecting praise (c.f., 1:9-11, 2:3-4, 14-15), and God will be faithful to complete the work and bring all to fruition (c.f., 1:6, 2:9, 18).
Every time I read this passage, I’m overwhelmed with adoration for my Savior who lived such a beautiful life of love.
But I must admit, I always thought that was an unachievable goal. “Do everything without complaining or arguing” seemed like a platitude to live by, not a reality to define my life.
And then this past week, I connected Timothy’s and Epaphroditus’ stories to the theology preceding them. Timothy served the Lord selflessly like no other companion Paul had (2:19-22). Epaphroditus risked his life to serve God, Paul, and the church and–get this!–he didn’t want his home church to find out (2:25-30). (If that were me, I’d appreciate a column in Christianity Today. I’m just being honest here.) Paul points to Jesus as the ultimate example in selfless service and offers Timothy and Epaphroditus as proof that mere mortals can live that way, too.
D. L. Moody famously said “‘The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him.’ By God’s help, I aim to be that man” (quoting Henry Varley). The fact is, the world has seen what God can do with people fully consecrated to Him–but it needs more such people. God is calling you and me to fix our eyes on Him and selflessly serve our families, brothers, and sisters (here and around the world) to His glory.
This is a game-changer. What could God accomplish through me if I stopped worrying about my ego and took up the towel to wash feet without complaining (or onesies, as the case may be)?
This week, as we read the third chapter, approach the Bible as God’s Living Word and ask Him to use it in your life. He will gladly honor your prayer (and you may be surprised by what the Holy Spirit reveals).
10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
What did you learn in Philippians 2 this last week? I would love to hear from you. Please comment below (and feel free to respond to each others’ comments as well)!