Today's passage is Philippians 1:22-30. Let's go!
One of the big themes of Philippians is putting the needs of others, or the needs of the team, ahead of your own. We see this theme played out in various ways here.
Philippians 1:23-25 (NIV)
23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith...
On verses 22-26: Facing the possibility of execution, Paul is torn between the thought of dying and going to heaven and the thought of continuing to live and serve God on earth. For the sake of his own happiness, Paul would prefer to die and go to heaven ("which is better by far" - v23). But Paul senses that God still has more work for Paul to do with his churches (v24). Paul believes God wants to keep using him to help his churches grow (v25) and to experience the joy and encouragement of seeing him again (v26). For these reasons, Paul is convinced that his time to die has not yet come, even though a part of him would love to leave and go to heaven right away.
What can we learn from this? A big part of following Jesus is learning to set aside what we prefer so that we can do what is best for the bigger body of Christ. When we choose the team over ourselves, we're following in the footsteps of Jesus and Paul.
Philippians 1:27 (NIV)
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel
On verse 27: Paul tells his church in Philippi that whatever happens -- whether Paul departs and goes to heaven or lives and gets to see his church again -- he urges his church to conduct themselves "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (v27). What does it mean to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ? It means to stand firm and united with your church in serving God's purposes.
What is the greatest measure of a Christian's maturity? It's not whether that person has gone to seminary or Bible school. It's not even how much of the Bible that person knows. The greatest measure of a Christian's maturity is in how they love others, especially how they love God's church.
How about you? Do you love God's church persistently (through thick and thin), humbly (setting aside your own preferences for the greater good of the body), and responsibly (others can count on you)? Or do you relate to the church in a mostly self-centered way ("it's all about what I want, what I need and what I prefer")? I pray we would be excellent lovers of God's church. May we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel by standing firm together in one Spirit and one purpose. When we do that, we will grow spiritually, bless others and glorify God in ways we never could if we just chased our own preferences.
Philippians 1:28-30 (NIV)
28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved--and that by God.
29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,
30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
On verses 28-30: Here Paul confirms that if you're serious about your faith in Jesus, at some point you are going to encounter opposition and suffer for Him. Suffering for your faith is often a good sign that you're on the right track. If life is always smooth and you never encounter opposition or difficulty because of what you believe, then something may be awry about your faith.
Lord Jesus, just as you put our interests ahead of your own, and just as Paul put his church's interests ahead of his own, help me to be a greater lover of people, including my church. Thank You for every opportunity You give us to suffer for You. It is our honour and privilege to be counted worthy to suffer for Your name. In Jesus' name, AMEN!