This is post #11 of a 26-session blog series entitled Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. It was Eugene Peterson who said that Philippians is Paul’s happiest letter. Join us as we explore this joyful work of Christ as it manifest itself amongst Paul and Timothy, and the early church of Christ-followers in Philippi. Just maybe, we might learn a few secrets to finding true joy in the midst of our lives as well. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing. Even if I am executed here and now, I’ll rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith that you make on Christ’s altar, a part of your rejoicing. But turnabout’s fair play—you must join me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don’t feel sorry for me. Philippians 2: 14-18 (MsgB)
Have you ever noticed?
Life can be hard.
Very hard, at times.
I recall my mentor, Pastor John Wimber, when talking about how hard life can be, made the observation that living in this fallen world will either make a person bitter…or better!
Bitter or better?
Which have you become over the years?
Some would say that Christians don’t get bitter, but I beg to differ. As a pastor, serving the body of Christ for over thirty years, I have to admit two things:
One, I’ve met my share of bitter Christians, and two…
I’ve had my share of my own private moments of bitterness as well.
So, all this begs the question.
How does a person walk through this very tough life and not allow bitterness to overshadow the better-ness we hope to attain through our life in Christ?
It seems that Paul and Timothy, here in their letter to their comrades in Philippi, have been able, for the most part, to shake off the temptation to be bitter about the bad hand they have been dealt. As we discussed earlier, we know that Paul had little to no expectation of finding himself sitting in a jail cell in Rome, facing execution. We know, if he had his way about it, he’d be on the road, sharing Christ with anyone and everyone he meets.
Yet, here in his letter, he not only admits to not feeling sorry for himself, but even insists that his friends not host a pity party on his behalf as well. And yet, while Paul is, obviously, putting a healthy spin on his bad luck dilemma, I truly believe that he is being totally honest with his friends when he says that he is not in despair.
As a matter of fact, he says that he is rejoicing here as he thinks about all the good that has come out his diligent work in Philippi. Work that won’t be defeated, even if his circumstances continue to deteriorate.
You see, Paul and Timothy are choosing to live out the same instructions they are giving to their friends. Let’s bullet-point these clear instructions right here and now, so we can fully appreciate how their choice of better-ness overcomes the bitter-ness, for the glory of Christ:
So, here we go…
- Do everything readily and cheerfully. (check)
- No bickering, no second-guessing allowed. (check)
- Go out into the world uncorrupted. (check)
- Be a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. (check)
- Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. (check)
- Carry the light-giving Message into the night. (check)
Not a bad “to do” list for those of us who might be prone to turning inwardly with our lives, allowing unresolved bitterness to fester like an untreated wound. Seems to me that the secret to all this better-ness is for you and me to stay outwardly turned, focusing our attention more on encouraging others instead of sulking in a stew of our own self-centeredness.
One great living proof that Jesus of Nazareth, indeed, lives, moves, and has His being inside us.
Today’s Prayer: Lord Jesus, in this troubled world, it’s easy for me to get sour and then allow that sourness to turn into plain old bitterness. Yet, I see in Paul’s letter that there are Christ-centered remedies that allow me to become better instead of bitter. Holy Spirit, keep my eyes pointed outward, empowering me to avoid a “poor-old-me” attitude that sets the stage for bitterness and despair. Today I choose better-ness so that my life serves as one great living proof that You are alive and live within me. For Your Name’s sake and for Your Glory. Amen.
Today’s Questions to Ponder: Where is bitterness finding a resting place in me today? Does the way I’m living my life display a living proof that Jesus is my Lord and Savior? If not, what might I do, as Paul and Timothy suggest, to keep my focus outward, knowing that the more I choose to be better in Christ instead of being bitter in my soul, the more the Holy Spirit will fill me and use me for His purposes in the world today?
So, how are you experiencing Jesus as we ponder together on this journey into the Book of Philippians?
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