‘’Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear it from a distance.’’ The Message.
As we have seen, Paul believed he would see the Philippian Christians again (25, 26), but whatever happened (27) he wanted them to live in ‘’a manner worthy of the gospel.’ (See also Ephesians 4:1). I have one or two observations to make about this injunction:
- it is a tall order;
- we can only do it in God’s strength;
- we can do it in God’s strength (4:13);
- but we won’t always feel like doing it!
Yet it should be the measure of all we do today, and every day. People can let you down. You may feel that they don’t come up to your standards for behaviour. Perhaps you are disappointed and hurt. But you can’t ‘fix’ anyone else. What you have to focus on is your ‘’conduct’’, regardless of how anyone else is acting. ‘’Whatever happens’’ with any other individual in your life, concentrate on being the person God is calling you to be.
When Paul wrote about living in ‘’a manner worthy of the gospel.’’ he had especially in mind:
- Unity (27b; See Ephesians 4:1-16): ‘’Stand united, singular in vision’’ The Message;
- Witness (27b): In particular their corporate witness, being ‘’a city set on a hill’’ as Jesus put it (Matthew 5:14);
- Courage (28), in the face of persecution. ‘’Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you – and both because of God.’’ The Message. In all of this their experience was similar to Paul’s (29, 30) which would no doubt encourage them – to think they were in the same boat as their beloved apostle. And he would be an example to them of how to be and what to do in suffering. Paul saw this suffering as a gift. (Along with it there surely also went a gift of being enabled to suffer for the cause of Christ). ‘’There’s more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.’’ The Message. Perhaps you have to go through a time of fierce opposition (28) and ‘’struggle’’ (30) to appreciate what a gift it can be. It’s not something to be sought, yet within it believers discover precious treasures. Hostility towards you can cause you to ‘draw a line in the sand’ and take a stand on what you believe to be right. It can also push you more firmly into the arms of God. I go back to that word ‘’contending’’ (27). May we not be ‘chocolate soldiers’ ( as C.T.Studd put it) who melt in the heat of battle, or spiritual draft-dodgers who don’t really want to fight. Above all, ‘’Consider him…’’ (Hebrews 12:3).
‘’Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.’’ These words have spoken to me significantly today. What, in your reading, has particularly spoken to you? Don’t let go of it easily. Write it down if necessary. Keep coming back to it and meditating on it; pray about it and consider what it will mean for your life. Seek to apply it.