Philippians 2:14-17 (click here for todays passage)
I got caught in the headlights this morning! I was immediately rebuked by these words in (14). While out on my run, I was ‘’complaining’’ and ‘’arguing’’ in my head in that futile, time and energy-wasting way we probably all do occasionally. Then I read my Bible and got put in my place. To many , these are ‘little’ sins that we justify. They’re not like the ‘big’ sins such as murder, theft, adultery and looking at porn etc. Yet if we allow these things to have free course in our hearts, they will keep us from shining as brightly as we should. Dealing with such sins as ‘’complaining’’ and ‘’arguing’’ is part of the process of growing in holiness, so that we may shine ever more brilliantly in this gloomy world. (It seems to me that Paul is saying that dealing with these seemingly little things will help us to grow significantly in holiness.) A high degree of holiness is envisaged in (15a) – even for our life in this world. In the Christian life you tend to get what you go for. So how holy do you really want to be? Someone said, ‘Lord make me holy, but not yet!’ We will never achieve significant progress in the life of holiness if we do not ‘’Catch…the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.’’ (Song of Songs 2:15). The antidote to these ‘little foxes’ in (14) is to be found in (4:4) – a thankful heart.
The darker the night the clearer the stars appear. When I studied at Bible College in Capel, Surrey, the evening walk back from the main college campus to where I lived was pitch black. It was quite frightening and took some getting used to. I’d never seen darkness so dark that you felt you could reach out and touch it. There was no street lighting at all going down the ‘Rusper Road’. But that lack of light pollution made for some magnificent night time viewing of the bejewelled heavens. The stars stood out so clearly. May we shine brightly as ‘’children of God’’ showing that there is a Heavenly Father, and something of what He is like. We are called to be truly counter-cultural. One day I was walking on the walls in York. I was doing nothing wrong, but a whole crowd of people came towards me. Groups of them kept coming. For a time it felt like I was the only one walking in the opposite direction, and that maybe I was in the wrong. It reminded me of the lonely path Christians have to walk, moving against the tide. It won’t always feel comfortable. But ‘’Wise men still seek Jesus’’. May we be the stars who guide them to Him (Matthew 2:2, 7, 9 and 10). ‘’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…’’ The Message. This ‘’shining like stars in the universe’’ is about character. That much is obvious. It’s about ‘keeping short accounts with God’ and growing in godliness. But it is also about communicating ‘’the word of life’’ (16a). Witness is both visual and verbal. It’s not either/or. It’s about what people see in us and hear from us; life and lip in sync. There should be no ‘’credibility gap’’ between our walk and our talk. May we ‘’hold out’’ the truth about God and not hide it in our pockets; not be ashamed of it. I grew up watching my parents (and many other believers I knew) unashamedly carrying their Bibles to church, on bus journeys and so on. I learned to do the same thing, but I confess I haven’t always felt comfortable with doing it, and have sometimes tried to justify feelings of embarrassment. Now this wasn’t what Paul had in mind, yet I do think the boldness these lovely Christians showed was very much in keeping with what Paul was after. Paul saw the success of his ministry as being measured by bright, twinkling, changed (and being changed) lives. What a ministry he had (17, 18). It was one of commitment and sacrifice and yet great joy. He gave his all in the cause. This is what it takes to plant churches; to see people won to Christ and brought to maturity. He was willing to die, and he did die every day – maybe several times a day. Christian leaders should not expect ease and comfort. But they can anticipate supernatural strength for the task (Colossians 1:28, 29).