Joy through Spiritual Growth (Phil. 2:12-13)

Who is responsible for Spiritual Growth? Is it the individual? Is it the church? Or is it God?

3 Approaches to Spiritual Growth:

  1. Zap Me

Some Christians think spiritual growth is solely the job of God. They say, “If I do anything at all, if I make any effort to be holy its legalism. I’m living in the flesh.” They say human action is futile, doomed from the start.  They object to any call for extra effort or costly following by saying that human effort is opposed to grace. Some pastors lament,  “Anytime I speak of costly sacrifice and obedience.   People will respond, “we are about Grace, that costly stuff is legalism!” They may be the name and claim it group, saying things like, “I just claim the fruit of the spirit!  I wake up in the morning and just claim joy!”  I don’t have to do anything but claim joy!”  That would be nice but it is just not the way things are set up, or I would just claim “breakfast!”  And zap!  Or “paycheck!  Zap!  No effort!

  1. Bootcamp Christian

On the other hand, some Christians take a Marine approach to spiritual life, evaluating spiritual growth as a product of one’s effort alone.  “Run! Push! Cram! On your knees and give me 20 minutes of prayer!”  The church then becomes a place of contest to see who is the most holy, who has memorized the most Bible verses, who has witnessed to the most people, who has the most regular quiet time, who has prayed the most. People with this checklist mentality believe as long as they think if they’re doing these things they must be growing spiritually, even if love and joy aren’t present.  If it’s all up to me I better never relax I got to be doing something spiritual ALL the time, I’ll listen to Christian radio, watch Christian TV wear Christian jewelry, wear Christian apparel and subscribe to Christian tv service, and list goes on!

3. Super Church

Then some think that their spiritual growth is all the church’s responsibility.  If they are not growing then look no farther, “it’s the church’s fault!” They will say things like “My church doesn’t have an adequate program for spiritual growth.”  “If I could find the right church, I could grow spiritually” “My small group leader is not very good, I could grow a lot spiritually if he had his act together!” “I am not being fed!”  Or very similar, they blame others: “My husband/wife doesn’t give me the spiritual leadership I need to grow spiritually.” I’ve told him over and over, start leading me now!” But he doesn’t lead the way I tell him to lead!  If I had a spiritually mature spouse I would grow spiritually.”  “My co-workers pull me down, if I had a job around other Christians I would grow spiritually.”  “I want to work for a Christian business or corporation.”

The truth is that spiritual growth is a process where you join God AND others.  It’s “both/ and.”

First, Paul puts the responsibility in our lap and says:

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation

work out your salvation

  • This is not saying that a Christian must do something to earn salvation.
  • The word translated “work out” was the same Greek term popularly used for “working a mine” or “working a field.”[i]
  • Our lives have tremendous potential, like a mine or a field “working out your salvation” is getting the most value from your salvation.


Our body & exercise: 

I have a friend who is a black belt in Karate and taught classes at a dojo.  I once asked him for fun:

“If I walked in and said, I want my black belt, how much do I have to pay, I have a busy schedule just give me a black belt! Would I get one?

He said, “You would get a black eye, not a black belt!”

He has told me about some very tough exercises, training, tests and sparring that he had to do.

So for me to get a black belt I have to follow these workouts listen to my instructor and work with my instructor.  Not just demand it

An injury & the doctor:

My wife Niki is a physical therapist, often referred to as PT, we joke that her initials PT stand for Pain and Torture.

If I were to hurt my knee, would have to go see Niki for more pain and torture?

No first I would go to the doctor.  He would diagnose my injury and prescribe the proper treatment. He would hand me a prescription to come see Niki.

Then I would come see Niki and she would give me exercises, treatment and usually exercises for home, a home workout.   

Notice that so far, everything has been done for me – the diagnosis, prescription, and the therapist. It now becomes my responsibility to follow the doctor’s orders as stated. By working out the process I enjoy the benefits of the physician and therapists’ contributions to my health. What if I questioned Niki?  To think, “we’ll I’ve had some biology classes and P.E. why should I do therapy like you say?”  If I survived her anger, and continued in my foolish behavior and did not get any better because I was not cooperating. I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on ignoring the doctor and ignoring her.

Music & the Worship Leader:

 As a church we do music each week with various instruments and vocalists.  They practice and rehearse most of the week and then meet on Wednesday’s and again before the service to go over what they have rehearsed together.  When a song is chosen, they refer to the notes, chords and the music.

One of leaders explained it to me this way:

We play the notes we know… look up the notes we don’t, practice the timing and flow, etc…

I’ve asked, “Are some songs pretty hard to learn?

They said, “Oh yeah, but we stay at it and by working through this process the song is eventually performed and hopefully is a benefit to listen to.”

If they do not practice or if they change the notes of the song and it doesn’t sound right, is it the fault of the one who wrote the song?  That would be the easy excuse but not the truth.

 In each of these cases we see that there is cooperation, there is a process to follow.  Some things are provided for us, and some things we have to work through. The same is true of spiritual growth.

Now the passage explains that it is also. “GOD WHO WORKS IN YOU

 with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.


We see God has a part too.  We need to know that…

  • Spiritual Growth is a shared project between me and God
  • I have a role to play but I can’t control it.

 *Let’s talk about control, we are control freaks and one of the toughest lessons in life, one of the toughest lessons spiritually is what I can control and what I cannot control.

 There are some things I can control

I can make a phone call, drive a car or run an errand.

There are some things I cannot control

But some things I can do nothing about. Like the weather – only
God can change the weather.  Like Aggie Football, only God can help the Aggies!

There’s a third category. There are some things I have to cooperate with:  Think about going to sleep. You can’t make yourself go to sleep the way you can make a phone call. We tell our kids this all the time, “Go to sleep, but I can’t,” they reply. There are things you can do to cooperate with sleep, Go in a dark room, lay down on a soft mattress, soft pillow, put on one of my messages!  You’ll be right to sleep in no time!

Think about the differences between a motorboat and a sailboat.  In a motorboat I’m in control. I start the engine, control the speed, and go wherever I want.  Do you prefer a motorboat to a sailboat?  I prefer the motorboat.  I like to be in control. It seems faster and easier than having to cooperate.

Sailing is different.   Do you prefer sailing?  When I’m sailing, I’m not passive, I have a role to play – I hoist the sails and steer with the rudder – but I am dependent on the wind. There’s no room for believing I’m in control, because if the wind doesn’t blow, I’m not going far, just drifting. When the wind blows, on the other hand, amazing things can happen.

In John 3 Jesus compared the work of the Spirit to work of the wind.  It’s free and powerful, way beyond our control. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit, through whose life the winds of God are blowing.  The challenge to us is to hoist the sails, grab hold of the rudder and let the wind of the spirit mold and shape and direct our lives. My question to you is…

  • Am I cooperating with God and the church for maximum spiritual growth or am I complaining?

 Many times we are not cooperating with what God is doing. We are not willing to cooperate; we think we can call the shots.  As a church we offer opportunities for people to grow spiritually but these opportunities often stay on the table and are not incorporated or ingested into the lives of those who attend.

Some may say, “I am not being fed!” It’s humorous how we complain and say we are not being fed when there is a table of food before us or a catalogue full of groups to attend.  We have memory verses, discussion questions, each week in our program.  We have free Our Daily Bread devotionals and free bibles.  We invite people to read along with each Bible book in The You Version app.  There so many devotions and bible readings that can be delivered to our phones. We have these choices every day, every week, every month and we leave them on the table and do not dig in.   In our Groups, we have fellowship opportunities, serving opportunities, worship opportunities and mission opportunities but they are left untouched by many. It’s like food that is not being eaten, the ones who are incorporating them into their lives will tell you, “I am growing.”  Those who leave the opportunities on the table often revert to complaining.

Complaining, that’s the topic of another post.

Please understand your part and God’s part in spiritual growth.  Joy will follow.



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[i] Charles Swindoll, Laugh Again: Experience Outrageous Joy. (Dallas: Word, 1991),97

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Joy in Following Christ’s Example of Humility

In his letter to the Philippians Paul reminds us of the example of Christ, of the love of Christ and he urges us act upon it.

1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,                               

  • When I am united with Christ I have encouragement and comfort from His love.

Knowing Christ contributes so much to our well-being! For me Jesus Christ has made huge difference in my life because I know I have value, worth and purpose.  I feel and know the unconditional love of Jesus, which is priceless to me in world that can so quickly tear me down.   I have peace, joy, satisfaction and security that I did not have before.

“Fellowship with the Spirit” When a person believes in Jesus Christ as Savior, he or she receives the Holy Spirit.  Each believer has personal fellowship with the Holy Spirit in his or her private life; all the believers are united by the same Spirit in times of fellowship. Because there is only one Spirit, there can be only one body, factions or divisiveness have no place in the body of Christ.

“Tenderness and compassion”  When the Holy Spirit works in a believer’s life, fruit is produced (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul pointed out two particular “fruits” of true concern for one another that help build unity among believers. “Tenderness” refers to sensitivity to others’ needs or feelings; “compassion” means feeling the sorrow of another person and desiring to help alleviate it. Such concern for one another unifies a body of believers.

2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

 Why did Paul focus on the mind (“like-minded”) during times of conflict and trouble? Our  mind has analytic abilities;  it creates reasons and justifies actions. It harbors suspicions and catalogs offenses against us. It advocates fighting for our rights. A bad attitude fosters resentment. The remedy is twofold: keep the proper attitude with a wholehearted love for others, and keep unified with fellow believers. Make peacemaking a top priority.

Because of their common experience in Christ and their common fellowship with the Holy Spirit, the believers should then be like-minded. This does not mean that the believers have to agree on everything; instead, each believer should have the mind (or attitude) of Christ, which Paul describes at length in 2:5-11. The word translated “like-minded” in this verse is the same word translated “attitude” in 2:5.

  •  As Christian I am to have the same purpose as Christ.

 What is the purpose of Christ?  Didn’t he say it real clearly, Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” NIV

He gave us (the church) same purpose after he rose from the dead (go make disciples.. Matt. 28:19) It’s our purpose as a church “To love God, love people and share Jesus.”  That is what we are to be all about.

 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

 Many people, even Christians live only to please themselves. But self-centered living, selfish ambition, or conceit brings disagreement. Paul stressed spiritual unity, asking the Philippians to love one another and to be one in spirit and purpose. When we work together, caring for the problems of others as if they were our problems, we demonstrate Christ’s example of putting others first, and we experience unity.  Let’s not be so concerned about meeting our own needs that we strain relationships in God’s family. Let the Spirit of God work through us to attract others to himself.

  •  As a Christian I should seek to be selfless, humble and considerate of others.

While selfish ambition and conceit can ruin unity, genuine humility can build it. Being humble involves having a true perspective about ourselves in relation to God, which in turn gives us a correct perspective on our relationships with others. Being humble does not mean that we should put ourselves down, tell everyone how bad we are at everything, and refuse to acknowledge any good in ourselves. Instead, humility is a healthy respect for who God is, and then a healthy respect for ourselves because of what God did on our behalf. We are sinners, saved only by God’s grace, but we are saved and therefore have great worth in God’s kingdom. We are to lay aside selfishness and treat others with respect and common courtesy.

Regarding others as better than ourselves means that we are aware of our own failings and are thus willing to accept failings in others without looking down on them. It means that we can look for and point out the good in others, rather than just looking for and pointing out our own good qualities. It also means that we consider others’ interests as more important than our own. This selfless attitude links us with Christ, who was a true example of humility. It is the very opposite of conceit and selfish ambition, and it allows believers to work together, to have tenderness and compassion, and to have the attitude and love of Christ Jesus himself.

 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

 People often compare themselves to others to excuse their behavior or to bolster their pride. They may think, for example, “What I did wasn’t so bad. After all, look at what she did.” They may look at people who are worse off and think that they are pretty good in comparison. Or they may think the worst of people and quickly judge them. Those kinds of comparisons can only lead to pride and self-centeredness. Paul wrote that instead we should assume that others are better than we are, giving them the benefit of the doubt. In so doing, we will build others up and develop humility. We need to show consideration to others.

  • As a Christian the interests of others should be a factor.

Philippi was a multicultural city. The church there reflected great diversity, with people from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life. Acts 16 gives us some indication of the diverse makeup of this church, which included Lydia, a Jewish convert from Asia and a wealthy businesswoman (Acts 16:14); perhaps a slave girl (see Acts 16:16-17), probably a native Greek; and the jailer serving this colony of the empire, probably a Roman (Acts 16:25-36). With so many different backgrounds among the members, unity must have been difficult to maintain. Paul encourages us to guard against any selfishness, prejudice, or jealousy that might lead to dissension. Showing genuine interest in others is a positive step forward in maintaining unity among believers.

 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Many people feel that they can’t control their moods or attitudes. But Paul doesn’t accept the fact that Spirit-filled Christians are slaves to their attitudes. Christ had this attitude; so must we. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5 niv).

  • As a Christian I should seek to have the same attitude as Jesus.

One of the great myths of popular psychology that has drifted into the church today deals with impulsive behavior based on emotions. In an attempt to get in touch with our feelings, this myth advocates that we must do what our feelings indicate. Christians are able to be in touch with their feelings but still do what following Christ requires. Those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior enter a community of believers, the church. Believers are to obey their Savior because of who he is and what he has done on their behalf. Paul eloquently describes this in the following verses


When Christ was born, God became a man. Jesus was not part man and part God; he was completely human and completely divine. Before Jesus came, people could know God partially. Afterward, people could know God fully, because he became visible and tangible. Christ is the perfect expression of God in human form. As a man, Jesus was subject to place, time, and other human limitations. He did not give up his eternal power when he became human, but he did set aside his glory and his rights. In response to the Father’s will, he limited his power and knowledge. What made Jesus’ humanity unique was his freedom from sin. In his full humanity, we can see everything about God’s character that can be conveyed in human terms.

As Christians, we must take Christ’s example to heart. No one must flaunt his or her rights or authority, but instead should seek a life of service. The church also must serve, not promoting its own power, survival, or security. The church must not hoard its resources of people and treasure but should make them available to God’s worldwide mission.

  • When I serve others I have the same attitude as Jesus.

Two plotlines fill the world with stories. The first tells of bottom-up progress: pauper to magnate, scavenger to CEO, log cabin to White House. In the Bible, the stories of Joseph, Ruth, and David provide exciting examples of how people held in low esteem rose to power and blessing.

Another plotline tells of top-to-bottom change: height to depth, glory to shame, power to weakness, monarch to slave. One Bible person really fits this story line, and he urges all who follow him to consider its meaning for them. He is the living Christ, God incarnate, who died as a criminal on a Roman cross for you. He laid aside his rights as son of God to enter our world to find us.

Our life stories should parallel his. We must become servants if God for a needy world. It is a plotline few people will understand until we live it for them.



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Philippians 2 – Commentary (Christ’s Example)

People can rob us of our joy. Paul was facing his problems with people at Rome (Phil. 1:15-18) as well as with people in Philippi, and it was the latter who concerned him the most. When Epaphroditus brought a generous gift from the church in Philippi, and good news of the church’s concern for Paul, he also brought the bad news of a possible division in the church family. Apparently there was a double threat to the unity of the church; false teachers coming in from without (Phil. 3:1-3) and disagreeing members within (Phil. 4:1-3). What Euodia (“fragrance”) and Syntyche (“fortunate”) were debating about, Paul does not state.

Paul knew what some church workers today do not know, that there is a difference between unity and uniformity. True spiritual unity comes from within; it is a matter of the heart. Uniformity is the result of pressure from without. This is why Paul opens this section appealing to the highest possible spiritual motives (Phil. 2:1-4). Since the believers at Philippi are “in Christ,” this ought to encourage them to work toward unity and love, not division and rivalry. In a gracious way, Paul is saying to the church, “Your disagreements reveal that there is a spiritual problem in your fellowship. It isn’t going to be solved by rules or threats; it’s going to be solved when your hearts are right with Christ and with each other.” Paul wanted them to see that the basic cause was selfishness, and the cause of selfishness is pride. There can be no joy in the life of the Christian who puts himself above others.

The secret of joy in spite of circumstances is the single mind. The secret of joy in spite of people is the submissive mind. The key verse is: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better [more important] than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). In Philippians 1, it is “Christ first” and in Philippians 2 it is “others next” Paul the soul winner in Philippians 1 becomes Paul the servant in Philippians 2.

It is important that we understand what the Bible means by “humility.” The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself; he simply does not think of himself at all! (I think Andrew Murray said that.) Humility is that grace that, when you know you have it, you have lost it. The truly humble person knows himself and accepts himself (Rom. 12:3). He yields himself to Christ to be a servant, to use what he is and has for the glory of God and the good of others. “Others” is the key idea in this chapter (Phil. 2:3-4); the believer’s eyes are turned away from himself and focused on the needs of others.

The “submissive mind” does not mean that the believer is at the beck and call of everybody else or that he is a “religious doormat” for everybody to use! Some people try to purchase friends and maintain church unity by “giving in” to everybody else’s whims and wishes. This is not what Paul is suggesting at all. The Scripture puts it perfectly: “ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5). If we have the single mind of Philippians 1, then we will have no problem with the submissive mind of Philippians 2.

Paul gives us four examples of the submissive mind: Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:1-11), Paul himself (Phil. 2:12-18), Timothy (Phil. 2:19-24), and Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30). Of course, the great Example is Jesus, and Paul begins with Him.

Jesus Christ illustrates the four characteristics of the person with the submissive mind.

He Thinks of Others, Not Himself (Phil. 2:5-6)

The “mind” of Christ means the “attitude” Christ exhibited. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5, NIV). After all, outlook determines outcome. If the outlook is selfish, the actions will be divisive and destructive. James says the same thing (see James 4:1-10).

These verses in Philippians take us to eternity past. “Form of God” has nothing to do with shape or size. God is Spirit (John 4:24), and as such is not to be thought of in human terms. When the Bible refers to “the eyes of the Lord” or “the hand of the Lord,” it is not claiming that God has a human shape. Rather, it is using human terms to describe divine attributes (the characteristics of God) and activities. The word “form” means “the outward expression of the inward nature.” This means that in eternity past, Jesus Christ was God. In fact, Paul states that He was “equal with God.” Other verses such as John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:15; and Hebrews 1:1-3 also state that Jesus Christ is God.

Certainly as God, Jesus Christ did not need anything! He had all the glory and praise of heaven. With the Father and the Spirit, He reigned over the universe. But Philippians 2:6 states an amazing fact: He did not consider His equality with God as “something selfishly to be held on to.” Jesus did not think of Himself; He thought of others. His outlook (or attitude) was that of unselfish concern for others. This is “the mind of Christ,” an attitude that says, “I cannot keep my privileges for myself, I must use them for others; and to do this, I will gladly lay them aside and pay whatever price is necessary.”

A reporter was interviewing a successful job counselor who had placed hundreds of workers in their vocations quite happily. When asked the secret of his success, the man replied: “If you want to find out what a worker is really like, don’t give him responsibilities—give him privileges. Most people can handle responsibilities if you pay them enough, but it takes a real leader to handle privileges. A leader will use his privileges to help others and build the organization; a lesser man will use privileges to promote himself.” Jesus used His heavenly privileges for the sake of others—for our sake.

It would be worthwhile to contrast Christ’s attitude with that of Lucifer (Isa. 14:12-15) and Adam (Gen. 3:1-7). Many Bible students believe that the fall of Lucifer is a description of the fall of Satan. He once was the highest of the angelic beings, close to the throne of God (Ezek. 28:11-19), but he desired to be on the throne of God! Lucifer said, “I will!” but Jesus said, “Thy will.” Lucifer was not satisfied to be a creature; he wanted to be the Creator! Jesus was the Creator, yet He willingly became man. Christ’s humility is a rebuke to Satan’s pride.

Lucifer was not satisfied to be a rebel himself; he invaded Eden and tempted man to be a rebel. Adam had all that he needed; he was actually the “king” of God’s creation (“let them have dominion,” Gen. 1:26). But Satan said, “Ye shall be as God!” Man deliberately grasped after something that was beyond his reach, and as a result plunged the whole human race into sin and death. Adam and Eve thought only of themselves; Jesus Christ thought of others.

We expect unsaved people to be selfish and grasping, but we do not expect this of Christians, who have experienced the love of Christ and the fellowship of the Spirit (Phil. 2:1-2). More than twenty times in the New Testament, God instructs us how to live with “one another.” We are to prefer one another (Rom. 12:10), edify one another (1 Thes. 5:11), and bear each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). We should not judge one another (Rom. 14:13) but rather admonish one another (Rom. 15:14). Others is the key word in the vocabulary of the Christian who exercises the submissive mind.

He Serves (Phil. 2:7)

Thinking of “others” in an abstract sense only is insufficient; we must get down to the nitty-gritty of true service. A famous philosopher wrote glowing words about educating children but abandoned his own. It was easy for him to love children in the abstract, but when it came down to practice, that was something else. Jesus thought of others and became a servant! Paul traces the steps in the humiliation of Christ: (1) He emptied Himself, laying aside the independent use of His own attributes as God; (2) He permanently became a human, in a sinless physical body; (3) He used that body to be a servant; (4) He took that body to the cross and willingly died.

What grace! From heaven to earth, from glory to shame, from Master to servant, from life to death, “even the death of the cross!” In the Old Testament Age, Christ had visited earth on occasion for some special ministry (Gen. 18 is a case in point), but these visits were temporary. When Christ was born at Bethlehem, He entered into a permanent union with humanity from which there could be no escape. He willingly humbled Himself that He might lift us up! Note that Paul uses the word “form” again in Philippians 2:7, “the outward expression of the inward nature.” Jesus did not pretend to be a servant; He was not an actor playing a role. He actually was a servant! This was the true expression of His innermost nature. He was the God-Man, Deity and humanity united in one, and He came as a servant.

Have you noticed as you read the four Gospels that it is Jesus who serves others, not others who serve Jesus? He is at the beck and call of all kinds of people—fishermen, harlots, tax collectors, the sick, the sorrowing. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). In the Upper Room, when His disciples apparently refused to minister, Jesus arose, laid aside His outer garments, put on the long linen towel, and washed their feet! (John 13) He took the place of a menial slave! This was the submissive mind in action—and no wonder Jesus experienced such joy!

During the American Civil War, Gen. George B. McClellan was put in charge of the great Army of the Potomac, mainly because public opinion was on his side. He fancied himself to be a great military leader and enjoyed hearing the people call him “a young Napoleon.” However, his performance was less than sensational. President Lincoln commissioned him General-in-Chief, hoping this would get some action; but still he procrastinated. One evening, Lincoln and two of his staff members went to visit McClellan, only to learn that he was at a wedding. The three men sat down to wait, and an hour later the general arrived home. Without paying any attention to the President, McClellan went upstairs and did not return. Half an hour later, Lincoln sent the servant to tell McClellan that the men were waiting. The servant came back to report McClellan had gone to bed!

His associates angry, Lincoln merely got up and led the way home. “This is no time to be making points of etiquette and personal dignity,” the President explained. “I would hold McClellan’s horse if he will only bring us success.” This attitude of humility was what helped to make Lincoln a great man and a great President. He was not thinking of himself; he was thinking of serving others. Service is the second mark of the submissive mind.

He Sacrifices (Phil. 2:8)

Many people are willing to serve others if it does not cost them anything. But if there is a price to pay, they suddenly lose interest. Jesus “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). His was not the death of a martyr but the death of a Saviour. He willingly laid down His life for the sins of the world.

Dr. J.H. Jowett has said, “Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.” If there is to be any blessing, there must be some “bleeding.” At a religious festival in Brazil, a missionary was going from booth to booth, examining the wares. He saw a sign above one booth: “Cheap Crosses.” He thought to himself, “That’s what many Christians are looking for these days—cheap crosses. My Lord’s cross was not cheap. Why should mine be?”

The person with the submissive mind does not avoid sacrifice. He lives for the glory of God and the good of others; and if paying a price will honor Christ and help others, he is willing to do it. This was Paul’s attitude (Phil. 2:17), Timothy’s (Phil. 2:20), and also Epaphroditus’ (Phil. 2:30). Sacrifice and service go together if service is to be true Christian ministry.

In his book Dedication and Leadership, Douglas Hyde explains how the Communists succeed in their program. A member of the Communist Party himself for twenty years, Hyde understands their philosophy. He points out that the Communists never ask a man to do a “mean, little job.” They always ask him boldly to undertake something that will cost him. They make big demands, and they get a ready response. Mr. Hyde calls “the willingness to sacrifice” one of the most important factors in the success of the Communist program. Even the youths in the movement are expected to study, serve, give, and obey, and this is what attracts and holds them.

A church council was planning the annual “Youth Sunday” program, and one of the members suggested that the teenagers serve as ushers, lead in prayer, bring special music. One of the teens stood up and said, “Quite frankly, we’re tired of being asked to do little things. We’d like to do something difficult this year, and maybe keep it going all year long. The kids have talked and prayed about this, and we’d like to work with our trustees in remodeling that basement room so it can be used for a classroom. And we’d like to start visiting our elderly members each week and taking them cassettes of the services. And, if it’s OK, we’d like to have a weekly witness on Sunday afternoons in the park. We hope this is OK with you.”

He sat down, and the new youth pastor smiled to himself. He had privately challenged the teens to do something that would cost them—and they enthusiastically responded to the challenge. He knew that sacrifice is necessary if there is going to be true growth and ministry.

The test of the submissive mind is not just how much we are willing to take in terms of suffering, but how much we are willing to give in terms of sacrifice. One pastor complained that his men were changing the words of the hymn from “Take my life and let it be” to “Take my wife and let me be!” They were willing for others to make the sacrifices, but they were unwilling to sacrifice for others.

It is one of the paradoxes of the Christian life that the more we give, the more we receive; the more we sacrifice, the more God blesses. This is why the submissive mind leads to joy; it makes us more like Christ. This means sharing His joy as we also share in His sufferings. Of course, when love is the motive (Phil. 2:1), sacrifice is never measured or mentioned. The person who constantly talks about his sacrifices does not have the submissive mind.

Is it costing you anything to be a Christian?

He Glorifies God (Phil. 2:9-11)

This, of course, is the great goal of all that we do—to glorify God. Paul warns us against “vainglory” in Philippians 2:3. The kind of rivalry that pits Christian against Christian and ministry against ministry is not spiritual, nor is it satisfying. It is vain, empty. Jesus humbled Himself for others, and God highly exalted Him; and the result of this exaltation is glory to God.

Our Lord’s exaltation began with His resurrection. When men buried the body of Jesus, that was the last thing any human hands did to Him. From that point on, it was God who worked. Men had done their worst to the Saviour, but God exalted Him and honored Him. Men gave Him names of ridicule and slander, but the Father gave Him a glorious name! Just as in His humiliation He was given the name “Jesus” (Matt. 1:21), so in His exaltation He was given the name “Lord” (Phil. 2:11; see Acts 2:32-36). He arose from the dead and then returned in victory to heaven, ascending to the Father’s throne.

His exaltation included sovereign authority over all creatures in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. All will bow to Him (see Isa. 45:23). It is likely that “under the earth” refers to the lost, since God’s family is either in heaven or on earth (Eph. 3:14-15). One day all will bow before Him and confess that He is Lord. Of course, it is possible for people to bow and confess today, and receive His gift of salvation (Rom. 10:9-10). To bow before Him now means salvation; to bow before Him at the judgment means condemnation.

The whole purpose of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation is the glory of God (Phil. 2:11). As Jesus faced the cross, the glory of the Father was uppermost in His mind, “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee” (John 17:1). In fact, He has given this glory to us (John 17:22), and one day we shall share it with Him in heaven (John 17:24; see Rom. 8:28-30). The work of salvation is much greater and grander than simply the salvation of a lost soul, as wonderful as that is. Our salvation has as its ultimate purpose the glory of God (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).

The person with the submissive mind, as he lives for others, must expect sacrifice and service; but in the end, it is going to lead to glory. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). Joseph suffered and served for thirteen years; but then God exalted him and made him the second ruler of Egypt. David was anointed king when he was but a youth. He experienced years of hardship and suffering, but at the right time, God exalted him as king of Israel.

The joy of the submissive mind comes not only from helping others, and sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (Phil. 3:10), but primarily from the knowledge that we are glorifying God. We are letting our light shine through our good works, and this glorifies the Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16). We may not see the glory today, but we shall see it when Jesus comes and rewards His faithful servants.


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Source: Adapted from the Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament, Volume 2.
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Joy In Spite of Bad Circumstances – Philippians 1:12-21

We are in our series from Philippians:  What we want to see is that the same God who used Moses’ rod, Gideon’s pitchers, and David’s sling, Jesus’ cross, used Paul’s chains. Little did the Romans realize that the chains they affixed to his wrists would unchain the gospel!

The background of the passage today is that when the apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Philippi he has had four years of horrible circumstances.  He’s spent two years in prison in Caesarea for a trumped up charge.  Then he’s put on a ship to go to Rome to appear before Caesar.  In route he’s shipwrecked, stranded on an island, bitten by a poisonous snake, waits the winter there, continues on to Rome, spends another two years in prison awaiting trial and possibly face execution.  During this two year period in Rome he is chained to a guard for 24 hours a day.  He has absolutely no privacy.  Every four hours he gets a new guard.  In spite of all of these situations, Paul says in Phil. 1:18 “I rejoice and I will continue to rejoice.”  What’s Paul’s secret?  How does he stay positive in prison, joyful in spite of the fact that everything has not turned out the way he planned it.  Paul gives us four insights.

   HOW Do I Have Joy Despite Bad Circumstances?

  •  Change My Outlook (about my problems)

 12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.

We think we have troubles, don’t we? But how does your list compare to that of the apostle Paul? How many times have you been shipwrecked? How many times have you been stoned and left for dead?  How many times have you been beaten with rods or with a whip? Or how many times have you been arrested & imprisoned & chained up 24 hours a day?

Yet Paul says, “I look at all these things, & I see that they have served to advance the gospel.”

Now the Greek word translated “advance” here has an interesting history. It is a Greek military term referring to the army engineers who go before the troops to open the way into new territory.  “Wood-cutters who go before an army, clearing a way through the underbrush so that the army can march forward unimpeded.” —Bible Exposition Commentary

Instead of finding himself confined as a prisoner, Paul discovered that his circumstances really opened up new areas of ministry.
Paul is saying, “All these things that have happened to me have resulted in clearing the way so that the gospel might be preached more effectively.”

Every one of us has problems. Never think they are only happening to you.

  • Problems are part of life.

Sometimes you may think that the particular problem you are having is going to push you over the edge.  Have you ever heard this expression, “It’s enough to make a preacher cuss.” It reminds me of story about little boy trying to
sell a lawn mower. The local pastor walked up and he was able to
persuade him to buy the worn out lawn mower. The pastor pulled on
the rope several times to make sure the mower would start, but
nothing happen. Not even a spit or a sputter.

The boy told the preacher that he would have to kick the
mower and say a few cuss words before the mower would crank. The
preacher said, “Son, I would rather not. I try to make it a habit to not use cuss words.” The little boy replied, “Just keep pulling and it will come back to you.”…

It is also common to feel that your particular problem is the end of you.

  • My outlook on my problems is vital to keep me from discouragement.

The way you look at that problem is much more important than the problem.  My perspective makes the difference.

  • God can use my problems for good.

 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

Paul had always wanted to go to Rome to have an evangelistic meeting: rent the coliseum; pass out flyers, and put a full-page ad in the New Rome Times.  Paul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, but instead he went as a prisoner! God put him in prison where he would write ½ the New Testament.

He’s chained to the “palace guard,” or Praetorian Guard (refers to a provincial governor’s residence) The Praetorian Guard were the emperor’s elite bodyguards.   They were kept loyal with the highest pay in the Roman military.  When they retired they became leaders in Rome. —Bible Background Commentary

This is most strategic group that Paul could share the gospel with to reach the Roman Empire.  Every 6 hours a new soldier comes in & chains himself to Paul. The soldier was doing his duty, making sure the prisoner wasn’t going to escape.

But Paul saw this as a wonderful opportunity to tell the soldier about Jesus. There was no way that the soldier could escape.

**This is where the term captive audience comes from!

Twenty-four hours a day Paul is chained to a guard and every six hours a new guard, which meant Paul, could witness to at least four men each day! Imagine yourself as one of those soldiers, chained to a man who was would naturally strike up a conversation about spiritual matters, who and who was repeatedly writing letters to Christians and churches throughout the Empire, constantly praying! It was not long before some of these soldiers put their faith in Christ. Paul was able to get the Gospel into the elite Praetorian Guard, something he could not have done had he been a free man.

In two years at six-hour shifts, Paul had shared the gospel to approximately 4,000 guards.  These guards had an inside route to the emperor.

And it worked!! For in the closing chapter of this letter, vs. 22, Paul writes, “All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” **This is where the term “chain” reaction comes from.

Members of Nero’s family became believers, very likely because of this very thing.  History tells us that Nero had his wife, mother and children killed because they became believers.

 Young mothers may feel chained to the home as they care for their children, you may feel chained to your job or chained with a cranky co-worker but God has a plan for you in that to share the gospel to make the most of that opportunity!

 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

He says, “they have seen how God has protected me through difficult situations, & encouraged me, & given me strength beyond my own power.”

“Now they’re facing difficult circumstances, too. But because of what they have seen, they’re convinced that God will take care of them, also.”
His attitude towards problems has encouraged other people.  Courage is contagious it rubs off on others.  Other believers became courageous because of Paul being that way.

 Bob Benson, in his book, “See You At The House,” tells of a good friend who had a severe heart attack & almost died, but was now well on the road to recovery.

Visiting him, Bob asked, “Bill, how do you feel about your heart attack?’ Bill answered, `I hate it. It nearly killed me’” Bob asked, “Would you like to have another one?” “Certainly not!” “Would you recommend it for someone else?” “Absolutely not.”

Bob went on, “Bill, now that you’re feeling better, do you treasure your life more than before?” “Yes, I guess I do.” “You & your wife have always had a good solid marriage, but are you closer to each other now than before?” “Yes,” Bill answered.

“And what about your relationship with God? Has that changed since your heart attack?” “Yes, I feel a whole lot closer to God now than I ever did before.” Bob asked, “Bill, in the light of all this, how do you feel about your heart attack now?”

You see, God can take the most negative things that happen to us in life, & make them positive, if we’ll just focus on the positive that is there.

**So what are you chained to this morning? Are you chained to an imperfect body? Are you chained to declining health? Are chained to 2 or 3 jobs, & you can’t make ends meet? Are you chained to a job that has no future? Are you chained to loneliness or grief or despair? Then you need to stop & ask, “How can God use this to advance the gospel?”
The secret is this: you look on your circumstances as God-given opportunities for the furtherance of the Gospel; and you rejoice at what God is going to do instead of complaining about what God did not do.

  • Move the spot light  from myself to Jesus

 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.

 Paul says, some are jealous, envious, rivaling me. Other ministers are stirring up trouble for me while I am in prison.”  One thing that is so discouraging is when people begin to criticize you.

But Paul wasn’t doing this for the spotlight or for popularity, but some were. Who do we remember today, the ones who were being selfish or the one in chains?

  •  When I seek the spotlight, it will reflect badly on me.

People can tell in a hurry if you are all about yourself, about fame, about reputation.  It is obvious.  If that’s your priority then that is reflected in your actions.

**A story is told of a turtle that wanted to spend the winter in Florida, but he knew he could never walk that far. He convinced a couple of geese to help him, each taking one end of a piece of rope, while he clamped his vise-like jaws in the center.
The flight went fine until someone on the ground looked up in admiration and asked, “Who in the world thought of that?”
Unable to resist the chance to take credit, the turtle opened his mouth to shout, “I did–” When seek the spotlight is when we will find ourselves on the way down.

  • Living for the spotlight will bring me discouragement.

Another problem about the spotlight is that it is so fleeting, it is there one moment, gone the next.  We quickly forget yesterday’s Oscar winners, Grammy winners, and Heisman trophy winners.  Because it doesn’t last, the spotlight should not be our aim, if it happens by accident, oh well.

Service Explanation:  For instance in ministry, (because it is human nature.)  when someone does something for Christ in a church by serving, they expect to be noticed. If not, they are disappointed.  When we do something even for Christ, to serve in some way, in the Children’s ministry, in the band, as a greeter, our aim should not be pats on the back, kudos and acknowledgement, (yes as a church we should appreciate what people do) but if that’s your only reason for serving you will be let down.  Our service is all about Christ, for his glory, for his kingdom, for his church.  We can serve because it brings satisfaction.  We can serve because it brings joy to our lives.  We should be careful to serve for popularity or recognition.  Jesus is the spotlight and he deserves the spotlight.  Not us.

Vance Havner once observed, “The hardest instrument to play in all of God’s orchestra is second fiddle.” But the principle as Paul sees it is that if Jesus Christ is number one, then you don’t need to worry about who is number two.

 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

 Paul said he wasn’t going to let anything discourage him.  Not circumstances or critics.  He said their motives may be wrong, their style may be wrong, but if the message is getting out, so what?  This is the only question in the book of Philippians.  In Greek it literally means “so what”.  What does it matter?  Its all about Christ, its not about me.

  •  Depend on God and others

 I need strength to make it, to keep on going.  Life can wear you out.  Life can drain you completely.  One crisis after another can drain you.  You lose your energy and your power.  Some of you are ready to throw in the towel.  You say, “I’ve done the best I could, but it’s not good enough and I’m tired and sick.”  You need a fresh power supply.

 Paul says, I have two things that give me strength and kept me going in spite of four years of imprisonment: the prayers of other people and the help of Jesus.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers…

 Connect Group Invitation.   Let me ask you something, do you have someone or a group that prays for you regularly?  I believe that the more people praying for me the better.  Don’t you? Have you ever rejected someone praying for you?  “No, no don’t pray for me, I don’t need it. I am getting along fine!”  Probably not, because it we need all the prayer we can get.  I want to encourage you to desire more people to pray for you and support you.  When you come here, you are prayed for.  I pray for each of us here that God works in our lives. Niki and I pray for our members regularly, AND when you are a part of a small group, you WILL BE prayed for regularly! Our small groups pray the people in them, not only will you be learning, you will be encouraged, you will be supported and you will be prayed for. When you neglect the time for a small group you neglect getting the prayer you need, you are saying, “no thanks, no prayer for me, I am getting along fine.”

and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.              

Paul also gets help by the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

  • Am I living on my own power to solve my problems?

**A Christian husband spent three days in a deep depression over something that had gone wrong. On the third day his wife came downstairs dressed in all black funeral looking clothes.  “Who’s dead?” he asked her.
“God,” she replied.  The husband replied, “What do you mean, God is dead? God cannot die.”  “Well,” she replied, “the way you’ve been acting I was sure He had!”

Sometimes we act like practical atheists, we say we believe in God, but we don’t act like it.

  • Am I carrying a heavy load God didn’t intend me to carry?

On a personal note, I struggle with trying to do too much by myself. At one point a 15 years ago, I was so discouraged and down, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, I even lost my appetite and for me that’s not normal!  I was blaming myself for everything that was not going as I thought it should in our church, even the problems people were having must have been my fault because I was not praying enough, (NOT HEALTHY).  I felt like quitting. (By the way pastoring is a stressful occupation-I never believed it either until I got in it. They told us in Seminary that we will seek medical help due to stress related illness second behind only Air Traffic Controllers and that less than 20% of us that graduated would actually stay in ministry:  there are too many problems, too many people have higher expectations than most pastors can handle) Niki and I talked for hours I thought I was going to have to call my friend Dr. David Burleson the counselor.  I prayed and prayed. One morning on the way to take the kids to school I was listening to a song that caused me to just break down and cry like a baby. The Lord spoke to me, he let me know that I was doing too much in my own power, there was too much depending on me and not enough depending on Him.  I felt a huge load lift from me as I gave it all back to Jesus.    (It was Reliant K – For Moments I Feel Faint from the album, The Anatomy of Tongue in Cheek, 2001 Gotee Records.

I wanted to tell you about this time in my own life of discouragement because you can connect to Jesus in so many ways not just prayer but through music, by journaling –writing, by drawing or other art forms and being with other believers.

Have you been trying to live solely on your own power to solve your problems and pressures in your life?  God says, relax.  You are carrying a burden that was never intended for you to carry.  Come to God and give it all to Him, load it all on Him and ask Him to recharge you — physically, spiritually, emotionally.

      21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

 Complete the sentence: “For me to live is ____________.”

 Any other substitute for Christ lacks significance:

 “For me to live is money, & to die is to leave it behind.”

“For me to live is fame, & to die is to be quickly forgotten.”

“For me to live is power & influence, & to die is to loose both.”
“For me to live is family, & to die is leave them alone.”

 I’m going to suggest there is only one answer to that blank.  There is only one answer that is going to last 100 years from now. There’s only one answer:  “For me to live is Christ.” 

 Our Purpose:  That’s why I make no apologies in asking you to live for Christ and to join us in our purpose:  “Love God, Love People, Share Jesus”  It is the greatest thing of all to live for.  Christ and his purposes.  As a church we work to make this message relevant through music, video, teaching and visual aids.  Would you invite someone to come and check out the good news?  We want to let our community know about Christ, this is why we put out door hangers on the road, its why we print invite cards in your bulletin, its why are in the newspaper, its why we do email invites, google ads, mailers, banners, we get the message out to people who are discouraged and need hope, they need Jesus.  Think about what will really last?  Football, will it matter in one thousand years who wins the super bowl or World Series? Will it matter in a million years how much you had in the bank?  No what will matter is who knows Christ.  This is what will matter for eternity. Are you living for what will last?



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