In Philippians, chapter 1, we learned how to have joy in spite of circumstances in our lives. The secret is to have a single mind, putting Christ first in our lives and serving Him with all our hearts. In chapter 2, the apostle Paul tells us how to have joy in spite of people. The secret is to have a submissive mind, putting others second in our lives. In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 2, Paul gives the members of the church at Philippi something to think about, and then challenges them in verses 3 and 4.
I. THE REMINDER (verse 1)
The word “if” in verse 1 would be better translated as “because” or “since”.
Paul’s words in verse l are not expressions of uncertainty but statements of fact. Let’s ask ourselves if his statements are true in our lives. “Is there any encouragement in Christ?” Has Jesus Christ ever encouraged you to find solutions instead of taking sides? Has He encouraged you to be patient with others as He is with you? Has He ever encouraged you to be at peace with others and resolve your differences? “Is there any consolation in love?” Have you ever received comfort from God’s love for you, or your love for God, or from the love of other Christians? “Is there any fellowship of the Spirit?” Have you ever experienced a sense of oneness with God and with other Christians? “Is there any affection and compassion?” Has God, or have other Christians ever let you know how much you mean to them, and helped you when you’ve been down?
II. THE CHALLENGE (verse 2)
If so, Paul says, “make my joy complete” by being the same way yourselves, having the same love for others, the same oneness with other believers, and the same desire to help meet the needs of others.” Paul is already joyous and thankful for what he hears about the church at Philippi: their faithfulness to God’s Word, the certainty of their salvation, and their efforts to proclaim the Gospel. Now, Paul is saying, “what would make my joy complete” would be for them to humbly work together in unity to accomplish God’s goals for them. This topic of unity is so important that the apostle Paul brings it up in every one of his epistles to the Churches. This is because unity is so hard to develop and maintain.
III. PUTTING OTHERS FIRST (verse 3)
In verse 3 Paul hits on the problem. We live in a selfish society. Here’s a true example of selfishness. A farmer who was single decided that he wanted a wife. So he put an ad in the newspaper that read: “Man 35 wants woman about 25 with tractor. Send picture of tractor.”
The person who lets others go first is often considered to be weak. But if you forget yourself for the sake of others, others will not forget you, and your life will be filled with joy.
A rich baker sent for 20 of the poorest children in his town and said to them, “In this basket is a loaf of bread for each of you. Take one and come back every day and I’ll give you more.” Immediately the youngsters began quarreling about who would get the largest loaf. Snatching from the basket, they left without even thanking the baker. Gretchen, a poorly dressed little girl, patiently waited until the others had left. She then took the smallest loaf which remained in the basket, kissed the old man’s hand, and went home.
The next day the scene was repeated. But when Gretchen’s mother sliced this loaf, she found many shiny silver coins inside. When Gretchen took the money back to the baker, he said, “No, my child, it was not a mistake. I put them into the smallest loaf to reward you.” Are we willing to be unselfish for Jesus’ sake? Dwight L. Moody was a well-known pastor, evangelist, and founder of a Bible college which is now called Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He gave this motto to one of the graduating classes: “Do all the good you can, to all the people you can, in all the ways you can, for as long as you can.” What a wonderful reminder of how you and I can demonstrate our concern for others! Say that motto over again several times until you can quote it for memory. Then say it to yourself each morning, and ask God to give the ability to put it into practice with a spirit of joy. Each evening thank God for the ways He used you that day, and pray for the individuals you had the privilege of serving.
IV. LOOKING OUT FOR OTHERS (verse 4)
Verse 4 tells us that there is a balance. God does not want us to neglect our own needs, nor does He want us to become a “doormat” for others to walk on and take advantage of. But Paul says, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Loving others can set us free from our own selfishness.
A mother took her young daughter shopping one day and grumbled about a disabled beggar who was partially blocking the sidewalk. He was sitting on a street corner trying to earn a few pennies selling pencils. “Mommy, let’s give that poor man something”, pleaded the little girl eagerly. “We’re in a hurry, darling”, replied the mother in a muffled voice. “And besides, he’s none of our business!” Tightening her grip on the child’s hand, she hastened past the beggar and went on to purchase two new hats she really didn’t need.
That night the youngster said her prayers as usual while her mother listened.
After repeating her “Now I lay me down to sleep”, she suddenly exclaimed, “Dear Jesus, please help that poor man we saw on the street today!” There was a short pause. Then she said, “Oh, I’m sorry, Jesus, I forgot. Mommy said ‘he’s none of our business’!” Convicted by her daughter’s words, the mother hung her head in shame.
Dr. Karl Menninger, the well-known psychiatrist, was asked at a forum what to do if one felt a nervous breakdown coming on. You would expect him to say, “See a psychiatrist”. Instead, he replied, “Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for him.” That was good scriptural advice.
Let’s live unselfishly today, so that as we close our eyes in sleep tonight we can do so with the satisfaction and joy that comes from looking out for others.