INTRODUCTION: Several years ago a believer in Jesus Christ was walking past a tavern in the city of Philadelphia. Looking in, he saw a man who claimed to be a Christian drinking and gambling. He took a pencil and wrote a message on a slip of paper. Seeing a young man standing near the door, he greeted him and said to him, “Would you do something for me? Do you see that man over there playing cards? Would you give him this note?” The young man agreed to do it. When the backslidden believer opened the note, he blushed, for it read, “Ye are my witnesses!” Immediately he got up and left the tavern. That note was used by the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to his heart. He realized that he had not been true to Christ. In the passage of Scripture we are studying today, Philippians 1:27-30, the apostle Paul gives us three essentials for victory as we strive to demonstrate our faith in Christ and in His Word.
I. CONSISTENCY (1:27a)
The first essential is consistency. In verse 27 Paul says, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” The Greek word translated “conduct yourself” is the word from which we get our word “politics”. Paul is saying, “behave the way citizens are supposed to behave.” Speaking to people about the Lord is important because the witness of our lives is not enough to save other people. It’s the Word of God that contains the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. However, if our words are not backed up by living evidence, our words are empty. Dr. Daniel Steele says, “All jurists in a court of law will tell you that one bit of authentic evidence is worth 10,000 words of pleading.” Paul is implying that we Christians are the citizens of heaven, and while we’re on this earth we ought to behave like heaven’s citizens. This argument of Paul’s was very meaningful to the people in Philippi because Philippi was a Roman colony, and its citizens were actually Roman citizens, protected by Roman law. Similarly, the church of Jesus Christ is a colony of heaven on earth, and we ought to behave like citizens of heaven.
The word “worthy” means “to be of equal weight”. Paul is saying, “Make sure your behavior as citizens adds up to, or is consistent with, the gospel message you present. That’s our challenge today!
While the great French artist Dore was travelling in Southern Europe, he lost his passport. When he came to the border of a particular country, a border guard asked him to show his papers. ” I’ve lost them”, Dore said, “but you can trust me. I am Gustav Dore, the artist. Please let me proceed.” “Oh no!”, said the officer. “many have tried to pass themselves off as important people”. A lengthly conversation followed, with both parties protesting. Finally the officer said, “Here is a pencil and paper. If you are the famous artist, prove it by drawing a picture!” With a masterful hand Dore quickly sketched some of the features of the surrounding countryside. “Now I’m perfectly sure of who you are!” exclaimed the officer. “Only Dore could do that!”
In living the Christian life, an ounce of illustration is worth many pounds of talk. There’s a well-known poem that goes like this:
You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day,
By the deeds that you do, by the words that you say.
Men read what you write, whether faithless or true.
Say, what is the gospel according to you?
II. COOPERATION (verse 27b)
The second essential for victory, as we strive to represent Christ and obey His Word, is cooperation. In the middle of verse 27, Paul speaks of “striving together for the faith of the gospel”. The words “striving together” were used to refer to the teamwork of athletes. The key word is “together”. The local body of believers is to be like a team of athletes. Each of us has an assigned place and job, and if each one is doing his job, it helps all the others. Not everyone can be captain or quarterback. The team has to follow the rules, and the word of God is our “rule book”. God doesn’t want any “glory hounds” in His church. You know, the ones who always want to be in the spotlight and get all the praise. We are called to be a team, and our goal is to make one Person look good and receive all the praise. That person is our Lord Jesus Christ. There is joy in our lives, even as we do battle with our enemy, Satan, if we live for Christ and practice “Christian teamwork”. Remember, we are members of the same team and should work cooperatively.
III. CONFIDENCE (verses 28-30)
The third essential for success as we face the enemy is confidence. The apostle Paul says in verse 28: “Don’t be alarmed by your opponents”. This phrase was used by the Greeks to describe a horse shying away from battle. There’s no reason for us to be afraid. We are on the winning side because Satan was defeated when Christ died on the cross for our sins. We have the victory when we trust in Christ’s power.
In verses 29 and 30 Paul gives us several reasons to be confident in the battle. First, these battles prove that we are saved. For some reason many Christians have the idea that trusting Christ means the end of their battles. Actually, it means the beginning of new battles. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” II Timothy 3:12 says, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Secondly, the presence of conflict is a privilege. When we suffer for Christ or with Christ, it is an honor. Thirdly, others are experiencing the same conflict. Satan wants us to think that we are alone in the battle, that our difficulties are unique. But this is not true. Paul is reminding the Philippians that he’s going through the same difficulties they are experiencing. Knowing that other believers are also engaged in the battle is an encouragement for us to keep going and to pray for them as well as for ourselves.
We all have our bad days when it seems like our whole world is against us. Life isn’t always a picnic, is it? But Paul is saying that he’s had many of those rough days, but he hasn’t let those days rob him of joy. Paul was faithful and persistent, in spite of his obstacles. That’s the kind of attitude Paul is looking for in the Philippians, and God is looking for in each of us.
Do you want to have joy today in spite of the circumstances you’re in, or may be facing? Remember, you can be confident that you’re a citizen of heaven if Christ is your Savior and Lord, and He wants you to act like one. Remember, we are all members of the same team, and God wants us to cooperate with each other and be concerned for each other. Remember, we face the same enemy and need the confidence that only Christ can give us as we depend on Him. Christianity was never meant to be dull, but exciting!