7 August 2021Philippians 2: 12-18
...for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (v. 13)
This passage follows the great ‘song of Christ’s glory’ in the previous verses – and Paul is highlighting the humility of Jesus and how his humility, obedience and service were honoured by God, who gave him the highest position, above all monarchs and rulers. So, “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” (verse 12) must relate to this. Not that salvation is ours to “work out”, but we have a part to play in ensuring that we continue to grow in faith and all that God has begun in us. As we take that responsibility for ensuring we find good Christian nurture and fellowship, we should do so with the humility that Christ demonstrated for us – not thinking of ourselves too highly, or putting our own needs above others.
When we think of the sinful things to avoid, in order to make us “blameless and innocent” (verse 15), we might list a number of evils before we get to “murmuring and arguing” (verse 14). And yet Paul could see that it was these grumblings and petty divisions within the local church that sowed discontent and disunity. They also made leadership difficult for Moses in the wilderness (see Exodus 16).
If your church leadership is doing something you don’t understand, you need to raise a question. If they are clearly doing something wrong then you need to make a complaint. But it’s usually the ‘little niggles’ that make church ministry tiresome, disheartening, frustrating and even painful for those who have been appointed to lead and serve. If a minister is valued and supported, they are able to serve the members of the church and the community with much more confidence, freedom, and love. A church that seeks to bring the best out of those in ministry and leadership can go from strength to strength – and start to radiate the light of Christ.
Paul reflects that he has given his all in his ministry – poured out like an offering on the altar – and he has done this in the context of being able to rejoice with the church and share with them the ‘word of life’ (verse 16; the gospel message of Christ). The church, in turn, are supporting him, even at great cost to themselves. He wants them to keep rejoicing – because even though he is in prison and may never see them again, he trusts that God is at work in them, and in him, enabling them all to grow and bring forth the fruit of a shared ministry in God’s love.
- When Paul encouraged the Philippians to "shine like stars in the world" (verse 15) he was addressing the whole Church – in fact the ‘you’ in this letter is always plural (in the original Greek). Do our desires for self-improvement sometimes forget that we are called as one body, collectively, to reflect Christ?
- A Methodist Way of Life invites us to "live in a way that draws others to Jesus". How can we do this, not only as individuals, but as a body – the Church?
- What encouragement or support could you show today to those who minister or lead in your church?