What are the worst sins that Paul mentioned in his letter to the Christian believers at Philippi? This letter of his is amazingly positive, especially given the fact that he writes it as he languishes in a dark, dank, dismal Roman dungeon for the crime of sharing his faith. And the prohibitions contained in it are remarkable in their seeming triviality—at least, compared with the “heavy” sins mentioned in his letters to other churches. Or are they?
The three things that Paul forbids these people to do are these:
–acting out of selfish or prideful motives (2:3,4)
–grumbling and arguing (2:14)
All of us would have to confess that we’ve done these quite regularly. Why would they be a big deal to God, anyway? In each of these, our eyes are turned on ourselves and our own situation, rather than on God and on others.
The antidotes follow: Look at God and others instead of at ourselves.
Pride & selfish motives are countered by an attitude of service. Paul reminds us repeatedly to be concerned about one another’s welfare above our own (2:3-4, 20-21). In this, Jesus is our supreme example, who set aside his glory to lower Himself to the weakness of human existence and then still further to an ignominious death on a cross—all for our benefit. (2:5-11)
Grumbling is countered by serenity. Paul shares how he (in prison!) has learned to be content in any and every situation, in good times and in unspeakably difficult circumstances. He can manage this attitude through God’s strength.(4:11-13)
Worry is countered by awareness of God’s sufficiency. Prayer about our every concern, along with thanks to God, will bring God’s peace to guard our minds from anxiety. (4:6-7)
My granddaughter and her family are at Disney World right now, enjoying a week of pure grace provided by a foundation that delights in making wishes come true for very sick children. She was happy about this, but I suspect that it means even more to her younger sister who had been fervently praying that someday she’d get to go to Disney!
Many times Jesus invited people to pray for what they wished. And if they had faith, it would be granted. So here came James and John to make a request.
Jesus: What do you wish me to do for you?
They pridefully asked for the places of honor in the Kingdom but didn’t get their wish. (Mark 10:35-40)
Right after that, blind Bartimaeus shouted out from the side of the road as Jesus walked by.
Jesus: What do you wish me to do for you?
Full of faith, he asked for his sight, and it was granted! (Mark 10:46-52)
Why was one request denied and the other answered? How can we be sure ours will be granted?
A few days ago I was figuring out how to use an Audibible, a small player on which were loaded lots of songs and Scripture readings in a minority language to be used in areas where there is no electricity. One part of the manufacturer’s instructions is particularly important if recharging the player from an electrical outlet instead of using the solar charger. Using a negative instead of a positive charge, I was told, could ruin the player. Fortunately, that information is in the User’s Manual. I just hope whoever uses the Audibible reads and follows these directions!
People are like that. The first human was manufactured from earth—yes, handmade (that’s what “manufacture” literally means) by God. And to Adam and his descendants (that’s us!) the Manufacturer has provided a User’s Manual. If we follow the instructions, things will go well. If we insist on doing it our own way instead, there’s going to be trouble.
So why don’t people read the instructions? Is it because of pride? Stubborn independence? Thinking that they know better than the manufacturer? Why don’t people humbly listen and obey the instructions of the One who made them? Same reasons, I suspect… The results? Just look around and see.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
and strength for your bones.
Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything
and your vats will overflow with good wine. (Proverbs 3:5-10 NLT)
Reading a book of the Bible in one sitting gives amazing perspective. A view of the forest which we miss out on if we dive in prematurely. (Pardon the mixed metaphor.) The book of Daniel has amazing messages for today. No, I’m not thinking primarily of all the prophesies with their strange creatures and the endless back-and-forth battles of the kings of the North and the South.
Daniel is well-known in Sunday School stories, especially for his escape from the lion’s den and his friends’ from the fiery furnace. But what is the significance of these stories and how do they fit together with each other and the other chapters of this book? Too often “Bible stories” are told without showing how they fit into God’s one great story.
So what is Daniel all about? Think of the three tests of faithfulness—refusing to eat the king’s food, worship the king’s image, or pray to the king instead of to God.
Think of the three kings of this book who were forced to acknowledge that their power was nothing compared to God’s. That their kingdoms could be removed like a puff of dust in the face of God’s eternal kingdom and almighty sovereignty which will demolish and outlast them all.
This encourages me today when faced with arrogant rulers or powerful pressures to conform. Like Daniel, I am a citizen of that Eternal Kingdom that will outlast them all. I determine to be courageous and faithful like he was.
Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God’s command,
Honor them, the faithful few!
All hail to Daniel’s band!
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.