Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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25 Finding Joy in others – Part 3

Philippians 2:1-8

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Since the fall of Adam and Eve sin has strain our relationships and made maintaining and relate both with to each other and our Maker a major struggle. Broken and strained relationships are one of the greatest causes of unhappiness, depression and despondency in our world today. Many are consumed by the crushing weight of conflict, which saps our strength, and sucks the satisfaction out of life as it kills our joy. So how do you handle the conflict? Paul calls us to strive for unity, because it is a key ingredient for success and fulfillment in life. Paul reminds us that unity is not just a principle it must become a practice. If you want to have a successful and enjoyable business then people need to get along and work together. To have a successful football team the players must participate and work together. To have a successful government those elected must work together, what would happen if the congress and the president did cooperate? To have a successful family members must work together, or a successful church the members must cooperate with Christ and each other. The truth is that very little is every really accomplished in life by yourself. We need each other and unity holds tremendous power and potential, the problem is that people don’t always get along. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2 that Christians are to have unity in Christ. Not only are we supposed to get along with one another, we are to support each other. This is more than just putting up with one another it’s about enjoying peace with one another, it’s about being productive people. Peace isn’t merely the absence of conflict it’s the presence of Christ. There should be fellowship and family. It’s more than just about liking other Christians it’s about being likeminded. Its about loving like the Lord has loved us, it’s about daring to display His mercy and grace. So how do you strive for unity, how do you reduce conflict and increase cooperation? Paul gave the Philippians several practical steps to finding joy in their relationships through reduced conflict and increased cooperation. The first step is to stop having:

  • Selfish Ambitions

The Message Bible translates this verse: “Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.” All too often we choose to compete instead of cooperate with the people who are supposed to be on our team. What type of team will ever win when they are at war with themselves? How can we ever hope to experience success when we replace cooperation with chaos? We need to stop the sibling rivalry, we need to stop fighting and start serving.  When you were a child you probably experienced sibling rivalries, where you competed with your brothers and sisters and it became more about winning than working together. Now you are much older and we call you a grown up why are you still competing with your brothers and sisters? Why are you still trying to prove that you’re better? Because you have bought into the worlds system of winning, that we become better by beating others. Many of us are adults that are still acting like children, trying to find our affirmation through ambition. True and lasting affirmation never comes through self-ambition, it comes from what the Almighty says about us not self-success. Our significance is seen in our Saviors sacrifice, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. When we least deserved deliverance He came to die, that when I had accomplished nothing but chaos Christ came for me. Today we are trying to gain our affirmation through selfish ambition, but instead of it leading to confidence it’s leading to conflict. Remember you are on the same team, you are part of the same family you don’t need to compete. Selfish ambition is not just a sin it’s a form of slavery, it may seem to lead to success but its end is really suicide. Selfish ambition shows up even in the most intimate and holy moments of our lives, like it did for the disciples in Luke’s account of the Last Supper (Luke 22:20–27). 20 “After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. 21 “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. 22 For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” 23 The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing. 24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.” Jesus’s final meal before the cross was perhaps the most ironic time for the twelve to debate over which of them was the greatest. Yet verse twenty four tells us that that is exactly what they chose to do. Can you imagine, the founder and perfecter of their faith was sitting having supper with them and they chose to used their time at the table to assert self. This was no time for any disciple to assert his own greatness, except the greatness of his sin. But who really admits their faults; no we fake it by keeping our sins in the shadows and shout about our success. What is even more ironic is what ignited the debate. Jesus had just revealed that one of them that very night would willingly participate in the most scandalous sin in history, the slaughter of the Son of God. But somehow the introspection and inquiry that followed ended up in a competition over who was greatest, It was one of those moments that reveals the terrifying and blinding power of pride. Of how quickly our moon of selfish ambition can eclipses the Sun of Righteousness. Oh how often has this happened in my life when I have grabbed His glory, selfishly stealing the spotlight? When it’s become more about me and my show than the Savior, when instead of getting His Will I’ve just gotten in the way? That is what selfish ambition does it eclipses everything else in the darkness of self-declaration. The moon should reflect the light of the sun not eclipse it. Here was Jesus about to die for their sins, one of them would shortly betray Him to that death. Yet what was their response to such horror and hope, not mourning, repentance or worship but warring with each other. The disciples were suddenly and absurdly preoccupied with their own place of prominence in God’s plan of salvation. Yet in His response to the ridiculous we see one of the most amazing displays of the grace of God. Jesus did not condemn his disciples for thinking far too highly of themselves at the worst possible moment and choosing conflict instead of confession. No this sin of selfish ambition would also be paid for in full in just a few hours as He willingly hung on the cross of Calvary. Instead what Jesus did in that moment was to mercifully draw their gaze off of themselves and back onto Him. He didn’t just give them an example of servant hood to study, He lived it out in their midst. If we really want to be a family we need to follow Him and stop serving the slave of selfish ambition. You see the secret to freedom from the slavery of selfish ambition is to keep looking to Jesus. When our focus is on selves and others we end up dealing with the cancer of compare and compete, which leads to the black hole of hopelessness. But when we look to Jesus we are reminded that we have nothing that we haven’t received through Him. Are you preoccupied with prominence? Are you serving selfish ambition or the Savior? What are the ambitions in your life? How are they driving your life? Are your ambitions causing conflict or cooperation? James reminds us of the destructive and devastating results of selfish ambition in James 4:1: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires (ambitions) for pleasure that war in your members?” Our society teaches us that satisfaction comes through the accomplishment of self-ambition. Yet what happens when my needs and ambitions conflict with your needs and ambitions, we don’t have satisfaction we have a struggle. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 reminds us what our ambitions should be: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you.” How contrary to what this world teaches, it teaches us to compete, take center stage and become the center of attention. Today the church has become caught up competing with itself instead of cooperating to fulfill the command of Christ. Are we are pursuing self-praise or the pleasure that comes from pleasing God? We need to stop and see if our ambitions are selfish or the Saviors. Winning doesn’t come through war with your team it comes through working with them. So what selfish ambitions do you need to surrender to the Savior so you can experience more cooperation and less conflict?

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24 Finding Joy in others – Part 2

Philippians 1:3-8

3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. 7 So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. 8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

When it comes to finding Joy in others Paul first called us to practice affirmation and place our confidence in Christ, because when God starts a project, he completes it. Just as He did with the Philippians, God will grow you in grace and complete the work he has started in your life. The next time you are discouraged remember that God has not given up on you. So if you are feeling incomplete and unfinished, instead of focusing on your shortcomings focus on His strength. Don’t let your present condition rob you of His joy, remember His promise and provision. Third Paul reminds us to:

  • Pursue Community

In Philippians 1:7 Paul says “So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News.” There is a power in community that even prison can’t stop because when you have people in your heart, it matters not whether they are in your presence. Paul even in prison was reliving the joyful relationship he shared with the Philippians who had partnered with him in the gospel. They were not only partakers in his praise but also in his imprisonment. Community is not about convenience and it’s not always comfortable but it is comforting. They were in his heart even though he was many miles away in a prison cell. You see if the relationships you have exist only in the presence of a formal gathering then you have a crowd, not a community. The presence of community starts in the heart regardless of whether or not the relationship is revealed in a gathering. Scheduled programs provide structure but they don’t produce joy in our relationships, it is the presence of community that we need to pursue. It is the practice of affirming people and placing our confidence in God instead of others or ourselves that makes the sharing of our lives more significant. The presence of community then is the by-product of doing life together, sharing the sorrows and the smiles. Both the Philippians and Paul had shared in the grace of God, they had both placed their confidence in God’s goodness and from this joy presence of community grew. Are you taking time to share your life with your family? Are you pursuing community together? One of the reasons we have become such a discouraged, despondent, and depressed nation is we no longer crave or really care about community.  We no longer come together and do life because we have bought into the lie that comfort and convenience will bring us joy. Look around at the number of families sitting together in the same place yet pursuing their phones not the people around them. Today we are connecting to computers not community. But for Paul joy came from a community of believers pursuing a journey with Jesus and each other. What is getting in the way of you pursuing community in your home, at work, and at church?

  • Proclaim His affection

Paul now proclaims God’s affection “God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus” This is a love that involves longing and comes from our relationship with the Lord. Are you communicating Christ’s compassion with others? We are not the creators of love we are simply the contributors in love.  Sharing the Savior means speaking His love, its simply giving to others what has been given to you. Are you a contributor or just a consumer of His love? What amazes me here is that Paul is saying in the same way Jesus loves me I chose to love you. You see this is more than Paul loving the Philippians as Jesus loved them, this is Paul loving the Philippians because Jesus loved Paul. We try to love others because we know that is what Jesus wants us to do instead of loving because we have been loved. What’s the difference, one is just a rational reason the other is a response to a radical love. Are you loving out of the overflow or out of law?  1st John 4:19 reminds us that “we love because He first loved us” Our love is a response to His radically love of us. You will either have a mentality of I get to love or I have to love, one is freeing the other is forced. Paul was not saying that loving other Christians was easy, after all the church is saturated with sinners and very few are lovable without some serious effort, including your pastor. I can say that in my church I know the Pastor and sometimes he can be hard to love! Seriously though he is a sinner just like you, but your love for him or anyone else can’t be based on them it has to be based on God’s love for you. You will never really love others until you have been loved. You can only love to the degree to which you have been loved. Is there someone you refuse to love in your church? Check the cross and see how much God put up with you when He loved you enough to send His only Son to die on your behalf. Is there someone you refuse to love at work? Go back to Calvary and notice the nails. You say you cannot forgive that family member who hurt you, look at the Saviors scars for you. It was His love for us that held Him there. How many of us are missing out on the joy of loving like Jesus because we are holding onto the hurts instead of His hand. Are you going to hold onto the grudges or the goodness of God? Paul didn’t just preach affection he practiced it by sharing what the Savior had done in his life.  You see love in response to someone who deserves love is reward, but love in response to being loved is reciprocity. That’s the love that Paul proclaimed and passed on to the Philippians and it’s the love we too can share. Are you practicing affirmation, are you basing your confidence in Christ’s ability to finish the work, are you pursuing community and are you proclaiming His affection?