(Philippians 2:12-18) Christians, of all people, should understand that the MasterCard mentality is not the way to master life. The pattern Jesus established was one of deferring desires—not because the fulfillment of desiring is wrong, but because “my time has not yet come.” (John 7:8)
A university professor tells of being invited to speak at a military base one December and there meeting an unforgettable soldier named Ralph. Ralph had been sent to meet him at the airport. After they had introduced themselves, they headed toward the baggage claim. As they walked down the concourse, Ralph kept disappearing. Once to help an older woman whose suitcase had fallen open. Once to lift two toddlers up to where they could see Santa Claus, again to give directions to someone who was lost. Each time he came back with a smile on his face. “Where did you learn that?” the professor asked. “What?” Ralph said. “Where did you learn to live like that?” “Oh,” Ralph said, “during the war, I guess.” He then told the professor about his tour of duty in Vietnam, how it was his job to clear mine fields, how he watched his friends blow up before his eyes, one after another. “I learned to live between steps,” he said. “I never knew whether the next one would be my last, so I learned to get everything I could out of the moment between when I picked up my foot and when I put it down again. Every step I took was a whole new world, and I guess I’ve been that way ever since.” The abundance of our lives is not determined by how long we live, but by how well we live. As God lives in us, every step is precious.
Philippians 2:13 reminds us that “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Some advice from missionary Hudson Taylor, “I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help him. I ended up asking Him to do his work through me.” The word “worketh” in this verse means to energize. God arouses, stirs, and energizes the heart of the believer to do His will. This is a most wonderful truth. Just think about it: we all experience movements and stirrings within our heart toward God. These stirrings are of God. God is working within us, energizing us and giving us both the will and power to do what pleases Him. It means that God does not leave us alone to work out our salvation and deliverance. He works within us: moves, stirs, energizes, and arouses us to get up and get to it. The tragedy is this: ignoring, neglecting, and refusing to respond to the stirrings and workings of God. When we feel the stirrings, we desperately need to respond and do whatever God is stirring us to do. Just think how often the stirrings are rejected, ignored, or neglected. How often we continue to sit or go about our own affairs instead of heeding the working and stirring of God. How complacent and lethargic we are. Just think how much growth we lose and how often we must cut the heart of God to the core, all because we choose the things, possessions, and activities of this world instead of Him and His stirrings.
Philippians 2:14 gives further instruction, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings:” The word “murmuring” means to mutter, murmur, grumble, and complain. It means the quiet, soft, behind-the-back, undertone of murmuring and grumbling. It is the kind of criticism, dissatisfaction, fault-finding and gossip that goes on within small groups or cliques. The word “disputings” means arguments, outward and vocal questionings, and expressions of doubt. Simply stated, it is just as Scripture says: disputes or arguments that have broken out into the open. Note several significant facts. Murmurings and disputes are not to be allowed in the church. As the verse says: all things are to be done without murmurings and
disputings. Murmurings, unless they are stopped, will lead to disputes, turmoil, and divisiveness. Murmuring and disputes are never of God, never! This is the very point of this charge. All things, nothing is left out, are to be done without murmuring and disputes. Murmuring and disputes will cease when we allow God to work in us.
When God is working in us we will be as Paul, “Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” (Philippians 2:16) The wording is descriptive, “Holding forth the word of life.” Imagine! It is like saying the fountain of youth has been discovered with one difference: the Word of life not only brings eternal youth, it brings perfection. It is like saying the cure for cancer has been discovered with one difference: the Word of life not only cures the cancer, it injects the energy of everlasting life into the other cells of the body. But note the terrible tragedy! So many of us do not hold forth the Word of life. Word of life is the only hope for a world that reels under the weight of so many desperate needs, especially the desperate need to handle sin and evil and the terrible destiny of death.
When God is working in us we become a sacrifice, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.” (Philippians 2:17–18) Very simply stated, Paul had offered himself as a sacrifice to serve men. Paul lived for nothing else except to hold forth the Word of life to people. His body was totally sacrificed for that purpose and that purpose alone. How about you and me, are our bodies a sacrifice to God?