Forget Captain Kirk. God says, "Shields Up!"

Philippians chapter 1 ended with a prodding about “whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Trouble and suffering will come, but we are still called to live expectantly, hopefully, and with great courage. Expect. Hope. Courage.  

Have you ever watched a movie with a scene of an inmate scratching tick marks onto a prison wall to count the days? Thankfully, since Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1), we don’t have to miserably sit in our cell scribbling on the wall. In Jeremiah 31:33 we are given instruction on how inscriptions work in God’s economy “…I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Using His mighty hand, God engraves His word on our hearts. Last week, expect, hope, and courage were emphasized. As we study chapter 2, He’ll teach us more. His Word is alive and active (see Hebrews 4:12), so we can fully trust that He’ll add new truths to etch onto our hearts as we seek to know Him more. Let’s find out what He has to say this week…

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.

-          Paul loved the church at Philippi deeply, and many of Paul’s words were penned to warn the people of possible divisions (Phil. 3:1-3) and false teachings (Phil. 4:1-3), and encourage them in Christ. Some of you may need to hear this today: God is not unhappy with you. He is not disappointed in you. He does not become frustrated with you or roll His holy eyes when you fail to meet your self-imposed expectations. He doesn’t find pleasure in your pain or tell you to “suck it up, buttercup” from His throne when you hurt. You are seen. You are heard. If it matters to you, it matters to Him.

-          Paul encourages the church – because they are in agony over the fact that Paul was in prison and could not be with them – to be like-minded, loving, and unified. Those are the three words I’ve chosen to let God write on my heart: Like-minded. Love. Unity.

-          Providentially, I had a discussion along these lines with some leaders at work this past week. I was imploring a team (and myself) to garner a renewed commitment. Oftentimes, we can mistake consensus for commitment. Commitment doesn’t mean we inherently agree – it means we are willing to overcome the lack of harmony with love and trust. Paul doesn’t say, “Act exactly the same.” He says to be like-minded [have similar tastes and opinions], have the same love [the love of Christ], be one in spirit [in accordance with the Holy Spirit], and of one mind [having the mind of Christ]. Let’s choose to be committed to lead our relationships in like-mindedness, love, and unity. We’re given the fundamental truth of how we can achieve this like-mindedness, love, and unity in verse 3:

-          “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others.” That’s what I call a say-easy-do-hard verse. As Andrew Murray put it, “It is pride that made redemption needful; it is from our pride we need, above everything, to be redeemed.” That is why Christ had to come in complete and utter humility to mankind – because humility is the polar opposite of pride. The more we study and know and trust the life that has been revealed in Christ Jesus (His humility), the more we will become like Him.

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!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

-          We just talked about how we must choose to lead our relationships in like-mindedness, love, and unity, and we accomplish this through the path of humility. Verses 5-11 are the pinnacle of Philippians and serve as a profound and inspiring declaration regarding the humiliation and exaltation of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s saying to us, “Think like this. Live like this.” Jesus Christ was both God and man. He never stopped being God when He came to this earth wrapped in flesh – but He willingly chose not to exert His power to His personal advantage. At any moment, Christ could’ve beckoned twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53); but rather, He submitted Himself to the point of death, so that we can be with Him eternally.

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

-          Pay close attention in how verse 12 does not say we should work for our salvation. The work was accomplished through Christ humbling Himself, shedding His outward flesh, and allowing His divine nature to be resurrected. He did the work and He doesn’t need us to sprinkle our own efforts onto His already flawless completion. How can you further perfect perfection?

-          What verse 12 does say is for us to work out our salvation. The verb “work out” means “work to full completion.” My oldest son – who’s almost seven – loves math. While his mama failed college algebra the first time, it’s by far his favorite subject. It’s fun to watch him work a math problem at the dining room table with his jumbo pencil in hand. He’ll talk to himself, count on his fingers, write/erase/write/erase, and ask questions until the problem is solved and complete. God loves watching us do the same as we press on toward full completion of this faith. Talk to Him, count on Him, move forward/fall/move forward/fall, and ask questions. It’s not off-putting for God to walk with us as we work out our own calling and purpose. He knows that one day, we’ll come to that moment of completion where we see His face, and become like Him (1 John 3:2).

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

-          Do everything without grumbling or arguing…” Not some duties…not most tasks…but, do everything without murmuring. I despise wrapping presents. I wrestle with the appropriate paper-to-present ratio, I don’t cut straight, and it’s just plain boring even when I buy the coolest wrapping paper known to man. Mama Haynes believes wrapping is for babies (aka: swaddling) and bags and tissue paper are for gifts. (Daddy Haynes believes in straight edges, colored bows, and…wait for it…name tags. I find writing with a Sharpie is just as festive; but alas, I am scolded every Christmas season for my profane approach.) In all seriousness, God knows we like to grumble – it’s our natural tendency. Negativity breeds toxicity, and the only medicine potent enough to detox us is to choose to have a merry heart (Proverbs 17:22).   

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

-          Paul couldn’t be with the church in Philippi because he was under house arrest. However, knowing they needed care and encouragement, Timothy was sent in Paul’s place. Many people grow weary in this warped and crooked world, and until Jesus calls us home, we are to be an encouragement to this generation. Each day, you can show genuine concern for others, look out for someone’s interest, and encourage others in the work of the gospel. Whatever you do – babysit wee ones, style hair, teach, lead, work in the home, write Bible studies – do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men (Colossians 3:23). Be proud to be a “Timothy,” sent by Jesus until He can comfort us Himself.

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.

-          We talked about Paul sending Timothy to comfort and encourage the church in Philippi, but we also read that the church had previously sent Epaphroditus to Paul. I love this sow and reap principle we see! Clearly, Paul loved Epaphroditus deeply because he expressed that his death would have created “sorrow upon sorrow.” While Paul was comforted by Epaphroditus staying with him, he was excited to send this priceless pair (Epaphroditus and Timothy) and create gladness in the hearts of the people of Philippi.

-          Expect. Hope. Courage. Like-minded. Love. Unity. Those are the words Christ inscribes on my heart and carves on the back side of my shield of faith. That way, as I go into battle and hold up that shield against the fiery darts of the devil I can read – in the handwriting of God Himself – a rally cry from His mouth to my soul:

My beloved warrior – expect My goodness, take hope in My best, be courageous in Me, and stand alongside your fellow soldiers in like-mindedness, love, and impenetrable unity. Hell will not prevail; I have already won. 

My Eternal Love, Jesus