Can’t we all just get along?
Philippians 4: I urge Euodia and Syntyche to iron out their differences and make up.
Everything we know about Euodia and Syntyche is found in this passage; there’s not much. Two women have some differences, about what, we don’t know. These women have partnered with Paul in proclaiming the Good News. They’re faithful laborers in the vineyard of the Lord and their names are in the book of life. Paul urges a third party to get involved, helping them work through their differences. That’s about it. Paul doesn’t take sides and he declares both of these women as “okay” in both his eyes and in the eyes of the Lord. So, what do we have here? First, there’s the reminder that even the best of God’s people can sometimes fail to get along. God’s people, even the saved and sanctified ones, don’t always agree and sometimes their disagreements can be intense. Second, when we do disagree we’re to do all we can to work through it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that one person yields to the other, although it may mean exactly that. At some point, two Christians need to say, “We’ve got to work through this, otherwise, we’ll be diminished for it and Christ’s kingdom will suffer.” Third, sometimes it takes a third party, a mutual friend, respected by both to get the ball rolling. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t want to be Syzgus here. His name means “yokefellow,” thus, “co-worker.” What man wants to get between two women who need to “iron out their differences and make up”? The answer is: the kind of man who’s a real friend of, and is respected by, both women. Paul gives this good man the assignment of bringing these two together to work things out, not because their salvation’s in jeopardy, but because the journey is better together than it is apart, and, because when we’re real “yokefellows” we can accomplish more for God.
Take Away: If there’s an unresolved issue between you and a fellow Christian, don’t pass “go” and “don’t collect $200” until you’ve gone to them and worked it out.
What does it mean to have a genuine relationship with Christ?
Philippians 3: I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally.
A friend of mine commented that he was preparing to do a certain thing. His intention wasn’t to do something bad but it seemed to me that there was a superior course of action. In an off handed remark I asked, “Have you asked the Lord about it?” His response was, “Oh, the Lord understands.” Later, I found myself thinking about the exchange in view of my own life. How often do I do whatever I want to do with the attitude: “It’s okay, the Lord understands.” Tell you what; I don’t treat my wife that way. When I’m thinking about taking some out of the ordinary action I talk it over with her. Most of the time I could probably go ahead and she would “understand” but the thing is that we have a relationship with one another that includes our respecting each other and valuing one another’s opinions on things. Surely, I should have a similar respectful, intimate relationship with the Lord. There’s a place for prayers along the lines of, “Lord, I’m thinking about doing this, what do you think?” The Apostle says he gave up a lot of stuff that he might have a personal relationship with Jesus. If I want to have a vital, real, living relationship with Jesus one of the things I must give up is having a self-willed, presumptive attitude toward him.
Take Away: Do we treat the Lord as a real person or as some abstract idea?
Thank God for spiritual heroes
Philippians 2: Give him a grand welcome, a joyful embrace!
When the church at Philippi heard about Paul’s imprisonment they wanted to do something tangible to help him. They decided to send one of their own, a man named Epaphroditus, to Paul, likely carrying an offering for him. The arrival of this good man warmed Paul’s heart, greatly encouraging him. Then, to his dismay Epaphroditus became ill, sick enough to die. Although it was touch and go for a while Epaphroditus recovered completely. Now, Paul’s writing a letter to the Philippian church and he intends to have Epaphroditus deliver it, returning home. The Apostle tells them that Epaphroditus is a real hero, a great man of God. He urges them to give him a hero’s welcome, telling them “people like him deserve the best you can give.” As I read about Epaphroditus today I’m reminded of some spiritual giants I’ve known in my life. A few of them are well known, at least in some circles. They’ve received a fair amount of deserved recognition. Several, though, never made it to the big stage. In my case, they’re some pastors I’ve known, either during my growing up years or as co-workers in the Kingdom. Some of these good people never pastored large churches and as far as I know never received any denominational rewards. Still, they’ve encouraged me and I’ve seen in them the heart of Jesus for their people. Today I remember a pastor who took time to sit down with a boy to explain sanctification in a way he could begin to grasp. I also remember a pastor who always had a smile on his face and a kind word to say to others even though he was going through some hard times. These are spiritual heroes who deserve a “grand welcome, a joyful embrace!”
Take Away: Thank God for the spiritual heroes who have influenced your life.
Watching others preach the gospel
Philippians 1: I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives.
The first one out there, traveling from city to city preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ was Paul. He’s already a living legend among the Christians. For over twenty years he’s been faithful through thick and thin, through good days and bad. Actually, he doesn’t label “good and bad” as most people do. Right now he’s in jail and you’d think he’d call that “bad.” Instead, he happily explains that his being locked up has resulted in a lot of good things. People who wouldn’t have heard the gospel otherwise have literally come to him asking him to tell them about Jesus. Others, who’ve been timid about their faith before have been inspired by his faithfulness and have stepped forward to tell others about the Lord. A few have mistakenly concluded that with Paul locked up there’s a leadership void and are trying to fill his shoes, preaching about the Lord in hopes of gaining a leadership foothold in the church. That last group causes the great Apostle to reflect a bit on what it’s all about. Obviously, he doesn’t want false teachers out there preaching a false gospel. However, these folks, he’s concluded, are on target with their preaching and are only off target with their ambitions. Paul’s conclusion is that that stuff doesn’t matter as long as the gospel’s being preached. I can’t help but be impressed by Paul’s mature, focused attitude here. He’s willing to give up his freedom and his reputation if it serves to advance the cause of Christ. I’m reminded today that the Lord can accomplish great things through a person who doesn’t necessarily need to get the credit for what’s done.
Take Away: We do our best, leaving the results in the hands of the Lord.