How do you get to the top by going through the bottom? Doesn’t that go completely against everything we were taught by our parents about standing up for ourselves? We were told to not let people run over us. Be assertive! Take charge!
Let me tell you the story of a fellow from my previous church where I was the pastor many years ago. Don was a sort of “special” person. He was exceedingly nice and kind … and also odd and eccentric in many ways. I don’t think he had actual mental deficiencies, though it may have looked that way to many people. Having been a professional musician in earlier life before coming to know Christ, he may well have burned out some of his brain on substance abuse. Whatever his background, there was no doubt that Don deeply LOVED everyone in the church.
He worked diligently to know every person, and he had a genuine concern for each and every individual. In fact, whenever anyone from the church was in the hospital, he would visit with them each day they were admitted. Yes, he was a little strange and some of those visits were a bit awkward, but there was no doubt that Don was a guy who simply loved you and believed when he prayed for you, God was going to help you!
One day, Don had a medical emergency – I forget if it was a gall bladder surgery or a ruptured appendicitis – but it was something that had him admitted for a series of days. And even long before the era of the immediacy of emails and Facebook communications, the word spread like wildfire through the church family that Don was in the hospital. And people started to visit him. Dozens of people would show up at the same time, and over the initial two or three days there were more than 150 people wanting to visit. They were continuously overflowing the hospital’s waiting area in the lobby. After a while, the hospital administration called the church office to appeal to us to make some church-wide effort to call off the visitation.
The application of this story to today’s reading is clearly obvious. The story of Don and our passage today from Philippians both illustrate the principle as stated in the words of Jesus Christ: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
It is clear from the letter to the Philippians that there was discord among certain people and factions in the church family in that city. The Apostle Paul reminds them in the first four verses of all the assets they possessed through faith and relationship with Christ Jesus. And he tells them that it would make his own joy complete if they would stop thinking of themselves and rather imitate Christ in humbly serving one another.
This great theological passage that defines the combination of Christ’s humanity and deity is given by Paul to remind his readers of the incredible humility of Christ – who set aside his personal rights in glory to condescend to earth, become human, and die the most awful of deaths. Surely the story of one who did something this amazing would goad the Philippians to faithfully follow that example in selfless service, one to another.
Christ was glorified to the highest level due to his humble sacrifice, and likewise, those who serve others will have their own needs met in abundance by the grace and supply of a faithful heavenly Father who sees all and judges with fairness and equity. When we serve at the bottom, God ultimately rewards us at the top. It seems crazy to the way of the world’s thinking, but that is how God works his math … and we’ll talk about this again on Friday.
Philippians 2:1-11 – Imitating Christ’s Humility
2:1 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 natureGod, 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.