Scripture Reading: Philippians 2:1-13
Earlier this week I was thinking about the “famous” people I have met in my life. The list is rather short, and mostly unimpressive.
Back in the early 90s I got a quick autograph from Oscar Robertson, one of the greatest basketball players to play in the NBA. That was kind of neat, and also to hear him speak to a gathering of teams at the Coal Bowl when I played in it.
Of course there are our own local celebrities we have in our own little town, the Barra MacNeils. Lovely people and a great family.
I’ve seen Rob Lowe, the actor, from a distance while he was shooting a movie on the campus of the Atlantic School of Theology while I was there. He’s a very small man. But that was as close as I would get.
I’ve met radio personalities. I’ve met many politicians. I’ve met moderators of the United Church of Canada. I’ve met a very successful olympic athlete (actually that one was kind of special).
I’ve been driven to the Toronto airport by a Hall of Fame Canadian Football League legend.
So I’ve met a few people, seen a few others from a distance. I’ve had the chance to have discussions with some of them, and even ask some of them about their own faith journey and how it impacts their public life.
Here is what I’ve discovered about pretty much every one of them.
There are simple human beings first and foremost. Most of them are even quite humble, especially the one’s who are Christian. But they are still humans with human weaknesses, who make human mistakes, and who need help.
Just like me. Just like all of us.
Sure, some of them may have made it to the highest levels, the biggest stages of their career, but they still slip up now and again. And then they need help.
It’s interesting to talk to those celebrities who are Christian and to hear how their own faith helps them through those harder times. When athletes are injured, when other public figures make mistakes and lose influence and status.It’s interesting to hear them speak of their trust in God to use them in whatever way he will lead them. After all, that’s what they’re about. Not glorifying themselves, but the God who created them. They want to use their gifts and their platforms to glorify him.
Now sure, there are exceptions to every rule. Not all celebrity Christians are really acting like Christians. But the one’s I’ve come across, while not recognized all over the world, they seem to try and act like a Christian should as much as they possibly can.
And it’s not easy at all. They do make mistakes. They have people to please, they have sponsorship deals to honour, they have managers, they have engagements all over the place, they are sometimes under constant scrutiny which leads to a lot of pressure and stress.
They need help. They need Jesus. And they know it. It’s quite refreshing to have such discussions with people we like to think have it “all put together.” It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who struggles at times to be a public figure (albeit a much smaller one) and still be faithful and trusting in God while feeling the pressures wider society has placed upon all of us.
Paul’s letter to the Philippian church is a good reminder of these things as he talks about living in humility.
Remember last week we were talking about idols as Paul addressed the church in Athens. He talked about the need to submit ourselves to the God of the universe, God who created all these things, and is closer than we realize. So we don’t put idols, or other objects of worship in the way.
Paul simply states in his letter to the Philippians we’re looking at today, that if you are encouraged through your faith in Jesus Christ, if you get comfort from his love, if you feel compassion, then you should live like it. You should share the love, compassion, comfort and encouragement as Christ gives it to you.
That’s what Jesus has asked of us. He asked that we go out and continue his ministry of love, compassion, comfort, and even healing as we follow in his ways. And like the Christians I’ve mentioned already, we shouldn’t be looking to gain at all from these things, but we should offer these gifts humbly and in the interest of helping others, and helping them realize the gifts of God in their lives too.
Paul goes on to write these wonderful verses about Jesus,
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)
The first thing we need to remember about Jesus is that he is from God, he is God and he has returned to God. But he didn’t flaunt it. He didn’t use his divine nature for personal gain. He used it to help others, to the point where we can see him tell those he has helped to not tell anyone about what he has done.
He didn’t want the attention, he didn’t need the attention. That’s not why he did the things he did. He performed miracles, he healed people, he fed people, he forgave people because it was the right thing to do.
The guy could have made millions charging for his services. Jesus could have had a giant mansion with lots of servants as he walked around in his bathrobe.
But that’s not what Jesus was about. In fact, if he had done it all for the purposes of personal gain, it would have most certainly countered his message of bringing God’s love to the earth.
There are plenty of examples of people, even religious leaders, who have taken advantage of people for personal gain, and it never ends well. Not for those they supposedly “helped” nor for those who were “helping” either.
Jesus, instead of becoming rich, he actually lived very poorly, relying on the generosity of his friends from day to day. As Paul says, he made himself nothing, a servant of the people, a sacrifice even as he gave his life up on the cross so people could see just how far God was willing to go to show people love and compassion.
And then, when he arose from the grave, leaving behind an empty tomb, Jesus returned to his Father and his name was raised above every other name.
Jesus is the Saviour of the world.
You might ask, “What do you mean, ‘Saviour of the world’?”
I mean Jesus has come to not only the people who saw him face to face, not only for those he helped along the roads he traveled, but Jesus came for us too, even today.
That’s the sign of the empty tomb, his work is not over. Death has not won, because Jesus is still alive, still working, still in the business of doing God’s work and saving sinners like you and me.
At the same time, Jesus encourages us to help others in his name as he helps us. If you’ve been saved by Jesus, even if you see it as a small thing in your life, then Jesus wants you to help others as he has helped you.
Even small things count. Every little thing that we take to Jesus and he removes from our life, it enhances our relationship with God and we’re better connected to our Father in heaven than if we just let it be.
I think I’ve shared this before, but I used to listen to rather angry music. And when I became a Christian, I still listened to it. But then I started listening to Christian music. And things changed.
When I gave up the angry music and started listening to uplifting, Christ-filled music, I felt my relationship with God change dramatically. Even though I initially saw it as a very small thing. In that small change, God used it to do far more than I thought could happen. And I noticed it rather quickly. Sure sometimes the change may not be so obvious or quick to show itself, but it will. It does make a difference!
Humbling ourselves before God, submitting ourselves to Jesus and his example for our life, it’s not a waste of time. Not at all.
We all need more Jesus in our lives. We should be craving more Jesus in our lives, no matter where you are in your spiritual journey. God desires more for you. God wants a deeper relationship with you. God wants to share his infinite blessings with you.
There’s a lot going on in Canadian politics right now. We’ve got an election on the go in Ontario. We’re looking ahead to the federal election coming up in the next year or so. We’ve got a leadership race on the go here in Nova Scotia. We’ve also got a heated debate going on about whether or not Cape Breton is getting it’s fair share of the pot of cash that comes from Ottawa to the province.
All of this means there’s a lot of complaining going on. Politicians are attacking one another. The news has all kinds of opinion pieces on the go, and why wouldn’t they? It helps sell news when there’s a debate going on that appeals to a lot of people… a lot of potential customers.
My question is this though, with all this complaining and attacking of one another, does it really excite you? Does it get you fired up and ready to take on the day?
I’ve stopped watching most of the news, I confess. I pay attention to some stuff going on, but for the most part, I’ve tried to tune a lot of it out.
Yet there it is, dominating our screens 24 hours a day.
Election campaigns have gone from from being excited about what our favourite candidate has to offer to painful marathons of “it is over yet?”
And the change has come rather quickly over the last couple of decades. I remember the days of being excited for elections. I don’t feel that way any longer. Complaints and fighting just exhaust me. The constant attack and pointing out the failures of others makes me want to stay in bed and pull the covers up over my head.
Christians are guilty of this too.
I see Christians fighting with each other on the internet all the time. And it drives me up the wall.
Where does it say in the Bible to tear down others believers in the name of Jesus Christ? Someone help me because I can’t find it.
We are called to share in love. We are called to love our brothers and sisters in the church, and even if we disagree, Jesus says to approach each other in love.
Paul says it really well when he says,
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)
Work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Submit to God, which can be a scary thing, because who knows what God is going to do, and let him sort out our lives. None of us have it all figured out, which is why we need each other so much. And also why we need to love and respect one another.
If we, as Christians, can’t act in love towards each other, then what message does that send to the rest of the world?
It tells the world we don’t live as Jesus asks us to live, it turns people away from God’s message of love, and the church suffers because of it.
We need to listen to what God has for us. Paul reminds us it is God who works in us in order to fulfill his purpose. We need to submit ourselves humbly, and seek his direction in our lives. We need to take that scary step and ask God to sort out our salvation for us, and bring about the changes required to enter into a continually deepening relationship with him through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Even if it feels a little scary at times.
Yet, even in the fear and trembling God is at work, and possibly even most at work in our lives at those times. We belong to God, and we have been created to worship God and exalt his name. This is what Jesus has shown us.
Jesus Christ, the one before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord of all to the glory of God.
Let us pray,
You are the Lord of all creation. You are the one who is the King of this earth. You are God among us showing us how to live.
So we ask you Jesus, show us how to live. Show us how to love our neighbours as you so love us.
Show us the errors of our ways, and bring us into the family of God, our Father in heaven. Bring us peace and comfort. Bring us hope and joy. Bring us all the gifts our Father wishes to bestow upon us when we submit our lives to you.
Jesus, yes this is a scary thing for us to consider, but we also know, in the end, all things are for God’s glory and we will be blessed. And we thank you for this.
Walk with us, be in us, and show us the way everlasting.
We pray this in your most Holy Name. Amen and amen.