Summary: Jesus example of humility
What does it take to be a success? When Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy for over 20 years, was asked that question by a New York journalist, his reply was, “Above all, keep your heart a desert!”
According to Mussolini, having a heart which cared for no one was the key to true success.
He lived up to that cruel description of success during his lifetime. In a sense, he was successful, I suppose. He became the ruler of his country for two decades… until his own people had him shot.
Most of us have had some dreams of greatness at some time in our lives, I would imagine. What does it mean to be truly successful? I think our passage may help us to understand success a bit better.
When we left the scene last week, Paul had been speaking about unity: that our unity in the Holy Spirit should be reflected in unity of mind, unity of heart, and unity of purpose
We Christians like to talk about unity, but we’re not always really good at accomplishing it. Why not? What are the barriers to unity?
Immediately after exhorting the Philippians to unity, Paul brings up some barriers to unity in vss 3 & 4 that we read last week:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
The first barrier that Paul mentions is Selfish ambition – a desire for our own glory
The primary barrier to Christian unity is just plain selfishness. It’s not really surprising. If I say someone is “only out for themselves”, I’m saying that person has no interest in anybody else’s needs.
Although it has gotten a bad rap at times, ambition is not bad – the Apostle Paul was very ambitious.
What counts are the goals and the motivations of one’s ambition.
You can tell holy ambition from selfish ambition, because “holy ambition… elevates Christ and not the ambitious striver.”
Holy ambition is GOOD!
Being ambitious to advance God’s agenda doesn’t block unity, it promotes it
But if our only ambition is for our own success, our own health & wealth for its own sake, then our ambition is not good, according to Scripture.
Take some time to ask yourself, “What am I ambitious for?”
The next barrier to unity is Pride
Pride is another one of those words that we can mean in a good way or a bad way
If we say someone “takes pride in their work,” it doesn’t mean they’re arrogant, it just means they find joy and purpose in a job well done.
There is nothing wrong with that.
In fact, I believe God wired us to feel that way – that He wants us to feel that way!
When the Bible talks about pride, it refers to those who believe that what they have achieved, has been done apart from any intervention by God.
"Alex Haley, the author of ROOTS, has a picture in his office, showing a turtle sitting on a fence post.
He says, ‘Any time I start thinking, WOW, ISN’T THIS MARVELOUS WHAT I’VE DONE!’ I look at that picture and remember what I learned a long time ago: ’If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he had some help.’
We may be tempted to look at things we have done and think we’re pretty hot stuff!
But we really can’t claim that we have accomplished anything without God’s gifts.
God has given us the opportunities to grow up in a free country, to go to school. He’s given us our health and our strength… all the things we take for granted.
God has given each one of you gifts, abilities and talents of all kinds.
Failing to believe that is not true humility.
God wants you to discover and use those gifts – that’s why He gave them to you!
And then, when you see the fruit of your work, your use of your gifts, give thanks to Him, knowing that you didn’t get up that fence post, on your own
It’s been said that Pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick but the one who has it.
The certainty that either we are always right – or even that we must appear to be always right – is deadly to Christian unity.
Pride was deadly in the summer of 1986, when two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. The news became even more horrifying when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology problem -- or even thick fog. The cause was the worst kind of human pride. Each captain knew the other ship was out there. Either one could’ve steered clear, but neither captain wanted to be the first one to give way. They were too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late.