Summary: Living a life that contrasts with the cynicism and darkness of the surrounding culture.
Forever Living in a Whatever World
Philippians 1:27-28; 2:12-16; 3:20-21; 4:11-13
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: Whatever! That’s one of those little “young people’s” words that exists for one purpose and one purpose only—to drive older folk crazy. Sometimes whatever is just filler. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just punctuation. Other times it voices indifference. “Do want a sausage or anchovy pizza?” Whatever. Translation—either one is alright with me. I don’t really care. But sometimes whatever drips with sarcasm. “Would you please turn your music down or pull your pants up?” Whatever! Translation—who do you think you are?
Some world watchers insist that such innocent terms are not nearly as innocent as might expect. Big meaning sometimes hides behind little words like whatever. They note that many in this whatever generation have grown up with everything that money can buy and little that it can’t. Record numbers have been raised by TV, single moms and broken marriages. They have been over entertained and under cared for. Their world has shown them that you can’t depend on anything. Everything changes. Values have disappeared. Truth doesn’t exist. Everyone eventually abandons you. No one really cares. To survive they have developed hardened hearts and cynical spirits. To every situation, they have learned to respond with a shrug of the shoulders and a whatever.
Whatever is the safe response! Whatever makes no commitments. Whatever keeps its options open. Whatever pretends that it doesn’t care. If you don’t care, then you can’t get hurt. At least that’s the promise. Whatever keeps life at arms length. Whatever builds a defensive wall against people who will only get close and then hurt you. If the psychologists and sociologists are right, there is a lot more to whatever than just an empty word.
If you sometimes feel like you wish you could just crawl safely behind the walls of your castle, pull up the draw bridge behind you, and just say to your world whatever, then you need to listen to Philippians. Philippians insists that Christians need not be cynics who expect the worst so we won’t be disappointed. Philippians calls for a joy-filled life in a trouble-filled world, a peace-filled life in storm-tossed world, a light giving life in a darkened world.
Over and over again, Philippians looks at the hard time of life in the face and says whatever. But this whatever is different. This whatever comes from faith not indifference. It doesn’t say “who cares.” It shouts, “I care.” How can anyone maintain a forever life in a whatever world? By remembering that this isn’t all there is! We know where we came from. We know where we are headed. We know who we belong to. We know who holds tomorrow. Because of that we can take whatever comes. We can handle whatever life throws our way not because we are tough, or because our shell is hard, or because nothing matters to us. We can handle whatever because of the One who lives in us, through us, and for us.
Let’s step back and look at the background of this little book. When you think Philippians, think prison. That’s where Paul was when he wrote this letter. That’s where he ended up when he first planted the church in that ancient town. Acts 16 tells the story. When entering a new town, Paul, a recognized rabbi, always looked for the synagogue. Philippi didn’t have enough Jews to support a full synagogue. Philippi was actually a very important Roman colony with a strong Roman military presence. The colony had been planted on the Greek frontier as an outpost of Roman power and ideas. Most Jews had left the area. Paul didn’t find a synagogue, but he did learn of a small group of women who met for prayer near the river. The ring leader seemed to be Lydia, a wealthy business woman. He told them of Jesus. The church was born.
As often happened, Paul hadn’t been in town long when he ended up in jail overnight. From their cells, Paul and Silas prayed and praised God. God answered their prayers. In the middle of the night, the earth shook. The jail doors opened. They were free. In a panic, the jailer was about to commit suicide lest he be held responsible for his prisoners getting away. Paul stopped him, insisted they weren’t escaping, told him about Jesus, and before the night was over baptized his entire family. The young church at Philippi added a new family. The next day the city officials ordered Paul and Silas to leave town. They left behind a small church of devoted followers.
The Philippian church never forgot what Paul had done for them. Their numbers were small, but their heart was big. Paul was speaking of these believers when he told the Corinthians, “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.” (2 Cor 8:1-5).