Summary: This exposition of Philippians 2:12-18 focuses on what New Testament obedience looks like. The dangers of legalism and antinomianism are addressed. Preparations for an uncertain future are discussed as well.
Our lives have changed significantly since the beginning of 2020. The big question is what changes lie ahead. Will things settle down and stabilize? Or will events become even more volatile? Will the coronavirus subside, or will infections escalate? Will the political divide in this country become more violent, or will reason prevail? Which party will prevail on November 3rd? The ideologies of the parties have grown further and further apart. Regardless of who wins the election, somebody is going to be very upset. I’m not talking about the disappointment experienced a few decades ago. I’m talking about passionate, fierce rage. Confidence in the election process has deteriorated. Either side could call foul. Either side could feel the process was rigged and question the legitimacy of the votes. Nobody knows what will happen on November 3rd. Not only do we not know who is going to win, but we also don’t know how the loser will respond. And we don’t know how our international enemies will respond either.
How do we prepare for the days ahead? There are steps in the natural that are prudent to take. We’ve seen the volatility of supply lines. It’s still a good idea to have some extra supplies at home. If people can’t go to work, that translates into supply shortages. My purpose this morning is not to list all the practical steps we should consider. I have said all this to point out the one most important preparation of all: a close relationship with God. Are you on speaking terms with God? Are you communing with him daily? Are hearing his voice?
God is always speaking, but many times his people are distracted with other things. Their ear is not as open to him as it needs to be. That’s why in Hebrews 3 and 4 we are warned, “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." There we are reminded of Israel’s response to shortages and difficulties in the Wilderness. God was speaking. Moses was hearing his voice. But Israel as a whole could not hear. And the reason they could not hear was because they had hardened their hearts through the deceitfulness of sin (3:13).
What is the protection suggested in Hebrews 3:13? “But exhort one another daily.” Later in chapter 10 of that epistle we are told to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, “but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:25). The closer we move toward the end times, the more important this becomes. The coronavirus restrictions are making this more difficult. The warning for Christians is this: Don’t drift away from God or the people of God. Make the effort; whether it be through the Internet or in small groups, stay in the word and stay with God’s people. There is a heightened danger at this time that people would simply drift away from this mandate of assembling and exhorting one another in the Lord. We are receiving warning through the media of the dangers of assembling. Here in Scripture God warns us about the dangers of not assembling. All the risks must be considered when deciding what to do. We should consider the risks of the coronavirus and be prudent. But we should also consider the risks involved of failing to assemble in some way.
Protection and provision often come through hearing the Lord. Elijah lived during hard times in Israel. Ahab and Jezebel were in power. They were not only ungodly, but they aggressively persecuted God’s faithful. How did God take care of Elijah during those times? He spoke to Elijah, and Elijah heard his voice. When a draught was coming, God told Elijah to go to the brook, Cherith (1 Kings 17:3). There God had ravens feed him. But Elijah needed to keep his ear open to God. When the brook dried up, again God told Elijah where he needed to go from there. He led Elijah to a specific widow in Zarephath. There God took care of Elijah, the widow, and her son (1 Kings 17:9).
The most important preparation you can have for any future event is faith in God and the ability to hear his voice. If we drift now, if we neglect our relationship with God, we may be too dull of hearing to know what to do in a crisis. It is presumption to think we can neglect our relationship with God, then come through in the crisis on our own terms. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus warned the disciples to watch and pray lest they enter into temptation (Matt. 26:41). Jesus was preparing himself for the ordeal ahead. They were asleep. When the crisis came, they failed the test. They loved the Lord, but they were not equipped to handle the situation that was just around the corner.