Summary: Learn to make your Christian witness count on earth and in Heaven.
We are in the section of Paul’s letter to the Christians at Philippi Community Christian Church where Paul is encouraging them to grow in their likeness to Christ while he continues to accomplish his work for Christ, even in a prison cell. If any of us have ever said, "We can’t do what God has called us to do because we don’t have the title, the manpower or the money," we need to consider Paul, and what he is able to do from a prison cell.
Last week we looked at how Christ was obedient to God, even to death on a cross, and how we can grow in obedience by fearing God and by letting God work in us. We will continue this morning from chapter 2, verses 14-18.
There are only two kinds of people in this world, sinners who are trying to save themselves, and sinners who have been saved by God through receiving Christ on the cross as payment for their sins. This morning, we will look at how God can use sinners who have been saved through Christ and adopted as God’s children.
In reading Philippians 2:14-16a, I saw Paul, looking out of his prison into the dark sky, and thinking at the same time how dark his world around him was also. The prosperity for the few in the Roman Empire only provided greater contrast for the many suffering tragic poverty. Homosexuality and promiscuity were prevalent in his time. The social and moral evils were not new, but the darkness of the night made Paul very aware of the darkness of the fallen world in which he lived.
And then, out of the corner of his eyes, he saw a few stars. They were not big stars, but these stars shined brightly in contrast to the vast darkness. These stars reminded Paul of Christians, whom Jesus called to be the light of the world. As he thought about the Christians at Philippi Community Christian Church, he also thought about the news of how they complained and argued with one another. He realized how critical spirits and distrust cover up their light.
So he penned the words in verses 14-16a, first calling them to do everything without complaining or arguing, and then reminding them that in their imperfection and weakness, they can still hold out the word of life, the hope that God gives the world through Jesus Christ. Jesus said of Himself, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to God the Father except through me."
If Paul were here this morning, he would want to remind us also, that we are like stars that shine in the darkness. We see this in verses 14-16a.
Several years back, a co-worker told me he was homosexual, and he tried to justify his lifestyle to me. I told him about my struggle with lust at the time and how God hates homosexuality and heterosexual lust. I continued to tell him that God hates anything that would do us harm. God is a God who wants us to experience the fullness of life. A few months later, he began going to church.
While working at the same company, I found out one of my co-worker, not married, had her baby, but she couldn’t return to work because of bleeding complications. I offered to pray for her and sent her care packages with toys for her baby and books and tapes about a personal relationship with God for her. She received Christ about a year later.
I’m not big on condemning people who have broken God’s commandments, partly because I’m not big on self-condemnation, but also because I remember Jesus’ words to those who caught the women committing adultery, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Instead of holding out stones, we are called to hold out the word of life to a dark situation and a dark world.
I would tell you more stories like these, but they would only illustrate the same point, how God’s word of life allowed even a blemished star like me to shine in the darkness. We don’t have to be afraid, indifferent or hopeless because of the problems in our world, the dishonesty from the classrooms to the White House, the drug problems that plague the poor and the wealthy or the immorality that cuts the legs off of marriage and family. When things get very dark, even a little light will shine brightly. So don’t discount yourselves from being used by God.
As Paul finished writing verses 14-16a, his eyes left the night sky outside his prison cell, and he thought about his own situation. He wondered if the Christians at Philippi were aware of the impact they were having on him. Paul was very human, and he needed the assurance that his sacrifice for Christ in ministry would result in lives faithful to God.