December 13, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Philippians 1)

Submitted by Cynthia P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Philippians 1:27

  • What would it look like for my “manner of life” to be “worthy of the gospel of Christ?”

For my “manner of life” to be “worthy of the gospel of Christ”, I think it would be to live my life following in the footsteps of Christ my Savior who bled and died for me. As the commentary says, “The life worthy of the gospel is an inescapable obligation: it is the essence of the homeland where the Lamb standing, as thought it had been slain, forms the focal point of all life.”

This question makes me think of that last scene in the movie, Saving Private Ryan, when the elderly Private Ryan is visiting the gravesite of General Miller who died trying to find him and Private Ryan tells him how he remembers what he said every day of his life, for him to earn what General Miller did for him. How inappropriate it would’ve been if Private Ryan had lived all the days of his life after World War II in utter selfishness. One can easily conclude then that he would not have lived his life in a manner “worthy” of the sacrifice of General Miller. Of course, Christ isn’t asking me to earn his death on the cross and there’s nothing I can do to earn it anyway. But it’s that same sense of dignity and honorable debt and obligation to be able to live my life worthy of the high cost and sacrifice that Jesus paid for me on the cross. What that looks like is to live my life pouring myself out in love for the sake of others, just as Christ did for me and in that way not accept God’s grace in vain.

Philippians 1:28-30

  • Note that the word “you” here are all plural. i.e., Apostle Paul is addressing the church. To what extent am I standing with my fellow brothers/sisters in “one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel?”

One privilege that I have to stand with my fellow brothers/sisters in “one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” is through prayer. It’s precisely this picture that Paul experiences with the Philippian church, of not being able to be physically together but striving together as though we were side by side physically. And I think one best way of doing this is through prayer. As someone who works full-time for church, I have the privilege of setting aside 30 minutes every morning after my DT along with other brothers and sisters to engage in intercessory prayer for all the requests throughout our Berkeley church, all of our church plants and even beyond that. As I pray and think about each person that I am praying for, each ministry and what people are going through, each church plant and the church plant leads who have to carry the weight of responsibility, each health request, I am doing my part to stand with my fellow brothers and sisters. I have to admit that there are times when I feel tempted to skip morning prayer because of the growing list of to-dos that I’m itching to start tackling, but as I see that this is my obligation to people that I care about and an opportunity to show my solidarity with them, it helps to push away those nagging to-dos and prioritize prayer.

Another way that I need to stand with my fellow brothers and sisters more and more is by not just being responsible over the duties and people and ministry that I am in charge of by name or assigned to, but taking greater ownership over our church and Christendom in general. This is how I can stand with my fellow brothers and sisters in one spirit, not drawing an invisible boundary line somewhere saying that my responsibilities only go thus far and no further. To stand with others means to erase all such lines and to embrace other people’s burdens and responsibilities as though it were my own and not bat a blind eye to any of it. I am thankful to be at our church where there is never a shortage of opportunities for me to exercise this on a daily basis, to just be a servant of all ready to do whatever is necessary.

  • What do the words “stand firm,” “striving,” “not frightened,” “opponents,” and “conflicts” show about the nature of Christian life?

The words “stand firm,” “striving,” “not frightened,” “opponents,” and “conflicts” show me that the nature of Christian life is one in which there are enemies and opponents out to frighten me and to sway/move me from my commitments and even knock me off course altogether. It’s a life that isn’t about just being chill, sitting back and relaxing and being comfortable and selfish, but one that requires effort and work, not to earn salvation by any means but for sanctification and the spreading of the precious gospel message.

  • To what extent can I relate to these words as descriptive of my Christian life?

In some ways I can relate to these words as descriptive of my Christian life. I remember many times when my own evil desires would move and sway me and because of God and other people’s tenacious love for me, I was able to stand firm in my faith and still be here today to tell about it. The need to “stand firm” is just as great as ever because there are times when ministry gets tough and I am tempted to lose heart because of some burden or discouragement. During such times, the exhortation from God to “stand firm” does help me not lose focus and to keep trying and keep loving.

As I think about these words that describe Christian life, especially the words “not frightened,” I see that I need to experience more of not being frightened. This means that I need to put myself in situations where there is more and more reasons to fear so that I can withstand that and actually not fear. As I evaluate my life, I think I am not in those situations nearly enough. Of course, there are times when I am frightened, namely during times when I have to confront someone with certain truths that take a lot out of me emotionally and take a lot of risk to say. But still, I think overall I live a very safe and comfortable life and so I would like to commit to doing scarier things, like trying new things next semester to minister to people not knowing how things will turn out.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, Thank you that you have granted me this privilege of fellowshipping with you in your suffering, of following in your footsteps when you went to Calvary for my sake. Lord, I ask that you help me to live my life in a manner worthy of the gospel, to not indulge in my own desires and sinful nature, but to submit myself to loving others as you have loved me. Thank you also for the many brothers and sisters whom I have the privilege of standing side by side with, being of one spirit together. Please help me to take this responsibility seriously by taking greater ownership over our church as a whole and being faithful in prayer for them. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Submitted by Johnny Y. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Philippians 1:27

• What would it look like for my “manner of life” to be “worthy of the gospel of Christ”?

To reflect on how to live a life that is “worthy of the gospel of Christ,” I must first answer what is the worth I place on the gospel of Christ.

The gospel of Christ tells me that I am a fallen creature, who is hopelessly trapped in his own sins, and destined for eternal separation from God, the only source of life and joy. Yet the gospel of Christ also tells me that, God, the Owner of the universe, divine with unlimited power, also is a personal, loving Father. Instead of looking at me with judgment, He actually loves me more than I can imagine, that He would send His son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die for me in order to pay the penalty of my sins, so that I may be forgiven and have eternity with Him in heaven.

It is intimidating to even begin to think about what kind of life I would need to live in order for it to be worthy of this enormous good news. What I can do is first recognize and embrace this reality I live in. If this gospel is true in my life, it means that without a doubt, the result of this lifetime has been taken care of, it is already an overwhelming success, I already possess the highest prize of this life, there is no more that I need, and nothing that I lack. How foolish would it be for me to still pursue everything of this world, still grasping for myself.

What would this look like? If I am freed from different idols, then my “manner of life” can be free, free from the bondage of worldly enslavement, and free to live of a life of love, which is the only life that is “worthy of the gospel of Christ.” If I wholeheartedly embraced and understood the reality of this gospel, then my life would be but of a single focus, it is to bring this gospel to others, the gospel of Christ in which I possess everything.

It would be a life devoted to ministry, not because it is noble, but simply because it is only logical. I would take myself seriously, to persevere in dealing with my character flaws because I know it would allow me to be a better minister. I would gladly surrender everything that I have, trade in anything that I could possess, for nothing is too costly for a chance to change the eternity of even one soul. There would be passion in toil and labor, I would eagerly plant seeds even if there are no immediate results, because I know that nothing in God is in vain, and He can use even the most broken vessel. There will be joy and freedom and peace in my life, for I do not have to worry about if I am on the right path, whether this is the correct way to live my life.

From the world’s perspective, it could be a life that does not make sense, a wasteful life that was spent without careful calculation. Yet a fully devoted life is the only manner of life that is worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Philippians 1:29

• Reflect on the idea that suffering for Christ’s sake is a gift that has been “granted to you.” What is my view of suffering, and how have I reacted in the past when I experienced setbacks, frustrations, and difficulties because of my commitment to Christ?

By nature, I am a person who is very cowardly when it comes to any kind of suffering. Before becoming a Christian, it is pretty accurate to say that my life philosophy, my life goal was to avoid suffering as much as possible in my lifetime, to “safely arrive at my deathbed.” That means I would do everything to cover all my bases, to study enough to get by, to work hard enough to have a career, to make enough money so I do not have to experience lack. I would avoid trying anything risky, I will always choose the comfortable, predictable path in life. I would not attempt anything hard, so that I do not have to suffer failure. Even after becoming a Christian, that kind of life philosophy carried over, and I still wanted to play everything safe, to avoid suffering at all costs. When I inevitably did experience setbacks, frustrations and difficulties in Christian life, I felt like a victim, bemoaning what I had to go through, and had a complaining attitude towards God, upset that I had to go through all those sufferings.

How can suffering be a “gift granted to me?” I think a mentality shift is necessary in how I see my sufferings. At least to myself, I have to be very clear why I am suffering, and who it is I am suffering for. If I have a personal loving relationship with God, and I know that my suffering was to love and honor Him, then suffering is no longer an unfortunate reality I rub against, but a deliberate choice that I am making to please Him. Just like parents would be willing to wake up multiple times a night to feed their child, or to go through the hard work to raise a child, sacrificing their money, time, even health… It is definitely suffering, yet they would also experience much joy in it, because that is the nature of love, that when you love somebody greatly, suffering for the sake of that person all the sudden became sweet.

Suffering for God in my case would be living for a higher cause, for a higher standard, to be sober about my sinfulness and struggle against my character flaws. It would mean to live with a busy schedule, to loosen my grip on my time, money and energy, give up on things like luxury, leisure, comfort and sleep, and having to push myself to have a vision for myself that is higher than the small life I was complacent of. Although I cannot dare to even compare my suffering to the real suffering of this world, or what the heroes of faith had experienced, but by counting my cost in even my small suffering, to lay it before God, those suffering became relational, and became simply a reaction to love.

Suffering can also serve as the means for purification. Every Christian needs to go through suffering in order to fortify his or her faith, in order to be shaped and learn to persevere. Looking back in my life, I can say for certain that if there is any depth in my character, it was only because I had experienced suffering, experienced the difficulties and endured through them. It was not that God was causing my suffering (more often than not, it was my own sinfulness), but He is a God in Whom nothing goes to waste. He was somehow able to turn every suffering around, and use them to build me up. I cannot say that it was not painful to go through, and that I somehow become so courageous that I would seek suffering; but I could say with confidence that no matter how tough it was at the moment, in hindsight, those were the experiences that I would not trade anything for. With the faith that nothing in God is in vain, suffering could not only be easier to bear, but can be a gift that is granted that could result in my gain in the future.

Submitted by Albert L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Philippians 1:27

• What would it look like for my “manner of life” to be “worthy of the gospel of Christ”?

For my manner of life to be “worthy of the Gospel of Christ,” everything I do, say, and choose would be with more integrity and righteousness, moved by God rather than selfishness, and standing firm together with fellow believers for the sake of the Gospel. This kind of life would go beyond worrying about just my own daily needs and wants and being so conscious of what others think of me. Instead, I would be devoted to pleasing God in everything from the big life-changing decisions to the quickest habits of speech and most fleeting thoughts. To stand firm means that no matter what comes, for better or for worse, I am to remember that I have been saved by Christ and that there is no better pursuit with my life than to be worthy of being called one of his followers by God. As Apostle Paul writes, it’s also about striving with one mind side by side for the faith of the Gospel, which means my life should be lived in community, support, and encouragement with other believers, devoted to loving others like Jesus’ was, even if it means sacrifice on my part. This is not to be taken lightly, because each step of faith that I take can result in the disapproval of friends and family, a step back in my career, minor to major discomfort, and the cost of lost opportunities. Still, the Gospel has changed me forever and I am no longer to live life for myself but in the manner that Christ did, giving himself to God and others while knowing the price that had to be paid, to the very end as he gave his life for mine.

Philippians 1:28-30

• Note that the word “you” here is plural (e.g. Apostle Paul is addressing the church). To what extent am I standing with my fellow brothers/sisters in “one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel”?

I am now standing and striving along with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for the faith of the Gospel like never before. I used to be a loner, someone who made all of his accomplishments and earned his accolades on his own and saw other people in calculating and selfish ways without regard to God. But no longer, as God has shown me that life isn’t about getting ahead by myself, but living in love and community together. This is encouraging because I know that I don’t have to struggle with my sins without anyone else to understand me, I don’t have to see my life as a self-improvement project, and I don’t have to live life alone as a lone ranger Christian acting counter-cultural to the rest of society by myself. I recognize that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and I have nothing to boast about or to try to distinguish myself in relation to God, but we are stronger when we stand together under God. Therefore I welcome the accountability that my brothers and sisters in Christ give me as we rub lives together and live with the kind of joy and depth of relationship that can only come through fellowship and trust built on our Christian foundations, God’s command to love one another, and our commitment to honoring God and His ways in each and every day. I am so thankful that I don’t have to deal with the addictions and temptations of my past and my flesh alone, and that I am not condemned by God nor by my peers, leaders, and other Christians for not being perfect in obeying God’s laws. So we continue striving, a striving that will go on for the rest of our lives but is well worth the journey and effort as we go on it together and grow more mature and in love with God together rather than giving up prematurely or trying to strike it out on our own feeble faith and resources.

• What do the words “standing firm,” “striving,” “not frightened,” “opponents,” and “conflict” show about the nature of Christian life?

Christian life doesn’t become as easy and carefree as a vacation on a beach as some want it to be just because we make a decision to surrender our sins to God and be freed from the enslavement and guilt that we could not save ourselves from. Instead, Christian life continues to be a spiritual battle, a struggle against our old, sinful natures and habits, and a clash of lifestyles and worldviews between the ways that God commands us to live and how this fallen world chooses to live. The life that Apostle Paul calls the Philippians and us to is one of struggling to stand firm, striving for a higher purpose than the goals of this world, fighting fear of being persecuted or coming out of life with less, standing up against opponents who dishonor God and challenge Christians living out their values, and resolve conflicts within ourselves and with others over our faith. This is as true of us today as it was for the Christians living at the time of Apostle Paul. We cannot shirk our responsibilities to God and to others as we have an uphill battle to fight and a mountain to scale in order to live as Christians with integrity at all times.

• To what extent can I relate to these words as descriptive of my Christian life?

I can relate to these words as I have to stand firm every time I am tempted by the ambitions and shiny things that materialism and career can offer over the humble life and place that God has given me. I am reminded to strive for holiness and to please God when I am tempted to slacken the pace of my life and ministry for the sake of comfort. I have to practice at not being frightened and driven to hoard for myself and claim the maximum benefit for myself in light of the scarce resources out there, as I trust in God to provide for me in this life and for eternity. I know people who oppose the choices that I make as my life seems too radical, who live with compromised views of God and Christian life, or who feel offended by the offer of grace of the Gospel and the hypocrisy of Christians in their experiences. I experience conflict when I am torn between doing the right thing and the many reasons and excuses that I can come up with to avoid doing the right thing, especially in sins of omission where I could just shrug and continue with the status quo although I know something isn’t right. In each of these cases, I have important choices to make whether or not I’m conscious of the cosmic scales of good and evil tipping one way or the other as it reflects in my character and relationship with God. I notice these aspects of Christian life more and gain a greater appreciation for them as I commit more deeply to doing ministry, give up worldly opportunities, try to love those who are passive or indifferent to the Gospel, and take on more of the burdens of others. So why do I do all that I do for ministry and for God even when it’s not to my advantage or when nobody notices? It’s because following Christ is worth it and the reality is that we will suffer and pay the cost for many things in this life, so why not do it for what is not temporal but eternal, true, and faithful as God is?

Philippians 1:29

• Reflect on the idea that suffering for Christ’s sake is a gift that has been “granted to you.” What is my view of suffering, and how have I reacted in the past when I experienced setbacks, frustrations, and difficulties because of my commitment to Christ?

Most people in this world would not see suffering as a gift to be granted on them, nor would they see any benefit in it besides selfish gain like training hard to win some competition or having something to prove. But suffering for Christ’s sake is not something to be ashamed of or a reason to give up seeking and obeying God. God hasn’t made genuine Christian life any easier than life as a non-Christian, but instead He uses our suffering to teach us to be more like Christ. How can we truly relate to Christ and understand what he said throughout his ministry without experiencing a little of his suffering that he specifically came to this world to bear? As it is written in Romans 5:3-5, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” I didn’t used to understand this idea and I grew up very much concerned about my own comfort and avoided all kinds of additional suffering coming from going to church or calling myself a Christian. I was a hypocrite as my life didn’t reflect Christ’s suffering nor love and I was afraid of even telling people that I was a Christian or even doing little things like praying before meals in public for fear that they would think less of me. I have since learned through many experiences with friends and peers, challenging messages and DTs, the examples of my leaders, and steps of faith in ministry and mission trips that my commitment to Christ should be the primary purpose of my life and not just something to do out of convenience or excess of time and energy. Compared to many precious Christians in countries or environments or families that are hostile to Christianity, that explicitly ban the worship of God, and persecute Christians, my life is so easy and I suffer very little each day that I did not bring on myself. Unlike Apostle Paul and other missionaries throughout the present and past, I am not being threatened by physical harm or death for my faith and belief in God and choosing to want to please Him openly and boldly. I also see that my suffering, as little as it may be, is not pointless nor am I alone in this. I strive for sanctification and the promise of heaven in the fellowship and company of brothers and sisters who inspire me, encourage me, and look to me to become a person of courage and integrity as a Christian, reading God’s character and love through me and the joy that I experience despite the suffering and sacrifices that Christian life demand. These sufferings and sacrifices become light and momentary when compared to the prospect of heaven, of being pleasing to God, and of being a little more like Christ.

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