Lights in the World
12My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. 13God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him.
14Do everything without grumbling or arguing. 15 Then you will be the pure and innocent children of God. You live among people who are crooked and evil, but you must not do anything they can say is wrong. Try to shine as lights among the people of this world, 16as you hold firmly to the message that gives life. Then on the day when Christ returns, I can take pride in you. I can also know that my work and efforts were not useless.
17Your faith in the Lord and your service are like a sacrifice offered to him. And my own blood may have to be poured out with the sacrifice. If this happens, I will be glad and rejoice with you. 18In the same way, you should be glad and rejoice with me.
Discipleship is not simply a ten week course for new believers on biblical fundamentals! How heartwarming it is to see here a flourishing spectrum of formal and informal relationships, where individuals are given space to reflect and work on their growing relationship with Jesus! Whether in mentoring young people, coaching leaders or soul friendship of those seeking to deepen their understanding, gifting and skills, these verses encapsulate the mindset of gospel focused spiritual direction.
First of all, although utterly committed to the Philippians’ spiritual maturity, Paul does not abuse his authority. His passion for their well being and his physical distance do not make him a control freak. Rather, his exhortations rest on confidence in God’s power to go on transforming them, with or without him (v 12).
Second, he is aware that in the spiritual battle, there are temptations to become discouraged, apathetic and divided, so he challenges them with warmth and tenderness to keep working out what God is working in them (vs 12,13). He combines theology with practical examples, sprinkled with creative, relevant images.
Third, he draws their attention to the goal (v 16). What can be more wonderful than to experience Christ’s pleasure in seeing his spiritual children persevere together as lights in a dark world?
Paul has much to teach us today, when many people, feeling the lack of helpful parental input, struggle to live for Jesus in a hostile or indifferent world. Are there ways in which you could seek opportunities to invest in others? How could your church be better mobilized and equipped to foster intentional relationships, encouraging those with longer experience in the race to run alongside those with less?
First used in Encounter with God July-Sept & Oct-Dec 2014, written by Fiona Barnard, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.
Lord Jesus, thank you for not leaving me alone to work out how to live as a Christian. Thank you for working in me. I pray that I and my Christian friends may shine like stars. For your sake, Amen.