During difficult times we can get pretty selfish. We worry about the way the difficulty may impact us. We grow anxious about the fear of what an uncertain time might bring. In our insecurity, we are tempted to seek selfish attention and selfish praise. And, if you’re anything like me, the more self-focused I become the more difficult the difficulty seems to be. (You might have to read that last sentence a couple times again!)
Whenever I face uncertainty in a time ahead, there is always one book that I run to: Philippians. Paul, in the midst of a rather difficult time of imprisonment, writes to the Philippian church with some ideas about how to live through a rough ride. He instructs the Christians there to encourage one another, to share in Christ’s love, and to work together. And then he says this:
“Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.” (Phil 2:3-4, NLT)
Then Paul says this:
“In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you.” (Phil 2:15, NLT)
In between these verses are some of the most powerfully down-to-earth-lifting-up-to-heaven words in the entire Bible. These verses about how to live smooth during a rough ride are merely bookends to the words they sandwich. Paul says in the in-between that we are to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus (v.5). He goes on to explain that Jesus wasn’t selfish. He didn’t cling to his rights as God (v.6). In fact, Jesus made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant. God became flesh and blood; human (v.7). And as a human he obediently humbled himself further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross (v.8). In other words, he put the interests of others above his own– in an extreme way. In the difficulty Jesus faced, he was blameless and pure. And because of that, he was raised up to life again and given the glory that he previously had known (v.9).
During a rough ride, we are to be smooth like Jesus. We are also to bow ourselves to him (v.10). If we try to exalt ourselves in selfish ambition and worry during a difficult time, we will only cause arguments and complaining and words of blame. If, however, we continually confess with our knee and our tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord (v.11), if we place the interest of God above our own, if we consider others before ourselves, we will survive the potholes and bumps… and help the other passengers through the rough ride too.
Note: ~I first published this in February 2006. Interesting to think how meaningful it is to me again six months later.~