Philippians 2: 12 – 18 (NLT)
“Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
- How do you get the motivation and strength to live pleasing to God? (v. 13)
14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. 17 But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. 18 Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.”
- Stop and think about this phrase – “shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people”. What does that mean in everyday, practical life? How can I be a bright light? Who are the “crooked and perverse people”?
There are two phrases from these verses that strike me the most. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” and “Do everything without complaining and arguing”. It’s a good thing these two verses are close together because without God’s work in my life, I’d never stop complaining and arguing.
Paul starts these verses with a sentence that some people misinterpret. “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” This doesn’t mean you have to work hard to gain your salvation. You don’t have to work to prove to God that you are worthy of His love. Paul is asking us to work at showing the results of our salvation. God is the one who provides a way for a relationship with Him. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” (Ephesians 2:8 NLT) Paul is simply asking us to take our salvation seriously. But we also know that is hard for us to do. I’m so thankful that “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” It is God who gives us the motivation (you know those whispers in your mind about something you need to change or do) and the power to follow up.
Complaining and arguing are things that I swear come naturally to children as soon as they can speak. Ever noticed that with your kids? Their first accomplishment is learning the word “NO”. I think that’s the first word they learn after mama and/or dada. So I think it’s not out of the way for us to assume that arguing and complaining are fundamental flaws of humans. We just get smarter at it as we grow older – knowing when to argue and complain to get the best results for ourselves.
This idea of living clean and innocent lives without complaining or arguing is really something to think about. How much do you complain? I’ve met some folks who are experts at it; in fact, they are so expert that most people don’t want to be around their negativity that much. Rather, let’s be a “bright light” in the place in this world where God has placed us – a person like Paul describes in Philippians 2.
Right now in the middle of this pandemic, complaining and arguing is becoming the ‘norm’. Whether you are in favour of vaccines or not, whether you advocate ‘vaccine passports’ or not, whether you are upset with the restrictions placed on gatherings at sports events or even churches, or not … is it possible to live a life of joy? Do people think of me as a ‘bright light’ or a cloud they’d rather avoid?
Paul says, “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights”. In the middle of all this chaos and worry, how can I do that? Paul told us that “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him”. We need to stop and comprehend that God does give us the desire and power to live like bright lights. It’s not all up to us by ourselves. So, think about how you can be a bright light today. God can put those ideas into your head. Act on it today. It might even be just a phone call to brighten someone else’s day.
There’s another area of complaining that I personally need to address. Realistically, I may not complain much out loud, but I know I complain and argue inside. I’m especially good at this with God. I find myself comparing my life to others and wondering why they get so many good breaks, or why they seem to have so much fun, or why they get all the recognition, or …. and the list goes on. I am so thankful that God listens to my complaining, but also teaches me lessons about growing beyond all that complaining.
It reminds me of the days when I would explain to my children why they couldn’t have something they desperately wanted at the time, and I would try my best to help them understand that we don’t always get what we want. Sound familiar? If you have young students at home who had to do online lessons last year, I imagine you heard a lot of complaining, and you were trying to be creative about getting them motivated. Well, God is working to get us motivated to be those shining lights inside and out.
These verses in Philippians today remind me once again to be thankful for what I have and for the wonderful relationship God has given me with Himself. I don’t want to be a complainer, but rather I would like to “shine like a bright light”. This is one of the reasons we need to read the Bible – it reminds us to stop the pity party and get on with living joyfully. We all need those reminders.
Our song for today is Joy of the Lord by Rend Collective.