Aug 25 2019 Philippians 1 - Measures of Faithfulness
1st September 2019
6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
Our tendency – when we read this verse – is to focus on applying it to our personal growth and salvation – and that is true and important – God will do that – to bring that to fruition at some point – and we know at which point that is…. However – in context, even though this verse is saying all of that, the primary purpose of this verse is the church in Philippi and relationship with Paul. What is first being said – the work that God began in this church – partnering with God and Paul, this work of the gospel, God will work on and complete in that church. The New Testament writers are thinking in term of community – the YOU is plural. Yes, it relates, as we are individuals within that community. God is not just doing a completed work in you – but in you all! That would be a better translation – you all!
We – and we talked about this last week – we are engaged – Koinonia – the word we use for fellowship – Koinonia Fellowship – translates Fellowship Fellowship! – Partnering with God and others in our work in the gospel – in our neighborhood – in our community – and with our church – we are to partner together in this work of the gospel.
The question we talked about last week – are you partnering with others in the gospel and are you partnering with our church’s efforts in the gospel.
God began a partnership with our church in this community – 23 years ago – that partnership began – Nov. 21, 1996 – I remember that, because it was the OSU Michigan game! When that partnership began, there were often more children in the Sunday school program than we had up here! Then, 5 or so years into this – we had a strong Jr. High – and High School program – and we’d go to HSLT – and there are people serving the Lord all over the place – it is amazing what has happened with the children of this church!
First, we did a lot of children’s things – neighborhood things – did door-to-door at times – we’ve had the yard sale for years – people have been involved with food pantries – there are missionaries we’ve sent out and partnered with campus ministries – H2O – and also the Rock, up in Cleveland. God doesn’t want this to stop – but wants our hearts to go in this community.
Philippians 1:12 I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14 and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.
Paul’s view of the circumstance – whether good or bad – were always an opportunity for the gospel. Last week we talked about being alert to those opportunities – God gives each of us those opportunities. We heard from Chris – Chris is bold – and talked about his sharing of the gospel – we were all encouraged to think of doing the same. Each of us will do this differently – there is not one way of doing this – He wants us engaged in this – He wants us to be engaged.
People are coming to understand the love of Christ – and for those who haven’t come to Christ – when they do – as people will – people are always coming into a relationship with God – finding Christ after a long period of being away – and each of us can have a role in that process.
15 Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16 These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment.
How do people proclaim out of envy and rivalry? How does that happen? The question I thought of – is it possible that it takes place today? Are there Christians who try to gain control over the church through the ministry of the gospel – and yes, that is a rhetorical question -and yes, it is true, all the time. What does it look like today? There are some obvious things – you can find it on television ministry. But there are other subtle ways this happen – being a pastor – that is what I’ve done all these years.
There is this unspoken spoken all the time of competition of being a pastor – the 3 b’s bodies, bucks, and buildings!
In America, we are obsessed with being big. Let me say this – growth is a good thing in the church. There is nothing extra spiritual about being small. Finances are important. Buildings are important. But these are not the first and primary method of measuring faithfulness.
God is not interested in success, but faithfulness. When we focus on success, there will be competition and rivalry. A focus on faithfulness is different.
Jesus tells the parable of the money – some had good returns – others, not so much – and as they came before the master – you were a great investor – Well done, good and faithful servant!
Faithfulness can and does produce growth – but that growth varies. The one who produced 10% was less than the one who got 60% - but it was still faithful.
We need to focus on the measures of faithfulness.
One overriding measure – love God and others.
If you do that – you are faithful. God will say – well done, good and faithful servant.
To love God and others, we must first understand God’s love for us. It is impossible to crank that out in our own strength. We must understand how much God loves us and what He has done for us.
When you are struggling – to love God and others – We need to step back and focus on how much God loves us and what Jesus did for us. The more we get it – how much God loves us – it becomes easier to love people and God.
What I loved about our men’s time – God has had to put up with a lot. The longer you are on this earth – the longer He has to put up with us!
This allows us – as there is friction in relationships – If God weren’t God – how much friction would there be between us? Since God is God, I can love Him and others.
That is the first measure of faithfulness.
The second is a growing relationship with God – prayer, reading, worship – those are not the goal – they are not the measure – it is not “I had seven quiet times this week! Boy was I faithful!” – that may or not be true! They help though,
The third would be transformation to become like Christ. That is a measure of faithfulness. It is hard to see success in that -
Fourth – sacrificial love and service to others
Service in the church community
Involvement in the gospel partnership with God and others.
These are all measures of our faithfulness to God.
In Corinth – there were some who were choosing sides – I’m with Peter, he’s the real leader, others – I’m with Apollos – and some – the most ‘spiritual’’ – I’m with Jesus!
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
We’re just servants
As Chris shared last week – and we are involved in gospel work – we are faithful to tell others – but GOD must do the work! God is the author of salvation – BUT – we are to be faithful to that calling. Paul is saying – all I am doing is being faithful to what God calls me to. It is not about me, it is about God.
Some other ways.
Philippians 1: 18 What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,
What matters is that Jesus is being proclaimed – and it doesn’t matter – by how or by whom. We live in a Christian church world where those things matter – people attack other Christians and think they are doing God’s will – like those people who put Paul in pain. Some are famous! Paul would just say – Christ is being proclaimed – what is your problem?!