Title: KEEPING YOUR BALANCE
Text: Philippians 2:12-18
Mark Twain once wrote, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” Sure, good examples help us stretch further and higher, but they have an annoying problem of the inability to help us achieve the same accomplishments of others. Someone else’s successes may inspire us, but they cannot empower us.
Then there’s the example of Christ…who can match absolute perfection? Some attempt to follow His example by faking it…they simply lip-sync pious attitudes and doctrine rolls off their tongue like a high-speed printing press, but their focus is on their image, not substance. Others intensify their efforts by trying harder to do exactly as Christ did, but only walk away frustrated.
If you haven’t discovered it yet, then it’s about time…following Christ’s example is not through perspiration and performance. We will be like Christ only when His power works through us, combined with our cooperation. It takes power from within in order to follow His example. That’s what separates His example from all others; He can enable us to be like Him through the working of the Holy Spirit. By His strength we can learn to keep our balance as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
Balance is what is needed. Paul is going to show us in our text how we can achieve that balance. Read Text.
Balancing Purpose and Power
1. In verse 12 Paul encourages the Philippians to obey God even more so in his absence than if he were present. If they were to do so, what would that say about them to Paul? (That their heart’s desire was to please God…not obey just when the teacher is present.)
2. The first challenge Paul puts before his readers has to do with our obedience to God. What do you think Paul means by “working out our salvation”? Is he urging us to work hard to earn our salvation? (No; he is addressing people who are already believers.)
Insight: This very verse can be a stumbling block to those who don’t understand the process of salvation. Paul is exhorting us to build on the gift of eternal life that God has already given us through grace and faith. To build on the gift on eternal life is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s empowering, prompting and conviction with choices on our part that line up with righteousness. That balanced mix will result in God’s “good pleasure.”
Balancing Attitude and Action
1. How do you do with the two attitudes listed in 2:14?
Insight: Grumbling is a bad attitude that caused the earth to open and swallow up hundreds of Israelites during their wilderness wandering. It literally means a low-toned, discontented muttering. Complaining draws the desire to lead out of leaders, as it did Moses. It literally means to argue with others, stirring up doubt and suspicion. Does the Bible record Jesus ever doing either of these things?
2. Next, in 2:15, Paul urges the Philippians to live a cut above the bad influence surrounding them. “Blameless” covers a lot of territory. What does it represent in your mind?
Insight: In the middle of a corrupt society (both then and now), Paul challenges us to live a pure life that is undeniable before those who would attempt to slander us. When our character is free of defect, they are going to listen to our testimony rather than scoff at our words because of our failure to walk the talk.
3. Second, Paul calls us to exemplify innocence. How would you explain this word to a brand new Christian who is just starting their walk with Christ? (Unmixed from the corruption surrounding us; unadulterated.)
Insight: The Greek word here was used to describe wine that is not mixed with water and metal that has no alloy or dross in it. Paul actually encourages us to be inexperienced in the evil that surrounds us.
4. The third action Paul calls us to is to be above reproach. It is the word used to describe the animals chosen for sacrifice on altars. What thoughts of our daily walk does this now paint in your mind? (To make choices every day that would keep us from being blemished so that we would not be rejected as a living sacrifice.) Rom. 12:1
5. The final action we are called to is to appear as lights in the world. Comment on how this statement can be applied to our daily walk: “When you are in the dark, nothing rescues you more than light.”
Insight: To retreat into a secluded community of spiritual light is selfish. The very ones who need the light are not present…they are outside in the darkness. Yet we cannot blend into the world and lose our distinctiveness. The balance lies in boldly reflecting Christ’s light wherever we are. Matt. 5:14-16
Insight: If you burn up your energy grumbling and complaining, you will have little left over to shine as light. If that same energy were spent on these four actions, we will penetrate the dark night of the souls needing salvation.
Balancing Seriousness and Joy
1. 2:16 What feelings are generated inside you when you work hard at something all to find out it was wasted effort?
Insight: Paul uses a dual image here. He does not want to be like the runner whose endless hours of training didn’t achieve anything, nor like the laborer whose exhausting work was for nothing.
2. Paul has something else other than wasted effort in mind. According to 2:17, what is it? (That my poured-out life would be like a drink offering poured out on the sacrifice on the altar…my efforts counted for something and it was well-pleasing to God.)
Insight: This word picture would be huge in the eyes of his Jewish converts to Christianity. A burnt offering sacrifice was sometimes accompanied with a grain offering and a drink offering. Wine or oil was poured over the grain and animal. This last act completed the sacrifice. Paul was saying, “If my life’s blood is to be poured out, let it be as a libation on the sacrifice of your lives that you offer to God.”
3. In the midst of the seriousness of a sacrifice, Paul balances it with a plea for joy. 2:18 Given enough time, what does “all seriousness and no joy” turn you into?
Even with Christ’s example and the Holy Spirit’s power living within us, it won’t be easy because of one major problem…self! Inside each of us is a rebellious nature that will do everything it can to upset our balance in our Christ-like walk. It will grumble, argue and complain…even try to persuade us that we can do it by trusting in our own power. But that will only lead to failure. Prov. 16:18
There are two suggestions to remember when balancing our walk with Christ. First: Control the urge to take the credit. Exalt Christ, not self, in everything. Through God’s power our hearts and minds can learn to love Him more than ourselves. Second: Conquer the tendency to take charge. Expect a battle…a long one…because self will never let up the effort to take control away from Christ. This is all the more reason to never let up on our dependence on Christ.
One more personal inventory: How are you doing with keeping grumbling and complaining out of your everyday conversations? Perhaps memorizing an appropriate scripture would help gain victory. Eph. 4:29