“God doesn’t need you.” This is a common sentiment that we express when speaking about humility. There is truth to this statement; God truly doesn’t need us and would still be God of all glory and honor without us and our efforts. But for the sake of argument, let me add a second clause to this claim. “God doesn’t need you, but I do.”
We have been thinking about humility lately and rightly considering what it means for each of us. However, Paul makes a clear connection that the humble will begin to serve others; specifically within the church (Phil. 2:4). In fact, if you have the time, stop reading this newsletter right now and read the whole book of Philippians. Even if you are a slow and methodical reader, this will only take you about 25-30 minutes. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Great, welcome back! Let’s quickly list a few observations concerning how Christians do indeed need other brothers and sisters in their lives for health and vitality. This is certainly not an exhaustive list but one to help us consider a few ways in which this works itself out.
The prayers and service of other believers bring about greater joy and faith (Phil 1:25). Paul states at the beginning of this letter that he is continually praying for this church. He also has famously claimed that for him to live is Christ and to die is gain. For him living for Christ includes working to increase the Philippians’ boasting in Christ Jesus. The fuel for this boasting is joy and faith which is supplied by the fact that Paul remains able to serve them and pray for them. As Christians, this should be the type of life we aim for, to boast more in Christ through the increasing of our joy and faith. This growth is stunted and sometimes halted altogether if it isn’t encouraged by the service and prayer of our brothers and sisters. Imagine the encouragement it would have been for these Christians to know that even though he was in chains the Apostle Paul was praying for them.
We magnify Christ more when we mirror him in community (Phil 2:1-5). There is an ancient myth that claims in ~600BC Archimedes placed an array of large mirrors on the shore and positioned them to all to reflect the sun at one particular ship. The collective sunlight and heat reflected from these mirrors was supposedly able to set fire to the enemy vessel and cause it to sink. We are called to reflect Christ. Within the context of the local church, the affect is multiplied as we mirror the marvelous light of the gospel on a dark world together.
We will get tastes of heaven while we struggle here on earth (Phil 3:7-21). I’m a huge fan of any restaurant that places food on the table even before I’ve ordered (e.g. chips and salsa or bread and butter). Well God has not left us without appetizers of heaven to help carry us along while we wait on the main course of eternity. Paul specifically mentions access to resurrection power (Phil 3:10) in relation to perseverance during suffering. But later in this section he talks about how should we imitate him as well as others who imitate Christ. There is no doubt that the Christian life is filled with many dangers and difficulties. Because of this, God filled the church with people to emulate; people who demonstrate faith in the midst of pain by imitating Christ. We follow their example and imitate them by suffering faithfully. All of this is a foretaste of what it will be like when we are changed fully into the likeness of Christ (Phil 3:21) and dwell with him for eternity with no veil of sin or pain.
We please God by serving each other (Phil 4:10-20). This by itself would be motivation enough to know that we need each other. Those whose hearts belong to Jesus long to please God. Therefore, the next question we should ask is, “How do I please God?”. For the Philippians, this meant supporting Paul’s ministry financially. However, there was a point in which they did not have the opportunity to serve him (Phil 4:10). While we long to serve each other, there may be situations in which we are limited. My only caution is, make sure that you are not reason people don’t have the opportunity to serve you by keeping your sufferings and difficulties to yourself. By not voicing our circumstances to each other, we limit the ways in which other believers are able to serve us. When we share our lives with the church, we present our brothers and sisters every opportunity to serve us and thereby please God.
As a members of this church, and for the sake of our own souls, we need each other. God has designed it this way. Prayerfully consider the ways in which we are called to share our lives and serve each other. If we want to see our church grow in health and faithfulness like Paul describes, we can’t be individual ships that wave as we pass by. Rather we must board the same ship, as cramped and as vulnerable as it may feel, and serve each other as our captain commands showing that we trust him and his word above all earthly wisdom.