Sometimes, I meet people and they have been legitimately wounded by others from their past. And as they go through life, they see life through the lens of their wounds. Everyone has let them down. Everyone is sinful. Everyone is selfish while THEY are completely innocent. And even if you counsel such people, they can’t see beyond the little prison walls of their thoughts and imaginations and hurts embedded deep in their hearts. Their pride has manifested into a victim complex where everyone is out to get them. The abuses and hurts are real, don’t get me wrong. But the world that wounded people often construct around themselves are not real. They are lost in their thoughts and the imaginations of their hearts and they can’t get out.
God wants us to be humble not because we are lofty and mighty and God feels threatened and so he wants to put us in our place. No, God is high and mighty and glorious and he wants us to humble ourselves so that he can set us free and bring us back to reality. We look at kids and it’s kind of cute when a 4 year old thinks that this universe revolves around them. It’s not cute when you’re 40 years old and thinking the same way. A proud person creates an imaginary universe where he or she is at the center. A humble person has allowed God to shatter this imaginary universe and he has been brought back to reality where God has taken his rightful place at the center of the universe and of his heart.
Recently, I got word that my grandmother who has been suffering from dementia recently broke her hip and was taken to Emergency. Because of her dementia, she is like a child. She can’t recognize her own children. Her mind is gone and she won’t eat unless someone feeds her Infamil, the formula that you give to infants. As I’ve been praying for her this week, God is showing me, this is reality. We have some expectant mothers here. When we see a newborn, we are reminded that we enter the world as helpless infants and if we live long enough, we will leave this world just as helpless. This is the beginning and end of life. The bookends of human life are remarkably similar. In between, in the few short decades we call life, isn’t it odd that we strut around as if we are somebody? We beat our chest as if we are so impressive. We act like we have control. We think we are the masters of our fate.
God is inviting you and me to humble ourselves. He wants to open the prison doors. Come out of the prison. Leave the thoughts and imaginations. Leave the fantasy behind. Come to reality where Jesus is highly exalted and we are lowly servants waiting for God to exalt us His way, in His time.
If humility is reality, how did this humility practically play out in this chapter in the life of the Philippians? I want to end by sharing 3 people who were set free from the thoughts and imaginations of their own proud hearts into the reality where Jesus alone stands exalted.
3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Humility is reality and this plays out practically when we are able to consider others as more important than ourselves. The first person who demonstrated this was Paul.
14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. 16 Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing. 17 But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me.
Paul has a desire that his ministry would not be in vain. He wants the Philippians to do nothing out of rivalry or conceit. He wants them to do everything without grumbling and arguing. He wants them to hold firmly to the message of life. Then, he could boast at the end of his life that his ministry and labor were not in vain. But EVEN IF (v17) even if none of that comes to pass and I just poured out my life to a people who didn’t get it, still, yet, nevertheless, I am glad and rejoice. Paul shows his humility because the ministry is not about him. The ministry doesn’t define him. Even if his life was spilt to the ground and didn’t have the effect he so desired after laboring so hard, he can still rejoice because he didn’t do it for himself or his ego. Paul was humble. He can say this because he considered the Philippians more important than himself. The results of ministry Paul can leave in the hands of God.
Another example of humility is Timothy.
19 Now I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon so that I also may be encouraged when I hear news about you. 20 For I have no one else like-minded who will genuinely care about your interests; 21 all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Timothy cared genuinely about the interests of the brothers and sisters at Philippi. Timothy was like-minded with Paul who also genuinely cared about the interests of the Philippian believers. Both Paul and Timothy considered the Philippians more important than themselves. They were humble.
Lastly, we have Epaphroditus. How was his humility expressed?
25 But I considered it necessary to send you Epaphroditus —my brother, coworker, and fellow soldier, as well as your messenger and minister to my need— 26 since he has been longing for all of you and was distressed because you heard that he was sick. 27 Indeed, he was so sick that he nearly died. However, God had mercy on him, and not only on him but also on me, so that I would not have one grief on top of another. 28 For this reason, I am very eager to send him so that you may rejoice when you see him again and I may be less anxious. 29 Therefore, welcome him in the Lord with all joy and hold men like him in honor, 30 because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up what was lacking in your ministry to me.
Epaphroditus was burdened by the fact that the Philippians heard that he was sick and the news understandably made them burdened for him. I bet Epaphroditus wished that no one knew about his sickness because he is the type of person who never wants to be a burden on others. He would rather carry the burdens of others. He doesn’t want to be a burden. Epaphroditus is on the verge of dying, yet he is more burdened by the fact that others are burdened for him. What incredible humility. He considered others’ interests ahead of his own at a time when most people who are on their deathbed would be asking for prayers from others.
We are about to observe Communion. As you approach the Lord’s Table, consider which path you are on–the way of pride or the way of humility. Come out of the illusion of a world created by your thoughts and imaginations. Instead, let’s focus on the Person of Christ. Consider His humility. Think about all of the sin that was done unto Jesus. The sin of the entire world was thrown onto Jesus and on the cross, we see the ravages of our sin on His body. Jesus soaked in all of our sin to the point that He became sin for our sake. Why did He do it? Because he was humble. He considered us as more important than Himself. This is what we are choosing to remember every time we come to the Lord’s Table.