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Who would you most like to meet? Even the most devout of us are tempted to put someone on a pedestal. A singer? An athlete? An actor? But who are the real stars in life? They are all around you—not in the spotlight here—but they are the ones that are entertaining angels. As we continue our series “Philippians: To Live is Christ,” JP walks us through Philippians 2:14-30, teaching us that true stars stand out in their attitude, what guides them, and their actions.
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Hello, Watermark. I want to welcome our campuses as well. We have Plano and Fort Worth and now Frisco tuning in with us, joining us today. I'm so excited to be back in Philippians with you. I want to start with this question. What's the most beautiful scene, the most beautiful sight you've ever seen in nature? Is it the Colorado Rockies or maybe the Grand Canyon or maybe a beach, the crystal clear water and the sugar-white sand, or a forest or something? Hopefully everyone here has something they remember.
For me, this happened in Brazil. I was on a short-term discipleship trip to Brazil. We flew into Manaus, Brazil. We got on a double-decker boat, and we went six days down the Amazon River with some young adults. One evening we were anchored there in the middle of the Amazon in this bay of the river, if you will, if that's even a thing, right outside this village we were ministering to, and I decided to go up on the top deck of the boat.
The thing about Brazil, where we were anyway, is the cities, the towns, the villages operate based on generators. That's how they get their electricity. At night those generators go off, so at night there is virtually zero light pollution. So I go onto the roof of this boat, and what I saw was like nothing I had ever seen before. It completely took my breath away. It was this amazing sky. I had seen night skies before, but the sky was milky white and bright, full of these beautiful stars.
I just saw the Creator's majesty in that display. The picture does not do it justice at all. It took my breath away. I think there's something in most of us, maybe in all of us, that we like to look at the stars. Sometimes you have to get outside the city into a field somewhere away from light to look at the stars. Do you guys enjoy that? Why do we enjoy that? What is so fascinating about stars?
There's something about the contrast, the pitch darkness of the night, the depth of the night, and that God in his creativity and wonder would hang these stars, these balls of gas and fire, to light up the night sky. It shows the vastness of his creation. It's incredible. The Scripture we're going to be in today in Philippians, chapter 2, is going to call us to stand out from the world like one of these stars, that in the world we would stand in contrast to the world.
Before I go farther into that, I want to point out an irony to you, though, something I find rather ironic. Consider who we call stars here on the earth. You have rock stars. 50 Cent wants to party like one. Post Malone feels like one. You have singing stars and music stars and entertainment stars. These are people who stand apart from others in their giftedness, in their talents.
You have the world's greatest hockey team, the Dallas Stars. You have basketball stars and football stars. These are people who stand apart from others in their giftedness and in their talents. Some of you remember when Ed McMahon was searching for stars, and today we're dancing with stars. My hope for you is that you would not be a star in the wrong thing, that at the end of your life what you starred in, what you stood out in would not be anything worldly, or at least what you stood out in the most would be above and beyond anything that's worldly.
This is my greatest concern for us here. Full transparency. Complete honesty with you. This is the thing that I'm concerned, as a shepherd here, we're going to have to give an account for, that we're going to stand before creator God and look back on our lives and realize we were rather worldly, that we got swept up in some currents.
This idea to stand apart from the world is not some rogue idea hidden in the Scriptures that you have to find if you turn to the sticky pages, and we look and we're like, "We don't know what that means." First Peter 2 calls us to stand out as strangers and aliens, foreigners and exiles. This is really clear. You don't belong there. You're in a place you don't belong to.
First John 2:15 says, "Do not love the world…" Clear. "…or anything in the world." Clearer. "If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them." Super clear. These Scriptures. Romans 12 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but [be different] be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
John 15:19 says, "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world [to be different from the world] ." Philippians, chapter 3, the book we're in, says, "…their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things." Earthly things, but not you. Not you guys. You guys are citizens of heaven. So you stand out. You stand out in that place. You fight the good fight. You wage war against the desires of your flesh. You be different. Don't star in the wrong thing.
That's what I want to talk about from this text, Philippians 2, starting in verse 14: standing out as stars of faith, which is different than being a star in the world. Being a star of faith, that from God's perspective you would be the stars he's looking for, the ones that entertain the angels. Some of you came in today and you want to stand out. That is a goal of your life, to stand out. To you I would say, "Great. Just make sure you're standing out in the right things."
Others of you have no desire to stand out. "I don't want to stand out; I want to blend in." To you I would say you don't have a choice. God has made it really clear. You are to be different than your atheist friends, than your nonbelieving friends. If we were to audit your life, you should pop. Not a little different, but like the difference between a star and the night sky different, a strong contrast to their lives.
As we move through this text… We're going to start in verse 14. We're going to move through the end of the chapter. He gives us two examples at the end that I want to highlight in Timothy and Epaphroditus, and we're going to look at how stars of the faith stand out in our attitude, in what guides us, and in our actions. You're going to leave today with three directives. The points are directives from the text.
To remind you, to set this up, Paul wrote this in about AD 62. He's in prison in Rome, most likely chained to a Roman soldier, and he's writing to this church he loves because he helped start it. He knows the people there, and he's reminding them who they belong to, the kingdom they belong to, the same kingdom we belong to if we've trusted in Christ, his death and resurrection.
Last week, Todd took us through probably the most popular text in Philippians, the kenosis passage, where it talks about the self-emptying of Christ, him putting on humanity, being fully God. The hypostatic union: fully God, fully man. That's who Christ, our Lord, is. Then it says, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling," and today he's going to tell us how.
Verse 14: "Do everything…" So what do we do exactly? How many things? Everything, all the things you do, in everything you do. "…without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure…" Then in quotes it says, "…children of God…" It expounds on this "blameless and pure." "…children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation."
You exist in a warped and crooked world. When you look around and see difficult things, wrong things, you know that and you exist in that and you pop from that like a star in the night sky. Where it's in quotes here it's from Deuteronomy 32:5, the song of Moses when he hears about the Israelites' rebellion predicted. It says, "They are corrupt and not his children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation."
You guys remember the Israelites. If you've been in church long, you've been frustrated by the Israelites. God frees them from Egypt finally, and then they're like, "What have you done for me lately? We're thirsty, and this water is bad." So God cleans up the water, and they're like, "What have you done for me lately? We're hungry. We'd be better off in slavery."
So God provides food from the sky, manna. Then they're like, "We're tired of eating manna. No variety. We need a dollar menu." So he gives them quail, and then they're like, "We're thirsty again." So he brings forth water from a rock. You just see these years and years and years of complaining, and we're like, "What's wrong with them? Don't they see God's faithfulness?" Don't you? What's wrong with us?
This is one of those texts where we're like, "Really? Is that really what that means?" In the Greek it's a continual attitude with an emphasis on "In everything you do, don't argue or complain." It says this is what marks the children of God. This is interesting, because you consider the way genetics work. I'm tall, so my children are tall, because I'm their father. What it's saying is you can recognize God's children by their gratitude, their thanksgiving, their lack of arguing and complaining, their attitude. So we stand out…we are stars…in our attitude.
1._ Don't argue or complain. Let's talk about this, because we're just coming off this holiday where we celebrated giving thanks. I don't know about you. I said the prayer at our family gathering. I'm the resident pastor. "Of course _you're going to pray." So I'm there like, "Lord, thank you for all of the things you've bestowed upon us, for family and for food to eat and for the freedom we live in. Lord, help us to reflect on the thanks, amen."
Then 15 minutes later, "Oh, I'm so full. Oh, I feel gross. Did the pie taste funny to you guys?" My brother-in-law owns an insurance agency. I'm like, "Hey, why is my insurance so high? Can we talk about it?" Just the complaints. "Is it cold in here?" Then they turn the thermostat up. "Hey, now it's hot." Just the arguing, the complaining. This is why some of you don't like Thanksgiving, because you know it's going to come up… You're trying to avoid topics like the plague, religion and politics and whatnot.
Something else that was convicting to me in this is I love excellence. I want everything to be the best it can be, and sometimes what that means is I come across with a critical spirit. "Was that a little bit too loud? Was the song a little too long? Did we highlight the wrong things? What's wrong with the lights? Can we fix the AC?" I always wrote that off as like, "Well, I just like excellence. It honors God and inspires people."
In contrast, it makes me disobedient to this text, because it's a command. It says, "Do nothing…" In everything you do, don't argue and complain. It's one of those texts… You want to tell God it's hard. He's like, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition. Don't worry."
"Okay, God. I don't want to worry."
"Don't be anxious."
"Okay. You've got it. I won't be anxious."
"Give thanks in all circumstances."
"In what circumstances?"
"Like, flu circumstances?"
"How do I do that, God?"
Don't argue or complain ever. Is that even possible? Here's what I want you to do. I want you to try to make it to your car without arguing or complaining. For some of you I know it's already way too late, because you were like, "Oh, the parking! The kids' ministry! This place is so big. The music is so loud. I have to sit here. Oh, the meet and greet. I hate this part." It's too late for you, but grace abounds. Let's start over right now. I just want you to try to make it to your car without arguing and complaining, because if this is a directive, then arguing and complaining is a sin.
Could you imagine? What if we were buried, from this moment till then, and we never again argued or complained about anything? Could you imagine? I want to say unapologetically that is what God is asking us to do. That's what he says here. What I've learned, what is ironic to me, at best, is that people who have the most often complain the most. As you think about who we call stars in this world, sometimes they complain the most. In fact, there's a Twitter handle out there called @celebscomplain, and all it does is retweet the complaints of celebrities. I'll read some of them to you.
Paris Hilton says, "OMG! The power went out in my hotel halfway through getting my hair curled. This is a nightmare. I'm running so late for a movie." Oh my goodness. Serena Williams can't eat spicy food because it gives her heartburn, and she loves peppers on peppers on peppers. "Is this my future?!" Lots of sad faces. Kim Kardashian is a repeat offender on this guy. She is so jetlagged she can't sleep. That's one of the cleaner ones I found. Hilary Duff has a cracked screen and 28 percent charge. "Ugh!"
Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office) is complaining that first class doesn't have enough legroom. Wah. So sorry, Rainn. #firstworldproblems. These are ridiculous. We see them, and we're like, "They have everything. What do they have to complain about?" So what I did is I went on Twitter and just pulled some of your tweets. Watch this. No, I'm just kidding. I didn't. You guys were nervous for a minute, though. I saw it. You were like, "Oh no. What's he about to do?" I didn't do that. I wouldn't do that.
But not complaining and arguing should mark us, and not just that but gratitude. Gratitude is an emotion. Thanksgiving is the action out of the emotion. You have the emotion in your heart of gratitude, and what you do is you give thanks. In all circumstances you give thanks. Can I say something? Not arguing and complaining is defense; giving thanks is offense. So the way you don't argue and complain is you play offense. You leave those doors, and you give thanks in all circumstances.
You cannot give thanks and argue and complain at the same time. If what is coming out of your mouth is thanksgiving, you won't argue and complain. That's how you can go the rest of your life without violating this command. So just go today without arguing or complaining, and then do it again tomorrow. One day at a time. The stars of faith stand out by not arguing and complaining. This would make you pretty different in the world.
When you do this, let me show you what happens. It says, "Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…" When you do this, you're going to stand apart from the world, and the way you do this… Verse 16 is so key. Look at verse 16. "…as you hold firmly to the word of life." What that will allow Paul to do… "And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain."
So you are to stand in contrast to the world like a star to the night. You've all seen this. I was on a tailgate in Lorena, Texas, last weekend. Anybody know where Lorena, Texas, is? Okay, so me and three of you. So I'm out there. I'm on a tailgate praying with a friend in a field, and I look up. It's very different than in Brazil. There's much more contrast. There are stars sprinkled throughout the sky. You can see this picture. It's what we're used to.
This is the picture that the Holy Spirit through Paul gives us. This is what your life is to look like, one of contrast. There are not a lot of you Christians, but those of you who are actually Christians, don't conform any longer to the world. Stop conforming to the world. Stop acting like that's not in the Bible. It's in the Bible. Be different than the world. Stand out. Stranger and alien, not loving the world or the things of the world. The only way you can do this is if you hold firmly to the Word of God.
Paul is a teacher and an evangelist. The greatest accomplishment of a teacher and evangelist is when he finishes the race and stands before God he can look back on his people and see that they are still doing what the Scripture commands them to do. Then he would not have run in vain or labored in vain, so that they would continue doing what the Scripture asks them to do. The next way we're a star, the way we stand out…
2._ Hold firmly to the Word_. This is the second directive from the text: hold firmly to the Word. We have something to live by. That is the Scripture. At Watermark what we say, because this is one of our values… In our values it says, "God's Word is our guide, authority, and conscience in everything. We stand firm where it stands firm and remain flexible where it is flexible."
If you were to ask your kids and your friends, those closest to you, those in your life, "Hey, what is my guide…?" You can ask them this. This is something you can do. This can be take-home homework. "What is my guide in everything?" Over lunch, sit down and say, "Hey, guys, let me ask you a question. What is my guide in everything?"
"What do you mean?"
"What drives my decisions, the direction and trajectory of my life? What is my guide in everything?"
See what they say. See if they say, "Well, that's obvious. It's the Bible. I see you every morning in it. I see you going back. When you give us instruction, you're referencing it. You're not telling us your opinion. You don't show up to Community Group and say, 'Well, I just think…' You're like, 'God's Word says…' It's very clear that you have it written on your heart. It's clear. It's the Bible."
I don't think we can believe this book is suitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness and not read it and soak it in every day. This is super easy, low-hanging application. Tomorrow when you wake up get in the Word, and the next day get in the Word, and the next day get in the Word. "Well, what about Sunday?" Let's make it easy: every day, so that you don't have a decision to make.
When you wake up you're not like, "What day is it? Do I do it today?" Just do it every day. Just get in the Word. "Where do I start?" I don't care. In Genesis, in John, in Matthew. Go to jointhejourney.com for a great plan. Every day. "What if I'm sick?" Let's still get in the Word. "What if I can't see?" Have somebody read it to you. "Like, every day?" Between now and when you die. I just think that makes it easier.
What does it mean that it's our guide? Thanksgiving Day we went to my sister's in Cedar Hill. She lives down there in Cedar Hill. Whenever we travel anywhere, we play this game in our family where we guess what time we're going to get there. It was my daughter and I. We were in two separate cars. She and I played this game, what time we're going to get there. I guessed 11:00 and she guessed 11:10, so, 10 minutes apart.
Now she had a few things working against her in this game. Let me just say the loser has to go in the house and gobble like a turkey and convince everybody that they're a turkey. That's the way Christians gamble, just in case you're curious. So she and I have this wager. I say 11:00. She says 11:10, but she has a few things working against her because I'm driving. I kind of control some variables there. I can go fast or slow.
The other thing she has going against her is I've been there like a hundred times, so I know how long it takes, but as we were talking I missed my exit. I kind of woke up from that daydream. I'm like, "Where am I?" I don't know if this has ever happened to you. I'm like, "Where am I?" So I'm trying to figure out how to get to my sister's. What I do is I pull out my iPhone and put in her address, and then it begins to give me instruction.
I've gone against the GPS before. I've lost many times. I'm like, "Certainly it's not this way." So I've learned now you just do what it says. It says to get on this highway; I get on that highway. It says to take this exit; I take that exit. It says to turn left here; I turn there. I turn there. I go that many miles. I do exactly what it says. At that moment it's a point of surrender. I'm just going to do what it says, because it is my guide.
This is like a GPS. It's taking you somewhere, to the kingdom of heaven. You simply do what it says. "What about when it's really hard?" You still do what it says. "What about when everybody else is doing something different?" You still do what it says. "What about when you think, 'Maybe that's dated' or something?" You understand the context, you study it, you read some commentaries, and you do what it says.
That's the benefit of getting in it on the daily. It's one of many benefits of getting in it daily. Some of you have found yourself in a place where you're grumbling and complaining, and this is your guide out. Some of you have found yourself in a place where you're looking around you, and you're like, "Wow, we're rather worldly." Here is your way out. You've found yourself in a place where you lack joy. I would ask you…Is this a regular discipline of yours? It's the way. It's your guide. It's what you follow.
Can you imagine for a moment how your life would look different if we just did what this said? This is interesting to think about. It's like if you were on a deserted island and all you had was this book… This is my concern for us. I mean us. I'm talking about Watermark. There are some things in here… This is what God used to change my life in this church, just Todd up here saying, "We're just going to do what it says."
You begin to think about being on a deserted island with this book, and you're just reading it for the very first time with fresh eyes. My hunch is most of us would spend differently, save differently, resolve conflict differently, gossip differently, talk differently, be entertained differently if we did that. So we start tomorrow by getting in God's Word. The stars of faith use the Bible as their guide. Let me show you what that leads to. Back in the text.
Verse 17: "But even if I am being poured out…" Paul is talking. "…like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me." What do we pull from those two verses? "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service…" You sacrifice and you serve because you believe, coming from your faith.
Drink offering. What is that? The Greek word is spendomai. This would have come from pagan culture. What they would do is they would pour out a drink offering. Some Jews adopted this practice, pouring out an expensive wine into a fire just so it may be evaporated. What it would have appeared to those outside the faith was such a waste. "Why would you do that?" It's so elaborate and pointless.
He's saying, "This is how I've lived my life. The world looks at what I'm doing. They see me in prison, and they think, 'Wow, what a waste,' and I say, 'No. I consider it joy that I might suffer for Christ in this way, give everything for the sake of Jesus.' I've been poured out like a drink offering. It's not in vain because of your…" It says "sacrifice and service." It could be sacrificial service that comes out of your faith, that's borne out of your faith.
What is sacrificial service? Very simply, so that we're not confused, it is serving in a way that costs you. You feel it. It costs you something. It's an inconvenient kind of service. This is what marks the lives of Christians, the lives of believers. When we believe in God's kingdom we serve out of sacrifice. So we're stars in what we give our lives to. We stand out in what we give our lives to. The third directive is to…
3._ Sacrificially serve_. Serve in a way that may cost you something in this world. "Cost me what?" It could cost you resources or time or relationships or career advancement; that serving is a priority to you, that you don't make it as, "Should I serve? Should I not?" based on if it is convenient or not. Sometimes the more inconvenient it is, that's really the one you should do. That's really a place where you should serve.
I don't know if you guys know who John Chau is. Anybody read about him this week? It was a really interesting story. I would encourage you to look it up. I don't have a lot of time to go into it in depth, but he was a young man in his 20s who visited this unreached people group, the Sentinelese people, several hundred miles off the coast of India, a remote island. To my naivety and great shame, I didn't even know people groups like this still existed, but they have no interaction whatsoever with the outside world. In fact, it's illegal to go to that island.
This young man said, "I'm going to take the gospel there," and they killed him. One of the reasons it's illegal is because they're a violent tribe. They shot him with arrows. I was reading the journalism around this report, and it just said how foolish he was. "Why would he do that? He compromised his life. He could have infected them with a disease because their immune systems are down. It's crazy." That's kind of the perspective of the world. "This is insane. Why would he do that?"
They're right. It's crazy. It's even stupid…unless this is true, because if this is true… To live is Christ, to die is gain. If this is true, then he knew they were infected with a greater disease called sin that was going to carry them away for eternity. If this is true, then what he did was so heavenly wise. So you serve sacrificially. What does this look like? God is so kind to give us four examples of sacrificial service in this chapter.
The first one we talked about last week. It's Christ. It's Jesus. You say, "Is he really an example?" Absolutely. Do you know why? Because we're called Christians, which is like little Jesuses, little Christs, followers of Christ. He's our example. We do what he does. And what did he do? It says that though he was God he humbled himself, making himself like a servant. He was obedient to the Father, even to the point of death.
So we follow his example. We don't just call ourselves Christians in name. We are willing to lose the world for the sake of the world, following Christ's example. He came to the world to call us out of the world. If you don't know the gospel story, Jesus Christ paid for your sins on the cross. He died, and then God raised him from the dead, showing God's power and showing you how you might live forever by trusting in his payment.
The apostle Paul was a tremendous example of someone who trusted in this, who had faith in this. He also served sacrificially. He says, "For the sake of Christ I've lost all things." He was a man of means. He had some degrees. He had some things going for him. People trusted him, and he says, "I now consider them rubbish for the sake of knowing Christ my Lord. I don't care about the worldly things; I care about the eternal things, fixing my eyes not on the things that are seen but that are unseen. I live for the kingdom." Then you have his protégé, Timothy, who is an example of a shining star. Let me read it to you in verse 19.
"I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon."
Timothy is an example of someone who served sacrificially for the sake of the gospel with Paul. He's like, "Here's another example." It says over and over he stood out. He popped. He was a star. He's a star in the world. He is not like everyone else. He even stood out among Christians. He is a star of the faith. Get to heaven. Go see Timothy's house. It's going to be amazing. That's what Paul is saying.
Then he says not just Timothy but also Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus was a guy the Philippian church had sent to Paul to care for him. They sent him with a string attached, if you will, saying, "Hey, you're going to come back, but go care for the apostle Paul." It says here in verse 25:
"But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, coworker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.
Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ." He sacrificially served. He almost died for the work of Christ. "He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me." Meaning, "You sent him in your absence."
Epaphroditus… Let me tell you what his name means. His name means belonging to Aphrodite. Aphrodite was the goddess of pleasure. This guy has the least fortunate name in all of Christendom: belonging to the goddess of pleasure. It would be the equivalent today if your name was "son of Satan" or "daughter of Satan." That's his name. You see the radical life change that has happened, that now he wants to risk his life for the sake of advancing the gospel.
This has been messing with me, not just Epaphroditus but all of it. I think if you read this on a deserted island you would see so clearly that we're to risk our lives for the sake of the gospel. I don't necessarily mean in a way that you might die, but I do mean you might lose in the game of the world so that you might win in the game of heaven. I know, because I struggle just like you do… "How much do we give up? How do we be in the world and not of the world?"
Some of these things I can leverage for the sake of the kingdom. Some of you are so well resourced, and you're so incredibly wise and strategic in the way you're doing it. I applaud your effort. Some of you are not well resourced because you've given up everything for the sake of the kingdom, and I applaud your effort. Others of us who are resourced or not resourced, if we were to audit our lives and just be honest…you've conformed to the world, and that's the truth. I urge you from the Scripture not to stay there.
It is a picture of four people who have radically given their lives for the work of the Lord. They are stars. They are stars in heaven. As Lecrae would say, three of them are a trail of stardust pointing to the superstar. One of them is the superstar, Jesus. The other three are the trail of stardust pointing to Jesus. That's how they live their lives. Can I ask you some questions? Let's just talk about Paul and Timothy and Epaphroditus. Let me quiz you on them.
What kind of house did Paul have? What neighborhood did Timothy live in? Where did Epaphroditus' kids go to college? Back to Paul. What kind of car did he drive or camel did he drive? What did he have? Was it nice? What was it like? We don't know those things. That's not what marked their lives. That's not why we would read about them thousands of years later. That's not what they were known for. That's not what was preserved. They didn't get to heaven and God was like, "Man, that house! That was amazing."
"I've lost all things for the sake of knowing Christ my Lord." That's good for Paul, but we're not supposed to do that, are we? I don't know. I'm wrestling. I think as a father there's this burden of a desire to provide for my children…the best education and the best things. If you're a parent, I'm sure you feel that. But here's what's interesting. I've spent the last 12 years ministering to the products of parenting, the results of parenting. I've spent the last 12 years in young adult ministry. These are adults who've graduated from college and haven't gotten married yet, so they are in that middle ground.
They are the results of parenting. You begin to recognize patterns. Some of these young adults have incredible faith. They're willing to do anything the Lord asks them to do. What I learned is a lot of times their incredible faith comes from their parents' incredible faith. That's where it came from. I don't say that to instill guilt on you, and I would also say that there are exceptions to that, that sometimes God's grace intervenes, but the reason I say that is because from my perspective it's an absolute fact.
I was at Launch Retreat, and I heard this young lady talking about going overseas to Thailand. She was from South Africa, now in Dallas. "Hey, I'm going overseas to Thailand." Somebody challenged her on that and said, "Well, wait. Why don't you get married first?" She just looked at them confused and was like, "Why would I stay here and search when I can go there and serve?" My ears perked up, because I'm like, "That's odd."
This is someone who pops, stands different than the world. That's not a common single girl's perspective. I'm like, "Hmm. Okay." We get to know each other, and I find out she's here for Thanksgiving but her family is in South Africa. "Hey, you can have Thanksgiving with us." So she comes with us to Thanksgiving. We're just peppering her with questions. We're curious. I'm wondering where her faith comes from. She begins to tell me about her family.
She said, "My dad worked in management. My mom worked at a bank. We had normal lives. We would go on vacations. Just the typical, normal life. One day they started reading the Scriptures, and they realized God was calling them to care for the least of these, so they went and got certified to care for children who were in danger when they were removed by law enforcement, that they would be a safe house.
The first person who came to them was this young man who was born to a prostitute. She tried to suffocate him and then left him on the street for dead. The law enforcement picked him up, didn't know where to take him, brought him to my parents' house. Ten years later, now he's my brother Benjamin," she says. "Since that moment, my parents have adopted five more children." Here's their family picture. So we're sitting there. We're like, "Hey, tell us more. What else?"
She says, "Well, the children didn't stop coming. There was such a need. I saw my parents sleep on the floor of our living room so they could line the walls of their bedroom with cribs. Now they foster 48 other children in their home. It has become an orphanage. Where we once could eat whatever we wanted, now we rely on donated food that has come with a past due date. There's not enough room on the table, so every adult has a kid on each knee, and we sit there and eat."
She says, "Countless times I remember sitting at the table and there not being food. There was nothing to feed us, and my parents would pray. We sat there at the table. They would pray. Someone would knock at the door…" Countless times, she said. "…and there would be someone there delivering food to us." I asked her, "Have you heard of George Muller?" She said, "No. Who's George Muller?" He has a story that's like that.
She said, "They had to say 'no' to new furniture, kitchen remodels, vacations, Christmas gifts, private schools, birthday gifts, and new cars but 'yes' to life, 'yes' to Jesus, 'yes' to miracles literally played out in my backyard. How could I not have faith? I've seen God do incredible things. I've seen my parents go without food. I've seen my dad hitchhike to church because he sold his car so he could save one more kid.
I've seen my mom go without sleep while she held babies in the final hours of their life. My mom hated to cook, but she cooked for 60 people three times a day, every day, and I never heard her complain one time." That's convicting around Thanksgiving dinner we just came off of. I'm sure you were tired of cooking too.
She said, "Their lives demand an explanation, and that is the very essence of Christianity…not radical Christianity, just the normal, biblical kind. I know they are exhausted and can only dream of a date night or family vacation, but they wake up refreshed and renewed every morning because they choose to be content in him. They do everything without complaining.
Some might think we grew up poor, but I think we grew up the richest kids in the world. Having two God-fearing parents who taught us how to live by faith, serve with our lives, and find joy in him is something that can't have a price. Their entire lives have been a sacrifice to serve Jesus, but also there is no sacrifice at all. They live in the revelation of him every single day."
What if it's not the incredible way we provide for our kids that makes them stand out but the things we couldn't provide for them because we were providing for others? What if that's the path? That we would sacrificially serve and they would say, "Our home was different. Our place was different, because my parents stood out in the way they never argued and complained, they stood out in the way that they held firmly to the Word of God, and they stood out in the ways that we constantly sacrificially served." Those are the stars. That is the goal. We're going to need help. Let me pray for that help.
Father, would you help us do this? Help us to live out this calling on our lives. Help us to shine in a wicked and depraved generation, that we wouldn't leave here and just try to be normal but that we would leave here and try to be biblical, surrendering to your Spirit, not trying harder by our efforts but giving more of our lives up for you, to you, for you to take over. Father, would you start with me? I have things I need to change. Help me to audit my life. Father, thank you for the words of your servant Paul and what we can learn from them today. In Jesus' name, amen.
Todd & JP walk us through the entire book of Philippians, a love letter from a pastor to his congregation.