Saturday, Unity in the Church
Philippians 2:4- “Let each of you not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others.”
An acquaintance recently approached me seeking advice on how to handle a potentially volatile situation. She saw a leader in her church make disparaging comments to a person in such a way that it commanded lots of negative attention. After praying about it, I told her to “encourage this leader by praying and specifically ask God to send conviction that would result in repentance.” She had difficulty understanding how praying for conviction would be an “encouragement” to him. I quoted the words of evangelist R.A. Torrey: “The chief purpose of prayer is that God may be glorified in the answer.” When God is glorified, our corporate encouragement is a natural by-product (see Nehemiah 8:10). Today, the Apostle Paul is going to help us to better understand the richness of encouragement.
Even though these words from Paul were penned centuries ago, people nowadays are not much different than the Philippians. We wrestle with external circumstances affecting our joy. We strive to find the value in suffering. We long for God to pour more of Himself into us that we might mature in our understanding of His ways. The irony in each of these instances is the not-so-obvious common denominator. When Paul told these Christians in Philippi to “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others”, he was promoting an idea that goes completely contrary to our modus operandi by advocating unity through humility.
When it comes to external circumstances, unity through humility is realized as we fellowship to remind each other that joy springs from the internal, not the external. The value in suffering emerges when Person A's transparency about past struggles becomes Person B's motivation to continue pressing onward. Desiring more of God is a tangible reality when we come together in humility because everyone thrives in an environment where there is more affirmation than criticism. Living in this fashion completely violates the human ego because it insists that the only service with significance is service directed toward another's benefit.
Here are a few ways in which we can put this into practice:
1. Pray more, criticize less. Should the Lord allow you to be close to someone and make you privy to certain information, unity through humility looks like you praying instead of judging. God Himself does not propose to judge a man until he is dead. So why should we? As God grants opportunities for you to be a conduit for change, remember you are a vital cog in His eternal plan.
2. If you’re thankful, let them know. We have a tendency to inadvertently take the people we admire for granted. Be liberal with your encouragement by telling others how much you appreciate them for operating in their giftedness. The Lord could very well be positioning you to encourage someone who has considered throwing in the towel because they’ve been beaten down by cruel words, lack of support or feelings of abandonment. One simple way to do this is to smile more.
When you push a child on a swing, eventually he/she will start doing it with no assistance needed. At times, we are all like that child needing a push. Think of the people who've cheered you on as you've labored through life’s highs and lows: relatives, teachers, friends, coaches, employers, people you didn’t even know, etc. If indeed you are thankful for their encouragement, show your appreciation by humbly doing the same for someone else.
“Holy Father, give us Your perspective on this life. May the residue of being in this fallen world not blind us to beauty around us. Train our hearts to embrace the vision behind one heart, one mind and one spirit. As a stepping stone toward greater humility, teach me to look not only to my own interests, but also to the interests of others.”