As we learned through studying the first chapter of Philippians, joy is possible in all circumstances. As we move on to chapter two, we will learn how joy is possible even when dealing with challenging people.
Everyone has experienced a person who tried to rob us of our joy. When Paul was writing to the Church of Philippi, they were dealing with some discord in the church. Why? People.
What should set Christians apart is our ability to be loving and united; however, we all know of Christian experiences that were more divisive than united. Instead, this second chapter calls the church’s attention to the purpose of unity. Paul points out that division is a sign of a heart problem, and he points us to the greatest example of a submissive mind: Jesus.
The word “submission” tends to get a bad rep. Generally, when people hear the word “submission,” we don’t connect it with the word “joy.” However, as Wiersbe explains, “The secret of joy in spite of circumstances is the single mind. The secret of joy in spite of people is the submissive mind.” By looking closely at this section of chapter two and Jesus’ example, we can understand why submission to others can lead to joy.
For this joy-filled series, we are following along with Warren W. Wiersbe’s outstanding commentary of Philippians, Be Joyful: Even When Things Go Wrong, You Can Have Joy. We encourage you to pick up your own copy to study this book with us. This week we are focusing on Philippians 2:1-11.
Do Nothing Out of Selfish Ambition or Vain Conceit
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
– Philippians 2:1-4
In the opening of this chapter, Paul describes what it means to be united with Christ and others. Single-mindedness leads to unity because we are aiming to glorify God. However, when our hearts grow selfish, we think less of unity.
We should strive to be selfless rather than selfish. It is through humility that we become more like Christ. Wiersbe explains the humble person “yields himself to Christ to be a servant, to use what he is and has for the glory of God and the good of others.” When we focus on others instead of ourselves, we follow Jesus’ great example.
Jesus Thought of Others, Not Himself
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage”
– Philippians 2:5-6
Let’s break this section of verses apart. The first verse encourages us to have the same mindset as Jesus when it comes to our relationships. Our mindset refers to our attitudes. As we discussed before, our attitudes shape our behaviors. By having a mindset like Christ, we are striving to act like Christ.
Now, the next verse points out a specific way Jesus thought. He was God, but He didn’t use his status as the Creator of the Universe to get what he wanted. He did not think of himself – He thought of others.
Paul stresses the importance of thinking of others rather than ourselves. The whole concept of thinking of others is so critical, we are told how in more than twenty “one anothers” in the New Testament (such as encourage one another, edify one another, bless one another, and do not judge one another).
“Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
– Philippians 2:7
Jesus did not just think of others, He served others. As Wiersbe describes, “He was the God-Man, Deity and humanity united in one, and He came as a servant.” He came not to be ministered to but to minister to others (Matthew 20:28). Thinking of others above ourselves leads naturally to serving others.
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
– Philippians 2:8
Jesus sacrificed himself for the sake of others. On the other hand, many people struggle to serve if it costs them something. If they know there is sacrifice involved, they are no longer willing to go the extra mile. What a shame!
Too often this fear of sacrifice keeps us from experiencing the great joy we would have as a result. The joy unspeakable that comes from knowing we are glorifying God.
Wiersbe writes, “The person with the submissive mind does not avoid sacrifice. He lives for the glory of God and the good of others, and if paying a price will honor Christ and help others, he is willing to do it.”
Jesus Glorified God
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
– Philippians 2:9-11
We’ve talked about Paul’s single-mindedness. He was singularly focused on God and introducing others to Him. Paul understood it is only through Jesus that we experience salvation. And, our salvation glorifies the Lord.
As we live with a submissive mind, one that lives for others, we will have opportunities to put our faith into action through service and sacrifice, all of which will bring God glory.