In the last post, I talked about the last scene in the movie Saving Private Ryan. Private Ryan is standing with his family at the grave of Captain Miller, wondering if he had lived his life in such a way that Captain Miller would have said he was worth dying for.
I think Private Ryan’s response was understandable. I mean, someone making that kind of sacrifice demands a thoughtful response. Ignoring it would be unthinkable, and ungrateful … to say the least!
Jesus made an even greater sacrifice for us. Do we dare ignore it?!?! Are we so hard-hearted? Scripture has a lot to say about being hard-hearted … but what exactly is a hardened heart?
Some of the definitions of hardened include words like callous, insensitive, unfeeling. Did you ever do something particularly nice for someone and they seemed totally unaware of the effort and love you put into it? I have … and I’d like to say I’ve always handled it well. Nope! I want my efforts at least recognized and appreciated! I think that is a “pride” issue … I’d like a “pat on the back.” And I’ve never come even close to suffering and dying for someone! (Have I said that I’m still a work-in-progress?!?)
In the book of Philippians, Paul writes in chapter 1, verse 18 “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Christ says we were worth dying for … so it makes sense that we should live like it. What does that mean! I think I could write a book on that topic, and just be scratching the surface … but here are some of my thoughts. (You’ll notice I’m reading the book of Philippians.)
Don’t be selfish … be humble.
1Therefore 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, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Phil 2:1-4)
This doesn’t come naturally… if it did, we wouldn’t need reminding over and over. It is natural to look out for “number one” … ourselves. But we are to humbly look out for each other.
I used to think humility was putting oneself down all the time … but it’s not. Humility is knowing Who God is … and who I am. I am valued by God, and so is everyone else… He is God and I am not! Everything I have is from Him … everything I can do (that’s good) is from Him. He loves me and His love is to flow through me to others.
Don’t grumble and complain.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing …Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.
I know… now I’m meddling! But I like this… I didn’t say I’ve mastered it … yet! When we don’t grumble and complain and argue, we will “shine among them like stars in the sky.” We will be noticed … we will bring light … the Light of Christ… into this dark world of grumblers. We are not supposed to “blend in” … we are to stand out … stand up and be noticed… (without being weird and obnoxious.)
Be Different … Be Heavenly-minded.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Feeling accepted is a driving force in everyone’s life. We want to “fit in.” We want to “belong.” Those are God-given desires, but they have been perverted by sin and Satan. God has accepted us because of what Jesus did for us 2000 years ago. We belong to Him. That makes us inherently different from the world – those who don’t know Him. And the world should notice our differences. We are to be lights … signposts … pointing the way to Jesus. When everything looks like “the world is going to hell in a hand basket,” we can rejoice, bring the situations to God in prayer, and stay in the “peace that passes understanding.” When we are in difficult circumstances … or with difficult people … we can focus on what is pure, lovely, excellent, praiseworthy and true. ( True is what God says about the situation or person … not necessarily the details.)
These verses, by the way, were one of the first I felt the Lord gave me when I was a new believer. You see, I always expected the worst possible outcome … then I was never disappointed, because it never turned out as badly as imagined. I wasn’t disappointed… but I wasn’t really peaceful, either! Can you say STRESSED? But God says look for the good things … focus on the excellent, the pure, the lovely … and don’t be anxious. And then the kicker… let your gentleness be evident to all. Back then, what gentleness?!?
Was it worth it?
And Paul wants to know … on the day of Christ … when all is said and done, that he did not labor in God’s kingdom “in vain.” Don’t we all want that? Don’t we all want to know that our lives have NOT been FOR NOTHING … that what we have gone through has NOT been FOR NOTHING? You see, Paul is writing this letter from prison … and he’s there for preaching the gospel, not because he committed some crime. Prisons back then didn’t have heat and air conditioning … or prisoners’ rights. They were really bad! Is he complaining about his circumstances? No. Does he like being in jail? No, but listen to what he says in chapter 1, verses 12-18.
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
And then Paul says in Philippians 2:16b
And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
Help me to live in such a way
that acknowledges what You did for me.
You not only died for me, but You live in me…
will never leave me … and delight in me.
You’ve made me a new creation… the “old me” is dead.
Help me to really “know” that.
Thank you for all the people who have
and are supporting me in this new life.
Bless them… fill them… refresh them, Lord.
Show me, Lord,
how to love those around me,
that they would see how You’ve changed me
and want what You’ve given me.