Faithlife Sermons

Joy in Fulfilling the Call

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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There is joy to be experienced in our fulfilling our call.

Thank you for tuning in to join us this Sunday. I pray you had a nice Memorial Day weekend despite the current pandemic. I must admit that I felt somewhat challenged over my weekend. I took the time to relax and I was really needing it, but I was challenged in thinking that too often I consider Memorial Day weekend a great holiday break from work without really considering the purpose; that being the remembrance of lives lost among our military personnel as they serve our country. I have not personally known any of those though I have had some third party connections to them. Occasionally in churches I have served in, there has been a family who has had such a loss.
So with that said, I would encourage us in future Memorial Day weekends, even when we plan to use it to “get away” that we remember all those who are gathering on that day to remember their loved ones who are no longer here.
If all goes according to plan, our current plan is to come back together on June 7. I was hoping to live stream our service on YouTube, but am find that may not be possible. However, I may be able to video it and post it later in the day. I want to be able to provide for those of you still at home. It is appropriate for those who are high risk to be home during these days but I want to provide for you the means to be a part of us, even if it is just connected by seeing what is happening.
With that said, let us jump into our morning today. Just a reminder that today is Pentecost Sunday. It commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit. If you recall, before Jesus ascended, he told the believers they were to gather and pray in Jerusalem in anticipation of the Holy Spirit’s coming. On the day the Holy Spirit descended upon them and they immediately spread out sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and 3,000 new believers were added to their numbers that day. What an incredible day that was. By the time we get to the writing of Philippians, we find that the “Good News” has spread all the way to Europe. Lydia in Philippi is considered the first European church and now she is believed to be one of the leaders of the church there. Today, we are continuing with this study of Paul’s letter to that church.
Thanks again for joining us! I pray you will learn more about this special letter and how it applies to our lives today.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your presence in our life today. We are thankful for the freedom to gather together, even if it is only virtually from the comfort of our living rooms. We know that there are many that do not have that freedom.
We also thank you that the time is quickly coming when we can gather physically once again. We ask for your protection when that time comes. We ask for your wisdom as we prepare. We also ask for your continued guidance for our president, our other leaders and our country during these difficult days.
In Your blessed name we pray, Jesus. Amen.
A reporter in San Bernardino, California arranged for a man to lie in the gutter on a busy street. Hundreds of people passed the man, but not one stopped to help him or even show sympathy! Newspapers across the country some 15-20 years ago told how thirty-eight people watched a man stalk a young lady and finally attack her—and none of the spectators even picked up a phone to call the police! A couple of teenagers in Detroit discovered a woman in a telephone booth who had suffered a heart attack. They carried her to a nearby house and rang the bell, asking for help. The only reply they received was, “Get off my porch—and take her with you!” A Kentucky doctor was driving down the highway to visit a patient when he saw an accident take place. He stopped and gave aid to the injured and then made his visit. One of the drivers he helped sued him! Is it possible to be a “Good Samaritan” today? Must everybody harden his heart in order to protect himself?
Now most of us would be repulsed by the reactions and responses of those listed above, but how do we deal in our nation with a pandemic that locks us all up in our homes while people are dying alone without friends or family? I have really struggled from the beginning of this pandemic over this subject of pulling away from everyone for fear of getting it. Of course, I understand the flip-side, “if I get it, I could pass it to others and they my die from it.” Yet I have to ask myself, “what is the right thing to do and when is what seems right gone too far?” That is a question that each of us can only answer within ourselves during these unusual days. With that said, I am grateful for the many medical and emergency services as well as individuals that have placed themselves on front lines to provide for others during this pandemic!
I hope that “sacrifice and service” are not just ancient virtues that somehow do not fit into our so-called modern civilization. It is worth noting that even in Paul’s day mutual concern was not a popular virtue. The Christians at Rome were not too interested in the problems at Philippi; Paul could not find one person among them willing to go to Philippi (Phil. 2:19–21). May we be more willing when called upon to do so. Turn with me to today’s text.
Philippians 2:12–18 NIV
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out 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.
Precious Father,
Paul was the author of this letter, but your Spirit was behind the heart and message of it. We ask for your guidance in understanding its message and applying it to our lives and situations today.
In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
In Philippians 1:27, we find Paul calls the Philippians to be partners “worthy of the gospel” and he continues with instruction on how to do that. Last week, he directs their attention to Christ and in chapter 2:6-11 he reveals who Christ was and the characteristics He demonstrated.
Today, as we begin with verse 12, Paul turns the focus back on to the Philippians with “Therefore” (“So then” in other translations) and he further exhorts them to do as they ought according to Christ’s example reminding them that they are...

C. Partners Fulfilling Their Calling (Phil 2:12-18)

As Paul continues, he demonstrates why he is so fond of this particular congregation. Look with me at verses 12-13.
Philippians 2:12–13 NASB95
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Once again we see Paul’s fondness for this congregation as he says “dear friends” or “Beloved” in other translations. We also find a hint to why he is so fond of them. “just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence...”. They are sincere in their devotion to God.
People can be “people pleasing.” They are great at being what they think people want for a short while of time in their presence. The real test is who are they in the absence of a person.
The Philippian congregation had evidently proven themselves sincere. Word gets around. Remember Paul’s words in chapter 1 verse 27, “Whether I come and see you or only hear about you...”. Paul has evidently already heard enough to feel they are genuine in their desire to follow Christ.
Paul is pleased by what he hears, but he does not leave it at that.

1. Paul encourages them to grow spiritually in his absence. (vv 12-13)

Paul feels good that they have the right desire. However, desire does not always mean action, so Paul admonishes them to...

a. Carry on in my absence (12)

In Matthew 25, Jesus shared the Parable of the Talents. A businessman departs and leaves his servants with certain responsibilities. Two of the three quickly act and make more money with the funds left them to take care of. The third man says he fears his master and so hides the money entrusted to him and sits on it doing nothing with it. The master returns and calls this man lazy. The master than takes the funds from this man and gives it to another who was faithful with his.
There are many reasons why people may have a desire and not act. Fear is probably the number one reason. We may be afraid of failing. We may be afraid we cannot do it. We may be afraid of what others may think of us if we do. So we wait until our “fearless” leader returns and we can do it with them.
Paul is encouraging them to be bold and continue on even if he is not with them. He has his job to do and they have their own job to do. He tells them to...

b. Work out their salvation with ‘fear and trembling’ (v 12)

It is really important we understand what Paul is saying here. It is really easy for some to misquote this verse. When it says to “work out their salvation,” it is not indicating that salvation is achieved by the works we perform. Salvation is a gift of grace from God, provided by Christ’s sacrifice and my willingness to receive it. However, when a person accepts a gift, there is a responsibility to take care of the gift it is to last.
Allow me to elaborate, though this example is imperfect due to the imperfect nature of the gift.
Say my dad gave me a Porsche for a birthday gift. I did not have to do anything to earn this gift, in fact, there is nothing I could have done to account for the funds my dad spent on buying me this Porsche. However, it is up to me to maintain it to keep it functioning. I need to give it regular oil changes. I need to keep gas in it. I need to be careful how I drive it. In taking care of it, I honor my dad and the gift he has given me. I wish to honor him because I love him. If I am careful with it and put the work into it, it could potentially be with me all my life. Of course, that is where the example ends and becomes imperfect for two reasons. First, an earthly dad may be able to provide some assistance in maintaining the gift but will not always be able to be with me to do so. Second, this earthy gift does not promise me entry into God’s eternal presence.
God’s gift of salvation saves me from the sin of my past, but I must maintain that salvation. I do so by being obedient to God. By serving Him and Him alone. By doing the work that He assigns me to do. But the best part, is I do not do all that alone. God gives me the strength to do what I was never able to do before, because He now lives within me giving me the desire and the strength to do what is right. I just need to stay connected with Him through prayer, study of His word, and obedience to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Now here is where the fear and trembling comes in. If I accidently or carelessly put a dent in my Porsche, because of my love for my dad and the gift of the car I regret it and I do all I can to get it fixed properly.
I work out my salvation with fear and trembling by having a desire to do right by God and when I error or get careless, I quickly learn from that situation and do what I must to correct it.
Work out is not the same thing as working for. It is a difference of the use of language. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Later in life I moved to eastern Pennsylvania. Sometimes it took me a little time to understand things they said as they used words differently. I remember a friend of mine who was Pennsylvania Dutch telling me to “outten the light.” I remember my head whipping around as I said, “What?” She laughed and said, “Oh, I guess you would say, ‘Turn out the light.’” Scripture is sometimes that same kind of misunderstanding.
The phrase “work out” was often used when talking about “working in a field or a mine.” It meant, “working out to get the greatest harvest” or “getting out of a mine all the valuable ore possible.” We are to work to full completion our salvation. That is we work to fulfill all God has for us to learn and to do and in return we receive the full value of the gift.
What I mean by that is, I may say my trust is in God but I do the minimal with it. I attend church, perhaps pay tithe or at least throw in some funds now and again. I even mention God to people every once in awhile. I feel somewhat confident that when I die I will be with God in heaven. However, I have not really done much to stretch myself. My spiritual growth is minimal at best. I struggle a lot with worry and fear and do not understand why others have such faith in God and have seen large miracles int their life’s journey while mine have been small. I have not worked my field for the greatest harvest as I was satisfied with a small yield. Yet another may really step out in faith. They take bold chances for God. Perhaps they quit a job to do somehting for less pay as they feel God is calling them to do so. They have more joy and peace in their life. They seem to be able to do big things for God. They tithe and give extra offerings even when finances are tough. They are participating in some way in the church ministry. They are working their field to harvest all they can. They are experiencing more than just safety come eternity. They are living God’s kingdom here on earth.
Next, Paul directs them that they are to do this...

c. According to God’s direction and purpose (v 13)

They are not working for Paul, they are working for God. God is working “in” them and directing them in what they are to do. Warren Wiersbe says, “God must work in us before He can work through us.”
Look with me at verse 13 again.
Philippians 2:13 NIV
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
The word translated as “work” in this verse is the same one for which the English language gets the word “energy.” We should not be fearful of what God is calling us to do as it is His “energy in us” that is also working “through us” to fulfill what He is calling us to do.
Paul is encouraging the Philippians to have courage to do ministry on their own without him (Paul) as it is God that will give them the power to do what they are called to do. Paul has his calling, but the God has His own plan for the Philippians and what they are to do.
Now Paul directs them to the concern at hand that is hindering them...

2. Paul encourages them to put their differences behind them as they shine forth as God’s children (vv 14-16)

Philippians 2:14–16 NIV
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
This comes back to the concern that Paul has voiced earlier about the division and lack of unity that is the current problem in Philippi. Paul then shares what they must do and why they must do it. First of all, they are to...

a. Stop grumbling and move forward (v 14)

The word translated “grumbling” or “murmuring” has to do with secret murmuring and grumbling. It denotes one with a bad attitude who is grumbling about every decision that is made or secretly complaining to others.
It is the same word used in Jude 16.
Jude 16 NIV
16 These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
It was also used in John 6:41 in regards to attitudes toward Jesus.
John 6:41 NIV
41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
The word disputing has posed some question. Some equate it with murmurings leading to disputes among people. Others say it is the same as the word for “evil thoughts.” They say the disputing can be causing outward disputes among others or it is private thoughts creating a bad attitude. Either way, it is not a positive trait and causes division, not unity.
This is a common issue then and now. I have already addressed it some in previous weeks but wish to expound on this a little more here. We know from past weeks that we find unity when we are focused on Christ and following His lead.
We have also talked about the need for humility and being others focused. But that does not necessarily help us move forward. It all sounds good in theory, but is it as easy in practice? We may all have the same objective in mind but have different ways of achieving it. So, how do we keep unity and move forward?
The answer is through the authority structures that God provides. Even within the divine Trinity we find an authority structure. None work independent of each other, but both the Son and the Holy Spirit submit to the will of the Father.
God knows that there has to be structure to keep things working in an orderly fashion. The Bible sets up these authority structures for family, business, government and church. When we are obedient to God we honor these authority structures. It does not mean we always agree with those in authority over us, however, if we are to be found blameless before God, we need to uphold them even when we do not agree. The only reason we are allowed to violate the authority above us is if that authority is preventing us from obeying God.
The authority structure for the church is listed in Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 13:17; and 1 Peter 5:1-11.
Hebrews 13:17 NIV
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
It is because of the importance of this authority structure that great care and much prayer should always go into the selection of those placed in leadership within the church. We are to obey them without complaining and grumbling even if we believe they are wrong. Now that does not mean we do not share an opinion. If we are asked, we share what we feel is best as that should be important to the one in authority. If we are not asked and it is a concern, it is okay to ask to speak to the person and share a concern. All advice shoulded be weighed before making a decision, but once a decision is made, it is to be carried forth in a proper attitude by all.
It is only through obedience to the authority structure that we can hope to achieve the task before us in unity without grumbling and complaining as our human nature fights for autonomy. That is the sin fighting within us to make itself heard. That is why “self-control” is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit within us helping to settle that human nature within us giving us power to overcome our natural desires to fulfill God’s calling in us.
Next Paul addresses why they should do so.

b. That they may be blameless and pure (v 15)

We are not to be blamed, nor are we accountable for, the decision a leader makes. God judges us based on our obedience to His word, even regarding our authorities.
When it says we are blameless, it does not mean we are perfect. No person is perfect, except Jesus Christ. Yet we are to live to a higher standard. When we live according to God’s word, we stand above reproach and we stand pure before God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And we do so as...

c. Children of God (15)

Paul sets up a comparison here. We are children of God contrasted to a “crooked and depraved generation” which is a description of those who do not follow Jesus Christ. As children of God, we are to live contrary to our human nature. That is, we deny that sin nature within to choose to value what is right. This is what Paul refers to in Philippians 2:3.
Philippians 2:3 NIV
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
Paul then makes three comparisons between Christians and others.
“crooked and perverse” by world standards but the Christian stands straight because his life is measured by the Word of God.
the world is dark, however, Christians “shine like stars” (luminaries) in this world. (We have previously talked indepth of the light of God in a dark world).
the world has nothing to offer, however, the Christian holds out the Word of life, salvation through faith in Christ (v 16).
After making these comparisons...

3. Paul promises joy comes from fulfilling the call (vv 16-18)

Philippians 2:16–18 NIV
as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out 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.
The words “hold firmly” or sometimes translated “hold out” has to do with holding onto something precious but also extending it forth to others. That is the way it is with the gospel. We hold it dear to us but we also extend it out to others that they may acquire it. Paul’s greatest joy will be fulfilled in two things here. First,

a. Paul’s joy will be complete in the knowledge that the Philippians have taken the message and applied it to their lives.

Something that is successful is not a sacrifice. Paul has worked hard on behalf of the Philippians. Now he is facing possible death. However, that sacrifice is not too great if because of his teaching and work among them, they hold fast to the gospel and do the same for others. He will feel joy for what was accomplished among them.

b. Paul’s joy will be complete in knowing he served God faithfully to the end.

There is nothing more satisfying than pleasing one we love. Paul loved God. He wanted to succeed in his ministry, not for his glory, but to honor the God he loved. He was mining the gift for all the valuable ore he could get.
Paul was sharing with the Philippians that even if he were sacrificed in death, it was not something to mourn over but to rejoice in. Paul was willing to be that sacrifice for them, and he hoped they would be for others. In doing so, they would experience the same joy he felt in doing so.
What an incredible man of the faith Paul was. Here he is under house arrest. He knows he may be condemned to death. That death may be incredibly slow and painful, yet his attention is on the problems within the Philippian church. His concern is for their spiritual wellbeing. Paul demonstrates a person completely submitted to the will of God. Under the will of God Paul makes great sacrifices yet he continually speaks of the joy he feels.
Is there an area in your life you need to submit to God? Is there some difficulty that you are experiencing that you are grumbling about? This pandemic has been a lot longer haul than we first expected. Are we grumbling about it or are we recognizing the opportunities it has given us to share the gospel?
Are we afraid for our health or are we focused on the fear’s others have realizing we have an answer for them that can relieve their fears? Paul was willing to put his life on the line for those around him. Are we willing to do the same in these days of pandemic? I am not talking about needlessly doing so. But I am talking about a moment in time when we know someone has a need that we can fill yet we know in doing so we could be exposed; would you be willing? If God calls you to nurse someone, share the gospel with someone, deliver groceries to someone, would you be willing? To what length are you willing to serve God and others?
Precious Father,
You sacrificed and suffered so much for us. There are many missionaries who sacrifice and suffer for others every day. Yet, in our nation we are not often faced with those kinds of sacrifices. However, we may see a time coming when that changes. This pandemic is not over yet and a day may come when we are faced with making a choice between protecting our health and serving another. Father, search our hearts. Help us to know if we are ready and if we are not, Father, help give us the strength to be ready. Give us wisdom to know when we should and when it is a needless risk.
We have been blessed and our community has felt protected, but Father if or when the time comes when it is not, help us to be wise, bold, and fearless in accomplishing whatever you may ask us to do. Give us the faith of Paul. Help us to find the way in which you are calling us to serve, then help us to do so without grumbling and complaining, but instead with eyes set on you and the task before, may we be faithful to the task.
For thine is the kingdom, the glory, and the power forever and ever. Amen
May God’s blessing be upon you this day as you ponder this message and how God chooses to use it in your life. I look forward to the day coming soon, when we will be able to be face-to-face once again. God bless!

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