Hope and Humility at All Times

Days fly by and time disappears in a dizzying spiral. You’re either in or out of the money, as they say. You’re happy one moment, devastated the next. What does your hope rest upon? What hope do you have that goes beyond the temporal and temporary of this world? On the sunny days or in the times of storm, James directs us to stand humbly and firmly upon Christ. (Jas. 1:9-11)

Part 4 of a whole book study series called “True Faith: A Study Through James”

Find the whole series in James here.

But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

flower in grassYou may wonder, why does James seem to “jump” from talking about enduring trials and asking God for wisdom with confident faith to talking about our perspective as rich or poor people? Our very circumstances may in many cases be a trial or test and require wisdom to navigate. To a person who has little, they are tested to endure with little. To a person with much, they are tested to see what is truly of value. I do not believe that one or the other is more “blessed” in the sense that the world sees blessing.  We are too quick to attribute a person’s material prosperity as being “blessed” by God. Continue reading

Epaphroditus: Steadfast in Service

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to advance the cause of Christ? What sacrifices would you make to serve Christ and His body? Epaphroditus remained so steadfast in his dedication that he risked his very life. In Phil. 2:25-30, Paul calls to our attention a man “behind the scenes” working in a “small” way to show us there is joy in even the unrecognized acts of service.

Part 11 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

Who Was Epaphroditus?

Epaphroditus was the believer selected by the Philippian believers to carry their monetary gift to Paul. This gift was to help defray Paul’s daily living expenses (food, clothing, medical care). Certainly we can guess that, given the roughly 800 miles a trek from Rome to Philippi covered, this man was likely in good health at the outset. Continue reading

Timothy: A Christ-Like Example

Do you have someone in your life who seems to represent to you what it means to be a godly man or woman in Christ? Someone who encourages you to keep pressing forward in the faith? And someone in whom you trust for wisdom?

In Phil. 2:19-24, Paul gives the believers at Philippi the first of two godly role models in a show and tell of Christ-likeness.

Part 10 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

Paul spent the first part of chapter 2 laying the foundations of what it looks like to be like Christ, beginning with Christ Himself and continuing on with Paul’s exhortations to Christian life.

This passage begins a section where Paul gives us human examples: people who live out the gospel, the humility, and the service of Christ. Essentially, Paul is saying to these believers (and to us), you want to know what being Christ-like looks like in a believer? Look at Timothy. Look at Epaphroditus (we’ll get to him next time). Continue reading

Shine Like Lights

Have you ever seen a searchlight at night, playing back and forth across the sky? Your eyes are invariably drawn to its path and you wonder, what’s it there for?

As believers, we’re here in the darkness of this world to draw people to that light — the light of God’s truth in Christ. This study in Phil. 2:14-18 covers characteristics of believers and ways we are light in the midst of darkness.

Part 9 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

How we walk in our daily lives – and particularly how we relate to each other as believers — strongly influences how the world sees us.

Complaints and Arguments

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 

It is easy to complain. I find myself doing it without even thinking. We complain about tangible objects, about people (especially their driving), about circumstances, about the weather. We complain about having to do things, from grocery shopping to weeding — even to the service we may do in the church or community. Continue reading

Saved By Grace, Living By Grace

Christ’s obedience and humility spur us to a closer walk with God, but do you think you have to do it alone, in your own strength? Study through Philippians 2:12-13 for more insight.

Part 8 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

Obedience Modeled on Christ’s

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

The saying goes, “When you see a ‘therefore’ in scripture, you need to ask what the ‘therefore’ is there for.” This is a good example of how important it is to read your bible in context. Paul makes a slight shift in subject, but what he is talking about in these two verses is based upon what he has just finished with: Christ and his obedience. Continue reading

Refresh Friday

We’re exhorted in scripture to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), but have we stopped to think what it means when we persist in prayer? Brief thoughts from Hunter.

Persistence [in prayer] is an act of humility as well as an expression of faith. This attitude is diametrically opposite the popular notion that if we are importunate over a long enough period, God will eventually see the strength of our desire and respond.

Photo credit: advindicate.com

Photo credit: advindicate.com

That is manipulation. It says, “Look at me; Look at Me; LOOK AT ME!” while humility says, “I’m looking to you; I’m looking to You; I’m looking to YOU.” The point? Great faith in God always expresses itself in humble acknowledgment of dependency.

— W. Bingham Hunter, The God Who Hears

The Humble Servant

Christ’s life of joyful, humble obedience gives us an example to follow. Phil. 2:5-11 is full of rich theological “soil” that will deepen and enrich your understanding of Christ and your walk with Him.

Part 7 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

Today’s passage of scripture takes the form of what many frequently call a Christological hymn. This means it has as its central object Christ, and speaks to His nature and to facets of His work of redemption. Other scripture likely to be thought of as Christological hymns can be found in Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:2-4, John 1:1-14. I will not be addressing whether Paul penned this content or inserted an existing hymn.

Verses 6-11 summarize the eternal Son in describing His pre-existence, constant and present divine nature, eternal equality with God, incarnation, humility, and exaltation. There is such a depth here that I will walk through it quite slowly as there is much to be learned and much to stand in awe of. I felt utterly inadequate to do full justice to these verses, but with God’s help have done what I can! Continue reading

Walking in Humility and Truth

You are connected with other believers in the truth of Christ. But how does this walk itself out in your daily life? Today’s study in Phil. 2:1-4 shows how. We look at how being in Christ affects our behavior, especially with regard to being humble.

Part 6 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.


Since these believers are sharing in the same suffering that Paul himself is enduring — opposition to the gospel — he exhorts them to reflect on what it is that motivates and fortifies them in that struggle. They must remember what it is that binds them together.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 

Here in the first two verses of Philippians 2, Paul sets up a conditional argument. If these first four pairings (verse 1) are true in you, then the following will also be true (verse 2): you will be of the same mind, have the same love, and work together in truth- and Christ-centered unity. Continue reading

Living Like Christ in a Hostile World

What does it mean to strive for the gospel and live as a believer in the face of a world increasingly intolerant to Christ? Paul exhorts us in Phil. 1:27-30 to push past our fear and remember our joyful privilege of truth-telling.

Part 5 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

Today’s study begins a section of Philippians in which Paul addresses the qualities of our behavior as believers, beginning with the spread of the gospel. I’ve split up the discussion, which extends to Philippians 2:11, in the interest of keeping post length relatively short and will continue this subject in subsequent posts.

A Life That Speaks of Christ

 27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.

Although Paul hopes, as we saw in the last study, to be freed from his imprisonment, he exhorts the believers at Philippi to press forward in the gospel. Whether or not he is there with them or away on a subsequent apostolic journey, he says, he expects certain news of them. If you believe in the gospel, he tells them, then live like you do. Walk according to what you have been taught in Christ. Continue reading

In All Ways, The Gospel Preached

What motivates you in your walk with Christ? Do you hold on to that motivation no matter what? The central driving goal of Paul’s life was to see Christ preached. Philippians 1:12-18 covers Paul’s joy at the spread of the gospel in spite of and because of his circumstances.

Part 3 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

 12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

It’s so clear from these verses the centrality of the gospel in Paul’s life.

The Gospel Advanced

Normally we might think that if someone was a minister of the gospel as Paul was and had been imprisoned that his ministry had come to a screeching halt. Paul didn’t see it that way, but instead sees how it has turned out for the greater progress of the gospel as the NAS translates verse 12. This means Paul actually compares the progress of the gospel in his current circumstances with how it might have progressed had he remained at liberty — and sees it as better!

Rather than chafing at his imprisonment, his perspective is one of encouragement and rejoicing. In fact, he points out that his circumstances have two surprising results: Continue reading