Philippians 2:19-30 Be a Light In Your Generation
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. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Paul encourages the believers to fulfill their calling in His absence as He ponders over His imminent martyrdom. He urges them to hold fast to the word, to depend on God who moves within and through them to fulfill their calling as lights in the corrupted generation. He hopes and believes that he would find reason to glory in the believers’ walk of faith on the day of Christ.
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, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
As Paul founded the Philippians church on his second missionary journey, he is highly revered by the believers there. As they have obeyed his instructions while he was present with them, now that he is absent, Paul encourages them to live with the aim of accomplishing their calling: work out your own salvation. Paul desires their obedience is no longer driven by his apostolic authority but by their inner desire to fulfill their calling. Fear and trembling denotes distrust in one’s ability to meet all requirements while trusting and depending on God to lead and empower every step of the way. Paul assures the believers that God is continually working within them in their daily endeavors directing and empowering them to do His will: for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Hence, even in his absence, they can accomplish their calling by continually yielding to God’s resident work of directing and empowering.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Paul reasons with the believers that his glory and theirs are inevitably entwined. If they endeavor to fulfill their calling as being the lights of the world, he would find reason to glory and to rejoice when Jesus returns: that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. In view of accomplishing their calling, Paul encourages them to be pure at heart, to be blameless in their lifestyle and to be impeccable in their reputation in the midst of a corrupted generation. How do believers accomplish that? By meditating on the word of life daily and to be diligent to do all that is written in it: holding fast to the word of life.
Paul addresses their work culture and attitudes: do all things without grumbling or disputing. Grumbling refers to a secret grudge not openly declared that could lead to dangerous undercurrents of gossip and murmur poisoning many. Disputing is quarreling in selfish jostling for one’s interests without considering the benefit of the whole. Paul is in fact saying that believers should work out their salvation by working in harmony with all towards the benefit of the whole.
Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Paul contemplates his possible martyrdom and that if he should die, his life would be a worthwhile sacrifice for the sake of the church. He urges them in an indirect way not to let him labor in vain but allow him to rejoice in them, the fruit of his sacrifice, which is the Philippians church.
- The sign of one’s maturity is seen in the way he draws his motivation and strength from within. A mature person needs no one to push or motivate him, for he is self-motivated. Hence, we must actively wean ourselves from being overly dependent on others but to depend on the Spirit alone: God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Paul used to be their source of energy and discipline, but God must ultimately be the source and motivation of all that they do. A mature person is self-motivated to improve himself; he is self-motivated to do his best even in the absence of public recognition; he is self-motivated to do what is right even when nobody sees and he lives for the audience of God and not for man.
- No one is an island, at some level our fates are intertwined. Therefore, we must take responsibility and be accountable for one another. Paul’s glory and reason for boasting is intertwined with the decisions and maturity of the Philippians believers. At some level, the destinies of individuals of a community are interconnected. Moses, righteous and faithful as he is, is prevented from entering the Promised Land because as their shepherd, he is nevertheless identified with the failure of his generation. Jesus’ destiny is intertwined with humanity in that He died and suffered with us in our depravity. In the same breath, we are also resurrected and made alive with Him in His victory.
- Our ultimate destiny is revealed through our attitudes and behavior in the mundane things of life. Whether an individual would accomplish his calling and receive His reward is seen in the attitude he deals with others and in handling the mundane challenges of life. Paul urges believers to do all things without grumbling or disputing. In doing so, they may accomplish their calling as lights in the world. One don’t need to go very far to evaluate a person’s capacity for great things, you can tell much from the way a person he drives. Common wisdom teaches us that if we are found faithful in smaller things, we will naturally be faithful in bigger things. We could start preparing ourselves for the bigger things by fixing our attitudes in facing the daily grind of life.
- What motivates and drives you in your work, your worship for God and service towards the community? Internal motivations are a sense of duty, desire for excellence, a desire to contribute to the society, to make the best use of time and talent. External motivations include monetary rewards, fear of poverty and recognition from others.
- Do we sometimes complain of not being given a chance at the bigger and more exciting things in life? Perhaps we could find the answer by examining our attitudes in our present responsibilities and endeavors.
Dear Lord, I confess that you are the motivation for my work and ministry. I will do all things without murmuring, complaining for the good of the whole. Cause me to be distinct and different, to be a light of truth and hope in my community. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.