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.
(Philippians 2:14-16 ESV)
Paul includes a very interesting comment at the end of these verses in which he states a final reason for wanting the Philippians to live a life consistent with God’s word. He wants them to do so so that he can be proud of what he did on this earth when he stands before Jesus to receive his rewards.
Paul has worked very hard since being converted on the Damascus Road to teach others about Jesus. But in the end he was just a seed-planter [1 Corinthians 3:6-8]. He did what he could do. The rest was up to the Philippians. But like any teacher, Paul did not want all his hard work to go for naught.
What God is saying here is that those of us who are under the teachings of other godly leaders (which is all of us) should be motivated to learn and grow in our faith for the sake of those leaders. We should not want them to look back on their life only to see a field where seeds have been planted but nothing has grown.
Paul is not being selfish here. In fact, such an attitude from the Philippians would be consistent with Paul’s overall theme of humility. The Philippians should be motivated by the lost world around them. They should also be motivated by their love of Paul, their teacher.
Teachers take joy in seeing their students learn [3 John 4]. There is nothing wrong with that. They work hard. The Greek words Paul uses here for “run” and “labor” imply expending all one’s strength to achieve a goal. Paul worked on behalf of the Philippians to the point of complete exhaustion. He understandably wanted all his work to have achieved something.
One final take away from this passage… Paul is the model evangelist. We should follow his example. That is, Christians should be working just as hard as he did to bring the Gospel message to this “crooked and twisted” world. We should not be distracted by the things the world offers up like television or career advancement. Our singular focus should be holding forth the word of life to a dying world.
I’m sad to say that I don’t work to the point of exhaustion. There is more I can do. But I’m distracted by the world. I don’t want to come face-to-face with Jesus someday and have nothing to show for my life as one of His followers.
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