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Encouraging Examples

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Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
(Philippians 3:17-19 ESV)

Paul has been explaining to his readers that spiritual growth takes time and that even he, after 30 or so years of following Jesus, is not perfect. But nevertheless, he calls on them to “imitate” him because he was imitating Christ [1 Corinthians 11:1].

Paul knew who he was. He was a human being prone to sin but who, through faith in Jesus, had his sins forgiven and forgotten by God [John 3:16; Micah 7:19; Hebrews 8:12; Isaiah 43:25]. He didn’t dwell on his past mistakes or past glories.

Paul also continued to work towards his own spiritual maturity [Philippians 3:14]. He wasn’t lazy about it. The words he uses here are athletic terms that describe the striving to win a race or other athletic event. Paul was giving his all to know Jesus. He wasn’t distracted by other things in life. Knowing Jesus was his one and only goal and he was completely focused on it.

This is the attitude we should imitate. Our world has even more distractions than Paul’s. It is much harder today to be focused on becoming like Jesus when we have so many things competing for our attention. Its easy to get off track by our career, or sports, or the stock market or any number of other things.

Instead we should “keep our eyes” on those who are living godly lives. These people are not perfect. But they are encouraging examples. If they can do it we can do it. God would never command us to do something that we can’t do with His help through the Holy Spirit.

This verse is also a challenge for each of us to be an example to others, as Paul was. God commands His children to be examples to each other and to also learn from each other [1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9; 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Timothy 4:15-16; 2 Timothy 3:10-11; Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:3]. Our attitude and lifestyle should be one that other believers, and even non-believers, would want to follow.

Every follower of Christ should have someone in their life who is an example. And each of us should also be an example to others.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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