Some Thoughts on Nothing
D. J. Bell, Barrow in Furness
Readings: Philippians 1. 20, 28; 2. 3; 4. 6.
1. In nothing Ashamed
Our behaviour should be in accordance with gospel teaching, 1. 27. Our conduct must be worthy of Christ; we cannot behave as we like. 'I will behave myself wisely', said David, in Psalm 101. Paul prayed for the Thessalonian believers, 1 Thess. 5. 23, that their 'whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ'. We are told by Paul in Romans 6. 12-13, 'Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. We are not to yield our members unto sin, making them instruments of unrighteousness, but to yield ourselves unto God. All of us are tempted; yielding makes us sin. The world is full of sin and defilement. Christ gave Himself that He might deliver us from this present evil world, Gal. 1. 4, and Peter tells us we have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, 2 Pet. 1. 4. We should not make provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts, Rom. 13. 14; indeed we are exhorted to abstain from every appearance of evil, 1 Thess. 5. 22. Our bodies are to be presented to Him, offered to His will and service, Rom. 12. 1.
If we sow to the flesh then we shall reap corruption - see Gal. 6. 7-8 -and we are warned that we must 'appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad', 2 Cor. 5. 10.
Let us then magnify Christ that there be neither shame nor blame. 'Now, little children', says John the apostle, 1 John 2. 28, 'abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming'. And in the next chapter, verse 3, we read 'every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, as he is pure'. Note the warning of 1 Corinthians 3. 16-17.
2. In nothing Afraid
If our lives are not right we will never witness for Christ as we should. Character will give us courage - provided it is an upright one. These Philippians were going to meet opposition and suffer for Christ in their testimony. Shall we be ashamed and afraid to confess Christ because we may be laughed at or lose face a little? Paul declares, 'I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ', Rom. 1. 16. We need to be in touch with the Lord: if we are not living in the enjoyment of His presence, not walking in company with Him, we cannot speak for Him. Here we find that unity is essential, a oneness of purpose, for the sake of the gospel. Paul asks for prayer, Eph. 6. 19, that he might be bold to speak. Prayer, keeping in touch with the Lord, will enable us to be ready always to give an answer, but it must be combined with sanctity of heart, 1 Pet. 3. 15, and a good conscience.
3. In nothing Ambitious
In chapter 1 it is life Christian and witness. Here in chapter 2 it is service. Do we strive for place in the assembly of God's people? There are some who want to lead, sometimes to get a following or to divide the saints. (The word here is 'factious'.) Others simply want to be in the limelight, seeking prominence for self glorification. All our service ought to be for His glory, the honour of God's Son. Nothing glorifies Christ so much as the death of self. Therefore Paul says, Gal. 2. 20, 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me'. The Christian should have a concern for others, whether to encourage in the faith, in Christian service, or whether to serve others in the material realm. Spiritual jealousy or envy is not spiritual! Neither is it Christ-like to neglect the needs of others. To serve we need the mind of Christ, humble and obedient to God's will. Pride and self-will do nothing for God's work. A lack of care for fellow-brethren and sisters is also contrary to His example. 'Having compassion', says Peter, 'love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous'.
4. In nothing Anxious
Prayer is the language of dependence. It is an acknowledgment of need. 'My God shall supply all your need', says Paul. We trust God for salvation but so often we worry and are anxious about material things. Perhaps it is because we do not pray enough. The Lord spent long seasons in prayer. If there is one thing necessary in prayer it is persistence: this is surely the emphasis of the Lord Himself in Luke 11 and 18. Then, too, we must have confidence. How often do we pray and still worry? We have not left the burden with Him. Hebrews 11. 6 tells us that if we believe in the existence of God we must believe in His providence. Lastly there must be purity, 'if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me', Psa. 66. 18.
The worldling admires independence but that spirit is contrary to the Spirit of Christ.
Thus, in this epistle, there are four things the Christian should not be:-Ashamed; Afraid; Ambitious; Anxious.