Be a blessing machine to othersPhilippians 2:12-30
How, in practice, can we make a difference to the lives of those around us?
We are ‘children of God’ (v.15). We are called to be like our Father in heaven, who loves to bless. It is he who ‘works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose’ (v.13).
Many people are reluctant to trust God with their futures because they fear that God will make them do something which they have no desire to do, or will make a mess of their lives. Of course, both of these fears are without foundation.
If our will is surrendered to him, God will give us the desire to do whatever he is calling us to do. If he is calling us to a ministry with the poor, that is where our hearts will be. If he is calling us to teach, he will give us a desire to teach. If we surrender to his will, he will bring about ‘his good purpose’ (v.13).
What he wants for our lives is good. It will not necessarily be easy, but we will not be able to improve on his plan. He will also give us the energy we need: ‘That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure’ (v.13, MSG).
Paul knows the joy of being a ‘blessing machine’. He writes, ‘Do everything readily and cheerfully – no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night’ (vv.14–16a, MSG).
We have the immense privilege of being able to give people not just money, like the secret millionaire, but ‘the word of life’ (v.16a). There is no greater joy than seeing people who are spiritually dead come to life through Jesus.
Paul is willing to give his life with joy for this privilege: ‘But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me’ (vv.17–18).
Paul then gives two examples of people who were ‘blessing machines’:
Timothy was one of Paul’s closest friends, and is often mentioned in his letters. His loyalty and help were so great that Paul describes it as being ‘like a son with his father’ (v.22). ‘Friendship is the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue’, writes C.S. Lewis.
Here Paul pays tribute to his friend. He says, ‘He is loyal, and genuinely concerned for you’ (v.20, MSG). As Paul looks around he sees the blight of self-interest, saying, ‘Most people around here are looking out for themselves’ (v.21, MSG).
Timothy was a ‘blessing machine’ because he took a ‘genuine interest’ in the welfare of God’s children (v.20). Timothy’s interest in them was totally authentic: ‘the real thing’ (v22, MSG). Paul says that he ‘served with me in the work of the gospel’ (v.22).
Epaphroditus was also a loyal friend to both Paul and the Philippians. His true character comes across in both the big and little things, and often it is the little things that are most telling. Having become seriously ill, almost to the point of dying, he is troubled, not because he is ill and close to death, but because they might have been upset by it. He was like those who when ill are not so much worried by the illness as by the fact that they might be a burden to their family or friends.
Paul describes Epaphroditus as a ‘brother, fellow-worker and fellow-soldier’ (v.25). Epaphroditus had been prepared to ‘risk his life’ for the sake of his friend Paul (v.30). This expression is actually more literally translated as ‘gambling his life.’
In the early church there were societies of men and women who called themselves ‘the gamblers’, who ministered to the sick and those in prison. Cyprian, a bishop of Carthage, showed remarkable courage during the plague. Whereas the heathens fled the sick and the dead, Cyprian and other Christians buried the dead, nursed the sick and saved the city at the risk of their own lives.
Epaphroditus gambled his life by associating himself with Paul, who was in prison on a capital charge, thereby risking the same charge as Paul. Epaphroditus showed reckless courage on behalf of Paul. He too was a ‘blessing machine’.
Very timely and well worth a read! I have just given a snippet here, but do go to http://acs.alpha.org/bioy/commentary/278 for the full devotional.