The Risk You Must Take

Text: Philippians 2:1-30

“For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” —Philippians 2:21

As a child growing up in Maryland, I often emulated my favorite baseball players. In the basement of our townhome I would throw a tennis ball against the wall imagining I was a big league pitcher. I studied and learned the distinct batting stances of each player on the Baltimore Orioles lineup, imitating their swings in my grandmother’s backyard. I wanted to play the game well, so I modeled my practice after successful big leaguers.

In Philippians 2, Paul wants Christians to experience a deep, abiding, internal unity among one another. In order to have that type of “full accord” and oneness of mind, they must emulate the humility and mind of Christ.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Think about this for a minute. Who do you know that lives this way? What makes people want to count others more significant than themselves? In Paul’s estimation, it is having the “mind” of Christ—“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…”

Then the apostle gives us two big league examples of those who actually emulated Christ in this way, highlighting the very sacrificing nature of early church life. Their names were Timothy and Epaphroditus. Paul said of his mentee, Timothy, “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:20-21).

In addition to writing about Timothy’s “proven worth” as a servant of the gospel, he also points to Epaphroditus, as a “fellow soldier” who nearly died for the work of Christ, “risking his life to complete what was lacking” of others. The ancient Greek phrase “risking his life” uses a gambler’s word that meant to risk everything on the roll of the dice. For the sake of Jesus Christ, Epaphroditus was willing to gamble everything for the benefit of others.

In the days of the Early Church there was an association of men and women who called themselves the gamblers, taken from this same ancient Greek word used in risking his life. It was their aim to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases. Often, when a plague struck a city, the heathen threw the dead bodies into the streets and fled in terror. But the gamblers buried the dead and helped the sick the best they could, and so risked their lives to show the love of Jesus.

Imagine this kind of emulation of Christ in our communities today—people who risked everything in seeking the welfare, dignity, and interests of others. Imagine communities where people did not engage primarily to get something out of it for themselves, but to contribute something exceedingly beneficial to others. Imagine how emulating Christ’s humility could shape our esteem of one another. If I consider you above me and you consider me above you, then a marvelous thing happens: we have a community where everyone is looking up and no one is looked down on. Think about this as you seek to abide in Christ this week.

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, teach us how to emulate your humility, compassion, and sacrificial love for others. Help us to risk ourselves in ways that bring glory to You and good to others… that we may truly live, and become fully alive. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. Who is one of the most selfless people you have ever met? What do you think motivated that person?
  2. When have you risked something in your life for the sake of someone else? What might constitute a foolish risk versus a necessary risk?
  3. The text says that Christ emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. Why is that important for us to emulate? How does that touch on pride and humility?
  4. Why is it important that the church be “in full accord and of one mind”? What is at stake if we aren’t?
  5. Where do you need to apply the biblical examples of “seeking the interests of others” in your life this week?

Subscribe to “Abiding In Him” and get the latest devotional in your Inbox once a week.