Philippians 2:1-11 is one of my favorite and least favorite passages. It is one of my favorites because it is challenging and applicable to almost any circumstance. It is one of my least favorites because it is challenging and applicable to almost any circumstance.
I don’t always want to consider others better than myself and yet I know if I did things would go much more smoothly and I would have the character and attitude formed in me that God desires.
In order to have its full effect, Philippians 2 must be read in its context. Paul didn’t write chapter numbers. They are there to get us “on the same page.” Paul wrote letters that are usually advancing very few points and making a concerted effort to convince his readers of something specific. Philippians 1 ends on a note that there are seriously difficult times ahead both for Paul and for the Philippians. They are going to suffer. They are going to be opposed. They are going to faced possibly even with death just as Paul understands death is a very real possibility on his way to meet Nero.
How do you live understanding that trouble is ahead? You live worthy of the gospel (1:27).
You live and strive side by side with your fellow sufferers (1:27).
You ignore intimidation from those who oppose you (1:28).
We count our suffering not as a burden but as a “privilege” that is “graciously granted” (1:29).
If that isn’t enough to get you through, Philippians 2 continues on the same point that we follow the example of Jesus on this one who was God but emptied himself and as D.A. Carson said became a “nobody” so that God would exalt him above everybody.
How do you deal with suffering? You live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ and that is going to require us to consider others better than ourselves, to toss aside vain conceit…to embrace the attitude of Jesus and to allow God to be the one to fill us in the empty space left behind from when we dumped out all the garbage that stood between us and the Lord.
Philippians 2 isn’t about getting along with others. It isn’t about playing nice on the playground of church. It is about living obediently through suffering just as Jesus did, who was able to set aside his rights and privileges of his divinity in order to be obedient to his Father. If he can do who are we to think we are any better than him?