We all have a natural tendency to dwell on the things we don’t have – the things we wish were better or different. This past week, have you thought more about what you do have or what you don’t have? When we dwell on what we don’t have, it makes us feel down, sad, lonely, and weak. But what is here in Philippians 2:1-2 is a warm reminder of what we do have. In Christ, we have quite a lot.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Phil. 2:1-2)
Encouragement in Christ
The first thing we can count being ours is: there is encouragement in Christ. We often think about our lives and compare them with those of other people. And it discourages us most of the time, because we’re thinking in the wrong category. Instead, our category of thought should be in the fact that God loves us unconditionally and gives us everything we need.
Now you might be thinking, “You don’t know how bad my situation is.” Maybe that’s true, but everyone has struggles. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter to the Philippians. The thing is, even when you’ve got everything you want and every issue is solved, there is always another one coming right behind it. But God uses this to push us toward what we have in Christ: forgiveness, eternal purpose and calling, unconditional love, and the righteousness of Jesus.
Be encouraged. You are in Christ, and what you have in Him will never run out.
Comfort from Love
God is love. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is a perfectly encapsulated relationship of love within Himself. They love, glorify, and submit to one another within God Himself. Through Jesus Christ, God has opened a portal for this love to pour down on us. The relationship the Son has enjoyed with the Father from all eternity we have been welcomed into to enjoy as well.
You are loved. Whatever you have going on in your life, whatever you may have done, you need to know that there is no condemnation in Christ – just love. You may have failures or weaknesses, but you are loved.
Now, so drenched and filled with God’s love, we are brought together in groups (called churches) where we are intertwined and told to love each other the same way. The love that God has poured out on us we are to pour out on others. We are all different, with different personalities, different gifts, coming from different situations, but we are all fed by a main pipeline of unconditional, merciful, gracious love – and it’s to be pouring out of us all the time.
There is comfort in this enjoyment of God’s love together. It can be found nowhere else. And there is also comfort from the love of other Christians, in knowing that someone else genuinely cares about you and can help carry your burdens.
Participation in the Spirit
We have close, personal connection and involvement in the Holy Spirit together. If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit, the divine power of God, within you. How often do we forget that? How often do we live as if that weren’t true?
We are able to receive and live in Christ because we have the Holy Spirit. We are able to receive God’s love and transmit it because we have the Holy Spirit.
Affection and Sympathy
The words affection and sympathy share the same idea of caring deeply for others. Because we are encouraged in Christ, comforted from God’s love, and participating in the Spirit, we are free to feel deeply not just about ourselves, but about other people. We are freed to let go of our own baggage and feel deeply for someone else.
We all need this affection and sympathy, and Paul says we have it. We have it from God through Jesus Christ, and we have it from fellow Christians.
Think about people in your life. What might they be going through? What might they be feeling right now? What are some needs in their life? What are some of their desires? In Jesus Christ, you are free to think this way about others. Your natural instinct is to think like this only about yourself, but you are now free to think the way Jesus thinks, doing “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count[ing] others more significant than yourselves” and looking not only to your “own interests, but also to the interests of others” (vv. 2-4). This is how we are to live as Christians.
Discussion Starters (based on Philippians 2:1-2)
- How do we tend to think about our own situations?
- What are the outcomes of this kind of thinking?
- What encouragement do we have in Christ?
- In Christ, what are some things we know to be true for us?
- How do we find comfort from love?
- What is the purpose of God’s love being lavished on us?
- Why does it matter that we are participants in the Holy Spirit?
- Think about the people in your own life.
- What might they be going through right now?
- What are some of their needs?
- What are some of their desires?
- How can you show affection and sympathy toward them?
- If we as individuals lived out what verses 2-4 say, what would change?
- If Dulin’s Grove Church lived out what verses 2-4 say, what would change?