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Philippians 1:311 comment (0)

May 18, 2006

By Ron Wilson

Related Scripture: Philippians 1:311

Family Bible Study
University Relations, Samford University; Southwestern Seminary graduate

Lydia: Willing Service
Acts 16:11–15, 40; Philippians 1:3–11

What role does ambition play in the Christian life? Can a Christian aspire to be a captain of industry, the coach of a national championship team or even the president of the United States? These are questions that may pose some struggle for the average Christian who sees the Christian life as one in which a believer lives a lowly life. How can a true believer ever lift his or her head to be ambitious for such high office or success? When Jimmy Carter was president of the United States, he gave us a clue to answer these questions. 

It is the tradition that the president upon taking office makes a visit to each department of government to meet the people working in those departments and to challenge them with his vision for their years of service while he leads our country. It is reported that when President Carter came to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, he challenged this governmental department to use its every effort to impact positively the lives of the American people.

Carter rightly believed that through issues of health, education and welfare every person in America, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, of any race would at one time or another be touched and positively impacted by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Carter asked these people to serve the needs of the people of America through their work. The key to lofty aspiration is to see that any position of leadership is also one of service. 

Is it not interesting that when Jesus was asked who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God, on numerous occasions, He said that the greatest in God’s Kingdom would be the one who was the servant to all the rest (Matt. 20:26–27, 23:11; Mark 9:35, 10:43)?  Jesus even went so far as to connect a life of service to the sacrifice that brought salvation to the world (Mark 10:45).

While every believer cannot be a pastor, minister of music or education, director of the Sunday School program or a deacon of the church, every Christian can be a servant of the Lord. A servant is the one role and calling that every Christian can and should aspire to be and to fulfill.

When the apostle Paul is obedient to the vision of the Macedonian man who calls him over to Macedonia to help the people living there, he met a group of ladies praying by the riverside, and from this small group, he planted a church in Philippi. The story in Acts 16 tells us of one of the members of that little band of believers. Lydia was a “seller of purple fabrics” (Acts 16:14), and she opened her home in hospitality to Paul when he was released from a Roman jail (Acts 16:40). These references to selling purple fabrics and a gathering of Paul with the brothers at Lydia’s home suggest that she was a person of some wealth and means. It also suggests that she placed her assets at the service of the Christian community in Philippi.

Paul opened his letter to the Philippian church by celebrating the fact that when he remembers their congregation, he gives thanks to God for them and he prays with joy because of their “participation in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3–5).  Lydia may have set the pace of this service of support and fellowship of Paul’s ministry as God’s work took root and spread in Europe. 

In today’s local church, Christians can find the joy of service by making gifts of money to the cause of Christ, but they also can go a step further and volunteer to serve on a missions trip to see and experience firsthand the work of God in other places in the world.

One can serve as a worker in the youth group of a church and seek to influence young lives toward faith in Christ. How often in the stories of a local congregation does one hear of a Sunday School teacher who has given decades of service teaching one class? What about that greeter at the church door who lifts the spirits of God’s people every Sunday? Many Christians find their joy of service in making quiet visits to people in the hospital or cloistered away in their home. There are so many ways to serve the Lord. The key to joy in the Christian life is to find a place of service and to serve faithfully the cause of Christ in this world.

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