By James Metsger
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:1-2)
I learned at an early age that sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. I believed that juvenile statement . . . until someone actually called me a name. My hurt feelings testified to the fact that I had swallowed a lie. Names can hurt us. Names do hurt us. Names can pierce our hearts and become a repetitive chorus we play in our minds. But names can also help us. Someone at church greets me as his “fearless leader,” and though I’d never put those words together to describe myself, I’m starting to hope he sees something in me that I don’t. The right name can be a sweet melody offering comfort and courage.
In his greeting to the Philippian church, Paul uses a surprising name to describe himself and his buddy Timothy: Servant. There are not a lot of people who would willingly or joyfully take that name, but Paul often referred to himself this way. The Greek word for servant is doulos which is where we get our English word “doula.” A doula serves a mother before, during, and after pregnancy. She is at the mother’s service.
Paul writes to the church in Philippi and says, “We are at the service of Christ Jesus.”
A servant who focuses too much on self will fail miserably at serving. In college, I was a server at Applebee’s. One of my goals was to make sure my guests had a great experience. If my focus had been myself, I would’ve bellied up to the bar with a Coke and watched football in between orders. But, instead, I spent my time and energy greeting my guests promptly, asking how they were doing, getting their drinks and making sure their meals came out just right. I put their needs before my desires. In the same way, the Christian’s focus must not be on self, but on the Savior. We are his servants. We don’t serve him because he lacks or stands in need of anything. We serve him because we delight in him.
Not only are we servants of our Savior, but we are also saints. Believe it or not, you’re a saint—a holy one! Do you feel like one? I know, it probably depends on the day! I have “saintly” moments, but I tend to sit and sulk about my sinner-self more than I do my saint-self. That’s unfortunate. Paul often writes to the churches to remind them of who they already are in Christ—servants given the status of saints because of Christ’s righteousness transferred to them through his sacrifice. He reminds them of this before challenging them to consider that their way of life isn’t very saintly. But this is the beauty of the work of God in us. Christ turns sinners into saints. This is true positionally, but it’s also true in our posture toward God in the world. You are a saint, and this is not because of your good deeds or your humble demeanor but because Christ took on the form of a servant, humbled himself on the cross, and granted you the sainthood that was rightly his. Let that sink in.
The servants are writing to the saints. What’s the message they bring? Grace and peace to you. Now there are two gifts we all stand in need of today! Grace. Unmerited favor. A gift. Not a meet-me-half-way helping, but a one-sided special delivery. Grace and peace. Peace. Shalom. Wellness. Wholeness. Peace is not the same thing as harmony which only requires the absence of fighting. That’s not the kind of peace Paul is sending. It’s not what God offers to us either. This peace is wellness or wholeness. We have peace with God because of the grace of God. As servants who deserve nothing, we need God’s grace and, as saints richly blessed by grace, we receive God’s peace. We are reconciled to God and thus with one another.
With these two names singing in our hearts, from one servant to another, fellow saints, may God’s grace and peace be yours.
Get a piece of paper. Better yet, grab your phone.
Go into your notes and write, “I am…” Write or type 3 words that God uses to describe you. Find Bible verses which tell you this.
Now open your email. Think about a friend. Send them a note and say, “You are…” and give them 3 life giving words.