By James Metsger
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:14-18)
There are a million things we can complain about right now. Life doesn’t look the way it once did. As I write this, the country faces a pandemic. Racial tensions are high. Protesting and violence plague our major cities. Churches are closed. And it’s an extra contentious election year! This is on top of all the regular challenges of life that come our way. That’s one messy soup! It may be natural to lament the times, but it’s not right to complain. Grumbling flows out of ingratitude. One of the ways Christians should stand out in the world is by having hearts of gratitude.
Paul stressed that we need a heart of gratitude and a good grip on the good news of the gospel. Or, as he said it, “Holding fast to the word of truth.” To the Colossians, he wrote to encourage them to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23). In the midst of chaos, gratitude and the gospel keep us anchored to Christ.
Why? Because in a world with competing perspectives, we must cling to what we know to be true. The gospel is true.
A friend recently told me, “You will either come out of this pandemic in the best shape of your life or the worst. There’s not going to be a lot in between.” I won’t tell you which way I’m leaning, but I’m using a picture from three years ago on the back of this book. His advice isn’t only true physically, but spiritually. Difficult times, uncertainty, and hardship can cause us to be in the best spiritual shape of our lives or the worst.
We can grow bitter when life doesn’t go our way. We have our plan, we work out our plan, and then, if things don’t go according to our plan, we are tempted to let go of what we know. Viewing the gospel through our ever-changing circumstances will present a distorted view of it.
So, Paul tells the church…hold fast the gospel. Without it, we run this life in vain. You see the connection between the gospel and a fruit-filled life when he tells them to hold fast to the word “so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (2:16). We know from Paul that he longed for the spiritual growth of the Philippians and that he prayed for fruitful ministry, but without the saving work of Christ in his own life, his labor would be in vain. In serving God’s people, teaching them, rejoicing with them, praying for them, he is building this picture of what it looks like to work out salvation and grow in godliness. Paul wants his life to count.
It is the gospel that compels us to be a people full of gratitude. Be full of gratitude, having nothing to do with grumbling or complaining. Don’t spend time arguing over minor matters. Rejoice! And hold fast to the gospel for it is the gospel that allows us to stand out as bright lights in a dark world (vv. 14-16).
Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:17-18)
Paul reminds the church that he is being poured out in service them. Ministry is costly. Serving others requires sacrifice. Despite the cost and sacrifice, it’s worth it. And it is met with great joy when see the faith of others.
As I serve God, is my attitude marked by gratitude or grumbling?