Paul writes to the Christians at Philippi to reassure them of his own well-being and to thank them for the gift they have sent to him. It appears that the congregation at Philippi experiences a minor bit of disunity—a matter Paul never names. To inspire their confidence, he exhorts them to “live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” He puts forward a vigorous spiritual training program for discipleship:
• standing firm in one spirit;
• striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the
• not being intimidated by opponents;
• believing in Christ and suffering with Christ.
This constitutes Paul’s call to faithful discipleship. Before our calling as disciples of Christ, we understood ourselves as forgiven sinners who have “escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers” (Ps. 124:7). Out of our thankful hearts for the justifying grace of the Spirit, we dedicate ourselves to live the new life in Christ. Dedicated Christians grow spiritually through the teaching and example of Jesus. And the Spirit of Christ in us continually sanctifies us through the spiritual disciplines. This process may sometimes involve harsh and painful trials in life; Paul has no greater desire than to suffer for Christ, and he sets them an example.
As disciples growing in the Spirit, we readily open our hands and hearts to the Lord in discipleship. We stand firm against domination and enslavement. We no longer love things and use people. We reach out to people in need with compassionate love. May we strive to “live [our lives] in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Righteous God, thank you for the story of Paul’s example of faithful discipleship. We praise you for being the transforming God who woos us to radical trust and joyful obedience. Amen.
The reading from Exodus 16 concerns Israel’s primary memory of food given in the wilderness, given where there are no visible sources of life, given in the face of restless protest, given wondrously and saving Israel from both hunger and despair. The verses from Psalm 105 recall the marvel of God’s grace during the wilderness years and the people’s joyful response. In the Philippians text Paul wrestles with the question of God’s will with respect to his own leadership. Paul not only explains the meaning of his incarceration but goes beyond that to explain the meaning of his life: “Living is Christ and dying is gain.” Matthew 20 reminds the reader that in the kingdom of heaven God’s mercy is often surprising, even offensive. People are valued not because of their economic productivity but because God loves and engages them.
• Read Exodus 16:2-15. What experiences have strengthened your trust in God?
• Read Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45. Spend a moment recounting God’s faithfulness to you in the past. Does recalling those times encourage your obedience to God today?
• Read Philippians 1:21-30. Paul acknowledges the importance of his physical presence to the Philippians. Whose physical presence makes a difference in your life?
• Read Matthew 20:1-16. What situations in your life make you question God’s fairness? When have you been envious because of God’s blessing of another?
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