If you walk into a book store today and you will find row upon row of books written by Management gurus spouting mantras of how to be at the top of the ladder, how to better yourself, how to look good in the eyes of the boss, how to get noticed, how not to hold yourself back but assert yourself and on and on and on. It’s all about winning, how not to be a failure etc, etc. The pressures to conform are very real. Many have shared of how they do all the hard work and the lazy but cunning guy shoots ahead because he has mastered the art of self promotion and assertion. Then one wonders whether walking the straight and narrow helps? Have you felt this way?
I find it very helpful to get my bearings, to align my heart against the Plumb line of the Word of God. Why? I do this because I am utterly convinced that the only enduring, flawless, timeless and dependable wisdom is found in the Bible alone. It has stood the test of time. The Word of God perfect- It instructs me that God is sovereign in full knowledge of how my life will unfold. It also instructs me that this world and all that it offers is temporary and passing. So with this in mind I carry on my quiet meditation and pen my thoughts on the following passage below.
Phil 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Verse 3: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. This is such an area of temptation. I need to keep a guard over my heart and motives knowing the heart is deceitful above all else. Every now and then it’s good to take a pit stop and take stock of what is going on in the boiler room of the heart. If I don’t, busyness gets me or the “success” of what I am involved in can cloud/dull and even blind me to what’s going on, on the inside. Jesus was always interested in what goes on in our hearts. Everything will be tested by fire (1Cor3:12-15). So I would be wise to stop in my tracks every now and them and do a heart check up – allowing the Holy Spirit to shed His light, wash and clean me – which He does with much grace and love.
Selfish ambition- Doing things that promote self interest, self glory. Doing things that get me recognition, for my glory, promotion and elevation in the eyes of men. Often this would involved putting others down, even subtly, ignoring others peoples gifts and talents so that only “I” get noticed. The object with which I conduct myself is that “I” increase and that “I” get glory . This is nothing but “I-dolatry”.
Vain conceit- The dictionary tells me the synonyms of conceit are, egoism, egotism, narcissism, vanity . The dictionary tells me vanity is being inordinately proud of one's appearance, possessions, or achievements, given to ostentatious display, especially of one's beauty, worthless, senseless or futile. It is the very opposite of humility. It’s thinking that only I can do the job well. What is the fall out of this? We don’t train others to do our job. We think we are indispensible. We get very critical and condemning of other peoples efforts. We don’t delegate. We are unable to encourage and appreciate the baby steps others take to grow their gifts. It also shows a lack of humility to realize that all our gifts and talents are “Grace Gifts” that we don’t deserve in the first place. We owe it all to God and need to hold these things lightly.
V3b- Rather, in humility value others above yourselves – This gives me the antidote to the first half of the verse. How do I cure myself of this malady of selfish ambition? By practising the very opposite.
Firstly, being humble- how does humility express itself? In this case – considering others better than yourself and not looking out tomy own interests. How does this work out?
Others better than your self- this will put the breaks on self exalting thought patterns that constantly assail our minds. It will nudge us to look for ways to appreciate others. It will nudge us to release others, give others a chance to use their gifts.
Verse4: 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Look not only to your own interest but also the interest of others. This strikes a death blow to self ambition. When we put others betterment before our own – we cannot exalt ourselves. We can only do one or the others. If we all had this attitude – it would breed so much growth for everyone .(including yourself because someone else will be looking out to your interests well) It will breed an atmosphere of acceptance, grace and security. It will breed an atmosphere of encouragement and appreciation and an atmosphere of wanting to mentor others so that they progress and get on in their walk with God and all that God has called them to with no strings attached.
It will mean that sometimes we have to let go of our lofty ideals/standards for the sake of unity, for the sake of brotherhood and oneness in Spirit ( without compromising your principles). But when you look at the big picture, when you look from Eternity’s perspective it won’t seem that ideal at all.
Verse 5-11. Gives us the grand key and perspective to everything. The way down is the way up. As you lower yourself to the point of nothingness, God comes bursting in and does the very thing you sought after but in a wrong way. Jesus was offered power, and fame when tempted in the dessert. But he overcame selfish ambition and lowered himself to serve the interest of His Father in heaven thus serving us sinful men. The end result it not only glorious exaltation to the highest place but He has been given the highest Name – the name above every other. Satan would like to deceive us into thinking we need to do this for ourselves – how wrong!!! When we leave things in the hands of a sovereign God – He works out things for our best, ALWAYS.
When life rattles me, this is one of the passages of scripture I take refuge in and find great solace, comfort and assurance. I leave you with these thoughts – may you know rest in knowing His way- aligning your heart to the plumb line of this scripture.