Philippians 1:12-18 (MSG)
I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else too, found out that I'm in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they've learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the Christians here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah. It's true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they'll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I'm out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better-they think-for them. So how am I to respond? I've decided that I really don't care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!
A young man was sent to Spain by his company to work in a new plant. He accepted because it would enable him to earn enough to marry his long-time girlfriend. Their plan was to pool their resources and put a down payment on a house when he returned. As the lonely weeks went by, she began expressing doubts that he was being true to her. After all, Spain is populated with beautiful women. The young man declared that he was not paying any attention to the local girls. “I admit,” he wrote, “that sometimes I’m tempted. But I fight it. I’m keeping myself for you.”
In the next mail, the young man received a package. It contained a note and a harmonica. “I’m sending this to you,” his girlfriend wrote, “so you can have something to take your mind off those girls.” The young man wrote back that he was practicing on the harmonica every night and thinking only of her.
When the young man returned home to the states, his girl was waiting at the airport. As he rushed forward to embrace her, she held up a restraining hand and said sternly, “Hold on there. First I want to hear you play that harmonica!”
Sometimes it is hard for us to believe in our hearts what other have confessed with their lips. It’s hard to believe what we have read and heard. Every Sunday I'm confronted with this reality. I have the Word and I have the words. On a shelf, just above my head, there are four Bibles of different shapes, sizes, and translations. I have an office full of resources and 36 years of experience and, yet, I am aware of my limitations. I often struggle with the proper interpretation and I still doubt myself at times.
I confess that every day I come to God (the source of all that is) with an empty cup knowing that I must believe at least 100 things before breakfast. It's called faith. I go through every day of my life, and you do also, believing that God is making the journey with us. God is in the good and bad. God laughs and weeps with us. God will save us from all of our sins and transgressions. Like you, I confess with my lips . . . "Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead and that by that confession I will be saved . . . " I don't know how God is able to do that for each one of us. I just know that God's great power and grace makes a difference in the way I live my life. It makes a difference in your life!
The longer I'm in pastoral ministry the more I become aware of the fact that I am limited in my abilities, especially when it comes to sharing God's divine mystery. As D.T. Niles once said, "I'm just a beggar willing to tell another beggar where I found bread." And Paul reminds us that “Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!” Go and spread the Word and know that you are being cheered on. Think about it.
Romans 10:9, NRSV.