One of my favorite of Paul’s epistles is Philippians. It was actually the first book I ever preached through, years ago, when I had started a worship service at a retirement village in my town. Whether or not my sermons fell on deaf ears (sometimes quite literally), just about all of them stepped on my toes. Like:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4 CSB
Warren Wiersbe once wrote about strong disagreements between George Whitefield and John Wesley. However, he noted how Whitefield was careful not to create problems in public that would hinder the preaching of the gospel.
When someone asked Whitefield if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven, Whitefield replied, “I fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and we at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him.”
If we want to lead like Jesus, we need to eat a little humble pie. Consider the words of Philippians 2:6-11, where we have a pattern to follow:
[Christ Jesus,] who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be exploited.
Instead he emptied himself
by assuming the form of a servant,
taking on the likeness of humanity.
And when he had come as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
For this reason God highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
and every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Could anything be more at odds with the modern thought that we should put ourselves first? This notion has so affected (or infected!) the church that Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) is twisted to say we must first learn to love ourselves before we can love our neighbors.
No! Instead, I encourage you to follow Paul’s simple formula:
That spells joy, and you cannot spell joy by putting yourself first, but you can find joy by putting others before yourself––in Christ.
It is easy to put yourself first. What you think, what you want to do (or do not want to do), but as Christians, we have a calling to look out for the interests of others, first and foremost, and that is one of the ways we can lead like Jesus:
As a servant.