Christian Education: Giving of Oneself

Giving of Oneself (Philippians 2:1-11)

The story of Dick and Rick Hoyt captured my heart. Rick has been a quadriplegic since birth. One day he asked his father, Dick, to help him participate in a 5-kilometer benefit race for an injured friend. Dick, a self-proclaimed “porker,” tried to put him off, but Rick was insistent. Finally, Dick relented.

They barely finished. Dick was exhausted from pushing his son in a wheelchair the whole distance. Rick, on the other hand, was elated. “When we were racing,” he said, “I felt normal. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel disabled.”

That comment spurred Dick to participate with his son in more races of ever-increasing distance. They have now competed in dozens of marathons, even the Iron Man Triathlon in Hawaii. Whenever I see footage of Dick swimming while pulling his son through the water in a raft, I get choked up, moved by the sacrificial love of a father who would do anything to help his son experience wholeness.

I suppose it touches me so deeply because that’s my story too. I have a God in Heaven who loves me so much he was willing to do anything to restore my brokenness, even allow his own Son to suffer on my behalf. And to the Son’s credit, he did so willingly.

Jesus refused to hide behind his divinity, swapping the splendor of Heaven for a suit of flesh. He walked among us, not as a wealthy, privileged aristocrat, but as a servant of all. He offered himself, even to the point of dying on a cross, so we might have the opportunity to be whole.

Our Motivation (Philippians 2:1, 2)
This passage reminds us why we are to emulate Christ. There are so many things we have received in him.

We have received encouragement. We don’t have to walk around defeated and afraid; through Christ we can walk with confidence. When hard times come, we have his love to comfort us. We are free from constantly trying to prove ourselves. We can simply rest in his presence.

We also have fellowship with the Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in us (Romans 8:11), giving us the power to live a life beyond explanation.

Finally, we have been shown great tenderness and compassion. We were once abused by a wicked master, but Jesus came with tenderness, gently calling us to himself.

Our Method (Philippians 2:3, 4)
Paul offers a series of if-then statements to help us understand how these blessings should change us. If you have received encouragement from being united with Christ, then be like-minded. If you have experienced the love of God, then share that love. If you have fellowship with the Spirit, then let the Spirit lead you into service. If you have been given tenderness and compassion, then be tender toward others. The way to do all these things is not by living according to our own selfish ambitions, but by looking out for the needs of others.

Our Model (Philippians 2:5-11)
After Hurricane Andrew, I twice took a group of students to Florida to rebuild houses. The first year we arrived to find only a slab of concrete and ended up building an entire house.

So the next year, I got the students all pumped up about building. In my enthusiasm, I even bought a shiny new hammer. I was raring to build. Upon arrival, we gathered for orientation, waiting eagerly as the jobs were assigned. I felt confident we would have a significant role.

Sure enough, the leader said he had a special job for us. Evidently the year before someone had applied paint lacking mildewcide, so all the houses were now covered in mold. Our job was to scrub mold from these houses so they could be repainted.

After three days of mold abatement, my attitude had gone from bad to worse. My new hammer, collecting dust in the van, had been replaced by a scrub brush. I had no calluses to show for my work, only bleached white hands. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the site leader approaching me and I was about to tell him what I thought of this assignment. But he spoke first, asking me to lead devotions the next morning. Fortunately, I didn’t say what I wanted to say.

That night God directed me to this passage in Philippians, and I began to read about our example in Christ. It wasn’t long before I was convicted of my negative, self-serving attitude. God showed me that serving was not about doing what I wanted to do, but about doing what needed to be done. If Jesus could be obedient unto death, even death on a cross, then I could scrub mold for a week. It ended up being one of the greatest spiritual experiences of my life.

Our Mission (Philippians 2:12-18)
God calls each of us to work out this teaching in our own lives. Healthy tension exists between our efforts to obey, and the power of God working within us enabling us to obey. As he seeks to change us from the inside, we are called to live for him on the outside; serving others without complaining or arguing, generously holding out the word of life, and resting in the confidence that our heavenly Father will one day carry us across the finish line.


*All Scripture references are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.

Aug. 2: Matthew 20:20-28
Aug. 3: Acts 23:12-24
Aug. 4: Hebrews 13:12-18
Aug. 5: Romans 12:1, 2
Aug. 6: Philippians 2:14-18
Aug. 7: Philippians 2:19-30
Aug. 8: Philippian

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