Big Idea: Rejoice in God’s work.
One of the ugliest sides of churches is competition. Leaders and members alike can begin to think in terms of territory or rankings. We try to justify it (a recent thread on Church Answers Central asked why many leaders are so critical of churches that are more numerically successful than their own). But the ugly truth is that our ego means that we are more concerned with our glory than God’s. Consider how Paul must have felt: he was imprisoned while others preached the gospel out of pure selfishness, thinking that their apparent success, while he was imprisoned, would worsen his suffering.
They misjudged the apostle by assuming that he was like them, primarily motivated by personal esteem and the size of their following. Paul explains it in Philippians 1:18 when he says: “Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.” If Christ is magnified, whether it brings Paul personally honor or shame, pain or pleasure, he can rejoice. If the gospel is changing lives, if people are being saved, and if the grace of Jesus is being proclaimed, then that is a reason for celebration.
Imagine how different the relationship between churches and Christian leaders would look if we took that same attitude. We would pray for one another unabashedly and celebrate the victories at the church down the road as if they were our own. Charles Edward Montague was right when he said, “There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it.” I think that we cheat ourselves out of much of the joy that we could have because we don’t take advantage of the opportunity to rejoice in the pleasure of others.
Discussion Idea: Why is it so tempting for us to see God’s work as a contest? How can we actively resist that?
Prayer Focus: Ask God for the humility to rejoice in the things others do for Him.