Oct 16, 2014
Looking Forward to Pizza
Imagine that you are driving to your church small group. It always starts with a potluck, and you are bringing your favorite pizza.
You’re smelling the melted cheese. The garlic. The sizzling Italian sausage. You can’t wait to enjoy that tasty scrumptiousness.
When you arrive you notice that others brought tuna casserole, chicken salad, enchiladas, and fried chicken. Not bad. But nothing compares to pizza.
Then someone thanks the Lord, and the food is passed around.
But when the pizza box gets to you — it’s empty.
The pizza is all gone. Someone took the last piece. And you are fuming. Angry. Bitter.
How Can You Love?
Then you remember Sunday’s sermon from Philippians 2 where Paul calls us to love each other –
… complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:2)
And you realize — at that moment you are not loving those sitting around the table.
So what can you do? How can you love others when you don’t feel like it?
Paul Tells Us
In verses 2-4 of Philippians 2 Paul calls us to love our fellow believers. But Paul knows there are times when that’s not easy.
So Paul does not just tell us to love each other. He also tells us how, in v.1 —
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…
In the original language of the New Testament the word “if” can mean “because” (Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, p.64).
So Paul is saying that the reason we can love is because there is encouragement in Christ, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit, and affection and sympathy.
Here is what I think each of these phrases means –
- “Encouragement in Christ” means our hearts can be encouraged with all that we have in Christ.
- “Comfort from love” probably means our hearts can be comforted when we see Christ’s love for us.
- “Participation in the Spirit” means experiencing the Spirit’s work of helping us see and feel Christ’s glory. That will fill our hearts, and unite us with others who love his glory.
- “Affection and sympathy” refers to the affection and sympathy God has for us in Christ.
So what is Paul’s point in mentioning these?
What Is Already Ours?
Some think Paul is describing what is already ours in Christ. So Paul would be saying that since you already have encouragement and comfort in Christ, you should start loving each other.
But the problem is that I often don’t have a sense of encouragement and comfort in Christ, because of my sin and unbelief.
So I agree with others who think Paul is describing what is available to us in Christ. It’s not that we already have comfort and encouragement in Christ, but that by fighting the fight of faith we can experience comfort and encouragement in Christ.
And when we do, Christ will give us such comfort and encouragement that we will be filled with love for others.
But how does this really work? What can we do when we are angry over an empty pizza box?
What Paul Calls Us to Do
Paul would say our anger and lack of love shows that we are seeking our comfort and encouragement not in Christ, but in pizza.
So what can we do? We must start with verse 1, and turn our hearts back to Christ until we once again receive comfort and encouragement in him.
So while you are sitting at the table, you silently confess to the Lord that you have been seeking your comfort in pizza, and not in him.
Then you ask the Father to change your heart through the word. And you set your mind on verses that describe Christ, like Galatians 2:20 (“who loved me and gave himself up for me”), or John 6:35 (“I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger”), or John 1:14 (“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”).
As you do this, your heart will change.
You will feel Christ’s encouragement and comfort filling your heart.
You will see that Christ’s love, forgiveness, and promises are far more satisfying than pizza.
As a result, you will gladly join everyone at the table in celebrating all you have in Christ.
And you will be so satisfied you will even enjoy the tuna casserole.
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(Picture is by miskan and found at compfight.com.)