One Saturday afternoon, some youth group members from my church gathered to ask one another some hard questions based on Philippians 2:3–4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Some of the difficult queries included: How often do you take an interest in others? Would someone describe you as humble or proud? Why?
As I listened, I was encouraged by their honest answers. The teenagers agreed that it’s easy to acknowledge our shortcomings, but it’s hard to change, or—for that matter—desire to change. As one teen lamented, “Selfishness is in my blood.”
The desire to let go of our focus on self to serve others is only possible through Jesus’s Spirit living in us. That’s why Paul reminded the Philippian church to reflect on what God had done and made possible for them. He had graciously adopted them, comforted them with His love, and given His Spirit to help them (Philippians 2:1–2). How could they—and we—respond to such grace with anything less than humility?
Yes, God is the reason for us to change, and only He can change us. Because He gives us “the desire and power to do what pleases him” (v.13
In what ways has God helped you turn from selfishness and be more willing to serve others? How does Jesus’s humility inspire you to humbly serve?
The challenges Paul presents to the believers at Philippi are perfectly expressed in the example of Christ’s incarnation. Paul warns them against the dangers of rivalry or conceit (vv. 1–4), but in verse 6 Jesus is described as willingly releasing His right to position and place. They’re challenged to put others first (v. 3), while Jesus perfectly modeled true humility by making Himself nothing (v. 7). The Philippians are encouraged not to put their own interests first (v. 4), and Jesus became the perfect servant for our sake (v. 7). They’re called to remember that Jesus did this so completely that He became “obedient to death—even death on the cross!” (v. 8). His sacrifice on our behalf is also our greatest example on how to live.
For more on this important Bible text, read The Mind of Christ: Experiencing the Joy of the Christlike Difference at discoveryseries.org/q0209.