Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil 2:3-4

It was the last major test of my son’s basic training in the Marine Corps. He had to complete grueling twelve mile trek with an eighty pound bag on his back. It began early in the morning and would last most of the day. There was one brief stop along the way for water. It was a torturous challenge to the young recruits, demanding all the persevering discipline they could muster. If they didn’t make it, they were out.

At one point in the walk, my son was almost pushed over from behind. He continued to feel an increase of pressure and weight upon his back. When they reached their break point, Chad turned to the recruit behind him and asked him if he was pushing him. The exhausted young man, said, “Hey, I cannot make it unless you let me rest upon you.” Chad responded, “OK, but let me know when you are coming.”

It occurred to me that as soldiers in the army of God, we are in a similar situation. Our trek is long and exhausting and it tests us to the limits of our abilities. The battle we fight at times seems almost too hard for us to make it. But, in those stressful times, God gives us brothers and sisters who love us and care for us. They are there for us to lean upon.  

That is the kind of thing Paul is writing about here. In the opening chapter of Philippians, he spoke of the power of God to defeat the enemies that stood outside the church. Now he is dealing with the enemies that lurk within the church. Division and self-focus will kill life in the Body. We have been inducted into the army of God as individuals, but we, by the work of the Spirit, are bound together as one team. All combatants soon discover that the success of the mission depends upon their learning to battle as a band of brothers.  Their very lives depend upon it.

Our motivation comes from knowing that we are a part of something far bigger and wonderful than our puny selves. For the Marines it is being a member of the “few, the proud, the Marines,” “the greatest fighting force in the world.” As Christians, we are a part of an army whose calling is far more glorious and grand.  We have been delivered from the dominion of darkness and have been inducted into the glorious kingdom of God’s Son. All of the blessings of God are ours in Christ. Our past is pure; our future is sure; our present is secure.  We have everything we need to fight and win the battle he has called us to. Glory, honor and reward await God’s faithful soldiers.

That is what Paul is arguing in Philippians 2:1, when he writes, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” In Christ we have been given everything essential to living a life filled with joy and victory. As members of God’s family we have no reason to fear for ourselves and every reason to fight for the welfare of our brothers.

Paul tells us that we are to do nothing that is designed to cause dissention or promotion of the self.  Wow! How convicting is that? Because everything we have that is good comes to us by grace; because we are all members of God’s eternal family; because we have been given everything we need; we are to do nothing that is motivated by self-promotion and that aims at causing division. Nothing!

Paul reminds us that the attitude that should guide our service is humility. Paul says it like this in Ephesians 4:1-3; “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” In the light of all we have received, we are to live a “worthy life” which is built on a foundation of humility.

Humility is the one thing that as soon as you think you have it you have lost it. In fact, it is most likely to be present when it is not even noticed. It is the forgetting of the self. Perhaps the best description of humility outside the Bible is Andrew Murray’s:

Humility is quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble. The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself, he simply does not think of himself at all.

Humility is just plain honesty. It is acknowledgement that everything we have is a gift. Paul asks this: “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” [1 Cor. 4:7] With that truth embedded in our souls, we are freed from envy and jealously. Instead, we can use position and gifts to lift others up.

When Paul writes for you to consider or treat others as better than yourself, he does not mean they are better. He is simply commanding us to treat them as if they are. By the grace of God you have been freed from promoting yourself. You know what you are. A sinner saved by grace. That is honesty. All has been given to us so that we can spend our lives in service to our Lord and His commands. We are all brothers in battle and all have been given the honor of helping one another in the battle for Truth. 

One of the requirements of a Marine is to carry a body on his back for a certain predetermined distance. Why is that? That is what they do in battle. When someone is wounded, they never leave him behind. A fellow brother will pick them up, in the face of enemy fire if need be, and make sure that their comrade in arms reaches safety. That is what brothers do in battle.

On June 18, 1956, a freak accident happened on a lake in New York. A speeding motorboat bounced on a wave and shot into the water two of its passengers, a 50-year old man and a young lady. To keep the girl from drowning, the man held the lady’s head above water while the boat circled back to pick them up. They rescued the girl, but the man sank and drowned.

That man was Dawson Trotman. Dawson, or Daws as he was known to his friends, was the founder of the Navigators, an international Christian discipleship ministry. At the time of his death, Time Magazine wrote this: “Dawson lived to save others. His death was just the way he would have planned it.” His obituary read, “Dawson Trotman, always lifting someone up.”

I see that kind of living whenever I visit my missionary friends in Africa. They could stay safe and secure in the USA. They could have remained and pursued the “American Dream.” But, they were given a far grander dream. Their focus is no longer on themselves. In Jesus Christ they have found a deep and profound satisfaction. They have left all for the joy of lifting others up. They want the people of Malawi to know this God who never moves, who stands like a granite Rock, who says to his weary soldiers, “Lean on me.” May the Lord Jesus Christ grant you the faith to forget about yourself so that struggling soldiers may lean on you and complete the course Christ has set before them.