I’ve just been away on a church event called The Annual Student Conference (or TASC), where we take lots of our students away to a place called the Frontier Centre near Wellingborough in Northamptonshire. The title this year was “United We Stand”, taking a look through the book of Philippians (amongst many, many other things). This was especially handy for me, since I’m about to preach on Philippians 2 in a couple of weeks time!
Charlie Skrine helped us to see the link between ambition and insecurity: if our identity is found in what we do and in what people think of what we do, then we’re going to be reluctant to give those things up if putting other people first requires it. If my identity is in being the Curry Man who organises Bank Holiday trips to Brick Lane, then I’m going to fight hard to hang on to that role long past the point where it would be good to get somebody else to do it. If my identity is in having a cool job that makes people react a certain way when I introduce myself, then I’m going to fight hard to find jobs that are interesting rather than necessarily the job that will enable to serve Christ most effectively. If my identity is in being the Bible-teaching Computer Games guy, then I’m going to be jealous and hostile towards other Christian games developers I perceive as a threat to that identity. Our insecurities lead to ambitious rivalry.
Meet, then, the most secure man who ever lived,
“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
Jesus’ rock-solid security in being God himself enabled him to give up all pretences at ambition and become a weak, pathetic human baby, who grew up to be a weak, pathetic man hanging on a Roman cross – despised and rejected by men, written off as a lunatic or a blasphemer. If Jesus had stood on his rights for even a second – where would we be?
Because of this amazing humility on the part of Christ, the Christian’s identity is rock solid – we are children of God, those who have “encouragement in Christ, comfort from love, and participation in the Spirit” – so we have every reason to be some of the most secure people around. So are you willing to consider others’ needs above your own? Are you willing to consider others as more significant that yourself? Charlie’s rather penetrating examples included being willing to train somebody else until they become better than you and easily outshine you – being willing to let others have a chance even when you think you could do a better job, when the circumstances allows.
Where does your identity come from? Lord God – may you give us the mind of Christ!