Pride and anger are just two facets of life that keep us from having the full joy of Christ. The beloved apostle Paul was writing to the church in Philippi when he encouraged them,
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Phil 2:3) This simple exhortation to the church reminds them to be humble in all areas of life. Oddly enough it really is that simple, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory…”
Let’s begin with a simple look at strife. Strife means to be angry or bitter over fundamental issues (Online Dictionary). The Scriptures state, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” (James 1:19) Paul and James both felt that to be unified with Christ, having the same mind, be of one accord, that if the Holy Spirit is to dwell, within you could not let your temper spiral out of control.
I know upon leaving the Army after nearly ten years of service that I had changed. I was calm and reserved at age seventeen when I first enlisted but after years of stress and military service, I had become a machine finely tuned for the intense life of combat. This, in turn, fueled my anger. I may have been calm when I enlisted but I was masking an anger issue that I could not suppress any longer.
The truth is my family had revealed the change to me. Shortly after leaving the service I surrendered to the call to pastoral ministry. A few things had to change; first my anger, and second I needed compassion. It wasn’t until I really began to study what makes a Christian so joyful that I discovered the wonderful works of Paul to the Philippian church. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory…
I was easily angered and the ministry was going to require some thick skin because let’s face it, this is a people business and people are a fallen creation. Here is the apostle Paul in a Roman prison chained to guards and writing one of the most joyful letters ever written. I needed to possess what the apostle possessed. After many hours of being on my badly worn out knees in prayer, God answered and His Spirit created within me a new heart.
Vainglory or pride in oneself combined with strife or anger is a deadly sin cocktail. It is interesting that the two are commonly referred to as being one with each other. They go hand in hand. However, if we Christians are to be joyful and to live a Spirit-filled life then anger and pride must be absent from the body.
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.”(Col.3:8) We must leave these things that separate us from God behind with the old man. For once we have the true forgiveness of Christ we are born again and made new. Those things of the past are long gone.
In Philippians 2:3 “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
So if we are to be done with anger, put away all pride then the only possible avenue left is one of humility and selfless service. Paul countered this verse with a compare and contrast, if you are “A” then you cannot be “B”. Paul was a special man, the Hebrew of Hebrews, a scholar, a 110 percent kind of guy, but the one thing he is not, prideful. Just in case you are like the believers in Philippi and say but Paul, Jesus our great example was the Son of God, and you Paul, are a beloved called Apostle, How can we simpletons follow those examples? Paul gives you two personal examples.
He gives you young Timothy (Phil.2:19-24) a Half-Jew Half Gentile, and Epaphroditus (Phil.2:25-30) a full-blown Gentile. These two examples are everyday Christians like you and me.
It is possible for the hardest of hearts to become soft, for the angriest to become meek and subtle. It is possible for the prideful to become humble, and until we are applying these principles in our personal experiences we may never experience the true Joy that lets a prisoner sing praises at night, and sets the broken-hearted a new.