"Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice." Philippians 1:15-16
Historically, it is considered that it was Judaizing teachers that had given Paul some trouble in the past for his tendency not to include the Mosaic rites in the 'new' Christian institution that he boldly proclaimed were the preachers who preached Christ from envy and strife. These teachers were probably using Paul's imprisonment as a springboard to change the message and further their cause. Insisting that Paul was a 'imperfect' Christian because of his stance on the issue of circumsion, these 'envious and strife-producing' preachers denounced Paul without his being able to respond in the public forum, where he surely would have dominated the discussion with the truth. With him 'out of action', they renewed their efforts to judaize Christianity.
Paul's reaction is typically Paul…."those of good will" who proclaimed Christ as the promised Messiah and espoused the Christian cause, contending that Jesus was Christ that was prophesized about…..they were doing what God had commissioned them to do and it was a source of rejoicing that they were doing so, for the preaching of the Good News was the source of Paul's joy and his only desire. God would protect His word by sending those who would teach the Truth, much to the consternation of those who desired otherwise. To him, even in prison, nothing else mattered but the glory of God.
With my friend's honest answer to the question I posed him regarding my spiritual growth and the 'stirring of the mud' at the bottom of my heart, the exposing of the deeper wound of my brother that was created by my earthly father's comparison has been a source of much searching of what within me that God would have me to realize for the healing necessary to continue in the writing of my smaller story in His larger context. I have worn the robes of the 'rejected' son, full of the grim of 'the screw-up' who can't do anything right or worthy, in the shadow of a brother who was blessed with gifts that he was given both as the firstborn and as a child of God…..because of the disappointment of my father for a son he couldn't understand and who was 'damaged' with the disease of epilepsy. For the majority of my life, I have incorrectly held that sin against my brother and not with the person which it's commission rested.
But hidden under that truth that manifested itself in the memory of "Larry brought home straight A+'s" was something a little stronger than simple comparison……an anger at God for not making my calling unique to me, something that I could claim and proclaim as mine. You see, my brother has already entered service to God, with his wife Patty, as missionaries with the Navigators ministering to the airmen and airwomen of the United States Air Force that were stationed or basing out of Spangdahlem AB, Germany. "The Difference: Live It Out!" is a dynamic and impacting outreach to the members of the Armed Forces that Larry once served as an officer and now as a minister.
Part of the realization of the wound from my father that caused me to live under my brother's shadow, never good enough to pitch my skills and gifts against such a dynamic and intellectual personality. If I tried to compete, the wound would be ferociously as my father's proclamation would echo in my ears…"screw-up"… or I would set myself up in a place where I was not capable or equipped to achieve and chalk it up to my brother's shadow. And here, in the more 'wiser' of my years, I was doing the same thing that the believers who brought the report to Paul of 'others' teaching Christ…..thought he would react with; envy and strife that my brother was working in the ministry of God's work….and surely I would fail at it too, like too many other things I had 'followed' my older brother in…
The shadowy wound has no place in the ministry of the Called, nor of any ministry where God is the focus. The only outlook that can be given in such endeavors is to rejoice that God is receiving the glory He deserves, not envying the person doing the ministering. Rather than taking the provided discipleship communication with such a missionary as my brother to train and mentor under, I was simply mad at God that there wasn't even this that I could call my own. I was living as a 'rejected son' rather than the 'beloved son' that God has purposed.
If anything else, God has shown me what happens when a faithful servant enters into ministry with the intention of claiming the occupation with his own authority and might…..slowly the gospel will take second string to the manipulations of humanistic interests; no hell is preached, sin is reduced to sound bits and love is the only answer to the Gospel. Soon, the gospel of prosperity, health and wealth are all the pastor will preach, because they are fearful to lose what they have fought so hard to create. God is no longer a way of life, but a business model.
Such division is what plagues the church today; one pastor claiming the authorship and leadership of the church because of popularity or charisma who grows rapidly fearful of preaching the acceptable message instead of the Truth, because they worry that they will suddenly lose the leadership or they refuse to allow those also purposed and called to preach the Good News from the pulpit because they are fearful of that person doing a 'better' job than they are and they will be replaced.
"We have to learn to live in reliance upon what we saw in the vision, not simply live in ecstatic delight and conscious reflection upon God." Oswald Chambers wrote, "Our little "I am" always sulks and pouts when God says do. Let your little "I am" be shriveled up in God's wrath and indignation ----"I AM WHO I AM.....has sent me to you" (Exodus 3:14). He must dominate." Paul told his followers that they should be concerned only for the continuance of the Gospel message and nothing else, readily identified by the 'glorification of God.'
It doesn't matter whether it was Paul or another, the glory of God was what Paul would rejoice in…..the furtherance of the Kingdom work even as he spent his days imprisoned. So long as the preaching was in agreement with the teaching that Paul had already given, it was a small matter who delivered it. Obedience to the Gospel commission was the only requirement.
If I have been purposed and gifted by God to preach His truth to those in the light and reach those who live in the darkness, it will be God's hand that stirs the passion and creates the fruit by which the work is judged. Just as He will for the work that my brother has set his life and his talents to. And in the world of God's larger story, where the harvesters are in the field working the harvest, it matters not who scatters the seeds, who waters their tender shoots or who gathers, in the fullness of its growth, the crop of redemption. All that matters is that God is glorified in each and every step we take in our lives for Him.
The harvesters are few despite the readiness of the harvest……it is up to us all to work the fields as God has called us to do…..as brothers and sisters in Christ, not as competitive humans who want the glory for their own gratification.
"And the Truth shall set you free….."