Shining like a star (Phil 2:12-18)

As a Christian, I marvel at the power and creativity of the God who made our cosmos. Psalm 19 in the Bible rightly says that “the heavens declare the glory of God”. The size, scale and beauty of the heavens above never cease to amaze me. Did you know for example:

  • that our own star, the Sun, burns at a staggering 15 million degrees centigrade?
  • do you know that a star like our Sun can burn brightly for as long as 10 billion years?
  • and do you realise that even the light from our closest star, Proxima Centuri, takes over 4 years to reach us, such is the huge distance involved!

This morning’s passage from Philippians includes the astonishing statement that Christians should “shine like stars in the universe” (v.15). In some way, Paul wants us to be like those beautiful objects that light up our night sky. So in our time together this morning, I want to explain what Paul means by this command. I want to explore how we Christians can indeed ‘shine like stars’ in our daily lives.

We shine with our lips and our lives!

Firstly then, how can we as Christians shine like stars? Obviously Paul doesn’t mean that we should literally carry around torches or candles, like people always ready for a power cut! What Paul is saying, I believe, is that Christians should live distinctive lives. Just as a shining star stands out from the blackness that surrounds it, we Christians should live lives that are distinctive different from the rest of society. By our words and our deeds, by our lives and our lips, we should be as unique and attractive as stars are against the night sky.

Paul puts this in his own words in verse 15 today. He wants the Christians in Philippi to “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation”. He wants the Philippians to live lives according to very different standards and values to the rest of society.

For example, in verse 14 today, Paul particularly wants the Philippians to avoid “complaining or arguing”. We Christians are not to be people who mumble against our leaders or grumble amongst themselves.

And in verse 16, Paul says he expects the Philippians to be “holding out the word of life.” In other words, he expects Christians to be sharing their faith with their colleagues, friends and neighbours. You see, as Christians we are all called to shine like stars with our words and well as our actions. We are to be distinctive with our lips as well as with our lives.

If Christians live and speak for Jesus we will be distinctive and different to our surrounding society:
• In a society that is invariably selfish we will be sacrificial.
• In a society that prizes personal ambition and achievement, we will be humble.
• And in a society that increasingly regards the Christian faith as either a myth or morally wrong, we will be explaining and defending its truth.

But living and speaking for Jesus will be hard work. It will involve resisting temptation, it will involve a fight against our sinful instincts, and it will require courage to resist peer pressure. In fact, in verse 12 today Paul goes so far as to say that the Christian life involves “working out your salvation with fear and trembling”.

Please note, however, that Paul is not saying we work “for” our salvation. Our salvation is a gift of God, which we receive when put our faith in Jesus. But we work “out” our salvation as we live for Jesus in the years that follow. We work “out” our salvation, we don’t work “for” it.

In a similar way, Paul wants us as Christians to work out the full implications of being a disciple of Jesus. If we have come to Christ we already belong to him, we are already saved. But our saving faith should shine out in our words and actions, in our lips and our lives.

Shine like a star!

But why should we bother? Why should we try to shine like stars in the universe?

I think Paul gives us four brief reasons in our passage this morning. Four good reasons why it is our responsibility and privilege to live and speak for Christ. Four sound reasons why it is worth us attempting to shine in our society.

• Firstly, we should shine in obedience to God. In verse 12 today Paul reminds us that we have an obligation to always obey God and live his way. Just like the stars above, we were created to glorify God. So when we obey him we are doing what is right – we are fulfilling our God-given potential.

• Secondly, we will want to shine in imitation of Christ. If we are truly grateful to Jesus for our salvation, we will want to imitate him. We will want to be as humble and servant-hearted as Jesus was for us. We will want to live like him and tell others about him.

• Thirdly, we will be able to shine in the power of the Spirit. Verse 13 should be an enormous encouragement to us as we seek to serve Jesus with our lives and our lips. It reminds us that God’s Spirit is at work in us “to will and to act according to his good purpose”. The Holy Spirit will be like the fuel who helps us keep shining like stars. The awesome God who created the cosmos is at work in us. If he can make the Sun shine for 10 billion years, he can certainly make us shine for Christ during our short time here on earth.

• Fourthly and finally, we should shine to encourage other Christians. In verse 17 and 18 of our passage today, Paul tells the Philippians that he rejoices at the “sacrifice and service coming from their faith”. And as we live for Christ today, we will encourage and inspire our Christian brothers and sisters. As I look at stars in the night sky I am often inspired to praise God. As I look at committed Christian brothers and sisters, I am also moved to thank God too.

So as I finish today, I hope Paul’s words in Philippians have encouraged us to shine for Christ. I hope they have helped us understand what it means to shine for him. And I hope they have reminded us why it is so worthwhile.

The stars above declare the glory of God with their brightness. May we all declare the glory of God with our lips and our lives.