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Pouring Out Our Lives

Philippians 2 Doug Floyd One of the great modern heroes of our faith, Richard Wurmbrand, spent 14 years in prison for his faith. The Nazis and the Communists imprisoned him. Three of those years he spent underground seeing no light and hearing no except the voice of his tormentors. In the midst of suffering for Christ, Wurmbrand found rest in the joy of the Lord. One day a prison guard spit in Wurmbrand's and urinated on his head. In despair, he asked what kind of father would allow his child to undergo such revolting humiliation. The heavens seemed brass and all seemed meaningless. So he responded by dancing before the Lord in worship. On another day, the prison guard sang while he beat Wurmbrand. Later that night when he rested in his cell, Wurmbrand gave thanks to God for the song of his persecutor since it was a rare treat to hear music. And on another occasion, he dreamed a guard gave him a flower. He prayed, "Lord when you call me home, I'll wrap my arms around that guard and refuse to enter heaven unless he can come." How does a person rejoice in the midst of suffering and persecution? How did Richard Wurmbrand love and serve and pour out his life while being tortured for his faith? The whole time he served in prison, Wurmbrand wrote essays of encouragement to the body of Christ that have since been circulated to millions of people. With no pen or paper, he wrote the essays in his memory, and upon release from prison captured them in print. How do you find joy in the midst of suffering and persecution? Most of us may never know the persecution that Wurmbrand endured. Yet we do face struggles that impact our joy, our peace, and our ability to love one another. The Apostle Paul knows suffering. He knows persecution and beating. He knows imprisonment. Writing a letter of friendship from prison, he seeks to encourage his friends at Philippi who are also facing suffering and persecution. In the short letter to the Philippians, the word joy appears again and again and again. Paul rejoices that God will supply all his needs according to His riches in glory. What is the source of joy? The absolute faithfulness of God revealed in Jesus Christ by the power of His Spirit. Paul is confident that God will complete the work He's begun in His people. Paul's assured that God is thoroughly trustworthy to meet all the needs of His people. Paul's life is in Christ, and he lives through Christ. The Risen Christ is sustaining, renewing, encouraging Paul and the saints at Philippi. After reminding them of God's faithfulness in the midst of suffering, Paul writes, "So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and

sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 1 The Philippians are under stress, facing threats and persecution. Yet Paul suggests that Christ is encouraging and comforting His people by His Spirit in the midst of the community. I would suggest that Christ is still present among His people doing the same thing. Where is He and how is he doing this? By His Spirit, He is present in our lives and in our faith community. He is why we gather. Literally, Christ is calling us to gather. We the people of God are the "called out ones," the ekklesia, the church. We gather because He gathers us. We gather in and through Him. Even as we gather, He ministers to us in song, in prayers, in Scripture, in proclamation, in the sharing of the peace and in the bread and the wine. He meets us through the elements, but He also meets in and through His people: sometimes through a word of encouragement, a hug, a story, or simply someone listening us. Christ is present. By His Spirit, He is speaking to us from outside ourselves through other people and through the worship, and at the same time, the Spirit is touching us inwardly. He is healing, convicting, restoring and converting. In the gathering of God's people, we must learn to trust that Christ is and will sustain us personally and as community. If we cannot trust that our needs are not forgotten and will be met, we will be grasping instead of freely receiving His blessings.

Paul encourages the Philippians that Christ has come and is encouraging, comforting and sustaining His people. In Christ's faithfulness, Paul calls the Philippians to have the same mind, to be of one accord, to love and serve and pour out their lives for one another. He points to the cross as the image of pouring out our lives into one another. While the cross is the image and reality of our redemption, it is also pattern for our lived relation. Paul writes, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth

1 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Php 2:14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
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and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 2 As Paul calls the Philippians to look at Jesus as the way of thinking and acting in community, he breaks forth into worship. This hymn reveals that Jesus acts in obedience to His Father, does not grasp the worship and honor and power that is rightfully His. Instead, He pours His life into humanity. He becomes a man and reveals what true humanity looks like. At the same time, He reveals what divinity looks like. Jesus pours His life completely. Holding nothing back He loves fully, completely in heart, soul, mind and strength. Ultimately pouring His life out on a cross, dying and bearing the sins of the world. In His absolute humiliation, Jesus is not abandoned. If he was abandoned, the story would be tragic, sad, and empty of meaning. Simply a reinforcement of the dark absurdity of life. In the place of absolute helplessness, He is not abandoned. The Father joins Him by the Spirit, raising Him to new, raising to new joy, and raising Him to the highest name above all names. Paul reveals the trustworthiness of God is revealed in the humiliation of the Son. The Father never abandons the Son. Even as Jesus brings redemption, He reveals that the Father can be trusted. By referring to Jesus as the model for how we love, Paul is teaching the Philippians and us that no matter how much we suffer, no matter how we struggle, no matter how much we may feel abandoned, we are not. Just as the Father is absolutely faithful to the Son, He is faithful to us because we are in Christ and Christ is in us by His Spirit. We're free to pour out our lives into one another and on behalf of one another. When we suffer or face suffering, we'll be tempted to restrain. We'll be tempted to withhold love and even enter into conflict as we seek to guard and defend our hurts. But the Father is faithful. Though we may feel overlooked and forgotten, we are not. This freedom to pour out life is exemplified in Richard Wurmbrand. He was free, and in that freedom, He discovered the unexplainable peace and joy and love of the Lord. He could give and serve and worship extravagantly because he could trust in the goodness of God. The communities of Christ should be full of extravagantly love and service and kindness. Just as Wurmbrand poured out his life and love in a Romanian prison, there are 40,000 Christians pouring out their lives in prisons in North Korea. Unless there is some change, many of them will die in prison. And yet, there are Chinese Christians, South Korean Christians and free North Korean Christian willing to return to North Korea and face the threat of imprisonment and death, so that they might encourage the saints and share the gospel. This is the power that Paul was writing about. When I was in college, I thought I'd have the opportunity to pour out my life as a martyr on some foreign soil. In fact, several of us guys thought we would die as martyrs. We wanted to love 2 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Php 2:512). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
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heroically. But God called us to love heroically by dying each day in this life of outpouring and service to the saints around us. In Romans 12, Paul calls us all to pour out our lives as living sacrifices, and then he proceeds to command us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought but to give of our lives and skills and gifts to serve one another. If your gift is teaching, it may be to teach. If encouraging, then encourage. If art, pour out your life in creating art. Pour out your life to God's people in love, and in that action, you'll be serving in Christ and Christ will be revealing Himself in you in ways that you cannot fully understand. Let me end by illustrating this outpouring in the small things with a story from my own life. At the end of my college years, I experienced a time of darkness when it seemed like God had left me all alone. My joy and peace were stripped. I was tempted to run from church and from the people who loved me. It seemed as though faith had slipped away, and I was fading into darkness and despair. Thought I cried out to God, He seemed far away and even unreal. Once day in desperation, I prayed one of those crazy, desperate prayers, "Lord if you don't send a letter to me today, I won't make it." Who knows why I even prayed such a prayer. When I arrived home that day, I discovered a letter from a girl I didn't know. We attended the same church, but I didn't know her. The letter read, October 23, 1986 Dear Doug, This card reminded me of you. I send it to you in hopes that it will encourage you. I have no way of knowing what trials or problems you are experiencing but I do know that the Lord is concerned about you every moment of every day. A scripture that helps me is Habakkuk 3:17-19. Thank you again for the many times your positive attitude has encouraged me. The passage she sites, reads as follows:
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Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deers; he makes me tread on my high places. 3 3 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Hab 3:1719). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
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I taped this letter in my Bible and over time returned again and again to the simple words of exhortation. Christ spoke to me and encourage me and strengthened me through her. She'll never fully know the depth of impact of her words. This is the way of the body of Christ. Like the Philippians, we are immersed into a community of faith that Jesus has called into being and is sustaining. We can rest in Him and His faithfulness. Therefore, let us go forth and freely pour out our lives and our gifts into the lives of those around. Whether we are in good times or bad, whether we know suffering or joy, let us not refrain from loving, serving, and giving our lives to one another. In the midst, we'll discover the unexplainable joy of the Lord that the Apostle Paul, Richard Wurmbrand and a great cloud of witnesses discovered and revealed in their own lives.