Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain.
As I get older, I’m sure I find myself getting more cynical and less positive. Looking back, perhaps through rose-tinted spectacles, I see a time in my past when I was always happy, cheerful and overwhelmingly positive. A time came in my life, though, when I found myself thrust deep into the “darkest valley” that David refers to in Psalm 23. Difficulties at work, and a perceived abandonment by my friends, made me feel isolated and depressed. Ill health, and a realisation of my own mortality all conspired to leave me in a very dark place indeed.
Thankfully, God led me through this period of my life and brought me back to the green pastures of happier days. That period of bleakness and despair left a profound mark on my life, however. I became a little more cynical, perhaps a bit more paranoid, and my previous sunny outlook on life was impacted by just a little low-lying misty cloud.
That’s why, when we considered this verse in church yesterday, it came as something of a revelation to me. This verse, our preacher told us, is the essence of the Christian life, the key to living as God would have us live. If we “do everything without grumbling or arguing,” Paul tells us, we will become “blameless and pure” and shine “like stars in the sky.” We would model a Christ-like attitude towards those around us, so that we stand out as distinctly different to the “warped and crooked” generation in which we live. Through our attitude we will draw people to Christ. People will feel able to come to us to discuss their own lives, they will sense that they can trust us, and we can support them as they face their own difficulties in life. Ultimately, we might be able to point them towards Christ as their saviour.
I find myself grumbling and arguing on pretty much a daily basis. Whether it’s responding on Twitter or Facebook to global events, or criticising the latest decisions of my bosses and work, I find it almost impossible to get through a whole day without grumbling or arguing. This is no way to model the Christian life, it is no way to be distinctive in the world. Yet these are traps that are so easy to fall into that most of us find ourselves battling against them on a daily basis.
These verses from Philippians, however, have today inspired me to try harder, and to pray to God for his assistance, that I might be a more positive person and refrain from grumbling and arguing, so that I might shine like a star in the sky, and be a good representative of God amongst those I live and work. Hard it might be, but with his support and guidance I am sure that I can be more positive. Perhaps I might even find that the quality of my own life improves!