Shining like stars in the universe!
TEXT: Phil.2:14-16a, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour for nothing.”
Say, did you notice the opening words in our text? “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” How relevant is this for a healthy marriage! I sure hope you’re not responding: “Hey, Paul, get real! Complaining and arguing – who can escape that in the marriage relationship? Impossible!” I am sure Paul would listen with an understanding heart. But I doubt he would let any of us off the hook. After all, he was writing God’s Word under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So we’d better think differently about such bad habits in marriage so we can enjoy a marriage relationship marked by love, joy and peace.
The core truth I want to highlight in Paul’s instructions to the Philippian believers is God’s call to “shine like stars” in a world that is darkened by never-ending forms of evil and rebellion against God’s laws. And this instruction is directed both to individual believers as well as to believing couples.
What does this mean in practice? What in particular does God call us to do?
Firstly, God calls us believing couples to shine like “stars.” As believers, God’s “light” has been shining in our hearts and minds, and out through our actions and words into the dark world around us. In another of his letters, Paul describes this powerful, life-changing work of God that we have experienced: “For God who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor.4:6)
In yet another Scripture, we read Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa concerning the calling He had received from God: “Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.” (Acts 26:17b-18)
So what does this mean for us? We need to keep exposing ourselves to this Source of divine light in the Person of Christ, that is, through maintaining close fellowship with Him, and also exposing ourselves to the divine light in God’s Word by reading and meditating upon God’s truth. In this way, God’s light will increasingly impact the way we think, the way we speak, the way we live and the way we relate with others, especially with our wife or husband.
What’s more, as we open ourselves up to the invasion of God’s light, we will experience God’s power for driving out any remaining darkness from our hearts that has affected and weakened our marriage relationship.
Challenge: Brother/sister, keep drawing close to Jesus throughout each day. Reach out to Him in prayer seeking His power and help to shine as “stars” as God wills. And be confident that as you do, His light will shine with increasing brilliance through your life and also through your marriage.
Secondly, God calls us believing couples to love the light AND to hate the darkness. We know light and darkness cannot co-exist. It is impossible for us to love God’s light – His ways of truth, holiness and righteousness (Eph.5:6-9), and also to find some enjoyment in the impure and ungodly things of this rebellious world. It is impossible for us to shine brightly as “stars,” while we also expose our minds and hearts to the deceptions of Satan, the ruler of the kingdom of darkness.
I confess that speaking about such matters to newlyweds and in a wedding reception isn’t so easy. Usually wedding speeches are light-weight which in itself isn’t a bad thing. But when God gives one a stronger word, then one can easily feel like the prophet Jeremiah who often battled with his own feelings and angst when God sent him to sound a warning to His people who only wanted to hear a “we have God on our side so everything will be sweet!” message.
What Paul tells us in our text in Philippians 2 is very confronting. But it’s necessary for all of us to hear this word both older couples, newlyweds and also those who hope to be marrieds one day. He doesn’t hold back from reminding us believers that, firstly, God calls us to live “blameless and pure lives as children of God”; and secondly, He reminds us that the people who share life with us are “a crooked and twisted/perverse generation.” Strong words! I don’t think the world has improved very much since Paul wrote these words to the early believers in Philippi.
Let’s consider for a moment one or two of the particular challenges we encounter living among crooked and depraved minds today. One serious challenge is the attack being levelled at the institution of marriage. Isn’t it true that “marriage” is close to the very eye of the storm that Satan is stirring up these days?
In God’s Word we read how God has designed marriage for the well-being of all peoples and all societies. And we know that He set definite parameters and boundaries for how couples are to live as husband and wife.
So it shouldn’t shock us to discover that Satan the destroyer is very deftly twisting the minds of people in our generation, some of them super-intelligent people, using their crooked and perverse minds and their foul mouths to pour scorn on marital faithfulness and to paint infidelity with bright, shiny colours as if to say, “Go and have an occasional fling. Sow your wild oats. Everyone’s doing it! It’s normal.” And … “if you feel a little oppressed by being married and long for more freedom, then just do it. Shake off this oppression! Would God want your life wrecked by such a miserable marriage?” Oh! God help us! This is how dark our “universe” has become, treating the marriage vows as a joke, as empty, meaningless words.
But I’m sure you will agree with me when I say it’s not easy to stand against the tide of darkness around us. The “world” is acclimatising us to their way of thinking and believing about “marriage” and “relationships”, so that we willingly tolerate whatever views and practices they consider “normative” for our 21st century world. (Please note that the word “world” has several different meanings in the Bible, including “the world of human beings” and “the world as God’s beautiful creation.” But often it is used with a very negative meaning such as in various verses in John’s Gospel and Letters. In these passages, “world” means “the people and powers, seen and unseen, spiritual and temporal, linked together by their rebellion against God and His laws, under the control of the evil prince”.)
Yet these worldly ideas and practices are hardly “new”! The devil’s deceptions are as old as the hills. The “universe” or world of Philippi where these early believers were told to shine like “stars” would have been just as crooked and twisted as our own.
So let me underscore Paul’s message with special application to marriage. We cannot love marriage as God has designed it as a most sacred relationship, and in the same breath accept the darkened views and sin-riddled practices of the world around us. Nor can we expect to enjoy the blessings that God has promised to those who obey His command to be faithful, and remain neutral towards all vain and wicked notions diametrically opposed to the well-being and enduring health of our marriage.
We cannot be fence-sitters. God calls us to delight in our marriage and to renounce all forms of darkness that the enemy tries to sneak in to our way of thinking and behaving.
Let me be even more specific. I know it’s next to impossible to escape the media’s daily bombardment of our minds, and also the subtle attacks on our Christian beliefs through the entertainment industry. However, we can and must take a firm and courageous stand against it.
In daily practice this will mean our saying a definite “no” to viewing TV programs and other forms of entertainment that depict marital unfaithfulness as anything other than what it truly is – a horrendous act of rebellion against our holy and righteous God, which will inevitably heap on ourselves a brokenness that is far more painful and destructive than we could ever have dreamt.
Challenge: Brother/sister, love God’s light AND hate all forms of darkness. Beware of the dangers lurking in the darkness. Clothe yourself with the mindset of a fighter. Fight against all enticing offers which the world wraps up in its very attractive packaging. Bar the door of your mind and marriage tight against all potential intruders and thieves. Work hard to deliver your marriage from the darkness in today’s world – for God’s sake, and also your own soul’s sake!
Thirdly, God calls us believing couples to shine together as “stars” in our universe. How much brighter is the light that radiates from two stars joined together as ONE star! What an amazing divine mystery and miracle!
Paul’s instruction to the Philippian believers in our text is to hold fast and firmly to the word of life so that they will live blameless and pure lives, shining as “stars” that can shed light upon their dark and fallen world. (The expression, “to hold fast” means to me: “to hold on with a firm and tight grasp,” “to never loosen your grip but rather to keep holding on with utter resolve, determination and tenacity.”)
Interestingly the above translation from the English Standard Version and the New Living Translation varies slightly with the New International Version translation which reads: “…as you hold out the word of life….”
Let’s draw together these two translations: individually, to hold fast to the Gospel centred in the Person and Work of Jesus; and together, to hold out this Gospel to the world around us both through word AND through life.
Now let’s focus on the latter thought applying it to our calling as couples to shine together as “stars.” God has joined our lives together in marriage – “for His holy purposes,” not primarily for the satisfaction of our own needs and desires.
How can we apply this truth to our everyday life? Let me ask this question in a slightly different way: how does God want to use the combined power of two “stars” shining for His sake in a world where so many people feel like victims of hopeless situations outside of their control? One way we can answer this question is by painting the picture of a Christian marriage as a lighthouse throwing out a strong beam of light and hope in the dark of the night to seamen battling strong winds and high waves, searching for safe harbour.
All of us I’m sure know singles and couples (some very near us, in our churches and families) whose hearts are weighed down by the stresses and sufferings they have inflicted on themselves by their foolish choices or by some evil action of another. Anger and unforgiveness towards such people – be it a spouse, a parent, a child, or a close relative – cannot but add to the heaviness and darkness of their hearts.
It’s against this very backdrop that God calls us to let the light of our marriages shine, inviting weary fellow-travellers to find refuge in the love and grace of God, just like a house lit up brightly on a hill draws in weary, lost travellers stumbling along in the darkness of the night.
How powerful also the influence of a godly Christian marriage upon their children trying to make sense out of a senseless world.
Challenge: Dear sister/brother, hold firmly to our Anchor in Jesus and His words of life. Together hold out this glorious word to others. Understand that God has brought you together to share the light and the life He’s implanted in you with others. In this way, the “light” of your good works will glorify your Father in heaven (Matt.5:16).
I pray that God will use the light shining out from your life and your marriage to offer to the singles who are struggling to cope with their anxieties and doubts about marriage and to the couples who have lost hope – the only real new way to live … God’s way!
Graham M. Roberts
February 10, 2011