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Read Philippians 1:27-30.

If you live in Fort Smith for any time at all, you’ll learn a very proud phrase popularized by our Mayor, Ray Baker. “Life’s Worth Living ... in Fort Smith, Arkansas!” What impresses me about the way the Mayor uses the phrase is the way he can slip it in to almost any talk on any occasion. And it really does seem to fit most occasions. And people join in shouting it along with the mayor. The slogan has caught on. It creates unity. And it’s always appropriate to consider life worth living. I think that Paul the apostle would appreciate our city’s slogan. He might add that life is worth living – especially when you live it worthily.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he appealed to their sense of civic pride too. As citizens of Philippi, they were proud of being a civilized outpost of Roman culture in the wild frontier of the Empire. Many of its citizens were veterans of the Roman army, retired politicians, transplanted Romans. They were patriots, loyalists and proud of their status as a Roman colony. Being a citizen meant certain privileges, but with those privileges came responsibilities. And they had to live it out.

Paul is counting on the Christians there having this attitude about being good citizens. He want to encourage them to understand how their life in the city and their life in Christ overlap. Paul’s no dualist – he won’t allow them to break up their lives into compartments. Whether he is there or not, they are to be people who live life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Whether they are conducting life in the city or in the church, it is all life in Christ. For the Philippian Christians, being good citizens means being good disciples. They will fulfill their duty to be good members of the community if they will live their lives worthy of the gospel of Christ. Life’s worth living in Philippi when you live in Christ.

If it’s true for Philippi, then it’s no less true for us. We have an opportunity to be a people who enhance and bless this region. Our lives are not compartments. We ought to call upon and encourage one another to live lives worthy of the gospel of Christ. So, whatever you do and however you serve in the cities of this region, do it in such a way that it honors Christ. Life’s worth living in Fort Smith, Arkansas – and Van Buren, and Greenwood, and Alma, and Barling, and Poteau, and Roland, and Cedarville, and Rudy (who did I forget?) ... and what makes life worth living is living worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Here’s what it means ...

  1. Standing Firm – [Military Image] – Paul and the Philippians would have been familiar with the ultimate example of standing firm in battle: The phalanx was a standard feature of Greek and Roman military combat. The Macedonian phalanx used by Alexander the Great, was developed by his father Philip – the city of Philippi was named for him. The phalanx was made of 256 soldiers arranged in a perfect 16 by 16 block armed with shields and 14 ft spears held by more than one rank. The key to making it work was disciplining the troops to hold a line which created a nearly impenetrable forest of points to the front. If the ranks of the phalanx do not work together or if any of the soldiers become frightened, then the whole formation falls.
    The weakness of the phalanx was fear, disunity, and uneven terrain. Our enemy will shake us up in order to upset or unity and divide our ranks. Let us stand as firm and let us stand as one ...

  2. Contending as One Person – [Athletics Image] – How many of us remember the most famous Hockey Game in US history? It’s been called the Miracle on Ice. It was February of 1980 during a peak of Cold War tension between the US and the Soviet Union. As always, the Soviets were the odds-on favorites to win the Gold in hockey. The Soviets always won, for though they were technically classed as amateurs, they were in fact professionals but the Soviet Union gave them other job classifications. No one really believed that the true amateurs of the US Hockey Team could win. But they played as one and all America rallied behind them. They defeated the Soviets and went on to win the Gold. At the medal ceremony, the podium was only meant for one player who represented the team, but the captain of the team motioned for all his teammates to join him on the podium.
    Paul urges us to work together as a team, acting as one, as we live a life worthy of the faith of the gospel ...

  3. Having One Spirit and Soul – Like a coach or a commander, Paul is appealing to the church in Philippi to stand firm and work together. 1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Armies and sports teams are good examples of what it means to struggle together and be unified. Why can’t the church be the greatest example to all the world of this? It makes sense – aren’t we united in Christ? Aren’t we all comforted by his love? Aren’t we all in fellowship with the spirit? Aren’t we called to tenderness and compassion? Of course! The answer to all these is yes! So, we ought to be the best sign, the best example of what unity and community is all about. Because of Christ and the gospel, people should see in us a life that worth living!

A faith of opposition vs a faith of courage -- God did not call us to be a fearful, timid community of believers reacting anxiously to that which seems improper. God did not give us a spirit of fear and weakness, he gave us a spirit of power and called us to love. He didn’t call us to lash out, he called us to stand and live a live worth living. If we are a united group, if we are those who are disciplined and consistently live out of the gospel of Christ then we will be a sign of God’s intended future – a colony of heaven on earth! Those who would oppose God’s future will notice it. And those who welcome God’s future will notice it.
This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.
The focus for the church is on how to live. We cannot concern ourselves with how God will deal with opponents. That’s God’s business, not ours. We can preoccupy ourselves with the failings of others, or we can focus on our own integrity. Paul is encouraging citizens of Christ’s community to live a worthy life – that means focus on our own character and integrity – even if that means struggling and suffering. God will address that which does not conform to his kingdom. We must dedicate ourselves to living in step with God’s kingdom community. If we know what we are for, then what we are against is evident.

Conclusion – Live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 20 January 2008

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