The Path to Greatness (Philippians 2:1-11)


Scene from “Changing Lanes” – uncomfortable dinner conversation

Have you ever been in a social gathering in which there was underlying tension that everyone was afraid to talk about?

What happens – “Elephant in the room” – everyone knows it, but nobody wants to address it
Emotions like fear, blaming, avoidance techniques

Open Bibles to Philippians 2

Paul is addressing a church that he loves. The passage we’re about to read is gentle and full of emotion.


Paul and the Philippians lived in a culture in which it wasn’t safe to follow Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul was in jail for following Christ. Paul had been addressing this issue.

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. (Philippians 1:29)

Although the church was facing possible persecution, that wasn’t the primary danger. There was a problem in the church just as serious.

The problem was disunity. We don’t know the details. We get a hint of it later on in Philippians 4:

And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. (Philippians 4:2)

Our Problem

From the moment of birth, we think that it’s all about us. Our natural tendencies, plus a world that tells us that we’re number one, conspire to make us think that it’s all about us.

This is selfishness, and the problem is that selfishness is a form of pride – the top of the list of the seven deadly sins.

The issue is never the issue. The issue is our hearts. The disagreements reveal that there is a spiritual problem. It’s a problem that can’t be changed by rules or threats.

KEY: Change of heart

Acting on relationships with each other because of what God has done for us.
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? (Philippians 2:1)
How does this change work? It changes our attitudes in a radical way.

This can’t happen apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. (Philippians 2:2-4)

The most important phrase here: “agreeing wholeheartedly” or “same mind” in other translations. The idea isn’t that we are the same. It’s that a group of individuals, despite their differences, are willing to show love for one another by putting others first.

This is the road to greatness – putting others first.

“But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)
Giving rather than getting
Serving rather than being served
Obedience rather than dominance

Example: Jesus

Point: that a God who is infinitely powerful and eternal could give up his rights to identify with the powerless and slaves in their fate. He suffered the cruelest form of execution for us.
Early Christian hymn:
Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)


Principles from Life Together (by Dietrich Bonhoeffer) – Christians should:

Hold their tongues, refusing to speak uncharitably about a Christian brother;
Cultivate the humility that comes from understanding that they, like Paul, are the greatest of sinners and can only live in God’s sight by his grace;
Listen “long and patiently” so that they will understand their fellow Christian’s need;
Refuse to consider their time and calling so valuable that they cannot be interrupted to help with unexpected needs, no matter how small or menial;
Bear the burdens of brothers and sisters in the Lord, both be preserving freedom and by forgiving their sinful abuse of that freedom;
Declare God’s word to their fellow believers when they need to hear it;
Understand that Christian authority is characterized by service and does not call attention to the one who performs the service.

What issues am I facing in my life in which I feel the problem is with somebody else?

Or, on the other hand, how quick am I to realize that whenever I think that the problem is out there, that thought is the problem?

What is one example of an issue in my life in which I need to show love for others by putting their interests ahead of mine, even if it costs me something?

Identify the issue. Commit right now to taking some specific action in the coming week that will model what Jesus did for me.

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you.” (1 Peter 5:6)

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada