Who Will Get the Credit?
"Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice." - Phil. 2:15-18
For Paul, gospel proclamation brings joy. Some difficult people are seeking to add insult to injury for him. But ironically, unbeknownst to them, he is encouraged. God will deal with their hearts. But God’s gospel is advancing nonetheless. God is sovereign over both Paul's suffering in prison and the sinful ambition in the hearts of these Christians in Rome. He uses his gospel to save the lost. He had saved Paul, the chief of sinners. He’ll save anybody.
We can learn here a lesson about the humility of belonging to Jesus. Harry Truman once said, "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." Good wisdom, but perhaps we can tweak that a bit and say, “It is amazing what God can accomplish when his people care only that he gets the credit.”
As the church, we will be handcuffed if we constantly seek to serve one another by one-upping each other. Evangelism can be an easy tool in that game of one-upmanship. We can take pride in the fact that we speak Christ when nobody else seems to. But God will receive all the glory. Let's find freedom from sinful ambition and competitiveness and allow our loosened tongues to proclaim the worth of Christ.
A few years ago when I was struggling mightily with anxiety, I remember a feeling of utter freedom that came when I realized I would be content if someone else preached my sermon for me. That was a freedom and contentment the Holy Spirit worked in me that I long for now. Because now, I’ll work on a sermon and often feel like I want to be the one to get the credit for how it goes (especially if it goes well!). But God is kind to remind me that ultimate joy and freedom come when it’s not Jacob who’s proclaimed, but Christ.
Sermons are not for the glory of the preacher. Our life together as a church is for the glory of God. There’s freedom in that. As the saying goes, humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. Paul urges the church at Philippi to live out the gospel of Christ by being unconcerned for their own glory and concerned only for the good of others and the glory of Jesus in the unity of the church. In that is true freedom. In that Paul rejoices. Do you?
This is the reason we were created. We were created to display God’s glory in the world as those made in his image. But ever since the first sin, we have been fighting tooth-and-nail to bring glory to ourselves. And it’s never worked out for us. But in our sin, when we hated God, he sent his Son, the only truly glorious One. Jesus set aside his glory and bore our shame and sin and pride on himself. He took the penalty we all deserved for our sin—death. And he died that death for us so that if we will repent of our sin and self-glory and pride and turn to God in faith, we will be forgiven. We will be set free from the rat race of our glory-seeking and given the new life of bringing God alone the glory. In that pursuit, we find incredible freedom and joy.