Saturday, May 18, 2024

Phil. 2:14 Is Still in the Bible

In the early church, if you didn't like a passage in your Bible, you could simply excise it. Thus textual variants arose. But do we perhaps practice the same thing today? 

Permit me an example. In Phil. 2:14, Paul writes "Do everything without grumbling and complaining." Some of us have already cut that verse out of our Bible. We jump from verse 13 to verse 15. That's the kind of textual criticism we do not want to practice.

Grumbling becomes a problem when we forget. We forget what a privilege it is to live in the greatest country on earth. We forget what a privilege it is to be a student of the Scriptures and to gain a knowledge of God's word. We forget what a privilege it is to have so many Bible study tools at our fingertips on the internet. 

When I began seminary in 1975, I fell into the trap of grumbling and complaining. My classes were too hard. (They were supposed to be hard.) My profs spoke too fast. (Three fingers pointing at yours truly.) Not enough of my college courses transferred into my M.Div. program. (Graduate levels courses aren't the same as undergraduate ones.) I couldn't understand a single word my brilliant apologetics professor said. (But at least he was on our side.) There were too many textbooks to purchase and read. (Some of them are my favorite books today.) Grumbling and complaining! I heard it all through my years in seminary. What was wrong with us?

It was during my second year of seminary that I made a choice. I chose to have a positive attitude. All of a sudden my classes weren't too hard and my professors didn't speak too fast and I began enjoying the required textbooks. Later on in Philippians Paul writes, "Let your forbearing spirit be known to all" (Phil. 4:5). I love how William Hendricksen renders this: "Let your bigheartedness be known to all." That's an attitude of not sweating the small stuff. Of not taking yourself too seriously. Of being willing to meet people halfway. Of being joyful in the midst of hardship.

I had the privilege of being right there, through lengthy days and nights, as Becky battled with cancer. Not once did I ever hear of word of complaint from her lips. Instead, she often said things like, "No one has better doctors than I do. I'm so thankful." Through all the pain of her four-year struggle, her secret was her attitude. You see, when you choose joy, the sun is out every day. The room is filled with laughter. 

I first met Joni Eareckson in 1978 at an evangelistic meeting I was part of in Germany. As a teenager she broke her neck and had become paralyzed. Since that day she was never out of her wheelchair. When I met her, she had the biggest smile I had ever seen. Because of that smile, her life literally impacted the whole world for Christ.

Every morning before my feet hit the carpet, I pray, "Thank you, Father, for the privilege of living, and for the privilege of living for you." Everywhere in the Bible we read about people whose joy was not dependent on circumstances but on the Lord. In the words of Nehemiah, "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10). 

Friends, God is at work in our lives, turning our biggest irritants into priceless gems. That's why we can live our lives without grumbling and complaining. 

Have a wonderful day!