As I was wandering the aisles in Walmart the other day, I ran into a young fellow who starting working there a couple of years ago. Every time I’ve run into him he always has a big smile on his face and he’s just so cheerful. I remember getting into a conversation with him shortly after he was hired. I told him I had applied for work there several times (which required filling out an online application and taking an extensive online test each time) and while I passed the test with flying colors I never even got so much as a phone call and never actually got to talk to anyone doing the hiring. I asked him about his experience with the application process and I forget now the number of times he said he applied online (it was a lot) but he said he applied every single day for weeks until someone finally called him. Now that’s persistence.
The other thing I noticed about this young fellow besides his cheerful attitude and inviting smile is that he is always ready to help. And he brightens up any work area where I have found him working in the store. And his cheerfulness is clearly genuine. When I ran into him the other day he was on his way to the checkout area and told me he’d be cashiering at Checkout #7 and to come to his checkout lane when I was done. Well, I wandered around for a bit longer, but I only had four items I was buying and when I got to Checkout #7, the line was pretty long with shoppers who had full carts. I realized I would be there a while and since I only had four items, I ended up going to a “20 items or less” lane and checked out. On my way out of the store I walked by Checkout #7 to say bye to him but he was very, very busy checking out the shoppers waiting in his lane with those full carts. And his cheerfulness was obvious but I didn’t say anything to him as his back was to me and I didn’t want to distract him from his work.
He is one of those folks who, whenever he crosses my mind, makes me smile. What reminded me of this experience is a devotion I read written by Amy Summers, educator, writer, speaker and Sunday School teacher at Trinity of Fairveiw Baptist Church in “Open Windows,” published by LifeWay Publishers titled “Shine Brightly” (devotional passage is Philippians 2:14-16). Here’s what she wrote:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky. ~Philippians 2:14-15
I choose his checkout lane as often as I can. I’ve checked out at registers where cashiers text on their phones, complain about their job, or count down minutes until they clock out. In contrast is this teenager who acts like waiting on others at the grocery store is the greatest way to spend an afternoon. He brightens the day of every person in his line simply by being friendly and positive.
When believers live in contrast to this dark world, we shine as brightly as stars against a night sky. Others complain; we stay positive. Some argue; we adopt Jesus’ humble attitude. The world goes crooked; we stay straight. This generation lives perversely; we live purely. Every time we choose to be set apart as followers of Christ, we shine and share the word of life.
Go outside on a clear night and look at the sky. Determine to shine like stars by doing all things without grumbling or complaining. Give this world a glimpse of what it means to live in the light of Jesus.
~Father, shine through me so others will see You.~
How often do we (those of us who consider ourselves to be Christian) “shine brightly” in a world full of folks who would rather be texting, grumbling, judging, or doing just about anything else but helping others (and not just in a work setting)? Now I have no idea of the religious affiliation (or if he even has any) of this young fellow I run into on occasion when I’m shopping at Walmart, but I can say that he puts a lot of us folks who call ourselves Christian to shame by his constantly cheerful attitude, smile, and readiness to help anyone who needs it. That is not to say that he doesn’t have a bad day from time-to-time, but he doesn’t let it show at work, and he’s always been willing to help whenever I’ve run into him.
The Apostle Paul wrote the following to the believers in Philippi which includes the passage from the devotion above (see Philippians 2:12-18):
Do Everything Without Grumbling
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. so you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” How often do we work out our salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is working in us to bring about and fulfill his good purpose (and not our own)? And how often do we even think about our salvation as being something we need to “work out” and not just accept, and to work it out with “fear and trembing” (e.g., being serious and not frivolous with the salvation we have received from Jesus Christ)?
And in the very next breath Paul tells us to “do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.'” How often do we find ourselves grumbling about something or someone (and that includes gossiping about others, too), or arguing with others and/or judging them, especially folks we don’t even know personally or who aren’t like us? And how often do we get into an “us versus them” mentality towards others outside of the Christian faith (or even within the Christian faith which also happens all too frequently)? And how are they to hear or understand if we are always pointing fingers at them and think we are somehow better then or superior to them?
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit . . .
Value others above ourselves . . .
And don’t just look out for our own interests but for the interests of others.
We live in a very self-absorbed world and it has invaded the church. Just look at how many titles of Christian best selling books over the past couple of decades or so start with a focus on us instead of others. I don’t want to get into naming titles as I’m not trying to point a finger at any particular authors who have written those books. The point is that so much of our Christianity here in America is focused on us and what we can get or “expect” to get from God and not focused on genuinely helping and caring for others with needs who cross our paths. And that is just the opposite of what real Christianity is all about.
Genuine Christianity is not just about us and what we can get in this life, and it never has been either. We are given a lot of instructions in the Bible as to how we are to live, and much of it is very encouraging not only to help us in our own lives but to open us up to be caring and giving to others in need, too. And it’s not that God doesn’t care about us individually as He does, and very much so. But He never intended for us to get so myopic that we ignore the very clear needs of others in this world, and that’s not accomplished by putting a few dollars in an offering plate on Sunday morning and then thinking we’ve done our part for any particular week. No . . . it’s in the everyday interactions we have with everyone we come into contact with–whether in a work setting or social setting, at home with family or communicating with friends, or interacting with the many acquaintenances and strangers who cross our paths on a regular basis, or even those folks who make us angry.
We are called to a live a life of love . . . and a life of love includes sacrifice and putting others before ourselves. That is not a popular concept in 21st Century America. It’s “doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” and “in humility valuing others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). And you won’t find those words in “Cosmo” or “Playboy.”
Here’s a challenge for us for the next few days. Instead of grumbling or arguing with others, let’s try valuing those others above ourselves for a change. Let’s listen to what they have to say without thinking about how we are going to respond (which really isn’t listening to them in the first place). Let’s not always think about how things just affect us but also how they affect others, too. And while we are doing that, let’s listen to the words of final exhortation that Paul gave us in Philippians 4:4-9:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
And as Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:5-11:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used
to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
So let’s acquire the same mindset as Jesus Christ and serve others instead of ourselves. . .
YouTube Video: “Make Some Noise” (2013) by Salvador: