God instructs us in Philippians 2:3-4:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also the interests of others.”
Sounds easy, doesn’t it! Actually, if we are honest, we realize that fulfilling these verses is not a very easy task. This morning, let’s take a closer look at why these verses are difficult to obey and see that it is possible to obey. To help process this, consider a familiar example:
A husband comes home after a hard day of work. He longs for his recliner and TV but finds a wife who longs for Superman to save the day. His wife desires that he take over so that she can rest and he, as already noted, desires the recliner and the TV. Sadly, neither of them get their way because the fight has begun.
What went wrong in the example? The wife had one desire and the husband had a different desire. When they came together they battled over whose desires would prevail. The problem is their pride is fueling selfishness. Both the husband and wife bring a self-centered attitude to the relationship. Their focus is on themselves, their happiness, and what the other person can do for them to help them be happy. They say (in word and/or action) to one another, “I want to be happy and I want you to help me be happy.” Fortunately there are moments of peace, but it isn’t long until the battle of wills begins anew and the combatants take up their weapons.
They fight because they have competing agendas and ideas of happiness (e.g., Recliner/TV vs. Handing over Responsibility). While they claim to love one another, each really only loves their happiness and the other person must help them get it. The result is discouragement and disappointment because the other person—in their mind—has failed. If we are honest, many of our relationships (e.g., marriage, children, work, etc.) are self-focused. But is there a better way?
There is a better way and the better way is Jesus Christ. Before you dismiss that as the “Sunday School answer”, let’s discuss it further. The key to moving away from self-centered relationships is to have God-centered relationships. It is replacing your will with God’s will and making the goal God’s glory and not your happiness.
How can you do this? First, realize that this is not natural and cannot be done in your own strength and power. You must confess that you cannot fix your self-centered relationships by trying harder or doing better. You must confess that your problem is not the failure of someone else, but your own selfishness.
Second, this can only be done through faith in Jesus Christ. If you think it is unrealistic to move from self-focus to a God-focus in your relationships then you are demonstrating a lack of faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. No one is saying this shift will be easy, but it is possible to lay your happiness and desires aside for the glory of God and the good of others. Jesus is the answer.
Jesus is the Answer
If you are serious about moving from self-focus to a God-focus you may be asking: “How can I lay my happiness and desires aside? It is done through humility. You must humble yourself before God and others; seeking to serve rather than be served. Remember, pride fuels selfishness therefore humility fuels selflessness. But you may protest, “Why should I humble myself?!” Well, if you are a Christ-follower, then you should follow Christ’s example of humility.
In Philippians 2, Paul tells Christians to look to Jesus and His example of humility. He writes, “in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also the interests of others” (3-4). Self-centered relationships become God-centered relationships through modeling the humility of Jesus and that can only happen through faith. In verses 5-11 we are told:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
We have the mind of Christ through faith and this means that, just as Jesus demonstrated, we are to see ourselves as servants rather than kings. We are to humble ourselves before one another and seek their good before we seek ours. We must not demand our self-centered rights and desires be met, but we must humbly serve one another.
What does a God-centered relationship look like in our example? Before the husband comes home he and his wife pray: “Lord, I give my desires and my happiness to you. If my desire is not met, so be it. Show me how to serve.” The beautiful blessing is that the joy of humble service far surpasses anything the selfish pursuit of happiness can offer. This is not easy, but by faith it is possible to move from self-centered to God-centered relationships.