Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. – Phil 4:14
It’s funny how we choose what verses of the Bible we decide to claim for our lives. The verse that precedes this one is one of the most quoted, famous, and lifted up verses in our culture; even someone who doesn’t know anything about the Bible would be aware of it. The infamous verse is, of course, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”.
Generally, this verse is divorced from its context within Scripture. On its own, it’s a nice sentiment that bears the truth that God, who is our sustainer, is the one who sovereignly controls all things. In that sense, it is God who strengthens us to do everything from contracting and relaxing our diaphragm so we can breathe to winning NBA championships.
Placed within its context, Philippians 4:13 is much more inspiring than helping us win awards or become star athletes. It is about God’s sustaining power through suffering, trial, persecution and struggle, or as Paul puts it: plenty, hunger, abundance, and need (Phil 4:12). God’s power keeps us content in all things no matter where we find ourselves. That’s powerful enough on its own but what makes Philippians 4:14 startling is that it shows the power of Christian love.
Living out Scripture in its Context
When we suffer, many people around us are like Job’s friends -- they spend more time philosophizing about the situation than actually helping. Whether they bought into the hyper-sovereignty lie that we don’t need to lift a finger, or the hyper-grace lie that we shouldn’t even try because it’s all grace, or they’re just apathetic and lazy, it is clear the Philippian church operated another way.
By way of reminder, the Philippians were the only church Paul writes to in the New Testament who do not receive a rebuke. Instead, they get a big old pat on the back and a dose of encouragement. They were a church who put their theology (what they know about God) into practice, showing what they genuinely believe. For the Philippian church living out what they believed looked a ton like the type of kindness that compelled them to enter into another person's troubles.
Our Perfect Example
When I think about kindness and entering into trouble, I can’t escape (nor do I want to) the person of Jesus. If you want to emulate kindness, look to Jesus, the good shepherd, who leaves the ninety-nine to find the one (Luke 15:4-6) because of his great love for the lost. If you want to emulate entering into another’s trouble, look no further than Jesus who put aside his heavenly attribute (Phil 2:6-8) to enter into our mess head-first and hands dirty to actively meet us in the very place of our greatest need. This seems overly simple, but it’s not. It’s one of the most effective ways we put our faith on display.
Believing Jesus loves us, is kind to us, and enters into our troubles, leads us to do that for others. This shows we are powered by a greater motive than everyone else. We are motivated by the very love of God for us, through us, and to the world around us.
Friends, when you are inspired by a verse or passage in the Bible, consider the full context so you don't miss out on a more robust understanding of God's character and his intention for you. So I encourage you, keep your eyes open as God reveals opportunity to show his love through kindness that enters into another’s trouble.