Stand Firm in the Lord
Open Your Bible
Philippians 3:17-21, Philippians 4:1, Romans 16:17-20, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12, Titus 2:11–14
BY Guest Writer
The blaring siren and flashing blue lights jerked me out of my daydream. How fast was I driving, anyway? Turns out I was cruising along at 53 miles an hour in a 40-mile-an-hour zone. And it wasn’t the first time. There’s a reason my dad often told me I had “a lead foot.” This time, the police officer was firm yet gracious. He urged me to keep my speed down, but let me off with a warning instead of a costly ticket.
I may sometimes be too speedy, but nothing compared to Mario Andretti, the professional racecar driver. He would regularly race at speeds over 200 miles an hour. When asked for a racing tip, he quipped, “Don’t look at the wall.” His point was that a driver’s car follows what he is focused on. Where you look is where you go. If you keep looking at the wall, you’ll crash into it.
In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul is urging the impressionable believers to keep their focus on Christ. Paul longs for them to flourish in the faith, not to crash into walls of false teaching. In chapter 2, Paul warns the church against legalism. This deception rejected the sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness that comes from God through faith. Then and now, legalistic thinking insists that it’s a person’s best efforts and striving that make them right with God and with other people. I crash into a wall of legalism when I assume God merely tolerates me instead of remembering that He deeply delights in me as His beloved daughter. I crash when I’m critical and judge others for not meeting my personal expectations and preferences.
In chapter 3, Paul warns against another danger. While speeding away from the wall of legalism, some may over-correct and ricochet into the wall of licentiousness. This deception insists on throwing off moral restraint in hopes of satisfying all appetites and desires. “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame,” says Paul (Philippians 3:19). Licentiousness says “anything goes,” that if it feels good, you should do it. I crash into a wall of licentiousness when I pridefully believe that I’m above temptation and fail to recognize my need for God’s good boundaries. I crash when I foolishly allow my desires to drive me to do things that hurt myself and hurt others.
At the root of all legalism and licentiousness is a worship of self above all else. Paul is, in essence, warning, “Don’t look at the wall!” Where you look is where you go. When we focus on ourselves, it’s not long before we crash. But this does not need to rule us. We can stand firm in the Lord as we remember that our true citizenship, our true allegiance, is in heaven with God (Philippians 3:20). May the Lord capture our hearts and affections, enabling us to focus on Him, worshiping Him alone. The One who made us is also the only One who can save us. Only He truly satisfies our deepest longings and desires, and only He can safely lead us home.
Patti Sauls lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband Scott and daughters, Abby and Ellie, where they serve alongside the people of Christ Presbyterian Church. Prior to living in Nashville, the Sauls planted churches in Kansas City and Saint Louis and served at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. A trained speech therapist, Patti also enjoys serving behind the scenes, hiking with friends, and reading good books.