One of the great orchestra conductors of all time was Leonard Bernstein. Once he was asked, “What is the most difficult instrument to play?”
Quickly he answered, “Second violin. I can get many first violinists, but to find someone who can play second violin with great enthusiasm - that is a difficult problem to solve.”
Why do orchestras need those who play second violin, second trumpet or second clarinet? Without them there is no harmony and without harmony there would be no beauty in life. Being willing to be “second” to someone else brings an added depth and breadth and width to the work of our Lord.
Selfishness can bring disaster to the life work and responsibilities of the church. That is why God is always looking for men and women who will fill in the lesser positions in His Kingdom - those who will put Him first and bring beauty and harmony to His creation.
However, to be “second” requires humility. It means having a true perspective about ourselves and our identity in Christ. In Him we find our worth and discover that we have great value to Him as we do what He wants us to do. There may be times when we measure our self-worth by the world’s standards. But our true worth, our value to God, comes from our being faithful to Him even if it means we must play “second violin” in God’s orchestra.
Prayer:Father, give us the grace and courage to be where You want us to be and do what You want us to do when You ask us to play “second violin.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: 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. Philippians 2:1-4
It was a beautiful day in the mountains. The crisp, clean air and the morning sun combined to create a sense of magic. Gary decided that he would take a long, leisurely drive to the many vistas in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Shortly after he started his trip a tire went flat. Easing to the side of the road he parked his car and got out. When he opened his trunk and looked inside, he discovered that his jack was missing. He went to the middle of the road and looked for any signs of life. Off in the distance he saw a cabin. His heart began to beat with hope thinking there would be someone there to help him.
As he walked along the road he began to think, “What if the person living there does not have a jack?” Then he thought, “What if he has a jack and won't lend it to me? And why should he lend it to me since he doesn't even know me? I doubt if he will even open the door.”
He was so agitated that by the time he got to the cabin he was shaking all over. Climbing the steps, he paused and knocked on the door. When the resident opened it, he blurted out, “Keep your jack. I didn't want to use it anyhow,” and hit him in the jaw.
Our thoughts shape our attitudes and our attitudes shape our behavior and our behavior tells others who we really are.
Prayer:Father, may we, as Your Word advises us, “Fix our hearts on what is good and true and right” and show grace and gratitude to everyone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Finally, brothers, 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. Philippians 4:8
A drill sergeant, wanting to get his recruits in shape, was pushing them harder and harder. Yelling at them loudly he said, “Fall on your backs. Now get your legs in the air. Now, make them go in circles like you’re riding a bicycle. Higher! Faster!” he shouted. But one recruit was lying quietly with his legs in a “V” position.
Walking over to where he was lying, he glared at him and demanded, “What are you doing? You are supposed to be riding a bicycle!”
“I am, Sir,” said the recruit. “But right now I’m coasting downhill!”
Paul once said, “I am focusing my energies on one thing...and...I am straining to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” He was totally consumed with becoming who God wanted him to be so he could do what God called him to do. This took all of his energies. With the single-mindedness of an athlete in training he set aside everything that would distract him or destroy him from being an effective witness for Christ. There was no place in his training program for “coasting downhill” even if the wind was at his back.
As “saints in training” we, like Paul, must stay focused, be diligent, work earnestly, live obediently and strive constantly to receive the “prize” God has for us.
Prayer:Father, we call upon You to make us alert and aware of temptations that would limit our effectiveness. May we live disciplined, determined lives always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: But one thing I do: …straining toward what is ahead…I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:13-14
He was a new Christian. But it didn't matter: he wanted to be a witness for the Lord and let everyone know how grateful he was for his salvation.
On the final night of a revival meeting, he went to his pastor and asked if he could give his testimony. The pastor was pleased and said that he would call him to the platform when it was time for him to speak.
As the service progressed, George became rather nervous and fearful of standing before a group of people he did not know. But he smiled, asked God for strength and peace, and looked forward to the time to share his story.
Finally, his moment came. He walked boldly to the pulpit, placed his hands on each side as he had seen his pastor do on many occasions, and said, "Brethren."
And that was it. His fear overwhelmed him. Not able to remember what he was planning to say, the only thing he could utter was, "Will you please join me in three minutes of silence to honor our beloved Savior."
Our words of worship and witness need not be eloquent, only sincere. A genuine Christian is the best proof of genuine Christianity. Standing quietly to honor our beloved Savior may, at times, be the best thing we can do.
Prayer:Father, there are times when our lives speak so loudly that words are not necessary. May we realize, however, that in word or deed, we witness for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: …And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ… Philippians 1:7-12
The class had become boring. So the teacher decided to liven it up with a group discussion.
“If Shakespeare were alive today,” he asked, “would he be considered remarkable?”
“Remarkable?” replied one student. “That’s hardly the way to put it. He’d be considered ancient.”
Living long does not mean that one has lived well or accomplished much. It simply means that one has lived. What we do with the time that God gives us is what really matters.
We all must face one simple, significant, serious question: Who and what do we live for?
After his conversion Paul had one desire: To live and die for Christ. He wrote “that I will never do anything that causes me shame...that I will always be bold for Christ...that my life will always honor Christ...for me to live is Christ.”
Paul’s whole purpose in life was to become more like Christ and to speak boldly for Christ. It did not matter if he was among friends or in a prison, in front of a crowd or writing a letter. He was totally consumed with serving the Lord. Someone said that if we are not ready to die, we are not prepared to live.
Prayer:Heavenly Father, may we always put You first in all that we do and one day hear You say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Andrew Bradford was an early American printer in colonial Philadelphia. In fact, he printed the first newspaper in Pennsylvania in 1729. He also had the contract for all of the public printing in the state.
One day the governor delivered an important speech and Bradford printed it in his newspaper. It contained several mistakes. A young printer saw the poor work and decided to reprint it with care and precision and make it an excellent presentation of his workmanship. He then mailed a copy of it to the governor and his co-workers.
The next year when it was time to issue a new contract for state printing, it was awarded to that young printer: Ben Franklin. He received the contract for all of the public printing for the state of Pennsylvania because he understood what really mattered: excellence.
Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, said this: “For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives.” He wanted them to know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, what was important and what was unimportant, separating the vital from the trivial. He wanted them to have a desire for moral integrity and spiritual discernment. He wanted them to understand the importance of living their Christian values because what they did and how they behaved reflected the importance and meaning of salvation. Their lives were a reflection of what being a Christian was all about.
Paul also prayed that they would keep growing in knowledge and understanding which is the foundation for discernment. It is His discernment that enables us to make the right choices in life.
Prayer:Lord, we pause and pray that we will be pure and blameless in all that we do so that our lives will be an excellent representation of You to those around us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Philippians 1:9-10 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,
It was the first day of the new school year and Albert was boarding the bus. As he was walking to his seat, he brushed up against a book bag and cut his cheek. When he got to school, the nurse cleaned if carefully and placed a bandage on it.
Later, during recess, he collided with a classmate and loosened two of his front teeth. Then, at noon, as he was walking to the cafeteria, he tripped and fell and broke his wrist.
His father came to the school and finally “rescued” him and took him to the hospital. While waiting for the doctor, his dad noticed that his little fist was clenched as tightly as possible, holding a crumpled up dollar bill. His dad asked him where he got it and he replied, “I found it when I fell and broke my wrist. This is my lucky day!”
“Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise,” said Paul. What we put into our minds determines what comes out in words and deeds. If we have problems with thoughts that are harmful and impure, unwholesome and unkind, we need to take an inventory of what we are reading, watching on television and viewing on the internet.
Minds are like bank accounts: What goes in comes out but nothing more.
Prayer:Help us, Father, to take Paul's advice and fill our minds with thoughts that come from reading Your Word and meditating on it constantly. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
There is an interesting carving over a door in a hotel at the bottom of a well-climbed mountain in the Alps. It reads: “If you get into trouble, ask God to help you; when you are not in trouble, cultivate His acquaintance; after He has helped you, don't fail to thank Him.”
Often when difficulties arise and we find ourselves in life-threatening situations we are quick to shout, “God help me!” It is the normal, natural thing to do. When tempted and troubled, when there is no time to plan and prepare, it comes automatically. We rejoice when He responds and most times express our gratitude for His being willing to rescue us. We are quick to follow His advice and often follow it without question. We must also express our gratitude to Him for being with us and protecting us.
It is the statement in the middle of the advice, however, that we must also practice: “when not in trouble, cultivate His acquaintance.” The act and art of cultivation takes time and patience and must follow certain rules if the “seed” is to grow and bear fruit. This cultivation involves reading God's Word, taking time to pray, meditate and worship Him each day and being alert to opportunities to serve Him.
Prayer:We thank You, Lord, for Your availability in our times of need. But trouble us deeply until we take the time to cultivate a relationship with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
The comic strip Peanuts contains many useful lessons for each of us. In one of their discussions, Linus said to Charlie Brown, “I guess it's wrong to worry about tomorrow. Maybe we should think only about today.”
“No!” Charlie Brown said emphatically. “That's giving up. I'm still hoping that yesterday will get better.”
Letting go is often very difficult. Sometimes we enjoy holding on to a hurt so we can feel sorry for ourselves. Or, we may want to carry yesterday's anger with us to avoid having God's peace in our hearts, believing we are unworthy of His grace. Often when our prayers go unanswered, we enjoy doubting God's power and presence in our lives, thinking that He has forgotten about us.
The word “worry” comes from a German word that means “to choke.” We “choke” out the good things that God has in store for us because we refuse to take Him at His Word. Paul said, “Don't worry about anything, instead pray about everything.”
Paul advises us to turn our worries into prayers. God is merciful and mighty, powerful and present and can remove our worries and solve our problems. “Tell God what you want and thank Him for all He has done,” advised Paul.
Prayer:Lord, may we realize that although things may seem to be more than we can handle, nothing is beyond Your ability to control. Give us the faith we need. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Charles Darwin was known to be a chronic complainer. He seemed to enjoy life more when he could find things to gripe about.
One evening he and his wife attended a banquet. He found the food distasteful and the speech dull, the guests boring and the chairs uncomfortable. He found nothing to enjoy and no one could meet his expectations.
As he and Mrs. Darwin were leaving the gathering, the hostess said apologetically, “I noticed that your husband was upset. We really wanted him to have a good time.”
“Oh my,” said Mrs. Darwin, “he had a wonderful time. He was able to find fault with everything.”
In his letter to the Philippians Paul wrote, “In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing.” Good advice!
Complaining and arguing are the behaviors of individuals who are self-centered and self-consumed. It is the exact opposite of how Christians are to live.
It is the responsibility of Christians to advance the Kingdom of God, not their personal goals and desires. Those who know and love Christ are always filled with a sense of their own inadequacy and willingly recognize their need for His mercy and grace.
The fact that we are in Christ should keep us humble and thankful as we recognize all that He has done for us. The more we recognize His greatness and our unworthiness, the less we will find to complain about in others and in things around us. We must be careful, at all times, to guard against being self-centered and self-consumed. It will not only destroy others but us as well.
Prayer:We pray, Lord, for eyes that can see the needs of others, minds that recognize ways we might help others and hearts that are filled with compassion to reach out to help them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Philippians 2:14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing,