Written by Dave Urbanski
Pastor Scott delivered some compelling illustrations on Sunday to amplify the continuation of our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
The first was the idea of baggage. You know what a pain baggage can be every time you carry multiple duffle bags, storage bags, suitcases, and other objects to an airport — and what a feeling of relief you get when you finally set them down. Now imagine carrying around a ton of baggage in your life all day, every day. Pastor Scott pointed here to the idea of emotional baggage — results of past trauma, abandonment, abuse — that can keep us from optimal emotional health. Now imagine the feeling of setting such baggage down … finally.
Pastor Scott also offered a great (and humorous) illustration of a spiritual “gas station” — a place where all of us need to continually go to “fill up” with God’s grace. The funny part (that has a serious side) was his question to all of us: “How long do you wait when you’re running low on gas to fill your tank back up?” And the truth is, most of us wait until we’re almost empty — even when the light flashes on that we’re almost out. That may be fine (albeit stressful at times) when we’re operating an actual car … but when it comes to our spiritual lives, Pastor Scott asked us how long we all wait to seek the Lord’s grace and power and covering. Is it when we’re running on empty? When it’s more likely we’ll make bad decisions in a state of spiritual exhaustion? Or will we get filled up frequently?
His illustrations were all connected to the themes found in verse 1 of Philippians chapter 2: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…”
The word “so” — the very first word of the verse — indicates a reaction to Paul’s past instructions to his brothers and sisters in the church at Philippi, which described to them the idea that they (and we) are soldiers on a mission, marching and moving forward while engaged in conflict, both spiritually and sometimes even physically.
And in order to engage successfully in such a mission, our emotional health needs to be optimal, doesn’t it?
At this point Pastor Scott shared 5 ancient Greek words from the verse 1 that give a glimpse into what’s necessary to get that emotional health from the Lord.
The first word — “paragoleto” — is the idea of calling someone to come alongside you and help you. Of course, we can always call on Jesus to be with us and help us in times of need, but the Lord also gifted us with fellow Christians who can end up being his hands and feet for us — and as we’ve seen in previous studies, God designed his church to be just that: a body of believers working together and standing side by side, even amid the chaos of life.
The second word — “parmutheon” — is the idea of consoling others with our words and actions; asking “how can I help you?” Pretty self explanatory, as it goes without saying that such a call of duty must be part of our lives with fellow believers.
Then there’s “koinonia” — the idea of fellowship in the same spirit with other believers. But Pastor Scott said it can go much deeper than that. It can be the idea of getting alone with the Lord and asking him, “God, please fill me up.” It was here that Pastor Scott ramped up the idea of carrying emotional baggage — even to the point where it can become part of someone’s identity. And I believe his most compelling point was his commentary on Jesus’ question to a sick person: “Do you want to be well?” How interesting. On first glance, we see such a question, and it sounds like a no-brainer: Of course someone who’s sick wants to be well! But Pastor Scott noted that when we examine the subject in a deeper way, being unwell in one way or another can become part of our identities that we may have a hard time letting go of. It can even be attractive or enabling in some ways because of how others respond to us in our sickness. We’re used to the discomfort. We’re used to the baggage. We’re used to the constant weight we carry around needlessly. And then it can get scary when such oppressions are lifted from us: Now what do we do? Change, even positive change, comes with risk and uncertainty. May the Lord work on all of us who are struggling in that way!
The fourth term is “splonkna,” which Pastor Scott said means “from my gut.” Something we feel deep down. It’s the Greek word translated to “affection” in verse 1. The idea that God loves us and is just waiting to throw his arms around us in compassion. In Mark 1:40-41, a leper said to Jesus, “If you will, you can make me clean.” With that, Jesus “stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.'” Pastor Scott connected such compassion to the Lord beckoning us to his spiritual gas station: “Come to this pump over here. I want to help you be stronger.” He also noted the widow in Luke 7 who also lost her son and was grieving — and the idea that we can rely on the Lord’s compassion so we don’t have to grieve alone.
However, Pastor Scott also pointed out that the hurt we feel as a response to pain can become baggage if we deal with it unproductively. And that can spell trouble for us emotionally over time, which is something we don’t want in our lives.
Finally there’s the word “oiteirmoi,” which is the idea of grace and mercy. We can always come to God and say, “I feel inadequate today, Lord. Please give me your grace.” And indeed, Scripture says the Lord’s “mercies are new every morning.” So why don’t we take advantage of that? Let’s deal with the baggage we’re carrying and fill up on God’s grace and mercy every day, every hour, every minute. Or else it will be much more difficult for us this side of heaven and perhaps greatly hinder the effectiveness of our relationships here and now.
Do you have emotional baggage strapped to your shoulders, in your hands, and under your arms as you wobble down life’s path? Is your spiritual gasoline down to the “E” with the red light on? May the Lord help all of us to set down the baggage and fill up with his grace, mercy, and power each and every day.