Like a basketball team, the Philippian church faced opposition from without (Philippians 1:27)

A shrill whistle signaled another time-out. As the players gathered around their coach, wireless microphones and telephoto zoom lens transport us into their huddle. Another NBA Championship Playoff game wraps us up in the intensity of the struggle.

Whether it be an NBA game or one being played out in a high school gymnasium, the fundamental situation facing each coach remains the same. An opposing force desires to defeat his team while an equally dangerous force, self-centeredness, could tear his team apart from within. And so, during a critical time out or the half-time break, the coach lays out a clear strategy to motivate his players to overcome their rivals while simultaneously galvanizing their unity.

Enter Paul. We may not think of him as a basketball coach, but his message in Philippians comes straight from the huddle.

Like a basketball team, the Philippian church faced opposition from without (Philippians 1:27Philippians 1:27
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ: that, whether I come and see you and be absent, I may hear of your state, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel;

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) and the dangers of relational tensions within (Philippians 4:2Philippians 4:2
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

2 I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord.

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). Comparable to an impassioned coach encircled by his players, Paul unleashed a strategy providing inspirational, directional, and solidaristic guidance.

Paul rallied their unity around a common cause that for a Christian should supersede any force capable of tearing them apart. What could be so powerful and valuable that would overshadow squabbles and differing opinions thereby cementing an unshakeable bond of unity? Be true to our team’s message – the gospel (Philippians 1:27Philippians 1:27
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ: that, whether I come and see you and be absent, I may hear of your state, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel;

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)!

Striving together for the faith of the gospel should be more important to God’s people than any petty matter of personal preference or hurt feelings. Paul could encourage them from his own personal experience.

Although others had sought to stir up problems for him in prison by proclaiming Christ, what mattered most to Paul was gospel advancing (Philippians 1:12-18Philippians 1:12-18
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

12 Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel; 13 so that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest; 14 and that most of the brethren in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 the one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel; 17 but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds. 18 What then? only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

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).

Having refocused their energy upon the proper goal, Paul let them in on a secret.  A united church proclaiming Christ and refusing to be intimidated by their rivals would cause the opposition to realize their defeat approached (Philippians 1:27Philippians 1:27
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ: that, whether I come and see you and be absent, I may hear of your state, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel;

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-28).  God’s people would be victorious even though assaulted.

Coach Paul throughout this letter provided them and us with clear motivational models of how to be champions.

The most poignant example of an attitude shunning a self-centered focus upon one’s own desires Paul outlined under the rubric of the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:4-8Philippians 2:4-8
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

4 not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. 5 Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; 8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.

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).  To possess the mind of Christ would undermine selfish ambition while empowering an obedient love striving for the faith of the gospel.

Whether a church is beleaguered or not, we would do well to join the huddle and listen to coach Paul.

God’s people would benefit by making what they value – striving together with one mind to further the gospel, which by its very nature involves seeking their wellbeing foremost.

—  by Barry Newton

Philippians 1:27Philippians 1:27
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ: that, whether I come and see you and be absent, I may hear of your state, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel;

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