We rarely hear parents say to their kids, “If you want to be successful, be humble and be servant unto others.” Success is almost never associated with thinking of others first. No matter what we do, we must think about us (me) first.
Nicolas Cage plays Jack Campbell in the movie The Family Man, a successful and talented businessman, who is happily living his single life. Someone is successfully has everything. Of course, he is successful because in the business thinks of himself and/or interests first.
The culture of individualism is part of human beings and it is directly associated with thinking of us first and others next. This individualistic mind permeates our society and, of course, churches.
Dr. Scott Rodin, “We see the church as mainly a collection of individuals who come to church asking ‘What’s in it for me?…Individuals wake in individuals houses, drive to church in individual cars, sit in their same pews, greet the same small group of people they know and leave to return to their individual lives.”
Philippians is a letter that reads more as if a friend were writing and advising another friend. Philippians 2: 1 - 30 continues developing Paul’s formula of how to be successful.
In verses 3 and 4, Paul commands us to do two of the most difficult things for human beings, “3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (NLT).
Paul’s formula to “success” is to consider others better than ourselves (Selfish less). Also, he implies that humility (to be humble) is another key component to success. Both of them are countercultural and very difficult for us. Why? Because both of them conflict with our personal interests.
Paul leaves no doubt about what he is advising us to do in order to be successful. In verses 5 and 6, he asserts, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ...[Jesus Christ] Being in the form of God; he was by nature in the very form of God” (NIV).
In other words, Paul is inferring that Christ, God-with-us, sacrificed His glory by becoming fully human. Yet, he remained in His essence God. Paul seems to be saying that the path of exaltation is the path of humility. Humility and servitude were Jesus’ constant message for a successful/victorious life and so was Paul’s message to the Philippians (Luke 13:30). Paul emphasizes in verse 9 that the Father exalted him by giving the name that is ALL NAMES....
Though the church in Philippi seems to be "successful" from a human/cultural stand point, they were being led to what is not true and to destruction. Why? They were thinking of themselves first and, when we think of ourselves first, we will never be fully satisfied. As we are not fully satisfied, we start complaining and arguing. That's exactly what was happening in the church of Philippi. In verse 14, Paul talks about people who complain and argue with each other. The Greek word Paul uses for murmuring (complaining) describes useless and sometimes ill-natured disputing and doubting.
Paul is implying that we – by complaining and arguing – will be led to evil thoughts and judgment of each other. He implies that complains and arguments have no value in the Kingdom of God will lead us to an unsuccessful life.
Paul closes this letter with the example of two people who chose the successful/victorious path of serving others, of considering others better than themselves, and of doing everything without complaint and argument. People who chose to be imitators of Jesus’ life, a life of humiliation and rejection.
How to be successful from God's kingdom perspective? Humility, Servitude, and with eyes fixed on the One who chose to give everything for us. The One who became became servant to the point of death and death on the cross. And the Father exalted Him in due time. As we follow the example of the Christ, God will exalt us (make us successful) in due time.