The Volunteer’s Model  : Philippians 2:1-13


“Most people want to have a purpose in life. We want to give our lives to a worthy cause. The problem is that years of bombardment by messages of a self-serving culture have confused us. Indulge yourself. Fulfil your desires. Pursue pleasure. Its all about you. Given such messages, its easy to understand our fear that investing time and energy into serving God and others will diminish our lives. What will really happen, we wonder, if we leave the comfort of the spectator stands and get dirty on the playing fields of servanthood? Won’t we be busier than ever and have to work even harder? If I commit myself to serving, we ask, will I end up enjoying it or dreading it? Will life really be more fulfilling? Or just more draining?”[1] Jesus anticipated these questions when he challenged his disciples to leave everything to follow him.

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no-one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)


Contemporary medical research confirms the psychological and physiological benefits of serving. Dr Paul Pearsall, the psychologist, writes in his book The Pleasure Prescription (Hunter House, 1996)  "Modern research shows one of the most pleasurable of all human acts is also one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and for others. Gentle, caring selflessness results in significant health benefits." 

In the mid 1980's Allan Luks, author of, The Healing Power of Doing Good, conducted a survey of 3,300 volunteers. He discovered that many volunteers experience feelings of euphoria while volunteering. He called this the “helper's high”. The volunteers also described a good physical feeling. They compared it to the runner's high - when a person runs and exert, but instead of feeling more stressed, one feels more relaxed. The act of helping caused both a physiological and an emotional effect.

Research has shown that regular acts of kindness or serving (especially toward strangers)  stimulate the release of endorphins, natural hormones that help improve mood and also help to improve the body's immune system and lower blood pressure. Research has shown that volunteering on a regular basis improves self-esteem, increase your sense of well-being, and lowers stress. So helping others can be beneficial to our health. It can also produce a helper's calm, feelings of calm and well-being that continue for hours after volunteering. Luks makes it clear that when we persuade someone to volunteer face to face; we are giving an enormous gift, much like membership in a health club. Bill Hybels tells of a study which found that retired men who volunteer one day a week live two-and-a-half times longer than retired men who don’t volunteer at all.


Perhaps this is also one of the reasons why women, especially mothers, tend to live longer than men. Think about it:

1.      They have been carrying us from our conception.

2.      They have been clearing up after us from the day we were born.

3.      They continue to care for us till the day they die. 

God has it seems placed an instinctive passion for children in the hearts of mothers that invariably leads to unpaid, full time work, breaching just about every EU employment regulation. For many of us, our mothers provide the best model of servanthood. How appropriate therefore today we celebrate them and thank them for all they do for us.

But serving the cause of Jesus Christ is the norm for every believer. Paul elaborates on this in Philippians 2:1-13.


1. Our Motive for Servanthood - Thankfulness (2:1-4)

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4) 


Verse 1 contains four ‘ifs’. Paul is helping these Christians count their blessings. He wants to motivate them to serve by reminding them of all that God has done for them.

1.      Being united with Christ - sharing all his privileges

2.      Comfort from his love - unconditional, sacrificial love

3.      Fellowship with the Spirit - unity as his family

4.      Tenderness and compassion - in caring for us.

If these things are true; if we have received these blessings freely, unconditionally then how should we respond?

Thankfully, selflessly in serving others. Our motive for servanthood.

2. Our Example of Servanthood - Imitation (2:5-11)

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

Notice Paul does not say "be like Jesus" but "have the same attitude."  The same attitude. Lets look for ways we can model ourselves on Jesus. Three aspects of His character stand out.

Acceptance  2:6  

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6)


Notice first, that Jesus’ humility did not involve pretending to be less than he really was. Pretending to be less than you are is not humility. "I'm nothing, I'm nothing...."  stems from pride not humility. What is holding you back from serving His cause with full devotion? Unsure what your gifts are? Jesus was secure in his relationship with the Father. He was equal with the Father in eternity past. He did not need to grasp at equality, nor was He afraid of losing it, by becoming a human being. It was His rightful status, and it always will be. Lets me ask you:

Are you secure in your relationship with God?

Do you know that your sins are forgiven?

Do you know that you have eternal life?

Do you know that you are a child of God, and that heaven is your home? Until you are sure, you will be for ever grasping at other means of security, always feeling insecure, unsure of your place in the Body of Christ. Self acceptance verse 6.

Sacrifice   2:7

“but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:7)


The eternal Son chose to "empty himself", he became nothing.  What does that mean? In every other passage in the NT where the word is used it means "to deprive something of its proper place and use"  John Stott says, "Christ Jesus brought the whole of His divine nature, undiminished, into a new and - had it not been revealed to us in  scripture - unimaginable state."

Does your faith involve sacrifice? If you support the proposals to enlarge our facilities so that we can reach and accommodate more people who want to follow Christ what are you willing to sacrifice to make it a reality?

I once heard about a Christian businessman who was travelling in Korea with a local mission partner. One day by the side of the road they came across a young man pulling a plough across a field. His companion, an older man was guiding the plough through the furrows. The businessman took a photo. "Must be a pretty poor family" he commented. "Yes" replied the missionary, "those two men happen to be Christians. When their church was being built, they were eager to give something toward it, but they had no money, so they decided to sell their one and only ox and give the proceeds to the church. This spring they are pulling the plough themselves." The businessman was silent for some moments, then he said "That must have been a real sacrifice".  "They did not see it that way" the missionary replied, "they thought themselves fortunate that they had an ox to sell." The businessman on his return went to his minister with the photo and doubled his giving saying "I want to do some plough work, until know I have never given anything to God that involved real sacrifice." 

The text says even more. It says Jesus took the very nature of a servant. Service became his nature. Is serving natural to you? Is it the norm? Or is it only something you do when you happen to be on duty on one of the rotas. One guy in the church is so excited at having a ‘here to serve’ lanyard, he hangs it over his bed to remind himself that he is a servant of Jesus Christ. Acceptance, sacrifice.

Humility 2:8-11

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11)


Jesus humbled himself. He humbled Himself and became obedient to His Father’s will and died in our place. He was obedient to death on a cross. That was His passion. That was his consuming passion. To save you. To rescue you. To die for you.  So that you could share that love and forgiveness with others.  Ultimately full devotion to Christ and serving his cause is only achieved when we abase ourselves, humble ourselves before his majesty and recognize that all that we have, all that we are, and all that we do, is in full obedience to Jesus Christ before whom every knee will one day bow.

Paul underlined his own understanding of this mindset in the very first words of his letter to the Romans, a church he had not personally visited. He introduces himself, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.” It is as if he is saying, “Dear friends, there are only two things you need to know about me. My name is Paul. And I am a servant of Jesus Christ.”[2]

Acceptance, sacrifice, humility. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…

Our Motive for Servanthood - Thankfulness (2:1-4)

Our Example of Servanthood - Imitation (2:5-11)

3. Our Responsibility in Servanthood - Work (2:12-13)

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13)


Notice we are to work out what God is working in.

Work out - apply God’s talents

Discover your God-given passion, experiment with a variety of serving opportunities. Do you have a holy dissatisfaction with some dimension of Church life? Maybe that is God saying to you, get involved, make a difference. Over time you will find your place of effectiveness and fulfilment in serving.

Work out your salvation

2. Work in - appropriate
God’s power to serve him.

God has given each one of us gifts and talents that compliment each other. If we are to use them as God intends we need his help, his energy, his power so that he gets the glory. That’s why it is so important that we ask God to fill us with his Spirit before we seek to serve him. We work out what God is working in.

3. Work together - affirm Implicit in this passage, as with all others concerning the Church is that we serve together. Paul calls them “our dear friends”. We serve the Lord with our fellow servants, our brothers and sisters, for we serve not in isolation but together.  I’ve included in the news sheet a list of ten principles of conduct which we are seeking to live by in all our serving teams at Christ Church. I commend them to you.

For what purpose? God’s purpose is amplified in verse 15. “So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” (Philippians 2:15)

This is God’s plan. This is God’s intention. This is God’s vision of a future redeemed and restored creation, and, wonder of wonders, he wants to achieve it through you and I.

1. Our Motive for Servanthood - Thankfulness (2:1-4)

2. Our Example of Servanthood - Imitation (2:5-11)

3. Our Responsibility in Servanthood - Work (2:12-13)

Ultimately “We love, serve and care for others because this is the normal behaviour for people who are filled with God’s Spirit. We are Christians. Christ was the ultimate servant. We can’t help but serve because the Spirit of the Servant has filled our hearts. When we serve, we are just being who we naturally are.”[3] We serve because we have been served and because we follow a leader who models servanthood. But there is more to it. The God who created us body, mind, and spirit calls us to a lifestyle that also strengthens our bodies, clears our minds, and sooths our spirits. God created us for a life of service.

So, want to live a healthier, longer and more fulfilling life?

Then join the volunteer revolution. Drape a serving towel over your arm and serve.

Lets pray.


[1] Bill Hybels, The Volunteer Revolution (Zondervan), p.35

[2] Ibid., p.42

[3] Steve Sjogren, in Hybels, p.35