Heartlight Special Feature
Only One Thing     His wind-roughened, sun-baked, leathery skin cracked at the corners of his eyes and mouth as he broke into a rare grin. Three greenhorns had just joined the cattle drive and had proven inept at every turn. The boss, Curly, wondered why they’d chosen to ride the trail.

    Having been a cowboy for most of his life, he was hardened, not only from the weather, but from life itself. Curly kept mostly to himself and only interacted with others when necessary. So it was surprising when he chose one of the newcomers to help him search for a stray.

    They struggled in silence through rough terrain and violent thunderstorms, but finally found her. In labor with a breech calf, the two men valiantly tried to save the cow, but she died as the newborn arrived. Covered in mud and birth fluids, the novice flushed with elation at all that he had experienced.

    On the return trip the young man dared ask Curly a personal question. “What is it that makes life really matter and how do you know when you've found it?” Curly held up one finger and said simply, “Only one thing.”

    With that they rode back to camp.

    This scene, from the movie City Slickers, sums up the plot of this box office hit. Each of the main characters tries to determine what is Curly’s “one thing”: one finds it in family, another in a fresh start, and the one, who had asked the question, found it in life itself.

    Paul, in addressing a letter to the Philippian church, tells Christians what really matters for a person of faith. Using a rare adverb, which is best translated “only one thing matters,” Paul writes these words to the church:

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Phil.1:27-30)

Only One Thing    The word translated worthy describes a weight or measurement that could be used to balance the scales. Paul is stressing that Christians are to live in a way that will balance what God has done in giving the “good news” of Jesus Christ. This is not legalism, earning salvation, but absolute grace that recognizes how mighty and wonderful God is and acts accordingly.

    Citizenship language is used to describe this worthy life. In is lived for the sake of the community—both the Christian and non-Christian. Two realities are affirmed for all Christians in these verses: struggling and suffering.

    In the struggle, the Philippians are instructed to do three things. One, they are to stand firm in one spirit. This battle language depicts the courage and fortitude—the determined discipline—of a group of soldiers who would fight and die for one another in a common cause.

    Second they are to strive side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel. Paul moves from the military to the athletic arena. A well-trained athletic team is pictured who are ready for competition. Their area of contention will be for the faith of the gospel.

    Third, as solidly prepared and unified combatants, these Christians can look bravely at their adversaries, they are not intimidated. The battle and the contest have been fought and won. The faithful are victorious, and the enemy is defeated.

    And all of this is God’s doing. It is the privilege of receiving all of God’s grace and it has always been this way. Redemptive history from the prophets to Jesus speaks of those who uncompromisingly and unyieldingly live their lives in faith, often paying for it with their lives.

    Christians today struggle and suffer in the place of Christ, for the cause of the gospel. We are to stand firm, stand together, and not be intimidated by our opponents. For the person of faith, there is only one thing.

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