With this post comes the start of the new series. For the next few weeks we will be looking at the small gem of a NT book called Philippians. If you’ve ever received a note, text, email or (old school) letter that was just full of encouragement and love then you’ll be able to identify with this letter. Many say that Philippians is one of their favourite books/letters from Paul (the author). Probably because they like the Paul they find in this writing. Not that Paul is a bad guy…far from it. But he does come across a little cranky from time to time. In Philippians, he shows much love, humility and affection.
Paul is writing this book from prison. We know that for some historical evidence, and because he uses the word ‘chains’ a number of times in this letter (as a references to being in chains). He’s writing to everyone in the Philippian church and wants them all to hear what he thinks of them and how appreciative he is of them.
Right from the start we get a glimpse of what Paul is trying to accomplish with this letter. He wants the Philippians to know how appreciative he is of their partnership in the gospel. He also wants to remind them of the partnership they have with God. Ending this section with the most beautiful prayer.
(1:3-6) 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
In these first few phrases we can see Paul’s feelings coming through. He gets a little gushy if you ask me. If you read ahead to verses 7-8 you’ll see what we mean. Thanking God for them. Always praying for them. Filled with Joy because of them. Why all this joy and love and appreciation? Because of this one word, ‘partnership’. The word used here is the same word that we find in the NT for Fellowship or Community. That word is Koinonea. It refers to relational community, but implies so much more than belonging, it also implies action from those who belong. Their is a sense of participation in community. Our first steps into a wonderful community are filled with feelings of grace and acceptance – a sense of belonging and being taken cared of – loved. This is all true. But any authentic and healthy community has a sense of participation. There is ‘give’ and there is ‘take’. Heathy relationships are always like that. Otherwise they get old real fast. Paul is thankful because these Philippians get it; they are fully part of this new gospel community, so much so that they view it as a partnership.
This partnership is not just with people, the partnership is with God. As we dive into relationship with Jesus, he invests in us – from start to finish. Philippians 1:6 is a favourite verse of many because it reminds us that God is never done with us. He doesn’t just start things only let them us figure it out on our own. God completes what he starts in us. He begins ‘good’ work and carries it on to completion. He’s Marcus Stroman & Roberto Osuna wrapped up in one (That’s a Toronto Blue Jay analogy if you missed it). He’s a starter and closer. So if you’re ever feeling like giving up on God, know this, he will never give up on you. Never. Deuteronomy 31:6 is OT verse that affirms this. God has proven his love and commitment from the beginning. It reads… “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
After Paul starts his letter off with love, affection, and an appreciation for community and partnership, he ends this section off with prayer. Actually, he’s starting off the book with prayer. He prays 3 things for this young church:
– That their love may abound
– That their wisdom would grow
– That their life would produce the fruit of righteousness
Here’s how he puts it, ” 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
May we pray this for others. May we move away from praying for things and circumstances (only) and begin to pray for people in this deep and impacting way. Let the love we receive from Jesus not be stagnant or complacent, but let it grow and abound, in such a way that it affects every area of our life. Let this love flow into our thoughts and discernment so that we know what is best in all situations. Not to stop short, let us pray that the fruit we produce in our lives is what Paul calls righteousness. This simply means that a life with this kind of abounding love and insightful wisdom will make right choices and live rightly.
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small(er) group questions:
What comes to mind when you think of Paul’s phrase, ‘partnership in the gospel’?
Put yourself in Paul’s shoes (sandals). He’s in prison, in chains (the scripture says). How can he feel this kind of Joy & Affection for anyone while in prison? What’s your take on it?
Why is it tempting to view community and fellowship in a selfish way (what I can get for me) while forgetting that it’s a two way street? Would you agree that healthy and authentic community is one that involves give and take; receiving and participating? If so, how so?
Read Philippians 1:6. Why do you think many people favour this verse? What about it encourages you?
God is a starter & finisher. What does that mean to you?
Take some time to pray for one another tonight in the meaningful way that Paul prays for the Philippians. Choose at least one person to pray for in your group tonight and use similar words to Paul’s.