We would be starting with the first chapter of the book of Philippians.
Philippians is one of the Apostle Paul’s four Prison Epistles. Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi with whom he shared a close partnership and special affection. He also addressed the letter to church elders and deacons. The tone of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is very positive, perhaps the most positive of all of Paul’s epistles. He mentions very few negative things about them.
They are a church that is doing well, unlike the Corinthians who were rife with problems and strongly rebuked by Paul. But although they were doing well, Paul did not ignore them or assume that they would continue to do well. He still wrote to encourage them to keep pressing on to even greater heights.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Chapter 1 introduces the major themes of Paul’s letter. A large proportion of the passage is given to thanking the Philippian church for their loyal support of Paul. Paul also encourages them with a reminder that good or bad, anything a Christian experiences can be used for the glory of God. This sets the tone for the rest of the letter, where Paul will continue to stress the importance of living out the Christian life. This, he says, starts with having a proper attitude and approach.
Philippians is Paul’s discussion of living the Christian life. In this letter to the church of Philippi, Paul highlights themes such as joy and glory. He also emphasises how a Christian’s thinking—their attitude—affects how they live out their faith. Paul is very thankful for the support of the Philippian church but is also concerned about the influence of various false teachers. This letter is less theological than most of his other writings and more practical.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 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. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Paul may not have been able to do the kind of ministry he had done before with lots of travelling and church planting, but he didn’t allow this to discourage him or keep him from the work. Where there is a will, there is a way. Paul had the will to do ministry no matter what the circumstances were so he found a way. He wasn’t free to go where he may have wanted, but he could share with the people around him and he did. Besides that, he wrote letters to the people he couldn’t visit while praying for them often.
We should not make excuses for not reaching out to others. Paul could have become focused on himself and his own problems. It would have been natural for him to expect others to care for and pray for him. He could have looked back on his long ministry and rested on his laurels. But he didn’t. Even in prison, he sought ways to reach out. Sickness, disability, persecution, age, gender: none of these are reasons to stop doing the ministry God has called us to. Serving God even when it is difficult and there are many challenges is a great inspiration to others as well.
If we have the desire to share the gospel, there is always an opportunity to do that. If you can’t speak, you can write. If you are blind, you can still speak. If you are on a plane, you can share with the person next to you. If you are in the park, you can share with the lonely elderly people you can find there. If your parents don’t want to see you, you can write. People have a lot of excuses for not sharing the good news.
Paul had a good “reason” not to. He was wrongfully imprisoned. But that didn’t stop him. We would do well to remember Paul’s statement in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God.” As we see in all of the books Paul writes, he actively prays for those he ministers to. In almost every one of his letters, it is evident that he consistently prays for those he ministers to. It is important for us to follow his example in consistently praying for those we reach out to, whether it is our children, students, Bible study members, or disciples.
Why was Paul’s ministry so effective? Was it his method? No
Was it his education level? No
Was it God’s blessing? Definitely.
But why did God bless him? He was a man of prayer. God used his prayer to accomplish great things.
So, let’s ask ourselves, do we pray regularly for the people we share with, for our co-workers, for our family and friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ?
He didn’t take God’s answers for granted. He prayed with thanksgiving. He realized it was God’s work in their lives and he was grateful for that work (Philippians 1:6). When God blessed his ministry, he thanked Him for it. We should do the same.
He was joyful. This means he cared deeply for the Philippians. It wasn’t just a job, a routine. He cared about them like a father and a close friend. Their successes excited him. At the same time, their failures concerned him.
For many people, prayers are often shallow and focused on our temporal and physical needs. We learn from Paul and other great men and women of prayer to go deeper. Paul’s prayers focus on the most important things, character, and spiritual growth. Pray for health, strength, and provision. But go beyond this. Plead with God for character growth. Ask God to turn weaknesses into strengths. Identify areas of shortcomings and pray for growth in those areas. Spend some time evaluating the type of things you normally pray for. And make sure that your prayers reflect God’s heart and not your own.
He prayed that their strengths would become even stronger. In other words, he wasn’t content that they were doing well. He wanted them to reach forward and upward.
No matter how good we are at something, there is always room for growth. No one is perfect, even in other areas. Do not become complacent.
No matter if you are a new believer or a teacher of many years, you can have good fellowship with others, come alongside them, work together and strengthen each other. Do not think that just because you are a new believer you have little to offer. Every believer is gifted by God with exactly what they need to build His kingdom how He wants and when He wants.
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,
Paul practised what he preached. He often taught others to be joyful and not to complain, to trust God in every circumstance, and to realize that God is sovereign over everything.
He didn’t just say that because it was always others in trouble. He faced way more than. Yet he never complained. He was joyful in the prison in Philippi and now he was still joyful in a prison in Rome.
It has to be Paul’s positive attitude for me, always.
Paul’s ultimate goal was for the gospel to be spread, and he realized that this situation afforded many unique opportunities to spread the gospel. We should learn from Paul and always look for the silver lining in our circumstances.
The good in whatever situation we find ourselves
Don’t focus on the negative things or become a complainer. If you complain, who are you complaining against? I am also complaining against God who allowed this to happen, perhaps to build up my patience and compassion.
God has a reason for everything
What importance was there for Paul being in prison?
He had more time for prayer.
He had more time for writing epistles.
A testimony that others could look to, to become bold in their own sharing.
Some people were motivated positively by Paul’s imprisonment to share the gospel, but some others were motivated by selfish reasons.
While Paul didn’t agree with their motivations, he was happy that the gospel was going out and through their preaching people could be saved.
God looks at the heart and would not reward someone who has wrong motivations since they already have received their reward (respect of men) in full. But as long as the message was true, then people could hear it and have the opportunity to be saved.
For us, we should examine ourselves and make sure we have the right reason for sharing the gospel. What is the right reason? LOVE!!!
- Are you sharing the gospel?
- When was the last time you shared with someone? Spend a few minutes thinking about who among your circle you could pray for. Write down 3-5 names.
- Are you willing to commit to praying for these people regularly?
for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Philippians 1:19–30 speak of Paul’s hope of being released from house arrest (Philippians 1:19). In either case, life or death, Paul was content, though he expected to continue serving at that time. He clearly planned to visit the believers in Philippi again (Philippians 1:26). He also clearly taught that separation from the body—for the believer—is not something to be feared: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). In contrast with false views of the afterlife, Paul specifically pointed believers to a future hope in the presence of the Lord.
A life worthy of the Gospel
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”
We can learn from this that it is important not to grow complacent with our spiritual level or with those that we teach. Doing well yesterday does not guarantee we will do well today. Growth requires perseverance and dedication.
I pray God helps his word into our hearts in Jesus name!!