Joy Amidst Difficulty – Philippians 1:1-11
The letter to the Philippians is truly a remarkable piece of writing. Paul is writing from a dark and seemingly hopeless place as he writes from his prison cell, not because he has done the wrong thing but because he is “in chains for Christ” (1:13). He boldly dared to declare the good news of forgiveness found in Jesus, and he was locked up for it. And yet, despite his depressing circumstances, Paul writes with a joy that is evident on nearly every page. Check out how much ‘joy’ floods this letter (1:4, 1: 18-19; 2:17-18; 3:1, 4:1, 4, and 10).
If we are to understand how Paul could have such a joyful response, in such trying circumstances, we need to observe where he is fixing his thoughts as we move through this epistle. Spoiler alert: it isn’t by meditating on how difficult his life is in prison. Rather, it is by fixing his eyes on Jesus that brings Paul such supernatural joy. Meditating on who Jesus is, what He has done on the cross for us, and how His grace is still at work in the Church of Philippi and around the world. This is what we witness in Paul’s opening greetings and prayer in 1:1-11. In 1:3, 4 we see he always thanks God for them and he prays “with joy because of [their] partnership in the gospel”. This Church was not just believer’s in the good news (gospel) but partners in it, active in financially and prayerfully supporting it’s spread throughout the world (4:10ff). This partnership brings Paul joy because it itself is evidence of God’s grace at work in their lives – which he delights that God “will bring on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6). Paul concludes this opening section with a prayer for these precious saints. And notice what he prays – that their love may increase “in knowledge and depth of insight” (1:9). I take that to mean Paul wants their love to grow in outward actions but not however as they see it best to love in their own minds, but according to the knowledge that God has revealed in his Word. And this is with the desired outcome “so that” they may be discerning what is best and be pure and blameless (1:10).
This opening section of Philippians I think challenges us in three ways.
· Firstly, it reminds us to fix our eyes on Jesus and his grace at work around us and to rejoice in it when we see it!
· Secondly, it reminds us that while we might not be on the front lines of taking this good news throughout the world, we are still called to be partners in the gospel. Let’s not keep it to ourselves but invest our time, energy, money, and prayers to see this precious message reach the unreached!
· Finally, Let’s pray BIG prayers for each other. Prayers that are full of thanksgiving – after all isn’t it remarkable that God is at work in each of us today? Prayers that request big things for each other – like love to grow more and more in our lives and to be shaped by the knowledge in God’s word and to bring much glory to Jesus.
Your brother in Christ, Craig Stalder
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