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. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.
Do you have joy in your relationships? Do you enjoy the people around you? So often we find ourselves in conflict with the ones we should love so instead of joy we have sorrow. Paul was thankful for the people in his life and he expressed his thanks first to God in prayer and second to those he was thankful for. So how does prayer impact our relationships with joy? Paul says: “I always pray with joy” his relational heart attitude towards others flows out of his relationship with God. Are you joyful in prayer? It is out of this time of prayer that Paul reveals several practices that will infuse our relationships with Joy.
- The Practice of Affirming (verses 3-5)
Paul tells the Philippians that he values them, and that they bring him joy. If we want to experience joy in our relationships then we must start affirming the people that we are relating to. The truth is that we cannot enjoy those we only criticize. This is not to say that you overlook sin, or you do not correct, Paul gave plenty of instruction and correction in his letters but he also affirmed people. Many of us see God as a critical judge just waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us, yet the opposite is really true. God affirms us, He values us, He sent His Son to redeem us, to purchase our freedom. The bible is filled with His love for us and as we relax into His presence through prayer we experience the joy of this relationship. Why do we have so little joy in our relationships today, could it be that we are not experiencing the joy of His presence? There is something even in the worst of us that we can affirm, yet many of us only see what we can criticize.
You can only enjoy those you affirm because affirmation oils our relationships allowing us to work together without unnecessary friction and damage. Affirmation gives value as it reveals another’s worth, it is not locked into just verbally praising but can take many forms. Take time for others affirms them because it says you are important to me. Most of us know how to affirm others and unfortunately we often do it because we want something. When it comes to those closest to us we often do not affirm them and instead just take them for granted. After time with God in prayer Paul then took time to intentionally affirm others. Tonight, before you go to bed, pray with (out loud and maybe holding hands) your spouse, your parents, your child. Share through your prayer what you are thankful to God for regarding them.
- The Practice of correctly placing confidence (verse 6)
Many times in our relationships we become frustrated with where people are at and their seeming lack of movement. Prayer allowed Paul to have a great confidence in others progression because his confidence was not in the Philippians or in himself, but in the God who began the work. Where or in whom we place our confidence determines how much joy we can have in our relationships and what often ruins relationships is the inappropriate placement of confidence. Let’s look at the church. What would happen if we placed our confidence in the pastor to grow it, to meet all our needs, or to be caring all the time? We would be disappointed, even resentful because he is just not that capable. What if the pastor place his confidence in us to be there when he need us, to change when he taught us a life-changing truth, or to serve one another without complaining. He also would be discouraged even resentful and neither pastor nor parishioner would relationally last very long. If we place confidence in ourselves we will eventually be disappointed and we will manipulate others to achieve our own goals. Not placing our confidence in each other or in ourselves is not to say we don’t count on each other or try to follow through with our commitments and responsibilities. But the correct placement of our confidence in God frees us to enjoy each other and rejoice in our periodic successes. Our confidence is in the One who began, who starts but also completes, who finishes the work. His work for us began when Christ died on the cross in our place, and it began in us when we first believed. God who began a good work in us continues it throughout our lifetime and will finish it, He is the starter and finisher. Sometimes we feel as though we are not making progress in our spiritual life but when you are discouraged remember that God has not given up on you. When God starts a project, he completes it, He promises to finish the work he has begun. When you feel incomplete, unfinished, or distressed by your shortcomings, remember God’s promise and provision. Don’t let your present condition or that of those around you to rob you of the joy of knowing Christ or keep you from growing closer to him.
- The Practice of cultivating community (verse 7)
The practice of affirming one another and the placement of confidence in God instead of others or ourselves make the sharing of our lives together a joy from which the presence of community can develop. Paul was reliving the joyful relationship shared with the Philippians in his heart even though he was many miles away in a prison cell. The presence of true community exists in the heart and is a by-product of sharing our lives together with joy. If the relationships you have exist only in the presence of formal gatherings, you have a crowd, not a community. Community is cultivated in the heart, scheduled programs and decorated facilities can bring organization and appeal, but they can never maintain joy in relationships, only the presence of community in the heart will.