3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. 7 So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. 8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
In Acts chapter 16 Luke records Paul’s first missionary trip to Philippi and the people there who responded to a living relationship with the Redeemer Jesus Christ. As we consider the church congregation at Philippi we realize that they represent people from a wide and diverse walk. They included a wealthy merchant woman named Lydia and her household, a Greek slave girl, and the Roman jailer and his family. Not only were they diverse in ethnicity, but they could have been separated by their socioeconomic status. It was to this rich yet relationally diverse congregation that Paul wrote this joy-filled letter that called them to journey together in joy. Instead of their differences become barriers or causes for relational conflict they chose to come alongside and complement one another. Joy wasn’t based on being the same but on serving. Paul also wrote this letter to the Philippians from prison reminding us that true joy is not a surface emotion that depends on favorable circumstances. Joy is independent of outward conditions, and is possible even in the midst of adverse circumstances, such as suffering, persecution and prison. So how what can we learn from this letter about how to have joy in our relationships? First Paul didn’t just preach these principles he practiced them and the first is you need to:
- Practice Affirmation
Paul counts the Philippians as partners in the important work of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul didn’t just value others he expressed their value. Affirmation occurs when we see people as partners not problems. But this takes focusing on the family of God and not our feelings. I’m sure prison was not pleasant for Paul, yet he chose to find his pleasure in past and present partnerships not in a problem free life. For Paul His affirmation wasn’t affected by affliction because his attitude wasn’t based on current circumstances but on Christ. He didn’t depend on a when and then thinking, when I get out of here or when it gets better. How many of us wait, and so waste time because we are living and leaning on a when and then mentality instead of on the Lord? He didn’t wallow in the pit of worry, what if this or what if that happens. For a Christian life is not based on a worst case scenario it’s based on a winning Savior scenario. So you don’t have to spend your time wrapped up in your worry, are you going to practice affirmation or anxiety? Are you going to be paralyzed by fear or propelled by praise? Why do we work so hard on our worry when we could be worshipping? Why do we put so much more effort into pursuing a problem free life than we do in praising God for the people He has placed in our life? Paul chose to focus on people and praise not his prison and the problems. When Paul said that the Philippians were partners in the gospel, he was pointing out their valuable and needed contribution. They may not have preached but they had contributed through their practical help when Paul was in Philippi and through their financial support when he was in prison. If you want to experience joy in your relationships then begin by affirming the people God has called you to partner with. You cannot enjoy those you criticize, which is not to say that you need to overlook sin, or that you shouldn’t correct, but are you championing those close to you or just criticizing? No they are not perfect partners but they are God’s great and gracious gift, one you should not take for granted. Affirmation often takes the form of verbally praising the value and worth of others, yet affirmation can take many forms. It can be reflected in the treasure we call time, which can be given but never gotten back. When we take time to play with our kids, we are affirming that they are important. When we take time for those who hurt or need help we are affirming their importance. Have you become too busy to bless those closest to you? Are you too busy preaching to actually practice. Many of us don’t have time to affirm others because we are tied up trying to get others to affirm us. Paul’s purpose in writing wasn’t to get affirmation but to give it. Our affirmation can be revealed when we see the potential in others and patiently invest in them. Or when we protect purity and choose to love instead of lust, we are affirming the value and beauty of our bride. Do you have an attitude of affirming, are you verbally valuing others, are you taking the time to treasure them? Affirmation calls our appreciation to become active, to be seen as we show people that they are special and significant. Appreciation serves others it isn’t selfish, Paul didn’t focus on self and his needs he participated in prayer for others. He made praying for others a priority. Paul was thankful for God’s team, instead of taking them for granted he saw them as a gift. One of the greatest killers of affirmation is anger, Instead of showing others how much they mean we are mean. This week don’t just preach affirmation practice it with your partners. Take time to share your appreciation for your family, prayer for and with the partners God has given you.
- Place your Confidence in Christ
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Paul placed his confidence in Christ, his attitude of affirmation wasn’t based on circumstances but in the confidence that Christ would complete the work. Paul was confident that the Philippians would remain faithful and continue to preach the gospel while he was in prison. Because his confidence was not in the Philippians or even in himself, but in the One who began the good work. Here is one of the most freeing facts for your relationships, where or in whom we place our confidence determines how much joy we have in our relationships. What often ruins relationships is the inappropriate placement of confidence. What if you were placing all your confidence in your pastor to grow the church, to meet your needs and be there when you needed him most? Many have become disappointed and dissolution not because their pastor was the problem but because their placement of confidence was wrong. This is not neglecting the responsibilities of the pastor, it’s just recognizing that he is not where we should be putting our confidence. Likewise what if your pastor place his confidence in you to be there when he need you. Or to change when he taught you truth, or to serve others without complaining? How long would he last before discouragement drained him? No it’s not that I’m a pessimist, it’s that my bible gives me an accurate assessment of humanity. Do you have a correct placement of confidence? Many of us are relationally resentful because we have placed our hope in the human. Not placing our confidence in each other is not to say that we don’t count on each other or try to follow through with our commitments. No the problem becomes that we end up place the emphasis on perfection and people are not perfect. There becomes no room for reality and therein lies the relational ruin. We will forget something important, like a wedding anniversary, or a birthday, our kids may fail to act their age or for that matter so may we. We may desire to be promise keepers but we may become promise breakers. It is here that many lose their joy because they end up focusing on the junk. They get wrapped up in wrongs instead of the Word. You see the correct placement of our confidence in God frees us to enjoy each other and rejoice in our relatively rare successes. I can relax and enjoy my relationships because the God who began the good work in us will continue it throughout our lifetime and will finish it when we meet the Father face to face. Are you policing or placing your confidence in Christ ability to change? Police pull you over to point out the problems, Paul focused on praise and pray. Where have you placed your confidence and who are you praising?