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.
When it comes to finding Joy in others Paul first called us to practice affirmation and place our confidence in Christ, because when God starts a project, he completes it. Just as He did with the Philippians, God will grow you in grace and complete the work he has started in your life. The next time you are discouraged remember that God has not given up on you. So if you are feeling incomplete and unfinished, instead of focusing on your shortcomings focus on His strength. Don’t let your present condition rob you of His joy, remember His promise and provision. Third Paul reminds us to:
- Pursue Community
In Philippians 1:7 Paul says “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.” There is a power in community that even prison can’t stop because when you have people in your heart, it matters not whether they are in your presence. Paul even in prison was reliving the joyful relationship he shared with the Philippians who had partnered with him in the gospel. They were not only partakers in his praise but also in his imprisonment. Community is not about convenience and it’s not always comfortable but it is comforting. They were in his heart even though he was many miles away in a prison cell. You see if the relationships you have exist only in the presence of a formal gathering then you have a crowd, not a community. The presence of community starts in the heart regardless of whether or not the relationship is revealed in a gathering. Scheduled programs provide structure but they don’t produce joy in our relationships, it is the presence of community that we need to pursue. It is the practice of affirming people and placing our confidence in God instead of others or ourselves that makes the sharing of our lives more significant. The presence of community then is the by-product of doing life together, sharing the sorrows and the smiles. Both the Philippians and Paul had shared in the grace of God, they had both placed their confidence in God’s goodness and from this joy presence of community grew. Are you taking time to share your life with your family? Are you pursuing community together? One of the reasons we have become such a discouraged, despondent, and depressed nation is we no longer crave or really care about community. We no longer come together and do life because we have bought into the lie that comfort and convenience will bring us joy. Look around at the number of families sitting together in the same place yet pursuing their phones not the people around them. Today we are connecting to computers not community. But for Paul joy came from a community of believers pursuing a journey with Jesus and each other. What is getting in the way of you pursuing community in your home, at work, and at church?
- Proclaim His affection
Paul now proclaims God’s affection “God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus” This is a love that involves longing and comes from our relationship with the Lord. Are you communicating Christ’s compassion with others? We are not the creators of love we are simply the contributors in love. Sharing the Savior means speaking His love, its simply giving to others what has been given to you. Are you a contributor or just a consumer of His love? What amazes me here is that Paul is saying in the same way Jesus loves me I chose to love you. You see this is more than Paul loving the Philippians as Jesus loved them, this is Paul loving the Philippians because Jesus loved Paul. We try to love others because we know that is what Jesus wants us to do instead of loving because we have been loved. What’s the difference, one is just a rational reason the other is a response to a radical love. Are you loving out of the overflow or out of law? 1st John 4:19 reminds us that “we love because He first loved us” Our love is a response to His radically love of us. You will either have a mentality of I get to love or I have to love, one is freeing the other is forced. Paul was not saying that loving other Christians was easy, after all the church is saturated with sinners and very few are lovable without some serious effort, including your pastor. I can say that in my church I know the Pastor and sometimes he can be hard to love! Seriously though he is a sinner just like you, but your love for him or anyone else can’t be based on them it has to be based on God’s love for you. You will never really love others until you have been loved. You can only love to the degree to which you have been loved. Is there someone you refuse to love in your church? Check the cross and see how much God put up with you when He loved you enough to send His only Son to die on your behalf. Is there someone you refuse to love at work? Go back to Calvary and notice the nails. You say you cannot forgive that family member who hurt you, look at the Saviors scars for you. It was His love for us that held Him there. How many of us are missing out on the joy of loving like Jesus because we are holding onto the hurts instead of His hand. Are you going to hold onto the grudges or the goodness of God? Paul didn’t just preach affection he practiced it by sharing what the Savior had done in his life. You see love in response to someone who deserves love is reward, but love in response to being loved is reciprocity. That’s the love that Paul proclaimed and passed on to the Philippians and it’s the love we too can share. Are you practicing affirmation, are you basing your confidence in Christ’s ability to finish the work, are you pursuing community and are you proclaiming His affection?