“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return” (Philippians 1:9-10, NLT).
This letter to the church in Philippi is particularly close to my heart. While I have memorized different chapters in the Bible, Philippians is the only book I have managed to memorize. And though I can’t say I could quote it to you anymore, when I read or hear those words, it’s like calling an old friend and picking up right where we left off.
The Philippian church has a special place in Paul’s heart. From the very beginning, they have partnered with Paul in spreading the Good News of Christ. He reminds them how very much they mean to him by telling them of how often he joyfully prays for them and how he longs for their spiritual growth.
As he writes from prison, Paul assures the people that he is convinced that his imprisonment is bearing fruit. Rather than hindering his work in the ministry, it has helped to spread the Good News and emboldened the believers around him to speak of God without fear. And even though he knows that some are preaching Christ with pure motives and others with impure motives–making Paul’s imprisonment more painful–it doesn’t seem to matter. “Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice” (verse 18).
Paul’s “earnest expectation and hope” is that his circumstances will never cause him to be ashamed of the Gospel but continue to spur him on to boldness for Christ. “And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (verses 20-21). Life means service and the fruit of that service which is, ultimately, more hearts won over by the Gospel. But death? Well, death means being in the presence of Christ; however, he is convinced that he will make it through these chains alive for their sakes, to help them grow and give them a reason to rejoice.
While they are awaiting Paul’s release, the Philippians are to remember their reputation and stand in unity, striving for the faith of the Gospel. Just like we read in Ephesians 6, they are to stand firm against their adversaries. And as they remember the suffering of Paul and, even greater, the suffering of Christ, they must–as we must–see the privilege of suffering for Him.
“We are in this struggle together… (verse 30).