It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. (Philippians 1:7, ESV)
Paul loves the Philippians. Truly loves them. In our age of busyness, constantly struggling to achieve one goal so we can get on to the next, we fly by Paul and the Philippians as merely a blur in our window while rocketing higher and higher towards a fully sanctified, devoted, and fruit-bearing life. And we miss so much.
Ok rocketboys and rocketgirls, let’s turn off the afterburners for a few minutes. Re-enter the atmosphere… put on the airbrake. Sit down and take a couple of breaths.
Paul loves the Philippians. They have shared time, energy, work, labor, effort, preaching, teaching, learning, money, food, housing, prayer, concern, suffering, torture, imprisonment, criticism, poverty, questions, doubts, fears, generosity, laughter, meals, tears, sweat, illness, friends, death, life, the gospel, and ultimately Christ. Christ has been in all these things with the Philippians and Paul. Throughout, Paul loves the Philippians. That is what he’s telling them. “It is only right for me to believe that God will finish the work He began in you because I have you in my heart.” Paul knows God’s love for the Philippians, and he knows and owns his own love for his friends.
Paul has been in trouble, both in Philippi and several times after. They never abandon him. He ministered the grace of the gospel of Christ among them, which they received whole-heartedly and shouldered Paul’s burdens as much as they could. What love they have shown for Christ and for Paul in sticking with the apostle through thick and thin. They put their own skin on the line in many ways to help their beloved friend and serve their precious Savior.
I’ve held my tongue until now, but I need to say something about the trouble Paul had. Paul suffered for the sake of the gospel. Suffered. He was beaten. He was stoned. He was imprisoned. He was shipwrecked. He went hungry. He was disowned, berated, and rejected. Many of today’s media superstar preachers have “trouble” also. They don’t have a large enough house in an exclusive enough neighborhood. They don’t have a fast enough corporate jet. They don’t have enough cars or garage space to hold them all. They don’t have a big enough yacht. They don’t have long enough retreats at lavish enough resorts. They don’t have white enough veneers for their toothy smiles. They don’t have enough money in the bank or a big enough church. They don’t have enough designer suits in their closets or enough designer shoes for their feet. They don’t have enough, but it is their calling to “suffer” these things for the sake of the gospel.
They do have enough of one thing. They have enough greed to last a lifetime. No danger of running out there. In distinct contrast, Paul shows what suffering for the sake of the gospel really looks like. The Philippians show what loving their preacher and brother really looks like. Can we suffer with and love the people in our lives like Paul and the Philippians? Well, has God changed? Has Jesus scrapped the gospel since it’s so much trouble and switched to delivering a message of gospel-lite, otherwise known as prosperity? No, God has not changed. The good old gospel is still good news. And yes, by God’s grace we can suffer with and love the people in our lives like this.
While I desire that these thoughts magnify Christ and are a help to you, they can only help if they are lived by you in your life right where you’re at. Today. Reading Philippians together won’t make a lick of difference in your life without application to your heart and your life touching the lives of those around you. Reading Philippians without loving those around you makes the message ring empty. So turn off the touchdown-achieving afterburners and love the dear people in your life as Christ loves them. Spend and be spent for them with time, energy, work, labor, effort, preaching, teaching, learning, money, food, housing, prayer, concern, suffering, torture, imprisonment, criticism, poverty, questions, doubts, fears, generosity, laughter, meals, tears, sweat, illness, friends, death, life, the gospel, and ultimately Christ.