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Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 1/19/2012
(edited September 2019)
Verses 1-6: “ Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Paul and Silas had birthed this church, as I see it, starting with a holy dream about a man (who turned out to be a business woman, by the way) and a heroic duet in a jail cell. You can read more about that in Acts chapter 16.
The point here is that Paul had good reason to the believers at Philippi and was concerned for their spiritual growth and profit. He’s reminding them that in tough times, God continues to work in us all. Then he says this:
Verses 7-11: “ Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”
Christ is taking time to love them, therefore, they ought to extend that love to those around them. This is a large portion of the “work” that God began in them. Paul tells them that Christian Love needs to overflow with knowledge and judgment. Why? Because it is hard to love others when you are having troubles of your own and Paul knows all about that:
Verses 12-18: “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”
Having “trials” is not an abstract concept for Paul. He is writing to them from Rome where he is under arrest because of his ministry and his preaching. Notice how Paul is seeking out and finding blessings even in the middle of the chaos in his life. Paul is a living example of a life filled and overflowing with God’s love. There is an old, cynical, refrain that goes something like this: those who can’t, teach. But that certainly isn’t true of Paul.
Verses 19-20: “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”
Paul is actually a lot of trouble. His life is in danger at this time. Yet he maintains a very positive tone in this letter.
One day, years ago at a church where I was directing the choir, I was encouraging the singers during our weekly rehearsal to smile a bit more while singing what was supposed to be a very joyful anthem. Though I didn’t mean to, I offended a few of the older ladies in the choir. Then one of them reprimanded me by saying, “Don’t be a Polyanna!”
Well, I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I suspected that it wasn’t a compliment. We didn’t have Internet searching in those days, but eventually I found and watched the movie of that name made in 1960. Hayley Mills, who played the leading role of a young orphan girl, soon stole my heart. As I thought back over the comment that was made at the rehearsal, I began to view it as more of a compliment. “Pollyanna,” I guess, came to mean one who ignores reality, maybe to the point of being stupid. But in the story I saw, Pollyanna wasn’t an idiot. She simply was a little girl who, even in distress, held hope in her heart!
By the way, I’m not attacking the woman who called me this. Years later, as I heard it, she had to face MANY severe trials and I fear her cynicism was not adequate to see her through all that (I don’t know). I do know that she had a point about me. My optimism at that time was, though Godly and well-intended from my point of view, too shallow and naïve for the burdens I would have to bear in later years which, of course, were unknown to me that evening.
Something like the Pollyanna in that movie, Paul’s life was also built on hope. Actually Faith, and Hope, and Love for God. That is very Scriptural: First comes Faith in the Lord, then Hope in your life, and only then can come your best Love for God and man! This is a Love that will never fail you or me. (Earlier in his ministry, Paul wrote a beautiful poem about this in his letter to the Corinthians, see I Cor. 13).
What Paul says next to the Philippians does almost sound like a denial of reality. But it isn’t delusional. It’s transformational. Listen:
Verses 21-24: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
I wonder if Jesus was torn in this way at times? Could he have ascended back to Heaven at any time during His life on earth? I thank God that Jesus chose to stay and pay for my sins and yours. THAT is Love.
Verses 25-26: “And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”
Paul’s hope shines through here. But he is realistic too, knowing that they may well have to carry on without his physical presence:
Verse 27: “ Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;”
Faith, Hope, Love and the confidence they bring are our greatest strength in this world. Let’s review for a moment the adversity Christ faced at Calvary (see Matt. 27:33-43). And Paul tells the Philippians that the Victorious Love of Jesus, even on the Cross, is available for believers who must now bear their own crosses in this life:
Verse 28: “ And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.”
Our spiritual enemies are frightened by the power of God’s Love, but not so frightened that they won’t push back on us:
Verse 29: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;”
It may seem unbearable or unfair, but that doesn’t mean that Love no longer applies. Paul was passing through deep sorrows and trials. It was no secret:
Verse 30: “Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”
And what was true of Paul at this time, and had been true in the life of Christ will be true, in some form, at some time, for every true believer. But this is the Road to Ultimate Victory and Heaven. And when it gets roughest that is not the time to cast off our Love, but to seek it even more. Let’s pray now for each other.