Sometimes we feel bound and chained by our circumstances. When my kids are giving me trouble, I feel frustrated, when Niki and I are at odds I feel down, when our church is not doing like I think it should be doing, I feel like a failure. Watch the news and see natural disasters, death, rape, and carnage and get even more depressed. Can you relate to letting the things around you get you down? The book of Philippians, which is about experiencing hope and joy regardless of our experiences.
When Paul penned this letter he had already been imprisoned for two years at Caesarea and now is being held a prisoner in Rome. He is writing this letter from prison. Paul did not have everything go his way before deciding to enjoy life. He had survived a disastrous shipwreck while being transported to Rome. He has been deserted by most of his friends. Other Christian leaders are using Paul’s circumstances to advance themselves. He is facing possible execution at any time. He is awaiting his trial before Caesar for the trumped up charges of disturbing the peace. It does not sound like a situation that would lend itself to the writing of a cheerful letter, does it? Yet, there is no book of the Bible that speaks more of joy and hope than Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
On a personal note, this is one of my favorite books in the bible, which contains my favorite verse in it. In high school when I began reading my bible on my own, I found the little book of Philippians with only 4 chapters to be so meaningful. Every time I would come back to it, it was full of verses that screamed out to me “Memorize me”! “Meditate on me!” “Apply me to your life!” I have verses memorized from each chapter & I hope you can too!
Perhaps you’ve had a quick read through Philippians, or perhaps you’ve latched on to some key verses that have greatly impacted you or perhaps you have never encountered the powerful spiritual truth in this letter. However, much exposure you’ve had to it – I pray that God will use this study to bring lasting change to your everyday experience, and that you will experience for yourself the power for change found in this book.
This first few verses has to do with people in our lives.
What was it about the people of Philippi that allowed Paul to be joyful and have hope?
First, he was thankful that he had happy memories of the people.
- Remember The Good Times With People In My Life
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy
Paul wrote, “I like to remember the good times with you!” He chose to focus on the good times they had and remember the positive experiences. What do you remember about people, the good experiences or the bad experiences?
Paul says that he has happy memories of his time with this church. Does that mean that there were no sad times, no times of difficulty? Of course not! (Read Paul’s hard times in Philippi in Acts 16)
When Paul said this, he had not had a relaxing vacation in Philippi. Acts 16 tells us the background of this story. When he went to Philippi he was arrested, stripped beaten with rods (ouch!) in public, humiliated, thrown in prison and put in stocks. Stocks were also a humiliating and painful position to be put in. While in prison there was an earthquake. He was run out of town. Paul had by anyone’s measurement horrific experience in Philippi; it would have ranked among the worst in anyone’s book. Yet he says, when I think of you I remember the good things. “I thank God every time I remember you.” Paul could have dwelt on the negative. He could have remembered the painful memories. He chose not to remember the painful and he focused on the things he could be grateful for.
Maybe a parent, partner, co-worker, relative or friend has in your past hurt you and you’re still holding onto that hurt. As a result you can’t enjoy them today. You’re still focusing on the bad and the negative. Be grateful for the good in people. Pleasant memories are a choice. I can choose what I’m going to remember about the past.
Am I saying to deny the hurts and excuse the weaknesses in other people? No. That is not healthy either. But focus on the good, the pleasant and choose to emphasize those instead of the negative, and unpleasant.
- I can dwell on the bad or I can dwell on the good; it’s my choice.
- Recall The Ways People Have Helped Me
Who has been helpful to you? Definitely your parents! Studies reveal it takes over a million dollars to raise a child – your parents did that for you! Teachers, think of the time spent for you to learn to read, write and count. There’s a pretty long list beyond that: someone at work, a friend, a husband or wife. Maybe they didn’t do anything really spectacular, like give you a million dollars but time and time again, when they had every opportunity to walk out on you, or hit you they didn’t. They hung in there. They have been with you day in and day out. When you were going through the crisis, the change in careers, when you were just being a jerk — they stayed with you. You ought to appreciate that! They haven’t left and they’ve had plenty of good reasons. It will revolutionize your world if you will stop thinking people owe you and start thanking people who help you!
Paul remembered all the things the Philippians did and called them his partners. Did you know it takes many people to pull things off, especially in ministry? People were reached for Christ and the Philippians had a part.
5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,
Partnership, I want to focus on that word for a moment. We are reaching people for Christ at our church. Every one that is doing anything here, even if you think it’s small, from cleaning, to helping with the children, to working in the yard – it makes a difference! You are partners in those decisions for Christ, you are partners in what God is doing, and you are partners in eternity.
7bFor whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.
I want to remind you about the make-up of the church at Philippi. Like our church, it was made up of people who outside of the church had little in common. The church at Philippi was a Gentile church, because all of the names associated with it are Gentile names, and no Old Testament passages are quoted in the book. There was the local jailor and his family (Acts 16:25-34), a slave girl who had been delivered from demon possession (Acts 16:16-18) and a businesswoman named Lydia (Acts 16:14-15). Apparently, there was little to bind them together by worldly standards, but they had one important thing in common, their love for the Lord and involvement in His church.
In Paul’s day the world was filled with barriers that separated people, just as it is today, barriers of race, wealth, education and culture. But within the fellowship of the gospel none of these things mattered. They simply loved one another and the world marveled at this.
*Like our church here we have Longhorns, Aggies, Red Raiders and others but what matters most is we are all on the same team, Jesus’ team!
We may have money or not have money, we may be blue-collar, white collar or have ring around the collar but we ALL HAVE THE SAME JESUS, THE SAME FAITH AND THE SAME PURPOSE – “Love God, Love People Share Jesus.” That is our purpose and we partner together to fulfill it.
- Learn To Appreciate The Growth In People
Do you have any unfinished projects around your house? How about any unfinished projects at work? Most of us do. Do you realize that you are in the hands of a loving God who is at work in your life? STILL… You may feel like an unfinished project but God will complete it. And please know this takes time!!
6 Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. This is our memory verse.
Paul believed in God’s power to change the human personality. Paul believed that no person was hopeless. He never gave up on people. This is a great promise of God. Claim it for your kids, for your mate, for yourself.
It is God who originates it. It is God who carries out the His work in us. It is God who will complete it. Our hope does not rest in anything we have or will do, but in the fact that Christ lives in us and through us.
Paul is talking about faith. Faith is expecting the best from other people. There’s tremendous power in faith.
The common mistake is we tend to judge people on the basis of how far they have to go rather than how far they have come.
Paul looked at people’s future and not just at their past. He looked at their potential and was patient with their progress.
Paul looks at the people in Philippi & he says, “I see great potential there. I see God working in you, & He is ready to complete his work.”
We need to be patient with people’s progress. To enjoy people we must allow for growth and for development. Paul could say, “I’m not the man I used to be, thank God. But also, thank God, I’m not the man I’m going to be. I’m growing and changing.”
In my marriage, if I want to enjoy our marriage, I’ve got to learn to enjoy Niki right now while allowing for growth and development. The same is true of all marriages. By the time they meet your conditions you will have still another condition for them to meet. We’ve got to learn to enjoy them where they are right now. Parents, if we’re going to learn to enjoy our kids, we’ve got to learn to enjoy them in the process, while they’re growing because there is no such thing as a perfect kid. And there’s no such thing as a perfect adult. If you demand perfection of the people in your life in order to enjoy them, we’re going to be miserable for the rest of your life. Nobody’s perfect.
- If I wait for perfection in people before I am happy with them, I will remain unhappy.
To enjoy people, you’ve got to enjoy them in the process, not when they’ve arrived.
Develop A Deep Concern and Care For People
7a It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart… 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
“If people are not on your heart they will be on your nerves.” Rick Warren
The reason so many marriages are crumbling is that mates are reacting to each other from their mind rather than their heart. When your wife says, “I feel down” listen to her; it’s legitimate. When your husband says, “I don’t feel this is the right thing we ought to do.” Listen to him. Listening and loving from the heart hears the hurt behind the words.
Heart love begins with understanding, knowing why they feel that way. Why does the guy at work act like such a jerk? Maybe you don’t know the background he grew up in. Maybe he’s tons better than he used to be ten years ago. Hear the hurt, look for the problems, know what makes your mate tick. You cannot love someone you don’t understand. Understanding them makes it easy (or easier). You need to understand the moods of the people closest around you, why they act the way they do. If you care, you’ll be aware.
If heart love begins with understanding, how do you get understanding? By asking questions and then listening. The most common complain I hear from people is lack of understanding. What a comfort it is to know that someone fully understand you.
How do you love those people that even when you do understand them, they are unlovable? V. 8: “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” In Greek the word “affection” is the word for “intestines”. King James translates this “bowels”. In Greek society, the Greeks thought that the seat of the emotions was in your stomach, your liver, and your internal organs.
Paul would say, “I’ve got a deep internal or gut love for you.” That is not a natural kind of love. It is a supernatural kind of love and that’s why Paul said it’s not from himself, but it’s the affection of Christ Jesus. Human love wears out and dries up and dies on the vine. This happens to everybody. The only kind of love that lasts and lasts in spite of heartache and difficulty in tough circumstances is God’s love — the affection of Jesus Christ. That’s the only kind of love that lasts.
In order to have a deep concern and care for people you have to stay plugged into Jesus Christ. He will give you the ability to care when your care is gone, he will give you concern when your concern is gone.
For example let say you are at home. I know this is a stretch; but your spouse is on your nerves not on your heart. I know, I know, not likely but just pretend! What do you do? You pray, “Jesus help me to love my spouse, give me your love, mine is gone! I am feeling like I hate their guts but I want to love them.” The same scenario could be played out five minutes later with your kids, or the next day with a co-worker. We need to realize our limitations and plug into the “affection of Jesus Christ.”
Life is too short to not enjoy the people in your life. If you don’t learn to enjoy the people that God has placed around you in your life you will be miserable. As Paul begins this great book about joy and hope he starts off talking about people. People will rob your joy unless you learn how to respond to them the way Jesus did.
- Pray for People in Positive Ways
I want to challenge us to a new level spiritually. Instead of griping about someone, pray about him or her to God! Instead of complaining about them, try praying for them. This is what we see makes a difference in Paul’s attitude. We are even to pray about our enemies. We will see Paul do this and we know Jesus did. Prayer is a key to joy and hope.
Prayer will do at least two things: it will change your attitude (for the better) and it will change the person. Positive praying is much more powerful than positive thinking.
- People may ignore my opinions, reject my feelings and refuse to listen to me but they are powerless against my prayers.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.
There is an entire message right here in these few verses about what Paul prayed for, what these things mean and so on. I am not even going to get into this but when you say to somebody, “I’ll pray for you”, what do you say in prayer? What do you pray? “God, bless them?” That’s so general. Look how specific this prayer is of Paul’s. I have a list of how to pray for people based on the prayers of Paul it and it is amazing to me how specific he is. You could study the prayers of Paul to see how to pray for people but you could also just be aware of how general we can be and the challenge to you is to be specific when you pray for people. I know we can be REAL specific about what bugs us about people. Why not be specific about how God can work in their life?
And lastly the glue that holds all of this together is…
- Trust Jesus in Everything
- Jesus and God are used 13 times in these 11 verses.
You can’t read this and not see how much Paul depends on Jesus; he uses his name with every sentence. Have you ever known someone who repeats phases? Paul repeats JESUS like this, not in an annoying way or a thoughtless way but in a way that we see Jesus is what gives Paul the strength the joy, the purpose and reason for living. We can see that…
The key to joy is a relationship with Jesus Christ
- I am a Servant of Jesus Christ (1a)
- I am in Jesus (1b)
- I have Grace from Jesus (2a)
- I have Peace from Jesus (2b)
- I am Thankful to God (3)
- Jesus Began a Good Work in me (6a)
- Jesus Will Complete the Good Work in me (6b)
- God can Support me (8a)
- I can Love with the Affection of Jesus (8b)
- I have a Righteousness from Jesus (11a)
- I can give Praises to God (11b)
I hope these are personal to you as well. This is what Jesus is or can become to you.
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