â€œI thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.â€ (Philippians 1:3-11)
It is important to understand that Paulâ€™s letter to the Philippian Church is his book on joy. As a Christian, are you living a life of joy? If not, then stick with us because we are going to look closer at this. Paul gives us a hint of what a joyful life contains. And the passage above is the starting place. Letâ€™s look at my list:
First, I am to â€œthank my God upon every remembrance of you.â€ That means whenever I think about my wife, Iâ€™m to thank God for her. Every time I think about my children and grandson; Iâ€™m to thank God for them. Every time I think of my church family and my Sunday School class; Iâ€™m to thank God for them. Every time I think of any or all 190 of you; Iâ€™m to thank God for you.
Can I say that I do that? No.
Second, I am to pray for all of you with joy. That means no assassin prayers (it only gets harder as we go!). And what causes that joy? We are to have a â€œfellowship in the gospelâ€ from the very beginning of our relationships with other Christians. And as Dr. Jerry Vines says in his study on Philippians, â€œâ€˜Fellowshipâ€™ does not mean coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts. It means to â€˜have in commonâ€™, to â€˜share together a common interest.â€™â€ Our fellowship should begin with and continue in sharing the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Is that what we do always? Quite a bit yes, but now in the manner of which Paul writes.
Third, and this one most of us will identify with, is that as a Christian I am a work in progress. The problem with this is that Iâ€™m usually the one trying to do the work instead of God, but in verse 6 Paul clearly states that is was God â€œwho has begun a good work inâ€ me and that He â€œwill complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.â€
Sadly, Iâ€™m usually trying to make myself holy; Iâ€™m always trying to make myself righteous. Beloved that is the work of God through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.
What is worse is that I lose confidence in my abilities as a Christian because I know Iâ€™m incapable of becoming holy on my own, and yet I still try. My confidence needs to be in the work of God, not me. King David, a mighty warrior, trusted in his God:
â€œSome trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.â€ (Psalm 20:7)
Finally, my love for my fellow Christians should be a longing that is deeply rooted in my emotions, where I pray that you will grow in Biblical knowledge and wisdom, that you would be wise in your decisions and test or â€œapprove the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense.â€
Shucks, I barely pray that for myself much less for all of you!
So how do I turn things around and get on the track of loving like Paul?
I got good news and bad news. The bad news is you canâ€™t. The good news is you donâ€™t have to. It is a work of the grace of God.
More on that tomorrow…
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Copyright Â© 2011 David Jeffers