B.C.P. Trinity 22 : Philippians 1:3-11
1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; 6 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: 7 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 defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. 8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
What do you think of when you hear the word 'joy'? Perhaps we might think of a feeling of extreme happiness due to a situation we are in. My dictionary refers to gladness, pleasure, delight. Paul speaks of 'joy' 16 times in this letter. Yet he was imprisoned, probably under house arrest in Rome. Many scholars believe Paul wrote Philippians in Rome just about the time Nero began tossing Christians to ravenous lions and burning them as torches to illuminate his banquets.
As he wrote Philippians, he must have recalled his first visit to Philippi because he wrote of 5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;. Then, a most unusual jailbreak occurred: the jail broke, but the prisoners didn't (Acts 16:22-28). Since that first visit the Philippian Christians had continued to support Paul by giving to him (4:15,18).
Even when Paul stayed in jail for long periods, God used the experience to advance the gospel. As he wrote Philippians, conversions were occurring among the Roman palace soldiers, forced by guard duty to overhear Paul's daily ministry.
Paul's joy was not rooted in his circumstances but in God and what he was doing and would continue to do. For it was God who had brought the Philippian Christians to believe in Jesus, it was God who enabled them to share with Paul in his ministry, ye all are partakers of my grace.. It would be God who would continue to work in their lives until the day of Jesus Christ:
When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day's pay for his time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his performance, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high achievements, that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award--yet receives such a gift anyway--that is a good picture of God's undeserved favour. This is what we mean when we talk about the grace of God.
Paul shows that he realises how the Philippian Christians, like all Christians, are dependant on the undeserved favour of God. He does this by praying that their love would be so big that it would abound or overflow. This love would result in an increase in knowledge and judgment.. Not an intellectual exercise but discovering and obeying God's perfect will and be pure and blameless. Christians are seen as righteous in God's sight through what Jesus has done fro them. They are called to live up to that status by living holy lives, inspired by Jesus, enabled by his Spirit, so that glory and praise can be given to God.
These verses are a reminder to us of the undeserved favour that God has shown us in Jesus, and in enabling us to respond in faith, love, knowledge and obedience.
It also shows the importance of partnership with fellow Christians. In praying for them, as Paul confidently prayed for the Philippian Christians to grow. And in practically supporting the work of the church with gifts. We have an opportunity to respond in this way next Sunday when it is our Gift Day.
As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: "It's a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians - and I am one of them."