READ PHILIPPIANS ONE
Today we move onto the body of Paul’s letter, and we find that he opens with a prayer.
Read Philippians 1:3-7 aloud if your environment allows.
Over the next few days we’re going to be looking at this prayer and at Paul’s relationship with the Philippian Christians. Pull out your printed, double-spaced copy of the book of Philippians. Read through these verses and underline every reference to their relationship – how does Paul feel about them? What does he pray for them? Etc.
The New Testament offers to us many of Paul’s letters to various churches, and none are so affectionate as his letter to the Philippian church! First, Paul expresses thankfulness to God for the believers every time he remembers them. Do you know what it is like to have a friendship like this? Every time you think of them, you’re overwhelmed with gratitude that God has brought them into your life. And he doesn’t just thank God for them, but he thanks God with JOY. There is no sense here that Paul is thanking God out of rote obedience, but out of deep gratitude that wells up into joy (which, we will later see is related to Paul’s [re]joicing).
But most notably, Paul uses a unique phrase when describing his relationship to the Philippian Christians. What it is?
This phrase is so central to the theme of the book of Philippians and encapsulates so much of Paul’s relationship to the church in Philippi. Paul praises God not just for their comradery, not just for their affinity, not just that they have the same interests, but because they are partners in the Gospel. The Greek phrase here is κοινωνίᾳ ὑμῶν εἰς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, and it is a phrase unique to Paul and unique to their relationship. Paul is indicating to us (and to the church) that they have more in common than just mutual interest or affection, but they are partners in something much bigger than themselves. In everything we’ve looked at – being made holy, being found “in Christ,” in the grace and peace of Christ – they are partakers. They share all these things and more as partners in the Gospel.
Tomorrow, we’re going to do a word study of both κοινωνίᾳ (the word for “partners”) and εὐαγγέλιον (the word for “gospel”), but for today I want us to stop and consider what it might mean for us to have friendships like this. What might it mean for us to have partners in a mission, rather than simply affinity-based relationships (not that these are bad, by any means), and what it might look like to foster them in our own lives and relationships.
Read Philippians 1:3-7 aloud again if your environment allows. Does anyone come to mind? If so, how might the Lord be prompting you to reach out to that friend in spiritual friendship?
If not, how might the Lord be stretching you and calling you to seek out spiritual friendships in your own life?
I want to acknowledge and share something here. Throughout many seasons of my life the Lord has brought dear, sweet spiritual friends into my life. And I am immensely grateful for them. But there have also been seasons – long and lonely seasons of life – in which I prayed for these kind of friendships and the Lord did not bless me with them. And it hurt. Though it drew me closer to the Lord, it didn’t make those seasons any less difficult. If you’re in one such season, I want to emphasize to you: just because you don’t have friendships like this right now doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, and it doesn’t mean that one day you won’t have friendships like this. Press on. Press into the community around you. Keep putting yourself in Christian community, even when it is difficult and even when you feel misunderstood. And rest assured – these are friendship that, in His timing, He wants for you.
PRAY & REFLECT
Thank God for the friendships He has brought into your life. Use some of Paul’s prayer language to praise Him for any spiritual friendships you currently have. Spend some time praying that He might bring new spiritual friendships into your life – pray for an openness to His Spirit to do that work, and pray that He would give you the courage and confidence to pursue others in friendship as He leads.