Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi begins with an affectionate note. Verses 3-5 reads,
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
Paul not only thinks about the church but whenever he does, he prays for them and thanks God for them. Do we do that for one another? Regardless if we know the intimate details of a brother’s life, we can and should pray for him. We are one with our fellow brothers and sisters united in Christ and partners in our mission to make disciples.
We know too that our brothers and sisters are suffering. We know that because they are on the same path we are, and it is filled with suffering, trials, hardships, and other tribulations meant to transform us, strengthen us, and glorify Jesus. The encouragement we can give to one another is priceless. It is such a good thing to know we are not alone in our struggles and someone is praying for us.
Those struggles have a purpose. They mature us and strengthen us in Christ, they bring us closer to the Lord and they transform us to His image. Verse 6 reads,
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
It is a good work that the Spirit is doing in us. That work ought to be evident. One day that work will be completed. We will be completely transformed in an instant, but for now we praise God, we rejoice that we are being transformed. Each day we are more mature, steadfast, patient, kind, joyful, and loving. Each day we look a little more like Jesus.
That is part of the grace we received from God. He forgave us. Jesus covered us in His righteousness. And the Spirit conforms us to Jesus. When one of our fellowship suffers, we suffer with him. When another rejoices we rejoice with her. We are one, united and sharing the same Spirit, God’s Awesome Holy Spirit.
Paul was in prison. Prison was a horrible place to be, yet he understood the reason he was there and he was acutely aware of all the good coming from it. He also knew that his beloved children in the churches he had planted loved him and were praying with him. The church at Philippi was not in prison but they like Paul used the situation to grow closer to God and to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Verses 7-8 say,
“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
The church was one with Paul and because of that he knew that they suffered with him over his imprisonment and they understood the good coming from it. He also knew that they were not letting his punishment stop them from defending and confirming the gospel, in fact they used Paul’s incarceration to uphold and prove the Gospel.
Paul encouraged the church to actively and deliberately pursue godliness. Verses 9-11 read,
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
As the Spirit transforms us, we show more and more of the characteristics of Jesus that we call the fruit of the Spirit or the fruit of righteousness. But we have to exercise those traits to show them. We have be patient, we have to have faith, and we have to be kind. These are intentional choices made possible because we have the Holy Spirit and we have God’s grace, and Jesus’ righteousness. Paul encouraged the church to abound or overflow, proliferate and thrive in love more and more.
He also included that that love should be accompanied by knowledge and discernment. Knowledge of God and His word is key to being able to love like He does. Discernment is vital to our maturity and to remaining steadfast and on the right path. It keeps us following the truth and revealing the truth instead of falling victim to heresies.
We, the church are united. We, in our local church are knit together tightly. We are responsible for one another. We are not all at the same place on the road to maturity. Some of us have more discernment, some have studied the Bible much more, and some know God on a much deeper level than others. Since we flourish in love for one another, we aren’t going to allow the weaker to follow the wrong path because their wisdom or discernment isn’t as developed as ours. We are going to trust the elder when he exhorts us, teaches us, and guides us.
Remember, we are in this together. If one of us is suffering, we all are. We all face trials of various kinds. We have one another. We pray for one another, we cry with one another, we rejoice with one another. We grow together increasing ever more in love, knowledge and discernment. We are not alone. We have one another. We have our Lord.