In these opening verses of Paul’s letter to Philippians, we see Paul’s unwavering confidence in God and not in people or temporal circumstances. He is aware that God is always at work in the lives of his people and in perfecting His church.
You need to know that Paul and his companions had earlier preached in Philippi (Acts 16). This was the city in which the jailer and his whole household, Lydia, and the slave girl who had been possessed by demons opened their hearts and believed the message of Christ.
But these conversions did not come without a cost. During their first preaching in this city, Paul and his companions were beaten and locked into prison without trial. These challenges characterized the foundation story of this young but growing church.
This church grew to an extend that they partnered with Paul in his ministry through financial support. But now all was not well. There were struggles here and there. False teachers had infiltrated their midst; and divisions among them were threatening their unity in Christ.
These were not good stories. For someone who had paid the cost of founding such a church such kind of stories can cause heartache. We know how this feels when one struggles to disciple/mentor/parent/ counsel or pastor people and instead of seeing the fruit of your labor all you see are struggles and disappointments. Naturally, it can make one to despair, blame people, be angry, discouraged, and resentful.
But what was Paul’s response in this situation?
Paul exudes confidence in God (1:3-11): Verse 6 reads: “that he who began good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.
His confidence in God made him to:
- Thanks God (v. 3)- Every time he received reports about this church he always remembered to thank God. Thanking Him for their salvation and for their partnership in spreading the gospel. He chose to be grateful to God irrespective of the circumstances because he realized that God is constantly at work. Imperfections in the body of Christ should not overshadow the fact that the body of Christ is Holy and is gradually becoming what God intended it to be.
- Pray– (v. 4)- Confidence in God also made him intercede for them with with joy. The word ‘joy’ is mentioned 15 times in the letter. The emphasis speaks volumes… The contents of his prayer are in verses 9-11. He prayed that they may grow (overflow) in their love and in knowledge and depth of insight; to be able to discern (truth from error) what is best; be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. He prayed that they may be filled with the fruit of righteousness. Also, he prayed for their spiritual growth. The emphasis here is not just prayer but also fruitfulness.
- Love-(v.7-8) Paul’s love and affection for God’s people was evident. He had them in his heart. He loved God and his people. Loving people is not an easy thing… because tests our our patience, emotions, concern. But also he knew love is a command.
The people we serve, like the Philippian church, are not perfect or complete. But through Paul’s example, confidence in God enables us to see the ongoing work of God both in our lives and and in the lives of other people. The ‘good work’ that God has initiated is the work of salvation- the continuing spiritual formation. Paul saw that God is at work in his life and in the lives of other people whom he has called. Like Paul, we therefore must be patient with ourselves and with other people.
It takes time for a fruit to ripen. Paul chose to be confident on the fact that God finishes what he has started. He came into terms with the fact that God’s work is undone until the day of Christ; and that it takes time for God to perfect us and to make us holy. If you believe this then, you will certainly thank God every time, pray with joy and love people unconditionally for God is constantly working in and through us (Phil. 2:13).