Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 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 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.Philippians 1:1-7 (ESV)
A world full of hopelessness
When we are not in God’s grace, we have no way out of God’s judgment. Judgment. That one word alone leads us to anxiety and hopelessness. There was a time in college when I turned away from God. And I understood that judgment awaited for me but I could not believe that God’s grace was still being extended to me. And in his effort to deceive, Satan has a way of telling you truth in a one-sided way. I chose not to believe God’s grace and it led me to conclude that there was no point of me struggling to succeed in this world if the end result was going to be hell anyway and it led me to a deep depression, even to contemplate suicide.
You may think things are okay at the moment and maybe you may think you don’t have any anxiety or worries but the world tests us. But if life has taught me one thing, it is the certainty that our lives and this world is replete with uncertainty, instability, broken relationships, strife, anxiety, worry and hopelessness. And the things that we hope for, if they are of this world, are not reliable and will not last.
A familiar world
It is in that kind of world that the people of Philippi received faith in Jesus. Those who were devoutly religious only heaped coals over themselves because the law simply revealed more of their sin. Those who were living without God simply accepted their so-called fate in the world, striving to live to their fullest content, always uncertain of what was to come, swayed here and there by the circumstances of their lives. But compared to other churches during that time, Philippi was a church that was doing well. There were no immediate threats of false teachers, false doctrine, and compromise in the faith.
In fact, we see the Apostle Paul writing this letter while he is in prison to thank them for a generous gift that they sent to him and encouraging them to continue to follow the example of Christ as modeled by Jesus as well as exemplary men and women of faith that they knew about. But at the same time, there are clear moments where the Apostle Paul is afraid that he might soon be put to death. And yet, his letter to the Philippians is filled with joy and rejoicing. While the truth of death was producing fear and hopelessness in me, where was Paul’s peace coming from? What defined his hope?
God’s good work
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.Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
The good work that Paul is referring to in this verse is the salvation we have received through the work of Christ on the cross. And so it becomes very crucial that we understand that the person Paul is referring to, regarding who began this good work is God himself.
This good work is not just the moment of Jesus Christ on the cross.
If you were ever uncertain why Jesus is so important, why someone’s death and supposed resurrection from the dead would be related to our hope and joy, and where all this Christianity fits with our questions of life, meaning and truth, here is the reason.
God is real, he is perfect and holy. He created mankind to share and enjoy that perfection out of his overflow of being holy and perfect. And he created us, knowing fully well that we would rebel against him and seek to become our own gods. He created us, knowing fully well that we would condemn ourselves to a life separated from God. We have all turned away from God. We have all become our own gods, living in our own standards of morality, in our own ideas of right and wrong, good and bad. We have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory.
God’s good news
Why would God create humanity, knowing all the pain, violence, evil would happen? Because of His love for us. It says is Hebrew 12:2, “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” It was for this joy that he came, to save us from our sins.
And so, this is the incredible truth: before God even created us, He already planned to come down to earth to save us.
Jesus was the solution to the judgment we deserved. Jesus is the salvation we cannot live without. He took upon himself the full wrath of God and conquered sin and death when he rose again from the dead. And if you would believe in Him, turn from your sins, and put your hope and trust in Him, you would join Him in His resurrection and His eternal life.
And you can be certain as Paul was that the good work that God began, no man or anything in this world or above it can stop. We can trust God to finish what he has started in us.
The reality of grace
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.Philippians 1:3-5 (ESV)
Why is God’s good work worth remembering? Because salvation was not simply a ticket to heaven. It was an invitation to live in the reality of grace.
Live in the reality of grace.
The peace and joy that Paul is expressing is this reality of grace. And what does Paul say is the reason for this joy? It is their partnership in the gospel. Some translations will say fellowship in the gospel. The ESV translates the word as partnership, which might be pulling more meaning from the fact that the church of Philippi had sent a generous gift to Paul in prison and thereby partnering with him. But more than that, this partnership and fellowship is referring to the genuine concern and care for Paul. It is love that led the Philippians to send this gift to Paul. They were invested as Christ was invested.
And throughout this letter, you will read of the examples of good will towards others, counting others more significant than yourselves, and having genuine concern for others. All of which is summarized in chapter 2 through Paul’s poem of God’s incarnation, death and resurrection.
The heart of a servant
It is the heart of a servant that Paul continues to refer to. Jesus was in the form of God but “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). Even the greeting Paul writes for the Philippians is unique. Most of Paul’s letters begin by affirming his authority to teach and rebuke the churches. But for the church in Philippi, he calls himself a servant only.
- Philippians – Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
- Galatians – Paul, an apostle
- 1 Corinthians – Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God
- 2 Corinthians – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God
- Romans – Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the Gospel of God
- Ephesians – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God
- Colossians – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God
We are the reality of grace
I told you before about Satan’s one-sided truth that I began to start to believe in. It led me into a deep depression and hopelessness. I was afraid to die and go to hell but I didn’t want to live either. However, there were brothers in the faith who kept reaching out to me. These guys were not saints. These guys were not pastors. They were just ordinary Christians who were struggling to believe and obey God. But through their efforts, through their serving, I found God again.
It is in our serving that God’s good work is revealed and peace and joy is produced. I said before that living in grace produces peace and joy. And that peace and joy was the reality of grace. This reality of living in grace means to follow the example of Christ. It means to be invested in the things God is invested in. Who we are, all of our history, circumstance, skills, life experiences, all of these things are different for each person and therefore God provides a unique peace and joy that will produce a unique glory to God through each of us.
Uniquely prepared for a unique glory
God invites us to become a holy vessel used in the holy temple. A vessel is simply a vessel, we are all human. But the value and purpose of that vessel changes depending on where the vessel is placed. God has brought us into his holy temple. It is in God’s presence, as the church, that we are used for God’s holy purposes and peace and joy is produced.
Peace is not the absence of trouble.Sheila Walsh
It is the presence of Jesus.
Are you anxious, worried about life, about people and situations?
Trust in God who began the good work in you before the creation of this world. Remember Jesus and remember his promises.
Do you feel stuck in your faith? Invest your time, your talents, your money on the things that are on God’s heart. Put yourself where you will become a holy vessel, in the holy house of God, and you will be filled with the peace and joy that is in God’s presence.
In the presence of Christ, anxiety is destroyed and joy abounds.