Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:1, 2.

I thought I’d go to a book that has encouraged me since the first time I read it.  Whenever I’m tired of struggling or discouraged with what’s happening (or not happening) in my life, the promises and instructions in this letter remind me to keep moving on.

We all have key texts for our lives, I suspect, verses we quote over and over until they are ingrained in our minds.  Many of mine come from this letter to Philippi.  Without even looking at the text itself I can rattle off the address of a quite a few:  Philippians 1:6; 2:3, 5-11, 12, 13; 4:13, 19.  Most of Chapter 3 keeps me focused on moving forward with some heavenly perspective.

Paul was in prison at the time of this writing, so a lot of the quotes come from his own personal experience in faith.  He poured himself out in this book using the wisdom gained from years of serving Jesus through the ups and downs, the good and bad, and everything in between.  Though he was later acquitted and served his “prison” time out in a house somewhere in Rome, his experience of being chained to a guard 24/7 and the uncertainty of his future left him with plenty of food for thought—as well as growing his faith.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like this, but sometimes situations or circumstances can so often feel like a prison.  We work hard at our job, families, church service and personal growth, but it just seems like we can’t make headway.  There are also times we lose sight of what’s important to God in our quest to survive the world’s priorities.

Where should we put our energy?

What’s solidly in the camp of faith or simply human constructs?

No one that I know of has all the answers to those two questions.  Instead I believe we are called to work with what we have, be humble enough to learn from those around us and generally move forward in faith anyway.  I like the fact that Paul, right out of the gate, gives his readers something to chew on in the form of encouragement/instruction.  Pens, ink, and parchment being what they were in those days, one had to be very careful to write accurately for paper wasn’t plentiful.  So when we read Paul’s letters we have to be aware he’s saying exactly what he wants to say and not wasting words just to impress those who read.  His purpose, while sometimes obscure to us 2000 years later, meant something pretty significant to those who heard it read when they came together.

Paul’s ministry was one of perseverance through deprivation, violent resistance and constant effort to build up those who believe into solid people of faith.  Sure, as he says to the Philippians, he’d known times of plenty and found huge success, but where he was at the time of this letter would make anyone question whether or not their efforts had been worth.

Paul’s conclusion throughout the whole book is an emphatic “Yes!” in Christ.


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