In Philippians, He's the Servant's Heart
Philippians 1:29-30--"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have."
Even though Paul has been imprisoned, he wishes to encourage his audience, and fellow Christians, letting them know that his imprisonment is an increase to the Kingdom of God as his testimony is given through his suffering. Paul wants not that his fellow Christians mourn for his suffering but that they rejoice in giving thanks to God in all things, in all seasons, thus encouraging those who will read this letter, even us today.
In the face of courage behind bars, Paul is able to lift up and encourage those on the outside of the prison to be just as brave in their stand for the Lord. What is important to Paul is not that he is in prison and needs prayer and encouragement for himself, but that Christ is preached to every body. He rejoices in this. Paul rejoices in his chains because his mouth is not chained, his mind is not chained, his heart is not chained, and, as he is not going anywhere, he has ample time to preach and reach and teach all those within hearing distance of him. He may be the captive; but, it is he who has the captive audience. Oh, he is encouraged by the prayers of his fellow believers; but, the important thing for him is not that he is encouraged, but that he can encourage.
He continues, with verses 21-26, speaking of how if he continues in his physical body, he will continue still for the advancement of the Kingdom. Paul has also let his readers know that if he dies, he will not have died for nothing because his reward is Christ. Paul almost feels torn...does he want to leave this world and be with his Lord or does he want to stay in this world and continue to advance the Kingdom. Either way, the importance of his life, the exaltation of his praise, the object of his worship is Jesus, the Christ.
Paul continues in his letter with giving the benefits of having a mindset that is on Christ, not on self or situation.
- There is first of all a motivation to live humbly (verses 1-4). To live humbly includes having tenderness and compassion for your fellow man, woman or child. It's loving Jesus so much that He encompasses all the love you have for others, above yourself.
- Then Paul continues with giving us the model of living humbly, Jesus (verses 5-11). Jesus took on the very nature of a servant in all He did, even in His obedience of death on the cross. Jesus did not take on the nature of a servant to please Himself, but to please God the Father and to give glory to God the Father. This is our example of servitude. We don't serve to say, "Look at me! Look at what I've done!" We serve to glorify Father God. Paul did not go to prison so that he could boast at the preaching he was able to do within the confines of his jail cell. He exclaimed the advancement of the Kingdom of God for the glory of Father God.
- And as Paul exhorts us to humble living and gives us an example of humble living, he also teaches that we should live in obedience as children of God (verses 12-18). Let me ask you a simple question, and in your own minds I want you to be honest...How many of you go to church on Sunday mornings, and in front of the pastor, profess your obedience to Christ; but, then, on Monday morning, and for the rest of the week, walk on a path that you made according to what you feel obedience looks like? Be honest. Likewise, Paul here, in chapter two, gives credence to the obedience to the Lord of his fellow believers but also admonishes that they continue in their obedience to the Lord even in his (Paul's) absence.
Philippians 3:8--"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."
Paul, in chapter three, after exhorting us to a life of a servant and to live humbly, continues to give us some joys, and benefits, of being a Christian. There is a "surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus" as our Lord. For the Lord we "lose all things". That even as we share in the sufferings of Jesus, being persecuted in like manner as He was, the resurrection that He provides for us provides for us a joy unlike any other.
And what is to be gained by losing all things here on Earth for the joy of Jesus? We will become made perfection in Christ's perfection (verse 12). And, though we may fall along the way and make a mistake here or there, we press onward, always onward. We move beyond what we were last year...we move beyond what we were last month...we move beyond what we were last week...we move beyond what we were yesterday. We set on minds on Jesus, and, as we advance forward to our rewards, we, in turn, advance the Kingdom of God.
Philippians 4:19--"And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
On a personal side note, I think Paul is one of my favorite Bible characters. He loves to give encouragement for every situation of life. Oh, you can be sure that he seldom downplays the role the enemy plays; but, how he loves to encourage! And how he loves making sure that God gets the glory due God at all times!
Here, in Philippians chapter four, Paul continues in his encouraging words to his fellow believers...be well grounded in your prayer life, be well grounded in giving thanks to God, always know that God gives daily provision.
Paul encourages his fellow believers to stand in unity (verses 2-3). He says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (verse 4). Paul goes on to say that we are to think and to act in a pure manner (verses 8-9). And lastly, but certain never least, is the promise of God's provision (verse 19-20). And not just provision for us day to day, but provision for us day to day according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Everything that Jesus will inherit as the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16) is ours, as well, as co-heirs and heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:17).
Rejoice! Rejoice! Again I say rejoice!
The book of Colossians shows how Paul travels from his ministry through encouragement and on to knowing, without a shadow of doubt, that the Lord is the Lord. We serve a Triune God; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is the Father is the Son is the Holy Spirit is not the Father is not the Son is not the Holy Spirit. A lot of times we can get confused by this; but, let not confusion enter where simplicity abounds.