Do Everything Through God; The Simple Message of Philippians
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
The Apostle Paul sits in a Roman prison, after completing his three missionary journeys. During this imprisonment he wrote three letters to the Philippians. Now you might ask, I thought there was only one letter written to the church in Philippi. Well, there were actually three and the book of Philippians we read in the Bible is a combination of all three. While all three letters were written by Paul, skillful editing by an unknown scribe many centuries ago created this great letter out of three. A wonderfully positive and uplifting book in the Bible that I highly recommend for all.
And what makes this letter most remarkable, are the optimistic and encouraging sentiments, written while Paul was sitting in Jail!. A letter of thanksgiving written to the Philippians for their financial support and their positive growth as new Christians.
Imagine ourselves, sitting in a jail in the first century, uncertain of our future and then crafting the letters that make up one of the most uplifting books in the New testament. And that is the point of Philippians, no matter how dire our circumstances, we can be optimistic because of our faith in God. Or as Paul says, I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Not only that, amazingly Paul was still ministering and creating disciples. Late in this book ([4:22]), Paul mentions his work with Caesar’s servants. Yes, while in jail, Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, continued his work of creating new followers. More amazing is that it was not just any people, but people who had originally committed their lives to Caesar became servants to the Lord.
Imagine ourselves sitting in a jail and not knowing our future; would we have given up our worries to continue working for the Lord? What drove Paul to continue his work despite his imprisonment, was his personal relationship with Jesus. No matter how dire things in the past became, he always survived and had success. Which in turn reinforced in him, everything would be alright. For more than twenty years he had been thrown in prison, beaten, chased out of towns, denied and wandered the Roman empire. Yet, none of these events defeated him. Each event created more confidence that Jesus was with him. As Jesus is with us. When you read Philippians this mindset will pop out at you.
Paul explains his mindset in chapter 4, where he says; “ I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Now we must remember, Paul had also accomplished a lot, despite his trials. The churches he established were growing and everywhere Christianity was growing. Green shoots of faith were sprouting up throughout the Roman Empire. All because of Paul’s commitment and faith in Jesus.
So when Paul says he has learned the secret, at first we might say it was his faith in Jesus and that Jesus was always with him. Well, all this is true, but it is far deeper than just that.
Paul had learned that being in continuous prayer and communication with the Lord is extraordinarily important. At every step of his journey, he measured his thoughts with that of Jesus’s teachings. Constantly observing how each action he took resulted in a God-like outcome.
Paul had also learned that to serve Jesus, he must also act. Not be passive, but very engaged. To be very positive and energetic, and put our worries away. Act with confidence that when we follow Christ, all will be right.
For each of us, this is the example we should follow in our own lives. When we pray and ask for guidance, we will get an answer. Then it is up to us to stick to the plan like Paul did.
This all sounds simple, but three things will get in the way. First is worry. When we get our answer, it will always be bigger than we expected. So big, we will wonder if we can accomplish the task. We will also have to give something up to attain what we have asked for. A surrendering of something important. Letting go of a lifelong fear, or perhaps fear of scarcity, or ending a treasured routine.
Our worries if not fully addressed internally will limit our ability to be a good partner with God. The bigger the plan, the bigger the worry. For each person, their personal hurdle to following God’s plan is different, but letting go of the past and our worries is a critical step.
The second thing will be people who will tell you God’s plan is not possible. Not that they don’t mean well, they probably do. Likely their concern is about us stretching too far and failing. Sometimes it will be good advice and sometimes protective advice. Each encounter will require analysis. A simple exercise to know which advice is correct is to evaluate if the advice is Godly.
The third item is to remember God isn’t a Genie! In our partnership with God, we don’t simply ask and then receive. We have to put in the work. Sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. And God is looking for quality, not quantity. Which means don’t just do the work as an obligation, but do the work with passion. And we must test all that we do against the word of God.
If you don’t feel the passion, you aren’t ready or are headed in the wrong direction. That feeling of desiring to get right to work is a good sign that we have passion for God’s plan. When you work with God on your plan, you have to be a passionate partner.
And this is the point of the letter to the Philippians. The secret Paul is talking about is how to handle the ups and downs of life. To have faith and stay the course. Plus, to remember; we can do all things through him who strengthens us. Our fears and circumstances are never as high as what God wants for us.
In closing, I highly recommend reading this wonderfully optimistic book, Philippians. It will take less than 30 minutes. And this reading should inspire you to leave your comfort zone, knowing God is with and next to you.
Maybe today is the day you reach for yours and God’s higher purpose for your life.
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Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
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