Focal Passage: Philippians 1:1-11
Our study for the next six weeks brings us to Paul’s letter written to the church at Philippi. Specifically, we begin by looking at the first 11 verses of this great epistle. In these opening verses, we are reminded of three necessary ingredients needed in furthering the gospel message. Let us prepare our hearts for this week’s lesson as we consider the importance of praying, partnering and persevering.
First, there is the vital need for prayer. Paul demonstrates this as he joyously prays for the Philippian church (v. 4). No doubt, knowing that Paul was praying for them must have served as a great source of encouragement for these early Christians. The importance of prayer is magnified all the more as Paul expresses his desire to see the church grow in love for each other, walk blamelessly in their testimony for the Lord and see the fruit of righteousness blossom individually in their lives (vv. 9-11). From our perspective, prayer as a necessary ingredient in furthering the gospel might be understood as a given, but there is always the looming danger of being too presumptuous. Unfortunately, prayer has become an ingredient often neglected, and the church today has been plagued by the festering disease of prayerlessness. It would be good for us to remember that the engine for furthering the gospel will not run without the fuel of prayer. We must pray for each other, and do so with calloused knees.
Secondly, we are reminded that the gospel cannot be promoted without corporate participation among believers (v. 5). Paul affirmed his love and support for the church at Philippi, while at the same time acknowledging their love and support for him. Paul saw them as his fellow helpers in the spreading of the gospel of Christ. Likewise, we are to see fellow believers in the same light. As brothers and sisters knitted together in the tapestry of God’s family, we are to corporately participate and partner with each other for the common purpose of glorifying God. There is a glorious gem of truth and beauty within this partnership, and it is the assistance we receive from each other as we serve the Lord and fulfill the great commission hand- in-hand. Partners work together and single-mindedly pursue the same goal. Admittedly, the Christian’s spiritual pilgrimage is filled mountains and valleys. But the journey through this strange and weary land is a little smoother if we walk alongside each other while focused on the same aim.
Thirdly, Paul encourages the Philippians to stay the course and persevere. He does so by reminding them that God began a good work in them and would be faithful to complete it (v. 6). This wonderful promise reminds us that we are continually under construction, and will be so until our Lord calls us home. Spiritual growth is not overnight, and takes time. Dr. Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova says, “God is not always in a hurry as we are. He desires to produce “oaks of righteousness (Isaiah 61:3), not overnight mushrooms.” No doubt, there are times when we feel spiritually stagnant and as if construction has halted, and in those moments frustration can easily set in and serve as a distraction from our aim. But we must hold on to the truth that though we are a work in progress, God will be faithful to complete it. We persevere by submitting to our heavenly Father in all things, just like moist clay in the hands of a potter.
Praying, partnering and persevering are all part of the recipe in furthering gospel of Christ. May these spiritual disciplines be incorporated into each of our lives as we daily serve our Lord.
— Martin is pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Henderson.