“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.”
PHILIPPIANS 1:3-5 NASB
Here, we continue following Paul’s example of the posture believers should have toward one another. As I said in the previous post, which can be read here, our fellowship would be sweet if we could just imitate Paul’s example in these things. I see four basic things here: thankfulness, remembrance, prayer, and partnership.
Where would we be without our brothers and sisters in Christ? Our Christian community is given to us as a gift by God. When you are able to stand side by side with other Christians lifting up praises to the God of creation, that is a gift. When you are able to walk side by side with other believers when facing all the trouble of this life, that is a gift. Too often, churches are known for their lack of unity, heated meetings, and willingness to divide over the most insignificant things. We hear about the “worship wars”, disputes over carpet color, and disagreements over ministry style. Although there are certainly times for making bold and unwavering stands, most of what churches split and divide over is minimally important at best. These things happen when there is not a genuine sense of thankfulness for one another. We begin to focus on the bitterness of the disagreement instead of the blessing of the one with whom we disagree. We have each other. We should be thankful for each other. Out of that thankfulness will spring unity, grace, peace, love, and patience for one another. It is incredibly hard to curse that which you are genuinely thankful for. Paul was thankful for the Philippian believers.
The implication here is that Paul remembers the Philippian believers often. They are brought to his mind frequently. There is fondness in the way he thinks about them which sparks in him thankfulness and joy. It is so easy for us today to slip in and out of church completely disconnected from one another. This is a tragedy. God’s plan for us is that we would be family. We are meant to share our lives with one another, carrying each other’s burdens, encouraging one another, teaching one another, weeping together, laughing together, singing together, suffering together, and at the end reigning together with Christ. This is no ordinary family! Yet, the average Christian today is only connected to other Christians by the fact that they stand in the same building on Sunday. That is, if they even show up in the church at all. The phrase “divide and conquer” is all too real and Satan is a master of it. Paul thought often of these believers. His thoughts were with them. They were his family. The church is family. Let us stop living so fragmented from each other. Let us draw into community together. Let us remember one another.
There are so many things Paul could be praying for right now. He is in prison for proclaiming the Gospel! But who is he praying for? The church. If I were to ask you how often you pray for yourself, what would you say? In the middle of the dark hours of our lives our prayers can become very self focused. But what if we prayed for one another more than for ourselves? Paul tells us to die to ourselves and then in verses like this he models it for us. If, even in the middle of personal trial, we all bend our hearts in prayer out toward our brothers and sisters we will experience Christian community the way it was intended. I will be praying for you and you will be praying for me. One of Jesus’ last prayers on earth came from the cross. In the middle of immense suffering Christ pleaded for the forgiveness of the very people who were afflicting Him. Let us follow that example. We ought to pray for ourselves, sure. But I am convinced that we ought to pray twice as much for each other! Oh, how the presence of Christ and the power of His kingdom would become evident among us if we prayed most frequently and fervently, not for ourselves, but for our brothers and sisters.
Paul addresses the Philippian believers as participants in the Gospel. The Gospel is the center point of the church. In fact, the Gospel is the prerequisite for the church. You may be in a church building, but unless you are born again you are not a member of the church. You must be a participant in the Gospel in order to be a part of Christ’s church. Think about this. The church is the community of those who have been brought from death to life and are now given the great task of multiplying God’s kingdom on earth. We have the greatest mission in the world! And we get to participate as partners in it! Could it be that churches with weak fellowship are that way because they have lost sight of the mission? When we lose sight of the mission we lose the camaraderie and brotherhood that comes with it. We are participants together in the greatest mission on earth! May our unity and love for one another reflect that truth!