The Apostle Paul went to Philippi during his second missionary journey. You can read about that adventure in Acts 16. It’s where he meets Lydia, the seller of purple cloth and the first convert in Philippi. It’s also where Paul and Silas wind up in jail after performing an exorcism. But, God sends an earthquake their way to help them get free. I’ll let you read the rest of the story yourself. Moreover, the rest of the Book of Acts tells of Paul’s full story of his travels, adventures, missions and imprisonment.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a mission letter. Paul is writing from prison in Rome. Yet, it’s full of joy because of the Good News of the true salvation of Jesus Christ. Again, it’s all about Jesus! Christianity is all about Jesus — nothing else. Jesus should be the center and all of your life. Focus on Jesus and you’ll see and feel the joy in life — no matter what you’re going through.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons [elders]:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.Philippians 1:1-26 NIV (bold emphasis mine)
Imprisonment didn’t stop Paul from his mission in spreading the Good News. I bet each and every Roman guard assigned to him became a Christian. Paul is rejoicing while in prison! Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit and this letter is full of it.
One of the most powerful statements are verses 21-26. He longs to be with Christ — which means dying. However, Paul still has a mission to accomplish. While he is still on this earth, his purpose for living is Jesus. That should be every true believer’s purpose for living. Let’s go on…
Life Worthy of the Gospel
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.Philippians 1:27-30 NIV
“Whatever happens”, in all circumstances, no matter what — “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” I memorized this verse. This verse helped me more with my impatience than Galatians 5:22-23 — the fruit of the Spirit. All of a sudden it didn’t bother me to be standing in line at the supermarket and there being an issue with a person in line in front of me that was taking a long time. Before, I used to get angry and frustrated. By the time I’d get to the cashier, I was in a rotten mood and I’d be rude to the cashier — and it wasn’t her or his fault at all!
Now, I just take it all in stride and smile at the cashier and go about my business. It was the Holy Spirit who’d bring this verse to mind whenever I was not conducting myself worthy of the gospel of Christ. The Holy Spirit was doing his job. Sanctifying me. Convicting me. He was showing me the way to live for Jesus, not for the world.
For instance, today at church, I was running Facebook Live from the sound/video booth. The computer I was on froze. The broadcast ended. I felt bad for the people watching and was able to message them to watch the replay of the 9 am service. I reported the problem to the staff and went on to worship. It wouldn’t have done me — nor anyone else — any good if I had gotten upset or angry at the computer or at the staff for not fixing the computer.
It’s likely that the Philippian church was suffering persecution as was the church at Thessalonica. They also seemed to have had their share of false teachers as well as a struggle between one another in church. Thus, his affirmation to “stand firm” in the one Spirit.
If your church doesn’t offer Bible studies — which means studying the Bible — not just reading it — find one that does. You don’t have to join the church. Just attend the Bible studies. There are also lots of folks who do live Q&A Bible studies on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook Live. I also recommend these free Bible apps…
Recommended Bible Study Apps:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
Soli Deo Gloria — To God Alone Be the Glory!