God's Family at Work
Family relationships are, or should be, the strong girders around which society is built. In a way, gospel-friends are even more significant because they enable Christ’s church to be built. They are not just acquaintances; they are blood relatives in a dynasty that will never die! The blood belongs to Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice brought us into His family, making us brothers and sisters with Him (Hebrews 2:11). No wonder that Paul was thankful for the believers in Philippi. His house arrest (probably in Rome) was made easier when he remembered the love of his spiritual family.
Paul prayed for them with much joy and thankfulness. God had used them to provide for Paul's physical needs (Philippians 4:18), and their prayers had sustained him. Every memory of them was a cause for joy. But their relationship with him was more than that. They were not only family but also co-workers in the gospel. When they believed the gospel Paul preached, their joy led them to support the missionaries who had led them to Christ.
Back in their home city they also shared the gospel and suffered for what they believed and taught. In that way, they shared in Paul’s suffering. They were full partners in the gospel and Paul wanted them to be joyful. They needed encouragement to keep going - from somebody who they knew loved them, and understood what they were going through too (Philippians 1:29). Paul rejoiced as he saw the church being so faithful to the Lord that the community noticed enough to persecute them. That spurred his prayers for them - that they would obey the teaching they had already received and, through this letter, be reminded that God's love and power for them was undiminished especially in their suffering. We need that encouragement too.
Gospel partnership is often seen at its best in tough times - as this letter will go on to unpack. We need the fellowship of those who understand our desire for the gospel to shape our lives and witness. Even if we cannot meet together, letters, emails, calls and social media provide a wealth of opportunity to encourage others and be encouraged in God’s Word. We are not designed to be gospel workers alone, but in partnership. We might start by praying for those who have taught the Word to us and supported us, so that we can go out of our way to encourage them through the difficulties they face. Then seek out others who want to speak of Christ; be intentional in praying together, building each other up in the truth and rejoicing together in the supremacy of Christ. Do not let the struggles become bigger than the Saviour.
© Dr Paul Adams