Where Are We Going?
Philippians 1: Purpose Rooted in Love by Grace Staton
As January 2021 fades and the new month approaches, how many goals did you set for the coming year for yourself? If you are like 50% of America’s population, you set up plans and aspirations to become a “new and better” version of yourself. There is nothing wrong with this. I found myself setting the same goals for myself that I have been for as long as I can remember. “Eat healthier, read my Bible daily, get more exercise, read more books.” That list could go on until I bore myself reading this list of things that I had no true, long term strategies to bringing them to completion. Now, imagine Paul, Jesus’ beloved, imperfect Paul. Before Paul met and walked alongside Christ, I am sure his resolutions for a new year would have looked oddly like ours. He could have harped over his constant struggle to tame his tongue or control his eating habits. However, after Paul met Christ and learned His heart, it is fair to assume his goals shifted from temporary to eternal.
Last week, we went back to Acts 16 when Paul and Silas found themselves persecuted, yet again, for the sake of the gospel. We see the conversion of a woman named Lydia, who was a businessperson. Her heart was opened by Paul’s faithfulness of investing in the gospel and she was saved. We also saw Paul and Silas’s jailer and his household answer the call to salvation through the faithfulness of Paul and Silas’s worship in captivity. These gracious responses to the faith were all stemming from Paul’s eyes holding fast to eternity. Paul met Jesus with eyes only to see the things of this world, then we can see Paul’s story unfold and reveal the root of his obedience. Despite his circumstances, and even failures to be faithful, Paul matures and grows in confidence because of his walk with Christ. He is an imperfect example of walking in a manner worthy of carrying the gospel.
Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians while in prison. Philippi was the first city in present-day Europe where Paul established a church. As Paul opens his letter, he begins by expressing his thankfulness in his prayers for this church. This says a lot about how Paul views his relationships with fellow believers. I know that if I could choose one person to pray for me, I would want Paul. Paul is someone who you can count on to be faithful in praying for you. In this reminder of his prayers, Paul is descriptive in the ways he is praying for them. His intentions are made known through these prayers. Firstly, he is thankful for them; he gives prayers of thanksgiving not only for them, but also for their salvation! This is how I want to pray for my brothers and sisters: faithfully and full of thanksgiving. Paul assures them that, “...he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion...” (Phil. 1:6 ESV) By saying that, Paul is also offering encouragement. This encouragement, however, is not simply, “You’re doing great! You can do this!” No. Paul is also reminding them of the keeper of their newfound abundance of life. He points to the ultimate promise-keeper who will bring this good work to completion. This is their subtle reminder that they cannot do this apart from Christ.
The next portion of his letter is spent explaining the advancement of the gospel. He explains to them that his circumstances, while they seemed to be more than unfortunate, served to spread the gospel and further the kingdom. Remember, Paul is in prison during the time he is writing this. He credits his imprisonment for becoming more confident in the Lord. He is choosing to seek joy despite his circumstances. Knowing this, we can conclude that Paul knows that this confidence is something outside of himself and his own capabilities. He never ceases giving credit where it is due.
Finally, Paul closes with a statement that easily sets the tone for the rest of this book, and the rest of his life. Verse 21 says, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” This mindset is contagious. When we allow the truth which breaths our Christ is all we need to manifest itself into our minds and then our actions, we will see revival again. Paul even voices his conflicting desires of going to be with Christ and maintaining his obedience of spreading the gospel on this Earth. So, with this bold representation that Paul makes, he leaves his expectations clear for this church. Their call is still the same, but he is eager to hear about their hearts being renewed to carry out this gospel. Paul’s vulnerability to say that it is better to depart and be with God shows his heart for this cause.
Paul’s heart for his brothers and sisters in the faith is rooted in deep love and expectation to see their lives reflect Christ’s life. These relationships are deeper than just the usual “Hey, praying for you!” conversations between believers. Paul says that he yearns for them with the affection of Christ; he even says that it is right for him to feel this deeply for them because they are all partakers of grace with him. These relationships in the church are INTENTIONAL. Knowing that, those intentions must have Christ at the heart of them. Even our best efforts are tainted by sin, but with Him we can show rightful love and bring encouragement to our brothers and sisters.
Meditate on ways you can bring more purpose into your relationships with those in your life. Maybe even pray that you can bring more purpose into the goals you’ve already set for this year. Let’s spread the love we are called to by encouraging our own brothers in the faith. It starts with us. Let’s bring purpose and rightful intent back into our conversations with one another.
Grace Staton is a freshman at Vol State. She is an English Education major and a kick butt barista at Golly G's in Pleasant View. Come by and see her and request she make you a latte!