It’s been a while since we’ve been in Phillipians, right? Let’s strive for the prize and lay a hold of what He has for us in this letter. Let’s look at 4 Actions that Paul users to encourages the Philippians.
Philippians 1:27-30 (NASB)
“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents-which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”
Standing in unity on the foundation of faith in the Gospel is the first action Paul gives the Philippians. Standing firmly in One Spirit indicates to us that there is a multitude of spirits who try to break our stance.
Paul is speaking to the health of the family within a persecuting government. His instructions weren’t wrapped up in the state’s policies but the church’s welfare.
The church is a product of God’s mission, a picture of HIS rule and reign on the earth. We are not to become a tool for anyone’s early political gain.
Notice a uniqueness to these actions that sets them apart from what we might usually think effective for unity. None of these seem directly aimed at growing inwardly as a community and yet Paul’s instructions all have this theme: One Spirit, One mind.
He doesn’t necessarily believe that making space to spend more time together will be key to the ultimate end of keeping, defending, and spreading the faith. When a family is embattled and charging forward in mission, there is no room or time for squabble amongst the ranks.
Striving implies movement. Not only will we be a mighty impenetrable fortress, but we will be a company of soldiers charging forward.
Might striving for unity mean that we do all things with all our energy to live peaceably with everyone? Might it mean laying preferences aside? I think we complicate this matter when we really don’t have to because just disliking someone or avoiding them is much easier than laying down our lives for them.
I don’t believe Paul is calling for this church body to seek doctrinal indifference. In fact, Paul gave them their doctrine. It doesn’t belong to him or them though. These are the teachings of Jesus he had given them and entrusted them with protection.
Striving doesn’t always look like winning either.
We need to catch this. Paul is giving them a pep talk while imprisoned. Striving internally is often something that can’t be seen or acknowledged by those around us.
3. Believing + Suffering
Paul calls them beyond belief into suffering.
Who knew “from glory to glory” would mean from abundance to lack?
I don’t know of many religions who consider suffering for one’s faith an honor. We do though. We know that Jesus promised this for many of us. Look at how they treated him and we remember who we are following.
Belief leads to suffering. We begin in the Christian family and many times immediately leave the protection and security of our earthly communities and families.
Have we considered the cost? Have we really thought that in our suffering we may see great joy?
That’s easy for a cushioned life, American Christian to type on his phone in an AC room but it really doesn’t take away from the truth.
For much of the world, Christians are facing this kind of life. Are we standing on that same faith? Are we striving together with the persecuted in unity by holding them up in prayer?
4. Experiencing Conflict
The conflict witnessed by and recorded for the Philippians includes an inner conflict. Paul is wrestling with a whole host of issues in this short section. Remember the wagering of whether to “stay on” or “remain“?
Paul lived a missionary career eclipsed with suffering yet dripping with joy. At this point he wants the Philippians to know that they’re journeys won’t be altogether different from his.
He’s more concerned about how they will handle such hardships than about how harsh the circumstances may seem to them in the moment.
Can you imagine your pastor sending you a letter that says he’s in jail and that you will be soon. On top of that, you should and will be happy for it, in it, throughout it, and in spite of it. How would you respond?
The real question is how will we respond? Paul is more than a pastor to the church of the Philippians, he’s an Apostle. He is also our Apostle and these words are our instructions as well.