Message from the Minister Letter 16 – Sunday 20 September

Dear all,

I hope and pray that this letter finds you well.  This week we move on to Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Paul has written the letter to encourage them in their journeys of faith even though he has the desire to be with Christ.  It is always good to receive an encouraging letter, or equivalent, or one which gives us pause for thought and informs us to keep going and keep up the good work.    The city of Philippi was an important place at that time, as a leading city for the area but not quite of capital status.  The church was in its infancy and composed a number of leading women and former pagans therefore Paul wants to see the church grow and become consolidated for the future. 

The portion of the letter we are examining this week is chapter 1: 21-30.  It begins with that well known verse: ‘for to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.’  This partially reflects the previous verse in which Paul was expressing the hope that he won’t have to suffer and be put to shame.  So Paul in one sense could be trying to reassure himself by stating that if this does happen, he will be united with Christ sooner.  Perhaps his mind is jumping around from thought to thought and he is trying to rationalise his thoughts through writing this letter.  So there is an element of if he suffers and dies, glory will be brought to God and his life of service will be brought to a close.  The gain for Paul will not only be eternal life in the presence of Jesus but the promoting of the gospel which his martyrdom will produce.  So Paul sees this as a win-win situation although in so doing he shows both bravery and courage.  This verse also ties up nicely with the closing verse of one of Wesley’s famous hymns which states: ‘Ready for all thy perfect will, my acts of faith and love repeat, till death thy endless mercies seal, and make the sacrifice complete.’   (Singing the Faith, 564).

Paul continues and it’s like he is almost having a debate with himself.  On the one hand, he wants to continue in the flesh, serving God in his ministry but on the other, is keen to be united with Christ.  As he develops this thought he seems to realise that for him going to heaven to be with Christ would be better but for the Philippians for him to remain in the flesh would be better so he could help and support them.  Paul then issues a challenge for them to live lives worthy of the gospel regardless of whether he makes a visit to them or not.  He wants to reassure them, that as a church they can overcome their opponents and succeed for Christ by working together, striving side by side.  Paul reminds them that serving Christ is a privilege and even suffering for him is too.  There is so much teaching here to pack into one letter but essentially by striving to live for Christ and working together God’s purposes will prevail.  Let us hold firm to these truths, and pray that God would bless our church as we like the Philippians seek to serve Him. 

May our merciful God, the Author of the Gospel and beacon of Good News, bless us now and always,

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