First the bad news…

On Wednesday I found out I am not just a teacher.  I need the book of Philippians.  I woke up troubled and tired. I was troubled by duties and tired of my sin.  What could I write in my journal but, “Thank you, Lord, that you never tire of me.”

Next,  I wrote down the list of troubles, downloading them before the Ever-patient One.  With my mind cleared, I read all of Philippians one more time.  As I read I asked question #3, What am I bringing to this book? That was obvious! I was bringing troubles. Troubles tempt me to feel discouraged about my life.  They remind me how incomplete I am, how far short I fall from being the kind of Christian I would like to be.

With my need before me, I began to connect verses from the beginning, middle, and end of the book.  God  lined them up to speak courage to my heart. 

For I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. I am incomplete, but God is not finished yet. 

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith…” My progress in the faith is the will of God and will bring me joy. 

Work out your own salvation…for it is God who works in you…The fact that he is working gives me confidence to work out my salvation in specific obedience. 

I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. The fact that Jesus has grabbed a hold of me, makes me bold to grab hold of him. 

I can do all things through him who gives me strength. My strength in troubles and sin comes from Him, not from redoubling my efforts.

I brought discouragement to the book; it gave encouragement in Christ (2:1) to me.

Now on to some other matters:

Background. If you don’t have a study Bible, here are a few background notes.  Paul wrote this letter from prison in Rome about AD 62.  He spent his time chained to a guard in a small home. He could have guests, but he could not leave.  As the guards changed shifts, he had the opportunity to share the gospel with many of them.  Apparently some were converted. (Phil 4:22).

The church at Philippi was the first church in Europe.  God redirected his plans in a vision (Acts 16).  Philippi was a big city, located on the “Egnatian Way”, an important Roman commercial route.  That’s why a woman like Lydia, who traded in expensive fabric, lived there.  The city was a mix of socioeconomic classes, and so was the church.  The first members were a jailer, a former demoniac-medium, and a wealthy merchant.  That made unity a challenge to be met in the power of the Spirit.

Overview. According to the ESV study Bible The chief theme of Philippians is encouragement. I think we would agree with that.  The comments that were posted on the blog landed right on 2 of the 3 other characteristics of the book (thanks Natalie and Candy…) Philippians is unified by 1.) its joyful, almost exuberant mood (the words for “joy” or “rejoice” occur more than a dozen times.) 2.) by the strong personal relationship between its author and its recipients (a relationship that is almost constantly in view, from the beginning of the letter to the end); 3.) and by the many connections Paul draws between the saving work of Jesus Christ and the servant ministry of his followers, who are called to live and die according to His pattern.

What about you?  What in your life or in this letter spurs you on to receive the encouragement God has for you?

6 comments on “First the bad news…

  1. Natalie Cooper says:

    Yesterday morning I woke up troubled, angry, bitter and just plain sinful. My son came down with the flu this week after having an ear infection last week. This caused me to fall into despair. I asked the Lord “why? now I cant help my sister with my new nephew, Lord I wanted to clean her house do her laundry. why? now I can’t do this and cant do that?” As I read Phillipians again I felt God telling me…Look up and outward Natalie to your wonderful savior and specifically to Phillipians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice. Let your resonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Ahhh how I am so thankful to be nourished by God’s living word!

  2. rondi says:

    Sweet. Real life connects to the Real God. He’s so faithful to meet us more than halfway. Thanks for sharing this Natalie.

  3. Amanda Peet says:

    This past year has been quite difficult suffering through infertility. I was so encouraged reading Paul as he tells the Philippians that what has happened to him has served in the advance of the gospel (1:12). Then he goes on to encourage them in verse 29 that “for it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” Even further Paul continues and explains Christ example of humility that he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasps even though he was God. My hope and prayer is that God would give me the grace to be obedient just as Christ was so that my trial will be used to advance the gospel and that I would not fear God’s fatherly discipline (Hebrews 12).

  4. rondi says:

    I’m glad God is already meeting you in your suffering through this book. I pray he will bless you with deeper knowledge of Jesus as you walk this road with him. And that you will taste joy along the way.

  5. Monica McFarlin says:

    @ Natalie~ Thank you for sharing your experience this morning at church. It is so encouraging to hear from a mom, like myself, who has young children and to know that God will meet me where I am. I too find the notecards very helpful. I have one on my bathroom mirror and one that I am going to post above my kitchen sink. I just need to find the discipline to go further and to trust God more.

    After speaking with someone at church today, I realized that although this past year and a half have been very chaotic and unsettled for my family, God has been faithful every single day, regardless of me coming to Him or not. I also realized that I have not given God all the glory for this and have instead given credit to the forethought of my husband and myself in surviving this very frustrating and trying time. As I read Philippians, I see how focused Paul is on his ministry, his friends, and even though he has so many things that he could complain about, he instead encourages the church and reminds them to focus on the Cross. It is my prayer that I as go through the day’s many duties and chores and continue on this long and trying season in our life, that I too will stay focused on the Cross and will be able to encourage others to do the same–to take the focus off myself and put it on what really matters: JESUS!!!! Thank you Rondi, for providing concrete tools that are so adaptable to my life and the encouragement that even 15 minutes with the Lord is worthy. I felt such a burden lifted off of me after that retreat and I actually look forward to devotional times. Instead of expecting an ah-ha moment (as Oprah would say) from God, I now expect to find out something new about God. So much guilt has been removed from not doing devotions everyday as I now realize that it is about quality, not quantity. I know this is super long. It is thoughts from quite a few days that I just haven’t taken the time to post yet.

  6. Becky Priest says:

    I wanted to reply last week when this post was new, but am just now making it here. I feel like I could have written the same things Rondi said in the post about bringing her troubles, discouragement and shortcomings to her reading. I came with an overloaded week (largely caused by own anxiety about how much there was to get done), but desperately wanting to “crack” this book, so quickly read it through with a check-it-off-my-list mindset. I was amazed at how God was so gracious to use such a cursory reading to lift my spirits, douse my troubles and remove the anxiety of shortcomings. There are many “snap out of it” verses and “arsenal” verses in this book, as Becky Hofseth called them when she gave her testimony at the Friday night session. Indeed, those verses are SO familiar that I had trouble keeping my attention focused on just trying to read it like a letter that Paul may have written to my church. How ’bout these: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” “Do nothing from selfishness or vain ambition, but in humility consider others better than yourselves,” [yes, I need that reminder daily], “that..every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…,” “Do all things without grumbling or questioning,” [need that one every day, too], that we “shine as lights in the world among this crooked and perverse generation…,” to “rejoice in the Lord…and put no confidence in the flesh,” that I have “counted everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” [do I really do this or do I complain?], the power verse of “forgetting what lies behind and striving forward to what lies ahead, pressing on,” or the reality check of “our commonwealth is in heaven,” aaand then pretty much ALL of chapter 4 – rejoice in the Lord, think on these things, learn to be content. Whew! We could spend a whole year of weeks on just these themes! Thank you, Rondi, for this great start. We bring our “bad news;” He turns it to Good News!