I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. —Philippians 1:3-5
As Paul expresses his love for the believers in Philippi, he is overcome with thankfulness. Whenever his mind turns to these dear brothers and sisters, his immediate emotion is gratitude. What a powerful testimony! The love and commitment of the Christians in this church were so genuine that, each time Paul remembered them, he felt a flood of thankfulness. It is a lovely thing when remembrance and gratitude are bound up together.
Paul’s words are encouraging. They are also challenging. They call you, as a believer, to consider: what comes to mind when others remember you? Do you live in such a way that others are thankful for you? As Christians, our lives should radiate the fragrance of Christ. If we have His aroma, we become a welcomed and anticipated part of the lives of those around us. They are thankful for our presence and, as a result, they praise the Lord.
As Paul nurtures gratitude in every circumstance, he obtains a joy that is rooted firmly in Christ. This is not the counterfeit joy of wealth, power, or popularity. These can quickly and inexplicably evaporate...see the book of Job. Instead, true joy only comes from our Creator. Paul tells his readers that he is saying a prayer on their behalf, and he is fueling his prayers with the joy that only comes from his heavenly Father. Are your prayers fueled by joy? Or are they often driven by fear, frustration, and complaining? Prayer and joy go hand-in-hand. Those who pray fervently are fueled by a life of joy this world cannot extinguish. Remember Paul’s circumstances when he prayed. He is in jail for the crime of following Christ. If anyone could be excused for a bitter spirit, it’s him. But despite his distress, his prison cell prayers are filled with joy. That was possible because Paul prayed in all circumstances. For him, consistent prayer was the path to joy in prayer.
If you and I do not pray consistently, it shouldn’t be surprising that our sporadic prayers lack genuine joy.
Do you struggle with love or respect for your spouse? Cry out to God until your heart is filled with gratitude. Your consistent prayers will produce joy and plant a desire to serve rather than scrutinize. Is your relationship with your child fractured? Pray for their spiritual growth and deepened love for the Lord. In so doing, your joy transcends the pain. Pray yourself joyful!
As Paul communicates a spirit of thankfulness, prayerfulness, and joy, he also commends this dear church for their partnership in the gospel. What a great word. All true believers are working together in the Kingdom of God for the glory of Christ. We must remember that we are working together with other Christians and other churches. Failure to understand this principle will cause us to view other churches and ministries as competition. God forbid! We are to be partners, not competitors, as we rejoice in each work of God and give thanks for every spiritual victory.
The word partnership not only communicates that we are to work together, but it also clarifies that each of us should take part in ministry. As the work of God is the constant mission for all believers, Christians cannot sit on the sidelines and simply cheer other servants on. No! We are partnering in the work of the gospel, each with a role to fulfill. The body of Christ functions best when believers shoulder a share of the load.
Paul begins his letter to the Philippians with action. He is mindful, thankful, and prayerful for this church family. In all of this, God is his source of joy. Please note that when Paul speaks of God, he adds something personal. The word is found in verse three when Paul says, “I thank my God.” A simple, two-letter word that carries so much meaning. In reality, this simple word is what connects all of Paul’s thoughts, emotions, and actions together. Why is Paul so joyful even though he is in jail? Because he knows the Lord is with him. How can Paul remain so thankful when he has experienced so much heartache? Because he lives in the blessing of a personal relationship with God. For Paul, God is “my God.”
The great “prince of preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, once wrote about the impact of this small word in Scripture. Through his monthly publication, The Sword and the Trowel, Spurgeon examined David’s psalm of praise in an 1866 edition. Of the first line of Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd,” he noted:
“The sweetest word of the whole is that monosyllable, ‘My.’ He does not say, ‘The Lord is the shepherd of the world at large, and leadeth forth the multitude as his flock,’ but ‘The Lord is my shepherd;’ if he be a Shepherd to no one else, he is a Shepherd to me; he cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. The words are in the present tense. Whatever be the believer’s position, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.”
Is your life characterized by gratitude, prayer, joy, and partnership in the gospel? Do you live each day recognizing that you belong to God? Though your circumstances be dire, they need not change in order to live in joy! You need only to live in the sweet assurance of the truth that David and Paul both knew: every true believer can boldly say, “He is mine.”