This post originally appeared on the Calvary website.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
that I may know him
and the power of his resurrection,
and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:1-11, ESV)
We are currently in month 16 of what will be a roughly 21 month journey through The Whole Story of the Bible. This sermon (see link below) will bring us around Paul’s letter to his friends, who are part of the church he planted in Phillipi. We don’t have time to review that story (you can read it for yourself in Acts 16), but here’s something you do need to know to understand this letter, and why Paul sent it: both the Philippians and Paul find themselves in a pretty tough spot, and each is aware of the other’s suffering.
You see, the church in Philippi at this point is largely Gentile, was born in the midst of suffering and persecution for both pastor Paul and the people, and in the midst of that they lost their founding pastor (Paul). And in this letter, we discover that the state of suffering and persecution—for both pastor Paul and his people, though separated—has remained:
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, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Php 1:29-30)
So the people are suffering. And so is their pastor—once again Paul has been imprisoned for his faith and his ministry. A jail cell of sorts is the location for his writing of this letter (see 1:13).
So the people of the church are suffering, and their pastor is suffering. And this is the way of the world, is it not? It still continues to this day. In thousands of churches on Sunday mornings, people and pastors who are both in the midst of various kinds of suffering will gather. And honestly, part of the reason that people have gotten in their cars, and driven to church buildings early in the morning, is because they believe that something they will hear there will have something to do with the lives they are living. Lives filled with moments of beauty and joy, but also of grief and sorrow.
Maybe that’s why you’ve gotten in your car on a Sunday and driven down to church. You were looking for answers to some bit of trouble, some grief, some pain. You’d like some guidance for your life. And you thought that maybe you’d find it in church. Or maybe it was just habit: you don’t have much hope, but there you were anyway.
I’m glad you’ve done so.
Even though I’m a pastor, I’ve done so for the same reasons: Guidance. Answers. Transformation.
If you are familiar at all with Paul’s letter to the Philippians, you know there are some pretty majestic and famous portions of scripture in here. You know that Paul had a number of reasons for why he was writing.
He wanted to thank them for how they have taken care of him. It is in part, a thank you letter. (cf. 2:25ff; 4:10ff)
He wanted to give some guidance on what a life of humility looks like, by penning a soaring hymn on the humility found in the example of our King, the Son of God, Jesus. (cf. 2:5ff)
He wanted to urge them towards certain paths of living, which we find in the oft-quoted and very familiar-to-many chapter four:
“do not be anxious about anything”
“in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content”
“I can do all things through him who…..”
“My God will supply every need of yours…”
But in this sermon (see the link below), for suffering people and suffering pastors, we won’t get to any of all those really good things in this letter. Here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to hone in on just three things, because I think they are actually the core idea of the letter. And I think it's what pained people and hurting pastors need.
Here they are:
A Feeling Paul Wants (Commands!) You To Experience
A Person Paul Wants You To Know
A Step Paul Wants You To Take
May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.