Summary: If we seek God’s glory in our lives, we are guaranteed that He will fulfill that goal
Philippians 1:1-11 1/9/2000
What would you be willing to attempt if you were guaranteed to win? It would probably change your goals, wouldn’t it? You’d be willing to take risks, because they wouldn’t be risks any more!
In this morning’s Scripture, Paul prays for his beloved friends in Philippi, and in his prayer, we see him reveal to them a seemingly impossible goal– but we also will see that they are guaranteed to achieve it.
This morning we’re beginning a series on the book of Philippians.
Why Philippians [Context]:
Philippians not a “typical” letter for Paul
Unlike most of his letters, Philippians was not written in order to correct some kind of false teaching, or to assert his apostolic authority
Instead it is, in part, a thank you letter,
As well as a letter of encouragement to press on in the faith
Finally it is a letter of JOY
The church in Philippi was a loving church
They had been had supported and loved Paul through thick and thin.
The church in Philippi was a generous church
Referring to the offering that Paul was taking on behalf of Christians suffering in Jerusalem, Paul uses these words in 2 Corinthians to boast of the Philippian church, among others:
8:2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 … they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. … 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
They were a giving church, and they gave not just financially, but they gave of themselves as well.
Finally, the church in Philippi wanted to grow in their faith and to be a part of what God was doing in their world.
Like Paul, they were committed to pressing ahead, both as a church and as individuals
So, Why are we going to study Philippians?
It seemed fitting to me that we should study Paul’s words to such a great church. I don’t know you well -- yet -- but I already know
that you, also, are a loving church,
that you, also, are a generous church
And I believe that you, also, are committed to pressing ahead, both as a church and as individuals.
And so we begin. By next Sunday, I will have a schedule in the bulletin of what we’ll be reading when, so you can read and meditate on the passage beforehand if you want.
But before we dig into Philippians itself, I’d like to look behind the scenes a little bit, so we can better understand this 1st century church we’re going to be visiting for the next few weeks.
Historical Context: behind the scenes info (from Acts 16)
In the 16th chapter of the book of Acts, we learn that when Paul went on his 2nd missionary journey, he had no intention of going to Philippi.
He wanted to go to Bithynia (to the east), but Acts says “the Spirit of Jesus” prevented them.
We’re not told exactly what that means. My guess is that some very natural reason like bad weather, lack of transportation or obstinate local officials prevented them.
And I’d also be willing to guess that Paul, being an agenda-oriented Type-A kind of guy, went to bed that night kind of frustrated – or even angry -- at having his plans thwarted. Maybe his responses were more “spiritual” than mine may have been. I obviously don’t know!
What I do know, is that Paul had a dream, the kind you just can’t shake when you get up in the morning. In that dream, a man from Macedonia (which was to the west – remember he had been trying to go east) appeared to him begging him, “Please, come over and help us.”
Paul realized that the reason he couldn’t go east was that God wanted him to go west!
So Paul headed off to the region of Macedonia, and the first Macedonian city he came to was Philippi.
With such a miraculous mandate from God, Paul might have expected a miraculous start to his ministry. Maybe he would meet the very man he had seen in his dream. Perhaps he envisioned crowds lining up to hear the message, as they had with Jesus.
But when he went to find the synagogue – which was always where Paul went to launch his ministry in a new city –he discovered there wasn’t one. To have a synagogue required at least 10 Jewish men. But in this supposedly “spiritually hungry” city, there were not even 10 men devout enough to meet for prayer.
What he did find was a women’s prayer group. Out of that group came Philippi’s first Christian: a businesswoman named Lydia.