Summary: Even from prison Paul experiences the joy of being a Christian and love for the church.
Today we begin our series in Philippians. You may remember that I have called the Book of Philippians, the “antidepressant” book of the Bible. I have found that every non-medicinal method I learned as a counselor for treating depression and anxiety is covered in this book. So while we are going to be talking about Paul a lot, I am also going to point out how this book has given us God’s remedy for the most common psychological problems in our culture. So there will be little antidepressant vignettes scattered throughout this series.
Let’s just start with a little background. The apostle Paul is in prison when he writes this letter. Not like we would think of prison, but basically under house arrest in Rome. While his conditions during this imprisonment were pretty good, he did not enjoy a great deal of freedom. But he was allowed visitors. Remember Paul was used to traveling, he was the greatest missionary and church planter of all time. So being stuck in Rome was probably not great for him, he had every right to be depressed, yet he stills writes this joyful letter.
The Philippian church was probably what Paul would have considered the closest thing to his home church. There seems to be a special affectionate relationship going both ways in this church, and they provided much of his material support when he traveled. This is one of the few letters he writes where he doesn’t include his credentials as an apostle. This gives us an indication of how well known he was, and the respect they already had for his authority.
I was looking for modern day example of Paul’s heart, and I found it to some degree in an NFL football player. In a game between the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos on December 10, 2006, Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson (known as L.T.) took his position the same way he had done hundreds of times before during the season. But this particular play was different. After receiving the ball and sprinting around two defenders for a seven-yard gain, Tomlinson found himself in the end zone for his NFL record-breaking 29th touchdown of the season.
But, as impressive as this accomplishment was, Tomlinson’s selfless behavior after the run really stole the show. Instead of raising his hands in victory or dancing across the turf like so many other players, Tomlinson beckoned for his offensive line—those inconspicuous behemoths who cleared the path for his success—to join him. With over 67,000 fans cheering wildly, he helped his entire team bask in the glory.
Even more surprising, he refused to acknowledge any individual accomplishment when talking with reporters after the game. Instead, he consistently used plural pronouns to include his teammates: "When we’re old and can’t play this game anymore, those are the moments that we’re going to remember, being able to tell our kids and tell our grandchildren. We made history today, and there’s no better feeling than to share it with the group of guys in that locker room."
That story just scratches the surface of what Paul’s heart was like in the Book of Philippians. A heart that is completely empty of self-interest. So let’s look at six characteristics of Paul’s heart in his letter to this church in Philippi.