Summary: How do we deal with the uncertainty that the world can bring.
Letters From Prison
The Buddy System
Sometimes, I wish I could just get a glimpse of God’s planner for my life. I do not like dealing with uncertainty. In leadership, uncertainty can be tough. It can lead to fear, withdrawal, and loss of focus. Vision can become smaller and smaller and the individual inward focused. Left unchecked, feelings of uncertainty can paralyze.
Have you ever faced uncertain times? In your family? In your school? With your children? In the church? If you are like me, you have faced uncertain times in your life.
Maybe you are waiting the results of blood tests or that MRI; it could be cancer. How will my kids and my wife cope if it progresses? What will happen if I die?
Maybe your child or spouse is in the military and is being deployed and the questions keep hounding you. Will he be safe? Will she make it home healthy and whole?
We he make it home at all?
Maybe your company is downsizing and the job market isn’t good.
When the future is uncertain, it can be hard just to make yourself take one step forward. It can feel like we are standing in the midst of a minefield. We can be afraid of a single misstep. Sometimes, we feel desperately alone. But as one author said, "despite it’s uncertainty, noone can flee the future." How do we go about facing life and making choices when the future is so unclear?
Turn with me to the book of Philippians 1.
As we look at this letter over the next several weeks, we will better understand the message by understanding the historical context.
The Apostle Paul is the author of this letter. He is writing to the Christians in the city of Philippi (Map). Paul had planted the church on an earlier missionary journey and now he is writing this letter to them. Paul cannot visit them pesonally. He is under house arrest in Rome for preaching the gospel –
His future is anything but certain. And the church he planted is obviously concerned about his situation.
So listen to Paul’s words that he pens.
Philippians 1:1 (The Greeting)
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
Paul addresses ALL the Saints. This is a letter intended for ALL the believers. Together. There is strength in numbers. Certainly there was greater risk of capture and persecution, but there was also greater strength as each part supported the others. With the word, "together", Paul gives a subtle reminder that it is easier to face an uncertain future as part of something greater than oneself. Paul doesn’t want the believers in Philippi abandoning ship and going it alone. So he addresses them as a group. TOGETHER!
Then he specifically mentions the overseers and deacons. That’s a strange quirk. As I went back over the other letters that Paul wrote to other churches, I realized something. This is the only one of Paul’s letters where he specifically mentions the leadership structure in his salutation. Why this letter? Where is Paul writing this letter from? (Prison). Why is he in prison? (He has been preaching the gospel).
Folks, it is tough enough to find leadership and to do leadership when things are going right. When trouble comes and/or when leadership has a target on their backs, it becomes much more difficult to find leaders who will continue leading. It can be tough to find leaders who will make tough choices. Uncertain times can lead to uncertain leadership.
So at the very beginning of his letter, I think Paul wants the leaders in Philippi to know that he is thinking about them as they also face an uncertain future. He doesn’t want them to be paralyzed by his situation; he doesn’t want them to be afraid; he doesn’t want them to be focused inwardly just trying to survive. So he greets the leadership structure of the church specifically.
And he prays a blessing on them and the believers.
Philippians 1:2 (The Blessing)
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Whenever I watch a movie there is a line that always sends chills up my spine. It usually happens when the main character is headed off to do a dangerous and urgent mission. During this time, another character will turn to them and say “God’s speed to you.” Literally “May God grant his speed to you.” May what you have to accomplish be accomplished quickly with God’s help. That’s a pretty cool blessing. I hear it and I wonder what I could accomplish if I was granted GOD’S speed.
Do you hear what Paul is doing? May God grant his grace and may God grant his peace to you. Paul uses a form of this greeting in every one of his letters. And it is HUGE! It is the foundation of his theological view.