Paul is at his best. In chains, he triumphs. Imprisonment and torture have not weakened his spirit, but strengthened it as he joyfully shares the suffering of Christ and advances the gospel.
Reading Philippians is like retreating to the locker room at half time with a world class coach ready to empower his team. As the coach paces up and down the benches, looking deep into his players eyes, revealing his faith and confidence in them, his voice rises with emotion, “Not only are we not down team – we already have our victory! Let us claim it and rejoice! Our bruises, strains and agony are our strength. Keep your eyes fixed on the prize. It is ours!”
There is so much to love about Paul’s joyful letter to the church in Philippi – the book is packed with inspiration, teaching and insight. I look to it so often, memorizing the famous verses.
But for me, I find the book’s greatest power when I read it as a whole, hearing Paul’s energy as he encourages his beloved congregation. They have been faithful and they too will soon claim their prize. Paul has not been defeated by imprisonment and suffering and neither will they be defeated. Christ has already assured us the victory.
When I begin to lose perspective, with either too many good days or too many hard days, Philippians draws me back and gets me focused. Leading by example, through hardship and suffering, Paul shows us how to joyfully and sincerely follow Christ.
“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” Philippians 3:17-4:1
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