Okay, okay. So I’m tired of waiting to get into the Word with you all and my book, Remind Me: a guide to remembering His attributes in your daily life, is not quite ready for publication just yet as we are a bit behind schedule. That is not going to stop us, though. We are going to jump right into the Word today and when Remind Me is ready I’ll let you know.
I’ve committed to reading the Bible “deep and wide” this year. I’ll explain. One of my goals is to read the Bible in a year (in other words go wide). Don’t be too impressed. I’ve committed to this before only to disappoint myself and not follow thru. But at this point, I am on track and really enjoying recapturing and remembering some of the familiar stories in Genesis and Matthew (that’s where I’ve been so far in January).
I also want to go deep this year, so I’ve been studying one Book of the Bible at a time, really feasting and savoring the Word. I began with Philippians, and I’ve learned so much in this tiny letter even though I thought I really knew that Book of the Bible pretty well. But as I said, I went super slow so I could go really deep and saturate myself in the Word.
Here’s what I want us to do together. For the next however many Into the Word Wednesdays this takes, we’ll be camping out in this rather joy-filled book of the Bible. We will savor it, and really take it all in.
Let’s begin by noting some background and learning who wrote this Letter to the Philippians.
Read Philippians 1:1-2
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul (along with Timothy) wrote this letter to the Church at Philippi. The Philippian Church was established when Paul visited the area, recorded in Acts 16:11-12.
He bids them grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus, the Son. From reading the text, one observation in these two verses is that Paul had a great deal of affection for the believers at Philippi.
Let’s jump back to Acts for a moment and read about the drama that unfolded in this small town in Macedonia when Paul was visiting.
Read Acts 16:11-40 and observe the text.
- Philippi was a main city of Macedonia, a Roman colony.
- On the Sabbath they went looking for a place of prayer and met Lydia, a worshipper of God.
- Lydia and her household were all baptized.
- They met and healed a slave girl possessed with demons.
- Owners of the slave girl had Paul and Silas beaten and jailed because they were angry that the girl could no longer make money for them for her divination.
- While in jail Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.
- An earthquake shook the jail and all of the chains were unfastened.
- The prisonors remained and did not flee.
- The jailer was impressed by this and listened to them testify to the Gospel of Jesus and was saved.
- Paul and Silas were released the following day.
Do you find it amazing that in the midst of their imprisonment, neither Paul nor Silas seemed to fret or complain? Instead they had an incredible amount of Joy.
Just look at what the Scriptures say in Acts 16:25 …
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, ad the prisoners where listening to them.
I’ll be honest, if I get thrown in prison tomorrow, I don’t think I’ll be singing Kumbaya. No, I’m going to be stressed out, ticked off, and worried to death over how I can put my hands on a get out of jail free card.
But no, they were praying and singing hymns. It’s almost as though they were enjoying themselves, content in their circumstances, joy-filled in the midst of their struggles.
Do you have this kind of reaction when you’re in trouble? I know I sure don’t, at least that’s not my typical reaction.
Then something completely crazy happened. An earthquake – the get out of jail free card arrived. Yes! But Paul and Silas didn’t even attempt to escape. Furthermore, the jailor became so overtaken by Paul and Silas’ example, He accepted Jesus and so did his family. Let me ask you this …
When has your joy-filled attitude caused someone else to turn to Jesus?
I wish I could say that happens with me all the time. That I’m so in tune with the Lord’s will and presence in my life that I forgo the fretting and forge ahead into frolics and feel good songs of delight. But the truth is that’s just not the case.
Nope! If this had been my experience in Philippi, I would want to forget everything about my time there, but not Paul.
Read what he says in Philippians 1:3-6.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
He thanks God as he fondly remembers them with much joy. He is delighted that the believers in Philippi have partnered with them in sharing the Gospel and encourages them with the prayer that what God has started, He will finish.
This recognition of God finishing what He starts reveals a marvelous character trait of God – His faithfulness. There is no doubt in Paul’s mind that God will complete His work in the lives of believers in Philippi and draw others to Himself. God’s steadfastness demands it!
What about you? Do you believe that God will finish what He has begun in you or in a difficult situation you’re in?
I want to remind you of a truth this week as we close out Into the Word Wednesday.
Truth: The joy we experience in the midst of life’s circumstances, directly relates to our belief in the faithfulness of God.
Let me put it another way:
If we will cling to the faithfulness of God, fully resting in His promises, the joy of the Lord will overflow in us and strengthen us.
The word strength in that verse is the Hebrew word that means: a fortified place, a defense, a place of safety and protection, a refuge.
Do you get it? God’s faithfulness is a refuge and place of protection for us. Safety and security bring us great and lasting joy.
That is how Paul and Silas sang with such enthusiasm while in prison. They rested in the faithfulness of God’s promise that He would finish what He started in them.
Have you forgotten that truth?
In what area of your life do you need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness so that you can experience the joy of His presence?
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.– Psalm 16:11