This letter that Paul wrote to the Philippians is one that is filled with joy, despite all the trials Paul was going through. Paul was writing this in prison, probably from Rome, and yet time and again, you see the words “rejoice” and “joy” in this letter.
And one thing that gave him great joy was what God was doing in the lives of the Philippians. The church in Philippi was the first ever to be started in Europe. It started when Paul met a wealthy woman named Lydia who feared God, but didn’t really know anything about Jesus. But when Paul preached the gospel to her, she and her family were saved. (Acts 16:11-15).
Paul did have some problems there, however, getting throw into prison. But even there, Paul made an impact, as through him, his jailer and the jailer’s family also became Christians. (Acts 16:16-40)
That was the beginning of the church in Philippi. And that church became one of his main supporters in ministry.
And in their partnership with him in the gospel, he saw the good work God was doing in them. And so he wrote,
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (4-6)
One of the amazing things of the gospel of Christ is that it starts with grace and it ends with grace. It is God who reached out to us to save us at a time when we had no thought of him. Through his grace, he pulled us out of filth of our sin and washed us clean by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.
But God doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just say to us, “Well, I cleaned you up. Now you’re on your own.”
Rather, Paul says that God continues to work in us even now, and will never stop working in us until we are made complete on the day that Jesus returns for us.
In what way is God working in us? Paul tells us through his prayer for the Philippians, saying,
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God. (9-11)
Paul prays here that the fruit of love, love for God and love for others, would abound more and more in our lives. How does it grow? It grows as we come to know God better. As we understand more deeply how great his love is, it causes our own love to blossom, not only for God, but for those around us.
And as that happens, we start to understand just how God intends us to live. We start to make not only good choices, but the best choices. And as we do that, all of God’s fruit of righteousness starts to blossom in our lives.
But note what Paul says here: this fruit of righteousness comes not from our own efforts to change. Rather, it comes as we are joined to him. Like Jesus said, he is the vine, we are the branches. Apart from him, we can do nothing. (John 15:5)
So what do we get from this? Two things.
First, don’t get discouraged by the sin you still see in your life. God started a good work in you. It started at the cross. It continued as he called you and you responded to him. And God will continue working in you until you are complete.
Second, stay plugged in to Jesus. That is the key to change in your life. Not mere self-discipline or effort. But Jesus living his life in you.
And as he does, you will see more and more what God is doing in you to his glory…and to your joy.