Posted by: Brad Beaman | September 27, 2007

Joyful Love, Philippians 1:3-11

Illustration: God’s Faithfulness

When I was attending a meeting in Scotland I was in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland and I was looking for a place to park. I received advise on how to find a good place to park. My friend told me to drive up to the top of the nearby observatory to find the free parking. As I parked I noticed the great view all around the city. I saw the observatory and I also saw another structure there. This other structure looked to me to resemble some ancient Roman ruins.

I wondered if it might be a tribute to ancient Rome. Later I asked around, what is this structure on top of the observatory hill?  I found out that it was a building project that was planned and started, but was abandoned before it was finished. Rather than tear it down it was left there as a monument to all the unfinished projects. How many of us start something, but never finish it? It could be a weight loss diet or an exercise program. These are the goals we set and the projects we have that we plan to finish, but they remain unfinished. We have our unfinished projects.  

You know, God never leaves a project unfinished. God is faithful to finish what he begins. Paul is in prison and he has this joyful love because he has a confidence in God. He can write in Philippians 1:6, “Be confident of this that He, who began a good work in you will carry it out until the day of Christ Jesus.” This great truth brought encouragement to Paul and it can bring us confidence. 

We will talk about the joyful love that flowed out of the Apostle Paul’s heart. We need to remember that when Paul was writing this letter he was in prison, yet he had so much joyful love coming from his life. Remember what happened at Philippi. Paul had a vision and saw a man from Macedonia asking for help. This vision led him to the city of Philippi. Paul usually went to the synagogue to preach. In Philippi there was no synagogue so Paul went to the riverbank where people met for prayer. He began to preach the Gospel at the riverside.

 A businesswoman named Lydia received the Gospel and her and her whole household were baptized. There was a slave girl in Philippi that would follow Paul and constantly say, “This man is of God.” Paul caste out a fortune telling spirit from this girl. Paul wound up in jail because what he did brought economic loss to the city. Here is Paul, beaten and in jail, but despite all this he, along with Silas were singing hymns, spiritual songs and giving thanks to God.     Here was Paul in prison and in the midst of all this an earthquake came and his chains were loosened. The jailer, thinking the prisoners would escape, was about to kill himself, but Paul stopped him.

The jailer cried out, what must I do to be saved. Paul pointed the jailer and his household to Jesus Christ. You see Paul had a great beginning there in Philippi.  Paul is pouring out his heart in this letter to Philippi. We see his joyful love flowing out. He was in difficult circumstances personally, but Paul knew the Lord’s work was going forward. The first thing we see about joyful love is that it expresses thanksgiving. 

I) Joyful Love Expresses Thanksgiving: Philippians 1:3-6                                                                                    

Paul said in vs. 3 “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Think back to the last time you celebrated thanksgiving. It is a time of family togetherness, a time to feast on a great turkey dinner. At that time we think of all the ways we can be thankful because of the good things that have happened to us. Paul was thankful here in the midst of difficult circumstances. He wasn’t thankful because of family togetherness or because of the good things that happened to him. He was experiencing very bad times, yet he was thankful in every circumstance.  He wrote in I Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thank in all circumstances.” Paul is living this very idea. In the midst of difficult circumstances, Paul is giving thanks. Paul has been in prison. He is isolated and limited, but he is not limited in his prayer. Paul is not limited in his thankfulness. Many people are seeking happiness through different pleasures, possessions or through obtaining power. We need to remember that true thanksgiving and true joy comes from God.  That is why Paul could know joy in the midst of these circumstances. We can experience Christian joy in the midst of tears and tragedy. Paul said, Vs. 4 “I always pray with joy.” He prayed with joy because of their partnership. He spoke of this partnership in Vs 5. “A partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Paul attributed his joy to the partnership of the Gospel.  This was a shared ministry with the Philippians. It is not because the Philippian church was without problems. The church was threatened by disunity that was developing; yet they were sharing in the ministry of the Apostle Paul. The Philippian church and Paul had become one in their work of Jesus Christ. They were involved in Paul’s ministry and this made them partners. We find that involvement is one of the key things to have a ministry partnership. What is it like when you talk to someone who really loves their church?  They are excited when they talk about their church. Have you noticed that those who have this love are the ones who are deeply involved? The ones who love their church are not the ones who slip in and slip out. They roll up their sleeves and get involved in their church. They love the ministry of the gospel because they have been involved.  Paul and the Philippians have this kind of partnership. They have a partnership that includes involvement.  In our fellowship we need to be as inclusive as possible. We need to involve as many as we can in the joy of taking the gospel to a city that needs to hear the message of Christ. I need to challenge each one of you to take initiative in your involvement. Don’t wait for someone to come to you and ask you to get involved in our church. You need to take initiative to be involved in the work of this church.  Right now we face a very key time in the life of this church. It is a time for involvement. This is a time for you to get involved. The role of the pastor is not to do all the work of the church. The role of the pastor is to equip people to do the work. That is why I am excited that we are having a meeting for those who will participate in the Discipleship course, Masterlife. Because this is an area of discipleship that will challenge you to be more involved in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In our church there is a need for this kind of effective partnership in the Gospel. The church of Philippi were contributing in tangible ways. They were supporting Paul financially. They were supporting him through prayer and they were involved in what he was doing in the advancement of the gospel. When Paul was experiencing difficulties they shared with Paul in his difficulties. In times of hardship they too were in hardship.     When it is time for the final accounting and Paul receives his reward in heaven the Philippian church too will share in the rewards. The word partnership is koinania, the word we use for fellowship. They were bound together in this partnership. If we work together to see the Gospel go out, then when we see positive response to the Gospel, we will have joy together because we have worked together. This is a partnership to see the message of Jesus Christ go out. Paul had this great thanksgiving because of the partnership with the church at Philippi.  Paul spoke with confidence because he knew that when God began a work, He could complete it. We do not have to wonder if God is able to complete what he began. We can have a confidence that when God begins a work he will complete it. If you are a Christian you can have that confidence. If God has done a work in your heart he will carry it out.  Becoming a Christian is not the end. It is only the beginning. Then you start the process of sanctification. We become closer and closer to God through our walk. The Bible speaks about the final day, when Jesus Christ returns and the Christian is glorified receiving a new body and receiving rewards from the service on this earth. We have this great promise (vs. 6) that God is able to carry out what he began.  

II) Joyful Love expresses Christian Concern Vs 7 -8  

   Paul says vs. 7 “It is right for me to feel this way.” Paul had a moral obligation regarding the affection he showed the church in Philippi. They could put chains on Paul, but they could not chain his love. They can’t chain his concern, his hope, and his faith. The very chains that held him became a means for the gospel. He states his warm feelings. He says it is right for me to feel this way. They had been through so much together. Paul had been with them at the founding of their church. Paul had shared with them as they supported his ministry. Paul had been praying for them and he thought of them daily with joy. It was right for him to have this loving affection for them.  Are you being faithful to the ministry God has for you? The Philippians were faithful to Paul. God had led them to support the Apostle Paul and to share in the partnership of the ministry. Are you being faith to the work God as called you to in times of difficulty?  

Illustration: Faithfulness

Today we live in an age of choice. If we don’t like what we see on the TV, we turn the channel. So many times that kind of attitude is filtered down into the church. People go from here and there. If they don’t like something about their church, they move on. Some people would qualify for the title “spiritual gypsies.” They have no church home. They wander and when they see something that seems exciting they go there.

The Apostle Paul is showing Christian concern and there has been a partnership. He is thankful his partners have been faithful. That is what we need now. Those who will remain faithful, even when times are difficult. We need true Christians to stay faithful when there is a cost, when it is difficult.

 In Vs. 8 Paul says, “God can testify how I long for you all.” He is calling them to pay special attention to the fact that God can be a witness how he affectionately longed for all of them. Paul assures them of his love. Your version of scripture instead of affection of Jesus Christ may even say the bowels of Jesus Christ. Because the word translated is speaking of the bowels, where the seat of emotion comes from. Paul has this very deep emotional love for the believers in Philippi.  We use the symbol of the heart to speak of our deep felt emotions. Paul wanted them to know of his deep Christian concern of their well being. They had a partnership in the Gospel and he had a deep concern and he wanted to express his love.  

III) Joyful Love Admonishes yet more Love Vs 9-11  

 Paul wants the Philippians to know of the love he has for them and he is asking them to abound more and more in their love. Do they have a love? Yes. Did they love people and love Christians?  Yes. Paul is saying I want you to abound yet more in your love. 

Isn’t this the message that Jesus gave us when he said, by this all men will know that you are my disciples by how you love one another? What is the great test of our Christianity? It is how we have love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Paul is encouraging more love in the fellowship.

Illustration: Love

 We give our different reports of the church in worship service attendance and Sunday school attendance and offerings and contacts made. Wouldn’t it be something if we had a measurement or a chart that would say this week we were up abounding in love. We have increased by seventy percent in love over last week. What if we could measure love? It would tell us so much, because that is the key. That is what Paul is telling them to abound in, is their Christian love. (Philippians 1:9) How important it is when people come and visit us, just how much they sense this aspect of abounding love. Maybe we cannot measure love tangibly, but people know when there is a true fellowship of love.  We have love? Yes. But as Paul encouraged the Philippians we need to abound still more and more in our Christian love.  What is the great model for Christian love? What do we look to as the greatest example of Christian love? Our model is Jesus Christ himself. He loved each one of you so much that he was willing to be accused falsely. He loved you so much that he was willing to be mocked and spit upon. He was willing to be beaten; he was willing to be humiliated. He was willing to be crucified and take upon the sins of the world, so much that he would cry out, My God My God why have you forsaken me.  Jesus is this great example of Christian love. Paul is telling this to the Philippian church and we need to hear the message today, that if we have love, we need to abound yet in more love. The word that is used indicates that there needs to be layer upon layer of love. It calls us to super abound in love. How wonderful when you meet a Christian who really abounds in that Christian love. What a testimony for someone who can love in this way.  

Illustration: Christian love

Pastor E. V. Hill was talking about the racial violence in downtown Watts, in the Los Angeles area. He is as a Baptist Preacher and was caught up in that kind of tension. There was another of the black pastors who had already been killed because of their involvement in this racial tension. E V Hill got a threatening phone call and he was told that if he did not cease his involvement in the racial conflict that he would be killed.

They told him that they would put a bomb in his car. The next day when he woke up he noticed his wife was not there. When he looked out into the garage the car was gone. He looked out the window and saw his wife was driving up in the car. When he asked her what she was doing she said, I just wanted to be sure any bomb would not explode on you. He said he never had to question her Christian love. It was that kind of commitment and love that inspires someone to risk their life. Isn’t that the Christian model set by Jesus Christ, giving his very life?

 Paul is telling Christians they need to abound even more in Christian love. The word that Paul uses is for this love is agape, the unconditional love. It is used to describe God’s kind of love. We need to abound in a love, but not the kind of love that seeks something in return. We need God’s kind of love. The kind of love that does not expect anything in return.  

That is what Paul is saying for the church to do, to abound in this love. This love had a direction. He said, Vs 9 “you abound in this love more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” So this love has a goal. We are to abound in love as we learn about spiritual insights, as we learn about the things of God. We are to abound in love. Not a kind of false love that the world talks about. But the kind of love that Jesus Christ lived out. That is what Paul is talking about here.

There were signs of disunity in the Philippian church, but when Paul inspired them, he encouraged them to love yet more. This was the kind of love that was going to conquer any possible disunity that would come up in the fellowship. If we are truly abounding in this kind of Christian love then there can be no threat of disunity. This is the kind of love that conquers all. Paul was talking about love with discernment. A love that is willing to stand up for what is right.

If we are living with this kind of joyful love, and thanksgiving is flowing from our life and we can show Christian concern and we have that abounding love then Paul is saying we will be filled with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  That is the goal of the Christian to be more like Jesus Christ. To be filled with the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of righteousness of Jesus Christ. That is what we can do when we have this kind of thanksgiving. If we can show concern and have abounding love.

Illustration: Abounding Love

 In Philippians chapter 1 vs. 11 Paul says, “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God.” Remember that Paul was in prison when he was writing this great Philippian love letter. We can, even in difficult circumstances, have a love that abounds.  Just before the message we heard that great hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. The man who wrote this hymn, Horatio Spafford was a friend of D. L Moody and lived in the Chicago area. He was going to take his family on a trip to Europe. On the way he was detained and his wife and four daughters went on the trip ahead of.  The boat they were on sank and only his wife survived from his family. Haratio Spafford received a telegram from his wife that said, survived alone. He lost his four daughters and he was in great pain and anguish, yet love could abound. Even in this circumstance he could apply what Paul is speaking of here. He could have a joyful love in the midst of the deepest darkest grief.  He could still express thanksgiving and Christian concern and have abounding love. That is why those words he wrote, it is well with my soul, have such meaning. In the midst of all that grief and all that despair he could write, “it is well, it is well with my soul.” Won’t we take courage from the Apostle Paul that he can abound in love in the midst of his difficult circumstances? He can show thanksgiving, concern and abounding love. Won’t we ask God to give us these characteristics?         


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