This morning we begin a very rewarding and yet challenging study in Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. In this little letter that has been called by some, “the epistle of joy”, we discover many practical lessons regarding the Christian life. As in our study of any book of the Bible, we must always keep in mind that sound, God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered theology is always the root of God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered living.
One of the lessons we see in this epistle is faith in the providential guidance of God. The very “founding” of the Philippian church is wrapped in the shroud of a divine plan and mystery. Paul desires to go to Asia, but God closes the door in his face, so to speak. At which time Paul receives a vision of a man begging him for help and asking him to come over to Macedonia. Paul takes that as a cue to preach the gospel there. So, when Paul arrives in Philippi, does a man greet him? No, a group of ladies are praying; God opens the heart of one of them and the church is planted (Acts 16:9-15).
Another thing to keep in mind as we work our way through this book is that Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome (Philippians 1:7), not an “apostolic suite” at the Sheraton Inn. It is from this location that he writes to encourage his brothers and sisters in Christ to be faithful to The Lord despite the difficulties they are going through (1:27-30). He exhorts them to seek unity in the body and resist self-centeredness (2:1-4). He urges them to passionately pursue Jesus each and every day (3:7-15). He tells them to pray about everything and trust God with the results (4:6-7), and he thanks them for their support (4:10-18).
So let’s dig in, and may the grace of The Holy Spirit open our hearts to hear and obey the voice of Our Shepherd!