By Mike Dawson
Pastor Emeritus, First Baptist Church, Columbia
Focal Passage: Philippians 1:1-11
I grew up singing hymns and ‘choruses’ like “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy — down in my heart.” We kids belted out those words with exuberance. I think the Apostle Paul would have joined us in singing exuberantly as he wrote one of the best “JOY-books” of all time, Philippians. Every lesson topic from this book over the next six weeks begins with the word JOY. This week’s topic is “Joy in PRAYER” from Philippians 1:1-11.
The best things often come out of the worst times. A powerful example of that statement: Paul wrote four inspired letters — Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon — while in prison.
Our studies this quarter will be in three of these “prison epistles.” Notably Paul wrote Philippians, this joy-filled “love letter,” to the church he had planted in Philippi. This was the pagan city where he had personally been beaten and tossed into jail for preaching the Gospel.
Yet in that city were many Christ-followers such as a business woman who had opened her HEART to Christ; a girl with a demonized mind who had opened her HEAD to Christ; and a jailer who had opened his HOME to Christ (Read Acts 16:16-34). These and many others who had become Christ-followers through Paul’s ministry were no doubt eager to hear his letter being read as they gathered for church — in the idol-infested city of Philippi.
In today’s passage, Philippians 1:1-11, I believe Paul gives five joy-filled truths; each could begin with the words, in the Gospel.
- Verse 1: In the Gospel, every person is important.
Paul signs the letter at the beginning rather than the end, “Paul and Timothy.” He writes to “ALL the saints,” every single one. People often say, “Well, I’m no saint.” (Buzzer sounds.) “WRONG!” If you’ve repented of your sins, received the crucified, resurrected Jesus as your Savior, and you’ve responded publicly — confessing Christ as your Lord — you’re a saint.
Someone has said only two kinds of people exist, the “saints” and the “ain’ts.” Let’s go marching in as SAINTS! Paul also includes in this letter those serving as church leaders. Every life counts.
- Verse 2: In the Gospel, every blessing is available.
“Grace … and peace.” Paul prays every blessing on believers, beginning with amazing grace and going through abiding peace. Grace always precedes peace.
- Verse 3: In the Gospel, every memory is precious.
Include the 9-word verse in your notes — paper or electronic — to fellow Christians.
- Verse 4: In the Gospel, every prayer is joy-filled.
“Always … every prayer … with joy!” We will never experience joy, real joy, without prayer, real prayer. Praying knees and joyful hearts go together.
- Verses 5-11: In the Gospel, every day is sweet.
Paul now gives thanks for his relationship with the Philippian church, describing it as “your fellowship IN THE GOSPEL from the first day until now” (verse 5). I think he’s saying, “since we began this journey together, every day with Jesus (and with you) is sweeter than the day before!
In today’s concluding verses Paul speaks of the ‘first’ day, our redemption, verse 5; the ‘final’ day, Christ’s return, verses 6 and 10; and every day in between, life’s relationships, verses 7-9 and 11.