THANKFUL, PRAYERFUL and JOYFUL
for Your Fellowship in the Gospel
Again we come to the most personal and intimate letter of the Apostle Paul, the Book of Philippians. Our text is found in Philippians 1:1-8;
“Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: (2) Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, (4) Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, (5) For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; (6) Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (7) Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. (8) For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.”
Would you focus your attention once again on verse 3 where Paul said, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you."
The Book of Philippians was a missionary thank-you letter to a church Paul had the privilege of founding. One of the evidences of Paul's love for the Philippians was his spirit of gratitude.
Six times in verses 3-8, Paul uses the pronoun "you" to refer to his close association with this Macedonian Church. Actually, gratitude pervaded all his letters.
To the Corinthians he wrote 1:4; "I thank my God always concerning you."
To the Ephesians in 1:16 he wrote, "I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers."
To the Colossians in 1:3 it was, "We give thanks to God…praying always for you."
To the Thessalonians in I Thessalonians 1:2; he wrote, "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers."
To Timothy in II Timothy 1:3; he said, "I thank God…as without ceasing I remember you."
Now in Philippians 1:3-8; we see a glimpse of a Pastor's RESPONSIBILITY and CARE for his people, a care that knows no bounds. I have often said:
You may get mad at me and leave the church, but you will never leave my heart, nor change the pastoral desire I have for you.
You may move away and join another church but just like Paul, I can say with him in verse 8, “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.”
I guess if it was our choice to emulate one of the New Testament churches, the church we should seek to be like would be this church at Philippi. There was a sweet fellowship between this church and the Apostle Paul. They suffered with him. They helped to supply his needs. They entered into fellowship with Paul while spreading the gospel. For all this, Paul was extremely thankful.
He could not say these things about the church at Corinth. That church was in constant turmoil with factions and divisions. As a result, it was one of the most IMMATURE churches of all the New Testament churches.
He could not say these things about the churches at Galatia. These churches were involved in all kinds of legalistic problems, and as such the Apostle Paul called them "Foolish Galatians."
He could not say these things about the church at Ephesus. Here was a church that had begun well. They started out strong IN the Lord and FOR the Lord, but even Paul warned they would fall. The Bible tells us in Revelation 3, that this church lost their first love. They lost their enthusiasm for God.
So when we think of which church we should be like, I believe we would have to agree the one we should choose to emulate would be the church at Philippi. For here Paul says, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." Looking over verses 3-8 we find a number of characteristics about Paul. I call your attention to three:
Beginning with that 3rd verse you will find Paul was THANKFUL, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you."
Then in verse 4 you find that Paul was PRAYERFUL, "Always in every prayer of mine for you all…" This man knew how to TOUCH God, as he had a phenomenal prayer life. You will notice from verse 4 that:
His prayer was CONSTANT, "in every prayer of mine."
His prayer was PERSONALIZED, "For you."
Not only was Paul THANKFUL and PRAYERFUL but in verse 4 he was also JOYFUL, "making request with joy."
It is obvious in this passage that emphasis is placed upon Paul being THANKFUL, PRAYFUL and JOYFUL. These are ACTION VERBS that lead to a direct object.
Paul was thankful for something.
Paul was prayerful for something.
Paul was joyful for something.
So, what was the thing that was of such great value to the Apostle Paul? That direct object is found in verse 5. Paul said that he was THANKFUL, PRAYERFUL, and JOYFUL over the church at Philippi’s "fellowship in the Gospel."
Now the Greek word for fellowship, "Koinonia" is used FOUR times in this Epistle, 1:5, 2:1, 3:10 and in 4:14.
The English word "communicate" is also “Koinonia” or fellowship. This English word has largely lost its original meaning in our Christian circles. To most of us, when we use the word fellowship, it has come to mean "to gather with other believers around general CONVERSATION, FUN, FOOD and BIBLE STUDY."
I think too often the saints gather for what they think is fellowship, but actually gather for something other than for what the New Testament church was designed.
Let me explain. We have gotten so involved in the social gatherings of the church, that we have lost the real purpose of the church. Now don't get me wrong, I am not against gathering for a time of fun with the saints. What I am saying is: we need to CONSIDER THE REAL PURPOSE OF OUR GATHERINGS.
Now, the original Greek word for "fellowship" meant, "a joint participation in a common interest or activity." So what was this common interest or activity? Once again the answer is found in verse 5, "It was in the GOSPEL."
The Philippian’s common interest with Paul was in the Gospel.
Their common activity was spreading the Gospel message.
Their fellowship was not in social gatherings. Rather, their fellowship was for the purpose of getting the gospel out to those in Macedonia. Paul was THANKFUL, PRAYERFUL and JOYFUL over their contribution to and participation in the advancement of the gospel message. From the first day that the gospel was heard and subsequently believed by Lydia, the woman of social standing mentioned in Acts 16, this has been the purpose of Christian fellowship.
If I were to ask you today, what would you say is the world's most important and profound problem? What do you think to be the NUMBER ONE PROBLEM we face in our world today? What would your response be? There is a possibility,
Some of you would say, the number one problem facing the world is a LACK of FOOD. World hunger would to be the number one problem. However, many of us here today would have difficulty identifying with that. As soon as this service is over, most of us will eat a good meal in our homes and others of us will race to a restaurant for our Sunday noon meal.
Some of you would say, the number one problem facing the world is an ECONOMIC IMBALANCE. World poverty would be the number one problem. Possibly correcting the enormously unequal distribution of wealth in our world would rid us of poverty, thus reversing the trend of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
Some of you would say, the number one problem facing the world is GOVERNMENT INTRUSION. Our lives seem to be managed through government involvement. Every where we turn, the government has something to say about what we can or can not do.
Some of you would say, the number one problem facing the world is MILITARY AGGRESSION. It seems that all over this world people are at war with one another requiring huge military regimes. It’s nearly impossible to keep peace in our world today.
Some of you would say, the number one problem facing the world is MORAL DECLINE. Perhaps many of you would say with the immorality flaunted on the TV and abuses out of Washington that the MORAL problem is number one.
So I ask myself who is right? Which one of these problems is the number one problem in the world today?
It couldn't be the military problem and
at the same time the economic problem and then
at the same time be the moral problem or
at the same time be the hunger problem or
even the intrusion of government into our lives, or
even the nuclear problem of global suicide.
I personally believe none of these areas is number one, as problematic as they are. Years ago a brilliant politician in England made this profound statement, "There is only one international problem and that is to get the gospel out to every man, every woman, every child, and every nation in the entire world."
Yet today, when you read the current news magazines, and the newspapers, and listen to the news commentators, and to the world leaders, no one agrees. They may look at the number one problem from a political perspective, or a military perspective or a moral perspective or a global famine perspective. I believe we have to look at it from the LIGHT OF ETERNITY.
Those of us, who are children of God, must never lose sight of the greatest problem that faces the world today. It is the problem of getting the Gospel to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. That my friend, is the starting point; it is the cure for every other problem.
Paul is writing here saying, "I am thankful, and I am prayerful, and I am joyful over the fact that you are aware of the number one problem in the world that is the advancement, the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
I believe as we move throughout this year we need a NEW VISION, a new vision of our purpose. We shouldn't just come week after week, and feed ourselves on the Word of God, and have some social gatherings here and there, and then leave and do nothing about the number one problem in our world, which is the advancement of the gospel.
I believe we have got to say, "Lord you have us here at the Green Street Baptist Chapel for a purpose. Please give us a NEW VISION, a vision of the harvest fields that are white unto harvest. Give us a vision of the multitudes perishing, who are in need of the gospel and the saving grace of Jesus Christ."
This new vision would most likely include insights into goals for our spiritual and physical needs, goals for our sunday school, and goals for our children and youth. We must never be content with where we are. Growing into the things of Christ takes determination to move ahead, with clear VISION given by God. The greatest goal possible is:
To realize a NEW VISION for missions world wide, and
To realize a NEW VISION for local missions that will reach every man, woman and child in our corner of the world.
I believe our immediate goal ought to be to emulate the church at Philippi, so if the Lord would address us as Paul did them, He would say, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of the people of the Green Street Baptist Chapel."
I wonder if the Lord could say with JOY, "These are people who are NOT STUCK on themselves or on their problems, or on their concerns. These people are stuck on the number one problem facing the world today and that is the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Paul was concerned about the Gospel. He was thankful for the Philippian’s fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now. Please notice the 6th verse where there is another until, "…until the day of Jesus Christ:…"
I guess if there is any word that needs to be underscored, or a key word in this passage, it is the word GOSPEL. In fact, it is used NINE times in this short epistle. I hope we never lose sight of the magnitude of the gospel. Paul was taken with the gospel. He believed the gospel itself was so attractive that:
The gospel could win people into the family of God.
The gospel could motivate Christians to give and to pray and to go tell others.
We use all kinds of means to attract people to the gospel. We try to motivate Christians to proclaim the gospel with literature, classes, and what have you. BUT WHY CAN'T WE GET TO THE PLACE WHERE THE GOSPEL IS SO ATTRACTIVE AND APPEALING THAT IT ALONE MOTIVES US TO PROCLAIM IT AND DEFEND IT?
Paul was not only thankful for the the CONSISTENT CONCERN of the church at Philippi, but he was also thankful for GOD’S UNFAILING SUPPORT Verse 6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” Here is one of the greatest verses in Philippians.
Now I am sure you have done as I have on many occasions. That is, take this verse out of context and apply it to salvation. "I am confident enough to know that He who saved me will keep me until the day of Jesus Christ."
Thank God, He is not only the author of my Salvation, but He is also the author of eternal life, as he said in John 5:24; "Verily, Verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life…" What confidence this should give every believer.
However in this context, that is not what Paul had in mind at all. What he is really talking about in verse 6 is the furtherance of the Gospel. Paul is saying, "I am CONFIDENT of the fact that He who hath begun this good work, this concern for the furtherance of the gospel will perform it not only IN you, but THROUGH you until the day Jesus comes again."
I am confident that day after day, week after week, year after year, His work will go on and on, and His Word will be proclaimed.
Back in 1950, India was given its independence, its freedom from England. The people of India then began to think about and write their constitution. Finally, they came to a very complex question as to the freedom of religion in this Hindu land.
After much debate on the issue, a Hindu delegate rose and said, "To the Christian it is inherent within his religion to propagate his faith. If he is faithful to his faith, he must propagate it. If you do not allow him to propagate his faith, you do not allow him to practice his faith."
That Hindu delegate had a clearer understanding of what our faith is than many of us do.
You cannot practice your faith, unless you propagate your faith. When you do not propagate what you believe, YOU ARE NOT PRACTICING YOUR FAITH.
Now Paul was not only thankful for CONSISTENT CONCERN for the advancement of the gospel, and thankful for GOD’S UNFAILING SUPPORT for the gospel, but in verse 7, Paul said he was set for "the defense of the gospel."
From the beginning of the preaching of the gospel in Acts, we find that wherever there was the proclamation of the gospel and souls were getting saved, there was opposition to the gospel.
The Apostle Peter was persecuted.
The early Disciples were persecuted.
Stephen was martyred for the faith.
The church was scattered because of persecution.
Yet interestingly, whenever the gospel was proclaimed and opposition arose, the believers became more bold in proclaiming the gospel. Even Paul suffered because of the Gospel. From the time he first visited Philippi, where he was thrown into prison for preaching the gospel, until his Roman imprisonment some 10 years later, Paul suffered almost beyond measure for the gospel’s sake.
Yet in spite of his suffering and bonds, he was joyful for the privilege. It drove him to a greater determination to keep on proclaiming the gospel.
Back in the days of the martyrs the proclamation was, "The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church." The more persecution, the more they fanned the flames of revival. God isn't about to let the gospel just die out. Whether there are threats, persecution or opposition, God is going to see to it that the Gospel will go forth.
While you are sitting here comfortably in the House of God, I wonder what you are going to do about the Gospel.
Perhaps you are sitting here and you need to accept the Gospel by faith. That is, put your faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in order to receive the gift of God, which is eternal life.
Perhaps you are a believer. Having accepted the Gospel, what are you going to do with it to PROCLAIM it, DEFEND it, and yes, when and if necessary even SUFFER for it?
Paul says, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”
NOT just for the fact that you are a church, and NOT just for the fact that you are a fellowship of people meeting for worship and Bible Study.
Paul prays not only for their physical ills or that they may be lifted above the circumstances of life, but He also says, I am thankful, I am prayerful and I am joyful because you are concerned about the advancement, proclamation, defense, and suffering for the gospel. Again notice verse 7-8,
“Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. (8) For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.”
Let me ask you. Just what is your involvement in the Gospel? Oh, how thankful I am for your fellowship, for your participation in the ministry of the Green Street Baptist Chapel. But my heart goes out to this church and our people. Not because of the fellowship functions we have, or the many ministries we carry on here, but for our involvement in the PROCLAMATION and the DEFENSE of the GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!
What is your involvement? Remember the words of our Lord, as He was going back to Glory in Mark 16:15; "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
If you are not PRACTICING your faith, then you are not PROCLAIMING your faith.
If, you are not PROCLAIMING the gospel, then you are not PRACTICING your faith.
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon "THANKFUL, PRAYERFUL and JOYFUL for your fellowship in the gospel" right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to email@example.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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In His Amazing Grace,
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