Graham Heslop
Graham Heslop Graham has an insatiable appetite for books, occasionally dips into theology, and moonlights as a lecturer in New Testament Greek at George Whitefield College, Cape Town. He also serves on the staff team at Union Chapel Presbyterian Church and as the written content editor for TGC Africa. Graham is married to Lynsay-Anne and they have one son, Teddy.

Philippians 1:3-6 Devotional

Philippians 1:3-6 Devotional

Philippians 1:3-6. I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 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.

Reflection. The opening lines of Paul’s epistles function similarly to the subject line of our emails. Having finished his greeting (1:1-2), Paul highlights themes that will feature prominently in the letter at hand. Philippians follows this format. Paul remembers and prays for the Philippians with joy (1:3-4). Reading through Philippians it becomes clear where Paul’s joy was found: in the glory of God and the maturity of God’s people.

Importantly, those two things are very much linked. Just see how Paul closes off his prayer for these believers. After praying that they would abound in discerning love (1:9), grow in wisdom (1:10), and put off sin while bearing the fruit of righteousness (1:10-11), Paul says this is, “to the glory and praise of God” (1:11). Therefore Paul is joyful as he remembers the Philippians, who have partnered with him by believing the gospel (1:5), because by doing that and maturing in their faith God is glorified.

There is a tendency amongst Christians today to believe God is praised when the music in church is great. No, God is glorified when the faith of believers bears fruit, grows in discernment, and expresses Christlike love. Likewise, many Christians today believe joy comes from God when he removes our struggles and improves our circumstances. God can and does do this. But as we read Philippians what becomes apparent is that Paul knew a joy that transcended his situation because he knew the sovereign God who was at work in his situation (4:6-7).

He was also confident regarding God’s work in the lives of the Philippians (1:6). Therefore Paul remembers the Philippians in prayer with joy, because the expression and growth of their faith was bringing glory to God. We cannot claim to worship God on a Sunday as we sing exuberantly only to dishonour him as we live. God is glorified when his truth shapes how we live. And we will not find our joy in God if it depends on the things God gives or takes away. Our joy must, like Paul’s, be in God himself and the good of his people.

In 1:6, Paul gives another reason for his joy as he prays: confidence. Astonishingly, in the next couple of verses we will read that Paul’s confidence for the Philippians came from his repeated and impassioned prayers for them (1:7-8). But before that we must not overlook one of the most splendid verses in the entire Bible, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (1:6). Paul rejoices as he remembers the Philippians because the gospel has impacted their lives. Now he reminds the Philippians, and us, that God can be trusted to empower persevering faith.

Do you believe the gospel? God’s grip has not loosened. His power has not waned. His goodness and grace is unending. He will bring his work to completion. Therefore with wholehearted dependance on him, we can carry on—confidently. As we do, we can know the joy that comes from God alone as we see this work in others. And we can see God glorified in lives transformed by his gospel truth, bearing gospel fruit.

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