Do you have a dear childhood friend you don’t see often? Or maybe a college friend you shared life with so closely there is still a deep bond between you? There are people who are fortunate to have friendships like these. Friends who, although we do not see each other often, we can instantly step in right where our last conversation ended. Years can go by, and when we meet face to face it seems like just yesterday we spent time together. The closeness cannot be described and heart ties seem permanent and may last a lifetime.
I’ve read Philippians many times in my life. I believe Paul’s letter to the first church in Europe paints deep friendship as I’ve described above. It is believed the letter was written ten years after he last saw them, and yet it is filled with Paul’s heartfelt love and genuine empathy for them.
These are the conclusions I draw when I read Paul’s words to the Philippians. They are his friends. He loves them. He longs to see them. He is honest with them. I would dare say that when he is reunited with them it feels as if time has not passed.
Paul touches on several topics in his letter. He begins by sharing how thankful he is for them, how he prays for them often, and he longs to see them. He explains his imprisonment and rejoices in it, also telling them they may suffer as well (1:29). He encourages them to live their lives without grumbling, to stand out and shine, and ultimately rejoice despite these trials and suffering. He warns them of false teaching (3:2) and urges them to follow his attitude of forgetting what lies behind and pressing on toward the prize of the call of God in Christ (3:14).
This is probably one of the most popular verses found in Philippians.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. ~Phil. 4:13
These words have offered a great source of help to me as well as many others in times of trouble and hardship. But, have you read the verses prior to it? Paul, possibly in prison while writing the letter, describes how he has learned to be content in every circumstance he has found himself in. Whether suffering, hungry, or experiencing an abundance of all he needs, Paul has learned he can do anything God calls him to do. And, he shares with his friends that he receives the Lord’s strength in each situation. Paul’s example encourages us as believers to be confident that no matter where we find ourselves because Christ is our ultimate source of strength and he will walk alongside us each step of the way.
Ultimately, Paul’s goal in this letter is to encourage his friends at the church of Philippi. He gives them advice and practical tips on how to live their Christian lives. He thanks them for their support and prayers, and he requests continued prayers. While the book is short, you can sense Paul’s close relationship with these people.
Paul and the church of Philippi share a sweet bond in the Lord. They encourage one another and build one another up. Let’s take the opportunity to do the same in our friendships. We can thank God for our friends, pray for them, and request their prayers on our behalf as well. How else can we love and serve our friends as Paul so beautifully shares with us in the book of Philippians? I encourage you to read Paul’s words and put his advice into practice with those God has placed in your path.
Song for worship – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmge-ycIkoo