Joy in Fellowship

 

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesu who are a Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

What are some of your all-time favorite movies? For me, as a big nerd, movies like Star Wars (all seven of them) come to mind. But one of my favorites is The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I have seen all the movies and read and reread all of the books in this trilogy and return to them in book and movie form often over the years. Perhaps it is the clear picture that we get of the battle between good and evil or the wonderful relationships and friendships that are depicted. What I love is the single-minded partnership that is forged between the fellowship of the nine, seeking to fight against the evil that threatens to overwhelm their entire world. The friendship that unites and propels Frodo and Sam forward with each lumbering steps is inspirational and touching. Do such friendships exist? How can we have one?

In Philippians 1:1-5 Paul writes about a partnership or fellowship that he shares with the church at Philippi. It is a partnership that is based upon something far deeper that emotions or a trek across dangerous territory.  It is a fellowship in the Gospel.

Paul took great comfort in the church at Philippi. Some have said it was his favorite church. Look at the way he starts the letter in these verses.

Why don’t we have more joy? Perhaps we are trying to live a life of comfort and solitude. What motivated and moved the individuals in The Fellowship of the Ring? What motivated men in combat during WWII? What motivated Paul while languishing in prison in Rome? Here in Philippians one we see that it was this fellowship, and as we continue to read Paul’s writings, we know that ultimately he was motivated by his relationship, his fellowship with Christ.

What helped Paul in prison, what helped the church at Philippi during his absence, and what can help us on our day-to-day lives is having a singular focus: Christ and making Him known. While joy is mentioned sixteen times in the entire book, Christ is mentioned seventeen times in the first chapter alone! Paul longs to know Christ and to make Him known.

Single-mindedness

Generally, we are singularly focused. The myth of multi-tasking has been debunked. Now while it is true that we can focus on more than one thing at a time, we cannot do it well or with directed excellence. Even now I am typing this, I was distracted with pulling something out of my back pack. I did it but it took time to refocus my mind and attention to writing this again. We are really only able to concentrate on one thing at a time. Personally, if we are focused on our own problems, we will not think of others. If we are focused on Christ, we will not be as preoccupied with ourselves or our problems.  

Paul’s secret to living with joy came in knowing Christ. The book of Philippians is about Joy: it is the joy of Christ and joy from Christ.  

“There is so much bickering in Christian circles, so much complaining, so much unhappiness. This was never meant to be. Christians were meant to be filled with love and joy and peace- in short, with all the virtues that are the result of the life of Christ within the Christian.” (pg. 14 Kent Hughes Philippians commentary)

So, What Now? What will come bubbling up through the cracks in your faith, formed during times of struggle? Will it be anger, bitterness, or resentment? Will the trauma lead to catastrophic foundation failure? Upon what is your foundation built? Wouldn’t it be nice if something was there on the inside to automatically fill those cracks, like self- sealing tires that re-inflate themselves? Wouldn’t it be great if patience, hope, generosity, and love oozed up out of those cracks to fill in the joints? How is this possible? How was it possible for Paul? He had a single-mindedness on Christ, a focused attention on serving the Savior, a fellowship with Jesus. Pray today that the Lord would give you this kind of singlemindedness!

Paul had a joyful fellowship with others in and through Christ. And we can have this too!!