Last week we were looking at Paul’s declaration of his joy in praying for the Philippians. We noted how Paul’s relationship with them was warm with affection and genuine love.
I think all of us yearn for at least a few relationships in which we take great joy in one another’s affection and love and partnership.
So last week we noted three principles for developing warmer relationships:
The first principle was: focus on the best and forget the rest. It is difficult to have warm feelings for someone when all you think about are their faults and failings.
If those cannot be overlooked, then they need to be talked about and resolved. But most of the time, our thoughts towards others should be on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy.
Believe me, when you’re in a conflict with someone, it takes discipline to turn your mind to positive qualities in your opponent. We naturally bring up all their faults. But Paul shows us that we need to focus on the best and forget the rest.
The second principle for warm, affectionate relationships is to pray for others.
Prayer for others can change them, and change us as well. When we pray for others, thanking God for the good qualities we see, and praying that God would fill them with love and the knowledge of His will (1:9-11), then our relationship will definitely grow stronger and warmer.
The third principle is to minister together.
Nothing creates camaraderie like working hard together on something vital. We noted soldiers in World War II and the story of the Fellowship of the Rings by Tolkien as examples, both real and fiction, of the deep bonds that men experience in wartime or on an important mission.
One of the best ways to draw close to someone is to get involved on the front lines of ministry with them in the battle for the souls of people.
Today we want to look at three more principles for growing closer to friends or family. But let’s read these verses together first:
The fourth principle is to be patient with their progress.
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Verse 6 is perhaps people’s most favorite verse in this opening section. Paul says, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
All of us are in progress. Paul was in progress, the Philippians were in progress. Every Christian is in progress of becoming more like Jesus Christ.
John Bunyan, of course, wrote the famous Pilgrim’s Progress showing the dangers Christians face on life’s journey.
Actually, we can either be transformed and become more like Jesus, or deformed and become less like Jesus. The choices we make each day determine the direction of our “progress.”
Paul, however, is not hesitant in affirming his confidence that the Philippians were making good progress towards Christlikeness. He knew that they were “saints” by calling and that God would make sure that they complete the process.
The way the Greek expresses it, Paul’s confidence had begun and was now continued.
Paul was not only patient with their progress, but he expressed his confidence that what God started He would finish. Paul’s confidence was less in them than in the God who was at work in them.
And this is what we can be confident of in others—that God is at work in them. And what He has started, He will finish.
Paul’s confidence was not in their faithfulness, but in God’s goodness. He had started a “good work” in them, which reminds me of Genesis 1 and every time God created He pronounced it “good.”
They are not yet all God intends them to be, but having begun that “good work” in them, He will complete.
In the context, Paul was assuring the Philippians that the work of the long-term fellowship of the gospel that God had begun in them would be brought to glorious consummation when Christ returns. Though Paul was in prison, he was absolutely confident that the good work of their gospel partnership would succeed gloriously.
The fellowship of the gospel in Philippi began individually with God’s sovereign choice of Lydia as the first convert in Europe. Of Lydia, Luke writes, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). God chose Lydia in Christ before the foundation of the world (cf. Ephesians 1:4). God had begun his “good work” in her, and her salvation was part and parcel of the great work in Philippi. God’s sovereign initiative and sovereign faithfulness would see them both through to the end.
Notice that God is the starter, the continuer, and the completer. As he will express in Philippians 2:13, the spiritual life is always a matter of responding to God’s initiative, every step of the way, from justification to sanctification to glory.
My salvation is by God’s gracious initiative in choosing me; my present sanctification is by God giving me both the desire and power to do His will in my daily life, and my future completion will be all because of God’s amazing grace!
As I reflect on my fifty plus years in Christ it is indeed God who has kept me. It is not my grip on God that has made the difference, but his grip on me. I am not confident in my goodness. I am not confident in my character. I am not confident in my history. I am not confident in my “reverend” status. I am not confident in my perseverance.
But I am confident in God. I am confident in this word to Lydia and to the jailor and to all the saints in Philippi — and to me: “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). This is a promise for every man, woman, and child who turns to Christ, and it is a promise for the great fellowship of the gospel!
So when we look at others, we can be patient with them because they (and we) are still in process. I can remember that old saying, we saw in sometimes on bumper stickers, “Please be patient with me, God is not finished with me yet.”
But we can also look at others with confidence. What God has started, He will finish. He doesn’t leave projects half done.
The question, of course, is: “Has God made a start in your life?”
He wants to. If he has, have you responded?
If you have responded in faith to God’s gracious provision of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ, then a “good work” has already begun in you, a work that no one else can take credit for, but because God has initiated it, He will complete it. You can be sure of that.
What this means is that Paul entrusted the Philippians growth into God’s hands. This has two great benefits:
- First, it takes the pressure off Paul (and any minister) to make sure his followers “get it” and make it to the finish line. God is the one who makes that happen.
- Second, it removes any space for pride on the part of the Philippian converts. All of us make it to the finish line only because of what God has done in our lives.
Now let’s look at a fifth principle for developing deeper, warmer relationships: Look forward to being with one another.
In vv. 7-8 Paul bares his heart to the Philippians:
7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Did you notice all the words of feeling? Of affection? Paul was not afraid of feelings, and he wasn’t afraid of expressing his feelings.
For years we’ve been taught the image of the train from Campus Crusade—that the engine is facts, the car is faith and the caboose is feelings. The point of the illustration is that we are not to depend upon our feelings, but on the facts and put our faith in the facts.
However, the unintended message of this illustration is that feelings are not important. Jonathan Edwards and John Piper would certainly disagree. Although they refer to them as affections, it is true that few of us do something that we don’t want to do.
Thus, in the gospel, we are given facts to believe in, but our heart is opened up also to fall in love with Jesus Christ because we see Him in his sweetness and supremacy and satisfaction. As Jesus expressed in the gospels, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).
Here Paul acknowledges that because they had served alongside him in gospel ministry (though sometimes from afar), it was “right” for him to “feel this way about you all.” These feelings are the appropriate response for their camaraderie in the gospel.
The word “feel” (phronein) is a Greek word that spans both thoughts and feelings, both the heart and the mind. Thus, not only does he feel joy and confidence in them, but he will mindfully express that through his prayers in vv. 9-11 that they will have a “smart love” that brings glory to God.
The phrase “hold you in my heart” again emphasizes that the Philippians didn’t just come to mind on a whim, but that Paul disciplined his mind to consistently think about them and put them in his heart. This phrase is very similar to “because you were very dear to me.”
Because Paul held them in his heart, his inner person, he is saying, “You are a part of me; you’ve been woven into the warp and woof of my deepest being, my heart.”
The “grace” that they share in is the grace of participating (same word as in v. 5), together in the gospel ministry. As we’ve noted, when you’ve been through the fire of ministry together, you feel strong and deep bond. It knits you together.
The “grace” that Paul mentions in the middle of v. 7 is not the grace for salvation, but the grace for suffering. Proof of this can be seen in 1:29 where the verbal form of charis (“grace”) is used: “For it has been granted [graced] to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
Paul then says that “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Paul is using a strong word that expressed intense longing. Just like Jesus deeply longed to share Passover with His disciples one last time, so Paul deeply longed to be with them.
It was a longing that came from deep within—the word “affection” is literally “bowels,” the Greek word splangxna.
But these are the affections “of Christ Jesus.” He longed for them on the same level of intensity as Jesus longed for them.
Paul longed to be with them. He looked toward to the time when they would be reunited.
Some people think they can do without church—they can watch TV preachers or listen to them on the radio or internet—and they can give financially to various ministries. But the problem is that they are missing something very vital. They miss the very essence of church by not availing themselves of the supportive fellowship there.
Charles Spurgeon was once visiting a man who had not been to church for some time and expressed how he thought he really didn’t need to be in church. Spurgeon pulled a red-hot coal out of the fire with the poker and set it aside, away from the other coals, without saying a word.
It didn’t take long for the red-hot coal to become grey and then smolder. The man nodded, understanding the meaning of this visual parable, and said, “I’ll be in church next Sunday.”
Several years ago, studies were conducted among former American POW’s to determine what methods had been the most useful in breaking their spirits.
Findings revealed that it was not physical deprivation or torture that broke them down as quickly as they did from solitary confinement or the disruption of friendships caused by frequent changing of personnel.
They drew their strength not from their loyalty to country or faithfulness to their cause, but rather in the close attachments they had formed with their fellow comrades.
It’s one thing to attend, another to look forward to attending—to having great expectations of the joy you will have in seeing friends, serving alongside them, worshipping with them and listening to and obeying God’s Word together.
If you don’t belong to a church fellowship, I encourage you to get involved. Come try out Grace Bible Church.
Finally, if you want deeper, warmer relationships at church or in your family or with your friends, don’t be afraid to voice your affections for one another.
Paul was not hesitant about voicing his deep “affection” for them. He didn’t fear impropriety.
Paul was moved inside whenever he thought about the Philippians. They meant a lot to Paul. His affection for them was deep and real. He genuinely loved them.
The genuineness of Paul’s affections for them is reinforced by calling God as witness. Paul used this convention to establish the fact that what he said about his affections for them was absolute truth.
Paul wasn’t afraid to express his affections.
Now, this is difficult for our culture, but especially for men. We are not used to voicing our feelings. Most of the time we cannot even name our feelings!
But this is one thing that will improve your relationships, not only with your wife and children, but with other men.
Let me ask you this: Have you voiced your affection, your love for someone this week? This month?
Our church would grow much warmer if you did. Your marriage would improve if you did. Any relationship with deepen if you did.
For years I’ve been asking the congregation at Grace Bible Church, “What kind of church do we want to be?” I’ve trained them to answer, “An ‘I love you’ church.” Then I tell them that I love them.
Last year, after having seen several expressions of love I’m instead asking, “What kind of church are we?” Sometimes it takes awhile for love to become a deep part of the culture in any relationship.
Don’t give up. Keep at it.
For any love to be genuine, it has to be the “affection of Christ Jesus.” It is only as we bask in the abundant, amazing love of Jesus Christ for us, that we then have the security and power to go out and freely and genuinely love others.
The love we are to have is a genuine devotion, like Romans 12:10 says.
This world can be a cold, cold place. It needs churches that express warm, deep affection for one another. If you are dying inside, then pursue a relationship by focusing on the best, praying for that person, getting involved in ministry together, being patient and confident with their progress, looking forward to every interaction together, and expressing your affection for them.