You may or may not know that Philippians is one of my favorite books. As I grow deeper in my faith, I realize that I look forward to the day when I can be friends with Paul like the Philippians were. They had a deeper relationship than most because of the faith they share. When we can find friends who share a similar faith focus, that’s golden!
If you want to get a little more about the background of what’s happening, I wrote on a similar passage in Philippians five years ago. Here’s a link to that blog post if you’re curious.
Because I believe God truly desires for us to be in relationship with him and others, let’s focus for a moment on the wisdom Paul shares here about the intimacy of friends in faith. We see immediately in his greeting that he is including them when he says, “our father.”
Isn’t it beautiful when you find someone who truly loves Jesus and knows what it feels like to welcome and accept all of his blessings? When good things happen to us, I am all the more thankful for them when I remember who made it possible. Sure, good things happen to people who don’t believe, but they don’t have the “extra joy” of giving their gratitude back to God. Does that make sense to you?
Paul asks for peace and grace from God to bless his “holy” friends. Paul knows these people, and they know him. How thrilled the church in Philippi must have been to receive this letter from Paul who was imprisoned as he writes these words. Imagine Paul, in shackles, overcome with joy, longing to be with his friends as he writes these words.
Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer warms my heart. Immediately a few special friends come into my mind that I could say these very same words to. Of course, the general feeling of gratitude for others is something I treasure in my own life. While I’ve got mixed feelings about social media these days, I have to say that it has allowed me to find and rekindle relationships that would otherwise not be part of my life. Who are you feeling thankful for today?
These are the opening words of Paul’s letter, and already he is encouraging them. That’s another way we can nurture our own friendships. Even our closest friends may be suffering in silence. You never know. But God knows. It’s never a bad thing to lead with an encouraging word. Here’s one of Paul’s that is one of my favorites to cling to as if Paul is speaking to me. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
I’m going to close with this word picture of Jesus in verse 8, “tender compassion.” Sit with that image of Jesus. That’s what good friend looks like, isn’t it? Are these words that can describe you? Pray for a friend today.
Let’s pray … Lord, I thank you for the faithful friends you have given me to love and cherish. I thank you for all the people you have surrounded me with, even if they aren’t super close to me. I pray you’ll shine your light through me so that I can reflect your tender compassion and love for all your children. Help me be a better friend. In Jesus’ name. Amen.