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Philippians 1:3-8 Characteristics of a Christian
In this passage of scripture we see something of the characteristics of what should be seen in a Christian’s life: thankfulness, joy, perseverance in our Christian walk of faith with Christ.
Joy should be evident in the life of a Christian, as well as thankfulness. Paul is saying we are a people who are thankful. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is filled with thanks and joy. Paul is in prison, in terrible conditions. He has people who have been undermining his teaching, yet he wants people to be thankful and full of joy. He is a man of prayer. If people don’t talk to the Father, there is a breakdown in communication. Paul is thankful for the church at Philippi – it displays something of the goodness of God (v3).
Paul was the instrument God used to establish the church at Philippi. He preached and sowed the seed, God gave the increase. He opened the heart of Lydia, the young lady who was possessed by a demon and the prison officer. When Paul ponders and reflects on the church at Philippi he rejoices and gives thanks to God, who works on the heart. God, by His Holy Spirit, begins to work in a person’s heart. God is merciful and gracious.
Paul gives thanks to God for mercies (v3-4). Paul remembers the goodness this church has done for him. He remembers the love they have expressed towards him. They were only displaying the love the Lord Jesus Christ had shown them. James reminds us that, ‘Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17). Everything which takes places, which shows the mercy of God, is because of the love He bestows on upon people.
Our thanks should always start God-wards. Paul, even in the hardships he has known, he was able to give joyful thanks. He remembers that God has moved these people in Philippi. It does his heart good. When he prays, he prays with thankfulness and joy (verse 4). Here is a man who is joyful, who speaks about a personal God, ‘My God,’ (v.3).
Martin Luther stated, ‘Christianity is a matter of personal pronouns.’ We personally know Jesus Christ died for my sins. Paul, in prison, in horrendous conditions, gives praise and thanks to God. As insignificant as he may seem in prison, he knows the Creator of this world is concerned with him and the church at Philippi. He is in a privileged position. He has a personal God. Right at the start of scripture, in Genesis, God says, “I will be your God and you will be My people.”
We enter into the family of God by personal experience and personal faith in Jesus Christ. Paul, in this letter, says it is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There should be joy and rejoicing in all our circumstances. Circumstances do not blur our view of Jesus Christ because the joy that God gives us is not a natural joy. It is a fruit of the Spirit, because of what He has done within our hearts.
Paul, when he thinks of the Philippian church, is full of joy and thankfulness. From the first days till now, Paul thanks God for the fellowship – real sharing and partnership, real interaction. Although not a rich church, they supported him and prayed for him. Paul now sees there is perseverance with this church. His confidence is that God, who began a good work, will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Paul’s fellowship was in the gospel (v5). God’s work began even before the foundation of this world. This church in Philippi began before the world began.
To encourage us, when we are feeling we are treading on water, remember the work He began, He will complete (v6). Only the grace of God gets us through difficult times. We are going to be kept to the end if we have got faith in Jesus Christ. The work which God began will be complete. We are kept by the power of God. The sheep He calls are the sheep He keeps, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). We trust Him for today and leave tomorrow in His hands. He keeps us to the day of Jesus Christ. There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return.
He holds them in His heart (v7). There is a solidarity. They are one in the gospel. Paul says there is one church. He wants to rejoice in the goodness of God to them. Paul longs for them and has a deep affection for them (v8). He says there may be dark days ahead, but God is in control (Philippians 4:6). God knows the future (4:11). Whatever state we are in, God is the preserver and the protector. He is in control. We are not to be anxious about tomorrow.
Paul is writing a personal letter to the church at Roch. This year has been so hard. It has been the hardest time for many of us in our lifetime. Pray we will be those who trust in God, who are able to manifest the joy that can only be found in Jesus Christ – a joy and peace to those who put their faith in Him.