“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3 (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul was under house arrest in Rome. His situation was far from favourable; he was awaiting possible execution or exoneration – both options loomed over him. He wanted to come to Rome as a preacher and instead was chained as a prisoner. His memories of Philippi may have haunted him because it was there, recounted in Acts 16 that he was unfairly imprisoned and severely flogged after he cast out a spirit of divination from a female slave, ruining her owner’s profits.
Years later, writing to the Philippian church under house arrest in Rome, he could have – some may argue, should have – been miserable. Yet his first words, after the customary greeting, give us great insight into the heart of Paul. In verse three Paul beings his letter by saying “I thank my God…”. This is just amazing and is a summary of Paul’s character “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV). In Acts 16, after being flogged, Paul and Silas sang hymns and Psalms while in prison – personally, I can get upset if the shower is cold.
Why is Paul thanking God? He goes on to say “…upon every remembrance of you.” Instead of lamenting his situation and saying “I need help” etc, he is thinking about his brothers and sisters in Philippi. Paul uses the word “you” seven times in the first ten verses! Paul’s joy was so others-centred that he made two amazing statements that can be absent from our human experience “For now, we live if you stand fast in the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 3:8 (NKJV), and “fulfil my joy by being like-minded.” Philippians 2:2 (NKJV)
But what specifically is he thanking God for about them? This is very important to notice; he says in verse five “For your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now.” Paul is thankful that they have a fellowship in the experience of the Gospel in their day to day lives and of the furtherance of the Gospel. Genuine Christian fellowship is not that we like the same worship songs or even that we go to the same church; it is that we have a genuine love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and desire to spread it.
Many brothers and sisters are killed daily for the Gospel. In Uganda, Ali Nakabale, 36, lost his son, daughter, mother and stepfather when they were burned alive inside their family home on 20 August. Why did this happen? They were burned alive because he and his mother accepted the Gospel (https://vom.com.au/uganda-relatives-of-christian-convert-burned-to-death/).
This month’s challenge: This month, let us renew our minds with things that are profitable and pertain to the Gospel. The devil would like to distract us with trifling things which have nothing to do with Jesus or His kingdom.