PARTNERS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay, did a Twitter survey couple of years ago on “Silly Things Church Members Fight Over.” Here are just a couple – “Arguments over the appropriate length of the worship pastor’s beard,” “Church dispute over whether or not to install restroom stall dividers in the women’s restroom,” A fight over which picture of Jesus to put in the foyer,” “A disagreement over using the term ‘potluck’ instead of ‘potblessing.’” Today we will learn from the Apostle Paul how to be partners not fighters in the ministry, more specifically how to pray for those who partner with you in sharing the gospel with the world. That’s the title of our message today, PARTNERS, in our series called GRATEFUL on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Philippians 1 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.
Question: The Philippians were partakers with Paul of grace. It means they were partners with him in sharing the gospel. Are you partnering with others in sharing the gospel? Are you joining hands with this church to win the lost world? Before you can be a participant, you have to be a recipient. Have you ever received the gospel? Are you saved?
Context: Paul’s relationship with the Philippians was one of trust, joy, and hope. Last weekend we learned that Paul had the hope, the solid confidence, that what God had begun on the first day in the lives of the Philippians, he would complete it on the day of the Jesus Christ. How could Paul be so sure of this? In our last message titled “GUARANTEED,” we examined verse 6 and Paul’s other letters and we learned that this is a very important biblical doctrine that Paul explains and defends repeatedly. Salvation from start to finish is God’s responsibility and he always finishes what he starts. He never leaves a job half done. Yes, we may stumble and yes, we can fail but our salvation is God’s good work of grace in our lives. We can trust him that he will see us to the finish line. This is not a license to sin but an exhortation to walk in the spirit, to grow in grace, to serve in freedom, to be less judgmental of self and others, to walk blameless, and to be more grateful to God for what he has done, is doing, and will continue to do in us.
But there’s another reason why Paul was so sure of this. He tells us in verse 7 “just as it is right for me to think this of you all…” In other words, Paul is saying, “Don’t think that I am just giving you some cold lifeless doctrine. Don’t think that this is just some superficial cordial remarks. Don’t think that this is just some cheap pep talk. What I’m telling you is the honest truth.” How do we know that Paul? 7 “…because I have you in my heart…” When you read Paul’s letters, it is very important that you also read the emotional undertones and overtones. The reason is so intent and fixated on convincing the Philippians that God will finish what he has started in their lives he loves them deeply and cares for them. In other words, because he loved them from his heart, he was reminding them of God’s best for them from his heart. It’s like a loving parent telling their child in the face of a difficult challenge: “You got this. Don’t worry. I believe in you.”
Listen carefully: When you truly love somebody, it reflects in the way you speak to them. When you truly care for someone and want the best for them, you don’t just talk from your head. You also talk from your heart. With everybody else, you may only talk with your head. But with those who are really close to your heart, your heart reaches up and joins your head. In turn, your speech, tone, demeanor, and countenance become much more real, sincere, and heartfelt. You truly want them to understand God’s best for them. This is the ideal towards which every church family should strive. This is my desire and vision as the pastor for Clearview Church. Because we love each other from the heart, we care for each other and what we say and how we say comes not just from the head but also from the heart. You can tell when someone genuinely cares for you and when someone is just talking. You can tell when someone truly loves you and wants the best for you and when someone just tolerates you and could care less. How do you relate with each other in this church? Do you really care for each other? Can they tell?
There is a reason why the Philippians were in Paul’s heart so much. 7 “…inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” The reason Paul and the Philippians could have this connection is because they were partakers of grace, they were partners in the gospel. Remember, grace is a synonym for the gospel. This partnership was not some superficial, on paper relationship. They were battle buddies with him. In the army, they have battle buddies. They’ve learned that it reduces suicide and sexual assaults. It raises morale, decreases stress, improves safety, and promotes cooperation and communication. In the same way, the Philippians were battle buddies with Paul when he was in prison and they were with him when he had to defend the gospel, not just against those on the outside but also sometimes those in the inside.
Listen carefully: When a church’s bond is based on skin tone or standard of living or family origins, it will be superficial and unstable. But base it on the gospel, it takes on an eternal bond. Our motto at Clearview is “Making Christ Visible” and our goal is “to lead all people into a life-changing, ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s love for the Philippians continues to overflow – 8 “For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.” I don’t have time to dwell on this long. The word for “affection” is “splanchna,” which mean the organs like heart, liver, and longs. If you notice carefully, these are not Paul’s organs but Christ’s. Someone once said, “It is not Paul who lives in Paul, but Jesus Christ, which is why Paul is not moved by the organs of Paul but by the organs of Christ.” (Johann Albrecht Bengel)
Listen to verse 9 “And this I pray…” Earlier in verse 4 Paul had said, “always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.” Paul picks up that thought and tells the Philippians – “Let me tell you why it is a joy to pray for you.” Listen carefully to his prayer. By the way, there is a pattern to Paul’s prayer for his partners in the gospel. When you compare the prayer for the Philippians with that in Colossians, they are point by point similar. This should become our prayer for each other at Clearview and for those who are partners with us in the gospel and for those close to our hearts (husbands, wives, children, friends, family, etc.) 9 “And this I pray that your love may abound still more and more…”
- Love – For God, for each other, for those in the ministry, for those who are lost.
- Knowledge – Knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ, knowledge of the Word, knowledge of sin, knowledge of the work of the spirit, and the list is endless. “Knowledge is the way of love.” – Moises Silva
“…and all discernment…”
- Discernment – No “sloppy agape” (as someone once said) here. This is a word found in the LXX translation of the Proverbs. It implies practical living and making judgment calls in difficult situations.
10 “that you may approve the things that are excellent…”
- Choose what matters – Understand how to go from good to better to best.
“…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”
- Pure and Blameless – Stay away from sin and temptation. The higher the level, the higher the devil.
11 “being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ…”
- Fruit of Righteousness – Righteous conduct, fruit of the spirit
“…to the glory and praise of God.”
- Glory and Praise of God – Ultimately, God should get the glory and praise.
Listen carefully: When you truly understand the detail and depth of Paul’s prayer, the more you will understand how much Paul was a man of prayer and how much his life and ministry depended and moved under the power of prayer. Prayer is not just ritual, some perfunctory gesture, and some cliché. It is our rudder in life. It is our wind. It is water beneath the ship. It is our journey. It is our destination. It’s not enough to say “I’m praying for you.” It’s not enough to be praying for someone. If you truly believe in the power of prayer, you also need to learn “how to pray,” especially for those who are partners with you in the gospel.”
Are you a partner in the gospel? Are you praying as you should for your partners? Are you saved?