A Word from the Pastor
I remember a time at a restaurant when a few couples sitting across from us were eating and drinking rather loudly. I appreciated their joyful enthusiasm at first until the noise bubbled over into obnoxious requests. One of the ladies of the group raised her empty wine glass and said, “waitress!” Again, with drawn out emphasis, “waitress! My glass is empty!” Her last word, “empty!” slurred with a tone of entitlement and urgency.
It was as if she were to say, “Phil! My cup! It’s empty!” Paul writes to the early church in Philippi about their exciting young faith…All the while under house arrest. The Roman soldiers stood guard. The Roman elites walk by to their parties and gatherings. But Paul, having offended the god of the Romans, Caesar himself, is under watchful eye for preaching about the One true God, Jesus. He is lucky (divinely appointed?) that he is a Roman citizen so as to receive such treatment rather than being whipped and imprisoned or worse, crucified.
While imprisoned he writes to his newly formed church in Philippi. Amidst those who raise their glasses to other gods in contempt, Paul writes with shackled hands…9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” Philippians 1:9-10
The contrast is stark. Paul is a prisoner of Rome but a free citizen of Jesus. The church in Philippi, too, is surrounded and oppressed by a Greco-Roman world. Paul says, “consider it an opportunity for joy,” to serve Jesus (James 1:2). “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together…” (Philippians 1:29)
Sometimes we ask God, in the face of trials, “where are you in all of this?” God is good regardless of difficult circumstances. He is the underground river in a drought. He is the sun above the rain. He is the warm, loving arms of a parent when the world around is cruel and cold. Ironic, isn’t it? The world may feel a little colder but the warmth of God is found in the joy of His people.
Celebrating JOY: Jesus, Others, and You…