Philippians 1.2-5 – Return on Investment

After greeting the believers in Philippi with his typical grace and peace, Paul explains that he is filled with joy when he prays thanks to God for them all (vv.3-4). How wonderful; Paul is filled with joy when he prays for this church.

In v.5 we see why Paul is filled with joy at the thought of this church and its people,

…because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

Paul is filled with joy because the church at Philippi had partnered with him in his work for the gospel. It is likely that this took multiple forms; in prayer, in friendship, in support, in fellowship, and in finance (Acts 16.25, 16.32-34, 2 Corinthians 8.1-7, 9.1-4, 11.9).

I read recently that the church at Philippi ‘…didn’t wait to see if Paul was a “winner” before they supported him. They got behind Paul and his ministry early.

For you and me today then, who can you get behind? Who can you support with your prayer, friendship, fellowship, and finance? 

Paul was filled with joy when praying for this church, and just think – by supporting someone in their work for the gospel you will fill them with joy when they pray. What a great return on your investment! 

So, go, get behind and support someone today!

Philippians 1.1 – Three Roles

Philippians is generally held to have been written around the year A.D. 61. It’s addressed to the church founded by Paul around 11 years earlier (Acts 16), and comes from both Paul and Timothy (v.1). They write to three categories of people, one or more of which we all fall into. 

Paul and Timothy write to all the saints in Christ Jesus, they write to the overseers, and they write to the deacons. We all fall into one or more of these groups. 

First and foremost, we are all counted with the saints in Christ Jesus who are at [wherever you are!]. For me, that would be the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Bahrain. All the saved are saints. All believers are saints. Saints are not just those with a statue or a church named after them: saints, Biblically, are those who have put hope, and faith, and trust in Jesus (Romans 1.7, 1 Corinthians 1.2, Jude 1.3, and more).

Those with a leadership role in church can be referred to as the overseers. Interestingly, and crucially for perspective and purpose within church life, the word we read as overseer was regularly used to describe someone with a general leadership role before it was used to talk of this very particular role in the life of a Christian church (Titus 1.5, 1 Peter 5.1, etc.). 

Those with a serving role in church can be referred to as the deacons. Again, very simply, this word means those who serve, those who follow the directions of others, those who practically help with the needs of others. Really, we all ought to be deacons, right?

So for you and me today, we all fall into one of these roles within church life, maybe more than one. If you are believer in Jesus, you are among the saints. If you lead a group or a ministry, teach a class or lead the church in corporate worship, you are among (in the purest use of the word) the overseers. If you do anything to help church life thrive, if you set out chairs, clean bathrooms, make cups of coffee, advance the slides, set the sound levels, or vacuum the sanctuary, you are among the deacons.

Today I would encourage you to pause and think, ‘Where do I fit in to my church family? What do I do? What would I like to do?’. 

Reach out to the man called of God to put things into order in your church (Titus 1.5, Exodus 18) and talk about which group you fall into, how, and which you would like to move into in the future.

Vines, Branches, the Church, and You

This year hasn’t really been all we had hoped so far, has it? We’ve just ticked over to the second half of the year and most of the world is living in limbo; some things are open, some things are closed, and some things are somewhere in between. No doubt your life is a mix of these states. 

If you are a believer in the risen Jesus and God’s Word to us that we carry in our Bibles, you are by extension a believer in a Sovereign and all-powerful God where nothing happens within His creation that He has not decreed or allowed to proceed. He either said it or sanctioned it. He either actioned or allowed it. Now, just because you believe in a God like this, doesn’t mean you always understand why He is proclaiming or giving permission (Romans 11.34).

So this is all happening, that we cannot deny. We know that God has a plan and a purpose behind it all whether we see it or not, and we know that for those who love Him, all things, both good and bad, work together for ultimate good (Romans 8.28). So, let me make a suggestion, just think;

Could part of this season be a shaking, stirring, and sifting of God’s people?

Jesus said in John 15 that “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (v.2). Sadly, we’ve seen people fall away from engaging with church this last four months. Maybe that was you, maybe that is you, maybe not. Aside from numbers, statistics, and metrics, we’ve seen people be lethargic to connect, commune, and communicate with one another. Yes, there is a committed core of people who have risen to the challenge, but, for many, John 15.2 seems to be happening in real time. 

The sad reality of this is then expanded on in v.6 wherein Jesus says “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” Maybe you know some of those who have seriously disengaged this last four months, some of those who when the tree has been shaken have fallen away. Maybe that was you for a period. The second half of v.6 stands as strong motivation to hold on to the tree when it’s being shaken. 

Sadly though, we’ve seen those with a Friday-only-faith drift away, wither away, and slowly back away from the encouraging, edifying, and equipping covering that being part of a church of God’s people provides. This hurts. As those who know the Word, this hurts because you know, in essence, what they are choosing by removing themselves. Yes, this last four months has been altogether odd and strange. Yes, this has certainly not been ‘normal’. However, there are enough people who have risen to the challenge and clung to the tree to show that it is possible, and that whether we are experiencing lows or highs, plenty or hunger, that as individuals and as a community we can survive and thrive in all circumstances through the root and vine that strengthens us (Philippians 4.11-13).

What do we do with all this then? Well, as Paul writes to the Romans about the Gentiles being grafted into the family of God’s people (11.11-31), so we ought to try and emulate this in our earthly station. No doubt you know some who have slowly slipped away from the fellowship of one-another this last few months. We hold to the unshakeable hope that if they do not continue in their unbelief, [they] will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again (v.23). 

In this season of uncertainty, of change, and of shaking, stirring, and sifting, our task as believers is threefold;

  1. Let us see this season as one of pruning and let us be ready for the season of new growth that necessarily follows (John 15.2). Perspective is paramount. Endurance is essential. Don’t be left behind.
  2. Hold fast to the vine from which life comes. Apart from this vine, we can do nothing (John 15.5). The tree is being shaken. Hold on. We will never Philippians 4.11-13 if we are alone. 
  3. Reach out to those who, in all appearances, have fallen away from the branch or removed themselves from the root (John 15.2, cf. Hebrews 10.23-25).

Friends, our Sovereign, all-powerful, wise, and loving God is moving in the world and in His church right now.

The question for you is, are you moving with Him?

Titus 2.15 – To Titus, For All

Having spent much of what we read as chapter two encouraging Titus to teach various things to various people, Paul now rounds off with an all-encompassing statement.

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Titus 2.15

Titus is given a few key things to do; declareexhortrebukelet no one disregard you. He is to do these things with all authority. Speaking forth the truth of the Word (2.1) should be done with all authority as the subject matter is Divinely inspired and immensely powerful, powerful enough to change lives (James 1.21). 

This letter of Paul was written to Titus (1.4), but letters like this were commonly read in the presence of the entire church (Colossians 4.16). So Paul, in writing this, is also giving instructions to the church at large; be exhortedbe rebukedaccept the authority of those teaching, and disregard no one. Really then, the words of Titus 2.15 are for all of us whether we are the Titus or the taught in our own church families.

Here are some considerations to take into today;

Are we willing to have the Word declared to us and to accept it as coming from the Master, not His chosen human mouthpiece?

Are we comfortable being taught with all the authority of God’s Word?

Are we humble enough to be rebuked with all the authority of God’s Word?

Do we disregard some who do this based on our own human assessment and evaluation?

 

Moses – His Leadership

Many people look at the Moses-style of leadership as autocratic, authoritarian, and absolute: there’s this one guy through whom everything must go, kind of thing. Personally, I don’t see this to be the case.

First things first, Moses always sees himself as second-in-command to the Lord.

Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

[God] said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Exodus 3.11-12

Moses is also painfully aware of his own shortcomings (4.10), and at one point even asks NOT to be the leader (4.13). He settles for a situation wherein he basically relays information from God via Aaron,

[God] said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”

Exodus 4.13-17

He grows into the role, as all leaders do, and is firmly established by God as ‘the guy‘ (Numbers 12). It is then in Exodus 18 that we see a key piece of leadership structure, a piece of information those seeking to discredit Moses and this style often overlook.

His Father-in-Law says, look,

“What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

Exodus 18.17-23

Clear then; God in control, leadership covenant with one man, who then appoints other men to care for groups of people within the wider family. We see this mirrored in the New Testament with Jesus, the Church, Pastors, and Elders (see Ephesians 1.22, 4.10-12, 5.23, Colossians 2.10, Titus 1.5).

What this means for you is that we all have the opportunity to live and serve and thrive in structures that God has tried, tested, and found to be true over many, many years.

For you, this means that Jesus is the Head of any church you are part of. If He is not, it may be time to gracefully talk to those in leadership.

For you, this means that the plans and protections that God has always put in place for His people are still there for you. Is there a better place to be?

If you are journaling along with this series, try this today – who has God put in these roles in my life? What is my role in my current location? How can I support those in God-appointed roles in my life?