We are doing a new series called the Joy-Filled Life, expository preaching through the book of Philippians. We are looking through the opening statements of Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi in chapter 1.
Last Sunday, we saw HOW Paul prays for the Church of Philippi.
Today we will discover WHY Paul prays for the Church in Philippi, and
the Sunday after this we will see WHAT Paul prays for the Church in Philippi.
Before we look at the ‘why’ let’s once again refresh our memory and remind ourselves ‘how’ Paul prayed for the Church.
- He prayed with Thanksgiving
- He prayed Frequently
- He prayed with the Gospel at the centre
- He prayed by drawing encouragement from past testimonies
- He prayed with an Expectant Heart
Even though we all said amen to the excellent sermon that Jinson preached last Sunday, confessed our prayerless heart from one another, committed to being more prayerful. My guess is most of us have failed to do so in this past one week.
And that is why today, we will learn the possible reasons why we might have failed to uphold each other in prayer as preached last week.
To discover the answer, we will now read the next two verses of Paul’s introductory statements to the Church of Philippi. It’s Philippians 1:7-8
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
After explaining HOW Paul prayed for the Church, he is now saying ‘It is right for me to feel this way about you all. In other words ‘The reason WHY I prayed for you the way I prayed for you’ is because….
• I hold you in my heart
• Because you are partakers with me of grace
• I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus
Let me share with you three things I understand from Paul’s statements that motivated him to continue praying for them.
1. He held the Church close to his heart.
‘I hold you in my heart.’
If we are continually failing to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Church, then a relevant question to ask ourselves would be is it because we fail to hold each other close to our heart as Paul did.
And if that’s true then why and what stops us from doing so?
The first reason I could think of is that we fail to see the Church as God sees it.
The Church in the past and even today is portrayed in the wrong light in most of the world, and I don’t know what version of the Church you are exposed to and what version of the Church was picturized for you.
- For some church is portrayed as a building where we go and say our prayers, make confessions to the statue of Mother Mary and baby Jesus.
- For some church is described as a place where you go to get your needs met. Either healing or some support and help
- For some church is portrayed as a place to find new friends, hang out with cool people and have fun
- For some church is described as a place where only the so-called holy people go – A place where you will be judged for your wrongdoings, for your looks, for your behaviour etc.
- For some church is where gossip happens
- For some church is portrayed as an organization or a setup to control and manipulate people to give their money & make the leaders rich.
- For some church is described as a place to quiet your soul, meditate and discover yourself.
The truth is, none of these is a correct representation of what the Church is described in the bible. And the reason we may be failing to hold the Church close to our heart maybe because in some manner we have a wrong understanding of the Church, we are failing to see the Church as God sees it.
You and I are the Church – The redeemed and saved children of God. It’s not a building, not a place, not an organization, not a Trust, not an NGO, not a Christian program on GOD tv & not a Youtube channel on the internet where you listen to Christian music and bible talks.
The Church is not a lifeless thing to which we can’t relate to.
The brother and sister in the Lord who is right now accessible to you in person, who you can meet, talk and have fellowship is the Church, sitting right next to you is the Church. Even the ones who may not be part of The Gathering church but some other church, a dear friend who is on the Lord.
In Ephesians 3:9-11 Paul writes it is through you and me (the Church) that God will make known the manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places which is according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul was able to hold the Church close to his heart because he understood the high value of this relationship with each person because of Christ, and the eternal purpose for which God was gathering people in this manner. He saw the Church as God saw it and not how the world (the Pharisees & Sadducees) portrayed it.
How we chose to see the Church depends on us. The world and people around us may have given us a faulty representation of the Church, but we must turn to the scriptures and see the Church as God sees us, only then we will be able to see how precious and marvellous is this body of Christ. Motivating us to hold it close to our heart and pray unceasingly to see it grow and flourish.
2. He Identified himself as part of the family.
The second reason why Paul would pray for the Church the way he prayed is that he identified himself with the Church when he said: “you are partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel.”
He identifies that it is the same grace of God that saved him, also saved his brothers and sisters in the Church of Philippi. He recognizes that once we were all sinners and enemies of God, instruments of wrath. But God, in His mercy, sent his only begotten son Jesus to die for us so that we can be set free from sin and death as we confess our sins and believe in Jesus. He identifies, it was the same body of Christ that was broken for him was broken for them; the same blood that was shed for him was shed for them.
He relates to his salvation as the union with his real family.
Even Jesus, when he was asked to meet his natural mother and brother who was waiting on him, said: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
I am not saying that we have to ignore and discontinue our relationship with our natural family, but I’m saying we have to identify ourselves with our real family, which is the Church.
Brothers & sisters, it is essential that we see each other that way, to depend on in times of trouble, to lean on in times of turmoil, to confess our innermost feelings of shame when convicted of sins, to find encouragement when we are discouraged or disappointed.
And just as any other family, we may not be perfect. Each one will have their unique personalities, have their background they are dealing with, struggles that are unique, etc. But we are still a family.
When we see each other as our real family, know each other well and the struggles we go through we will feel the burden to uphold each other in prayer all the time, just as Paul.
3. He Longed to be with his family in Christ.
The third reason why Paul felt the way he felt for the Church is because he had a longing to be with them and to spend time with his real family in Christ. He says “how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus”
He didn’t just hold the Church close to heart and identified himself as part of the family, but he longed to be them.
Brothers & sisters, have you ever thought, what is it that stops us from longing to be with each other. Is it anger, unforgiveness, envy, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, doubt, distrust, or something else
These feelings are not from God. As a good Father, God desires his family to be united and close-knitted. The world outside is dark; there is danger lurking at every corner, the devil and his agents are all around the place waiting to pounce on God’s children.
To make sure we are safe and healthy, God wants us to stay united, desiring and longing to be with each other all the time. In the book of Acts, it is said that believers would meet each other every day, devoted to prayer, devoted to the apostles teaching and devoted to breaking of bread. And the Lord added to their number.
Sunday mornings, Gospel communities during the week, get-togethers, casual hangouts, movie nights with each other, going on a trek, are all opportunities for us to hang out with one another as often as we can. Let’s develop a natural longing to be with each other all the time as Paul did, and as we know each other better, know each other’s struggles in life, know each other’s desires and dreams, our hearts will be naturally drawn to uphold each other in prayer. Because that’s what we do, depend on God for all the needs and answers in life.
If you are struggling to pray for your brothers & sisters in church as Paul did, ask yourself these vital questions, and you will find your answers.
Q: What stops you from holding the Church close to your heart?
Q: Do you fail to identify yourself with your real family? Why?
Q: Is there a longing in your heart to stick close to your church family? If ‘no’ why?