I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Each fall I think back on how many new people with whom I played a round of golf during the past season. The greater this number, the greater the satisfaction that I have. Often these new playing partners develop into new friendships. A certain camaraderie develops after you play a round of golf with a new friend. Sometimes it is with a person with whom we never even desired a friendship. When we only play with the same group each and every round, we tend to close ourself into a box and limit our enjoyment of the game. “Strangers” make us feel better about our own games because we realize that everyone hits a ball out of bounds and occasionally dribbles a drive from off of the tee box.
Our desire for great Christian relationships should be no different. We should strive to meet and share testimonies with other Christians. My wife and I went to Los Angeles last fall and was paired next to a couple on a boat trip from Catalina Island. We couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. I told my wife, “that seems like a good dude.” I quickly initiated a conversation with this young black couple to find out their “story.” They were from East LA and more specifically Compton. After a few minutes, he informed me that he was a worship leader in his church in Compton and was active in a street ministry. Even though we had much diversity in our backgrounds and lives, we instantly had a connection through our Savior.
Paul found immense joy through his connection with the church at Philippi. He thanked God for his memories of these people as he prayed for them constantly. Recall the cherished memories that we have had with a close friend or loved one. Some days are just better than others and the minute happenings of that day are engraved into our memory bank for a lifetime. I can recall packed church services at my home church and exactly where all of the Saints of God were sitting during this service. Paul had these memories with the church at Philippi. Our relationships in Christ should be treasured. We find greater spiritual strength when we are united in Christ.
The people at Philippi were also appreciative of Paul. They were one of the few churches who took up a “special offering” for his missionary journeys. These people realized the value of Paul’s teachings of Christ. We should be appreciative of the preachers and teachers in our lives who faithfully proclaim what “thus saith the Lord.” The journey is not always an easy one and the receivers are not always like those at Philippi. Contrast the experience Paul had with the church at Galatia. After Paul’s time at the churches at Galatia, they returned to a belief of salvation through the legalism. Paul considered this teaching as in direct contrast to what he preached to them and thereby a rejection of him. These churches never considered Paul to be any authoritative source of the gospel.
Paul considered himself in partnership with the church at Philippi from day one. Have you ever met someone who you instantly had a connection? Paul knew he was surrounded by good people from the beginning in Philippi. It spoke volumes for Paul to consider himself to be in partnership with a particular people. He realized that they both needed each other for the furthered success of the spreading of the true gospel.
Most importantly, Paul thanked God for all these blessings bestowed to him by the faithfulness of the church at Philippi. No doubt our Christian friends are gifts from God. They are our strength and support no matter the circumstance. Let us strive to get out of our box and foster meaningful Christian relationships outside of our own local church. More times than not, we will realize they face the same hurdles and struggles. Further, we will be greatly strengthened by these friendships.