An Encouraging Word
Philippians has one of the most encouraging messages in the Bible. It teaches us that God is at work in our lives and that God will finish what he started. It teaches us that whether we live or die, whether we are rich or poor, God is with us, our life is in his hands, and nothing can separate us from him.
Twenty-one of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament are epistles, that is letters. They are letters from apostles and part of their team to churches or individuals, or individuals who are church leaders. The apostle Paul wrote twelve or thirteen of the Epistles; (one usually considered his does not name the author).
The epistles were written from real people to real people. They were people with real problems; but God was a real presence in their lives and God was doing a good work in them. My first Sunday at Appleton City, I introduced the author of the letter to the Philippians. Paul wrote the letter from prison. He was imprisoned more than once, but most likely he was in Rome, since he mentioned speaking with Caesar’s elite guards who served in Caesar’s own house.
The book of Acts ends describing Paul being under house arrest in Rome awaiting trial. That’s the back ground to Philippians. House arrest gave Paul the freedom to continue his ministry while he awaited trial. He was not free to leave, but he could welcome visitors. He could dictate his sermons in the form of letters to be delivered to the churches. He could have conversations about God, Jesus, the life of faith, and the kingdom of God. And the guards from Caesar’s household overheard all this.
Paul had an especially close and affectionate relationship with the believers in Philippi. He knew they were worried about him, and he was concerned about them. He wrote to share his confidence in Christ with them. He wrote to tell them he was not afraid of death but was confident God still had a purpose for his life. His words still give us courage when we face death—our own or that of loved ones. “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”