Recently Pastor Paul did a teaching series on the book of Philippians. Instead of going through it chapter and verse, he concentrated on some of the key themes that stand out in the book.
Philippians is often referred to as the ‘Epistle of Joy’. Paul repeatedly mentions this virtue more than any other throughout this letter. He demonstrates that joy is the byproduct of an active prayer life, whenever the gospel is preached, when faith is exercised, when the believers live in unity and when they are hospitable to one another. He even teaches that giving financially and enduring hardship and suffering should all result in joy.
Praise, worship and thanksgiving are closely associated with Joy. He tells us always to rejoice, in fact, it’s a double command; ‘again I say rejoice’. Thanksgiving and praise are the antidote to grumbling and complaining. It focuses the mind on God and lifts us to a higher plain, emotionally and spiritually. Thanksgiving drives away negativity and teaches us to be grateful for what we have.
A constant theme of Paul in all his writings is the need to align our thoughts with Christ and to allow the Spirit to bring about renewal to our thought life. We are to focus on things that are true, right, pure and noble. Our actions are often a result of our thought life, that’s why God wants us to take captive negative thinking so that we can focus on the life he wants for us.
One of the most important characteristics that Christians should display is humility. We live in a world dominated by self-obsession, selfishness, control and domination and pride. Humility counteracts all those negative vices and reveals the heart of God and the Spirit of Christ through us. When we clothe ourselves with humility we clothe ourselves with Christ and we become like him. We are told throughout scripture that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Philippians was one of Paul’s last letters to be written and he was encouraging his readers in the face of his own impending death. He encourages his readers to persevere and hold on tightly to their calling. Although he felt that he wasn’t quite at the finishing line, he was resolute in his determination to keep going forward. There are many things in life that have the potential to throw us off course. We are encouraged to stay faithful, persevere in the face of trials and focus on the eternal prize.