In the summer of 2017, my wife and I were blessed to walk in the footsteps of the apostle Paul as we journeyed through Greece. This special trip was made all the more remarkable by reading Paul’s letters as we visited these ancient sites. At times, we found ourselves imagining what it was like to walk these same streets and avenues in antiquity. In many respects, Paul’s letters also came alive on the journey.
Paul’s experience in Philippi was not easy. When Paul wrote to this church, he was in prison. He could not speak in the synagogues or marketplaces. His freedom was limited.
Yet this letter is Paul’s most uplifting and positive. Paul doesn’t shy away from acknowledging his chains, but he gives thanks for his blessings and circumstances in Christ. He realizes that he can still write, that he is in the prayers of the church. He shares that despite being under duress, God’s goodness and the communion of the saints continue unabated. Nothing can remove him from God’s care.
Reading Paul’s beautiful affirmations in Philippians 3, we do well to note how the faithful help one another. Our common experiences can serve as a source of strength. Like an athlete running a race, we know that we have not yet reached the finish line, nor the prize. We press on through Christ’s love.
Might we follow Paul’s attitude here? Although we experience grief, pain, brokenness, and hardship, our ultimate outcomes are not defined by these trials. Rather, we can rejoice in what God has given us in Christ as we press on toward the goal of our heavenly call. Christ is our true freedom and hope. Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ.
God of Love, I am not defeated; I cherish what you have offered me in Christ. Help me to make today a blessing to others. Amen.
God is constantly performing works of renewal. Isaiah had warned Israel of judgment, yet here the prophet turns his attention to the other part of God’s message, that of restoration. God will breathe new life into the people, like sending rivers into the desert. The psalmist celebrates a communal festival in honor of the renewing deeds of God, who has turned their weeping into joy. Paul also experiences this work of renewal. He previously had boasted of his privileged position in society, but God has changed his thinking so that he considers his knowledge of Christ his greatest possession. In John a woman named Mary begins to point our attention to Christ’s coming passion by anointing Jesus’ feet. Crowds begin to gather, and the stage is set for the impending conflict.
Read Isaiah 43:16-21. When have you seen God make a way for a new thing in your life?
Read Psalm 126. Consider how your joy and laughter might heal others.
Read Philippians 3:4b-14. When has God’s strength helped you finish a race, literally or metaphorically?
Read John 12:1-8. God gives gifts to all of us. How do you share your gift from God with others?
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