Bible Study for Jan. 22: Praying with Joy

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Philippians 1:3-11
Scott McVey, associate pastor
Northside Baptist Church, Brunswick

At the height of the scrapbooking industry – between 2001 and 2004 – scrapbooking companies saw $2.5 billion dollars in retail sales. Why? Scrapbooking is about memories and memories are cherished. This was true especially for someone like the Apostle Paul.

You see, Paul was in prison, chained to guards 24/7. You can take someone’s freedom but can’t take their memories. Paul’s memories of the Philippians caused him to pray with joy for them. He prayed concerning what God had done, was doing, and would do for the members of the Philippian church.

Pray with joy for what God has done – Philippians 1:3-6

While in prison in Rome, Paul remembered the people of Philippi and was thankful. He remembered people like Lydia, the first convert in Europe. I am sure Paul membered the Philippian jailer, his conversion, and the conversion of his whole household. Of course there was Epaphroditus, who brought the money from Philippi and delivered Paul’s mail to Philippi.

Paul also remembered his partnership in the gospel with the Philippian church. Theirs was a financial partnership and a faithful partnership. Such partnerships are important because we are able to do more as we partner together with others. Also, partnerships create strong bonds (Ecclesiastes 3:9-12).

Paul also remembered the Philippian’s progress in the gospel. Paul was there when God began His good work of salvation in the lives of the Philippians. However, he knew the Philippian Christians needed to continue to progress by trusting God, who initiated the work of salvation, to complete it. Paul was confident knowing that God always finishes what He starts.

Not only did Paul remember his brothers and sisters in Christ in Philippi, he also responded to all of these memories. He responded with joyful prayer and joyful praise for what God had done in their lives.

Pray with joy for what God is doing – Philippians 1: 7, 8 

Thankful for what God had done in the past, Paul was also thankful for what God was continuing to do in and through the Philippians. Paul admitted that he had them in his heart. Therefore, it was right for him to pray with joy for them and write this letter to them.

The apostle appreciated the Philippians because his partnership with them was in grace, in his imprisonment, in the defense of the gospel, and in the establishment of the gospel. God was using the Philippians to provide financial support for Paul. Additionally, as an extension of the church in Philippi, Epaphroditus brought the gift and stayed a while to assist Paul.     

In his letter, Paul also alluded to his affection for his partners in the gospel. Such partnerships create strong bonds of affection. Paul missed the Philippians and longed to see them again.

As we travel this life, we too will build strong bonds with other Christians that we may never see again in this life. However, we can look forward to the great and eternal reunion which will occur when the Lord comes for us.

Pray with joy for what God will continue to do – Philippians 1:9-11

You can’t live in the past. There is a time to stop looking back and start looking forward. It is dangerous to attempt to go forward while looking back. Paul said in another letter, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead.”

Paul allows us to listen in to his prayer for the Philippians concerning what lay ahead. He prayed they would have an abounding love in true knowledge and all discernment.

Love usually grows stronger or diminishes. It rarely stays the same. Paul wanted their love to grow in knowledge and discernment. These go hand in hand and are essential for growth. Only when a person knows the truth is he able to discern what is not true.

Paul desired that the Philippian Christians would manifest an approved life. This kind of life comes from approving only the things which are superior. Like the Philippians, we are to strive to live a life of excellence by choosing that which is excellent over that which is good.

Never let good things hinder you from approving and striving for excellent things. As a result, their lives would be pure and blameless.

The word pure literally means “sun tested.” In Paul’s day some potters, when they discovered cracks in their pots, would fill in the cracks with wax and glaze over the whole pot. This was done to hide the cracks and wax. The only way to ensure that a pot was without cracks was to hold it up to the sun.

As our lives are held up to the light of the Lord Jesus and to His Word, cracks in our character are revealed. We are to live lives with no cracks.

Finally, Paul desired that the Philippians would have the abiding fruit of righteousness. This kind of fruit comes through Jesus. When we live that kind of life, it is because we are abiding in Him.

As we abide in Jesus, He produces fruit in us. As we continue to abide, the fruit remains. Paul not only wanted the Christians to have some fruit, he wanted them to be filled with fruit. The cultivation of the fruit of righteousness in us is not only beneficial to us, it glorifies and praises God.

As God brings your friends to mind, take time to pray for them with joy and thanksgiving. Pray about specific things as Paul did for the Philippians. Ask God to continue His good work in their lives. Prayer will increase your joy, and joy will increase your praying.

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