“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart…” (Philippians 1:7)
When I think about the apostle Paul, this is not the first verse that comes to my mind. I mostly think of his dramatic conversion and his strong defense of the gospel. Recently, I was reminded of another side of Paul, one I knew existed, but perhaps not always fully appreciated. At the beginning of the year, our pastor began a series entitled “Authentic Joy”, preaching from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Philippians is known as Paul’s most joyful letter. When considering that he wrote it from prison tells us that the Bible defines joy, not based on human circumstance, but that which is rooted in a deep satisfaction in God in spite of circumstance. Paul knew this type of joy. Another prominent theme of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi was the importance of humility in pursuing spiritual maturity. To grow spiritually requires humility on our part as well. Paul’s humility was expressed in his life in several ways, and he is an example from which you and I can learn.
“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart” Paul was thankful for those in the church at Philippi, expressing joy for their partnership in ministry. As partakers of God’s grace, Paul knew God had done, and would continue to do great works in their lives. He shared in that very same grace and knew his fellowship with those in the church was special. Paul loved them greatly. That is what grace does. It creates a Holy Spirit inspired humility that is impossible to produce in our own strength. This kind of humility not only finds joy in God in all circumstances and strongly defends the truth of the gospel, but is also a tenderhearted lover of others. Because of God’s irresistible grace, that once hard heart is now yielded to the work of the Lord.
Is that your testimony? Is the basis of your joy God Himself? Has His grace made you humble like Paul? Has it caused you to defend God’s truth? Do you show more grace and love to others? Our love for others is always rooted in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Never forget that He is the one who loves us the most, displaying that love most fully at the cross. Will you respond to that love by loving others? Will you “hold them in your heart?”
Father, grace has a great impact on those who truly receive it. Paul received it and it brought about humility in his life. That humility manifested in both his defense of the gospel, as well as his love for others. Let my life testify to the same. By the power of the Holy Spirit, let me be both, a strong defender of truth, and let me love others as you have loved me. Let my joy always be found in you. Amen.