The Church in Philippi was the first church Paul founded in Europe, specifically in Macedonia. Now, over a decade later he is writing to the believers in Philippi from his prison cell in Rome. He begins in Philippians Chapter 3 by encouraging the believers to Rejoice in the Lord. “Be glad in the Lord”, Paul writes. Now, the believers clearly know his present circumstances and Paul is also aware of the disturbing goings-on in Philippi. And yet Paul says, REJOICE IN THE LORD! Paul is reminding them, and us today, even in our most difficult and trying times, when we are tempted to look at our struggles or listen to what others want us to do, to instead shift our focus to Jesus and what His word tells us. This helps us have the right attitude toward what is happening in our lives as well as strengthening our Christ Like attitude and walk.
Paul knows all too well that the Philippian believers need the encouragement to keep their focus on Jesus because false teachers are attempting to infiltrate the church with false teachings, trying to mix in the law of Moses with Jesus’ message of Salvation. Paul calls them “those evil workers” and reminds the saints at Philippi that Circumcision is a spiritual matter of the heart and their worship to God is in the Spirit, and not their flesh. Paul reminds them that if there is anyone who has reason to trust in the works of the flesh, it’s him. He calls himself, “A Hebrew of the Hebrews”. But Paul counts it as all loss and worthless compared to what he has gained through Christ, no longer counting on being saved by being good enough and/or obeying the law. His righteous-ness now is from God by faith!
Paul doesn’t stop there, however. He knows that there’s no such thing as coasting in our relationship and walk with the Lord. Paul tells the believers in verse 12, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me”. There can be no stagnation in our walk with Jesus. We are either becoming more like Christ or becoming less like Him. There is no middle ground. Complacency slowly pulls our focus and attention away from Jesus.
Paul has the remedy! Forget the past! Look forward to what lies ahead, that ultimate prize of eternal life with God. Following Jesus was never meant to be a passive journey. In fact, when He saves us and changes us, he wants us to actively pursue Him. Acts 17:27 says, “God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.” Matthew 6:33 says “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be given to you as well”. And, Luke 11:9-10, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Consider a highly coveted college football player, a 5-Star recruit. He’s picked in the first round of the NFL draft. He’s given millions of dollars in signing bonus, a team jersey with his number and name on it and placed on his new team. The focus, the desire, and the reason he’s playing is for the ultimate prize - a Superbowl victory! Now imagine… he thinks, “I made it. I’m on the team. I have my jersey”. He stops working out. He stops lifting weights, he stops running routes and stops listening to the coaches. He becomes complacent and takes his focus off the very things that got him to where he is now. That goal of getting to the Superbowl is still available to him, but he’s lost ground. He took his eyes off the prize, and so he’s slower, he’s weaker, he doesn’t remember the playbook. Not only is he not where he was when he was first drafted, now he’s even farther behind. Paul says, that he presses toward that goal for the prize. That word “Press” means to “give it everything you’ve got”.
Paul is encouraging the Philippians to hold on to the progress that they have already made and to keep growing their faith in Christ by keeping focused on Jesus and learning from others who follow the example also.
So today we encourage you as Paul did the church of Philipi - Be full of joy always!
Remembering that Jesus has already done it all, for us!