So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. – Philippians 2:1-2
It was not easy for the Philippians to claim faith in Christ. Paul does not tell us the details of their suffering, but he makes it clear that, like him, these men and women of faith were well acquainted with hardship and persecution. Paul writes of his awareness that the Philippians “not only believe in (Christ) but also suffer for his sake” (v. 29). Furthermore, Paul recognizes that he is bound to them by their common persecution – “the same conflict which you saw and now hear to be mine” (v. 30).
How does Paul respond to these persecuted people of faith? He seeks to help them anchor their faith in their relationship with Christ Jesus and their relationship with Paul. He does this with a series of rhetorical expressions – “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy.” This teaching is huge not only for the Philippians, but also for you and me. When we are facing difficulty, trouble, or adversity, Paul encourages us first to anchor the experience in our relationship with Jesus Christ, then to call upon God’s provision of his Spirit to give us power and peace, and finally to remember that we are not alone in our struggles. We should draw confidence and courage from the assurance that others – past and present – know our pain and share in it with us.
Paul tells the Philippians that as they rise above the struggles they face, as they refuse to cower in the face of threats, as they stand firm in their faith, they will “complete” his joy. What a fascinating thing to say! Paul is joyous that these men and women have faith, but his joy will be complete, as their faith remains strong throughout life and even in the face of death, just as his does. He is not asking anything more of them than he is of himself. He just wants them to be united with him and with each other, ”being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
Few of us will ever face the type of persecution which Paul and the Philippians faced; however, every time our shared faith and binding fellowship encourage us in the face of uncertainty, difficulty, and struggle, we find courage to prevail and we too “complete” Paul’s joy.
Good Father, you never promised us that our life of faith would be easy. What you do promise us is your presence and power even in the face of overwhelming struggles. Help us to honor you and bring glory to your name both in seasons of struggle and in seasons of ease. Amen.
A Bible-study devotional blog by Gorman Houston