A Few Words to the Philippians and to Us!
Friendship – Part 3
Philippians 1:18-26 (NET1) Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 20 My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: 23 I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, 24 but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body. 25 And since I am sure of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for the sake of your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that what you can be proud of may increase because of me in Christ Jesus, when I come back to you.
Paul is in prison…in chains because He is a Christian. He believes that through the prayers of his Christian friends, and the help of the Holy Spirit, he will be delivered. He doesn’t know whether his delivery will be through death and heaven or by being released from the prison from which he is writing. Even as he is experiencing terrible emotional and physical pain and uncertainty, he speaks of his desire to be completely bold in his witness, represent Christ well and make a difference for the Kingdom. Wow!
That kind of single mindedness and perseverance comes from, as Paul says, “The prayers of the saints and the strength of the Holy Spirit.”
You probably know (in theory) that without strong, healthy Christian friendships it is hard to complete the race well. It can be excruciating to complete the day well, or even the hour well, when life (the enemy) has landed yet another blow.
Paul is saying that the reason he is able to stay strong, think like God wants him to think and move forward in his bold Christian life is, in part, because of the prayers of his Christian friends who he referred to as “the saints”. I love the reference to believers as saints. As a child, I often heard our pastor refer to those of us in the congregation as saints. It is a sweet reminder of our bond.
Our need for strong Christian friendships is just one more reason for the enemy of our souls to trick us into being busy, or petty. Pettiness will keep us from receiving friendship or being the kind of friend someone else desperately needs us to be in order to get through a day or sometimes even take the next breath.
Busyness can mean that we don’t make time to get with God daily so that He can walk us through hurt feelings and/or pettiness. If we do have some good friendships blossoming, we won’t take time to nurture them. What about prayer that will help a friend to persevere? How can they ask for prayer from someone they barely know? How can you or I ask for prayer from someone we barely know?
If, in his or her desperation, someone does venture out and ask me to pray, of course I will agree to pray and probably with the best of intentions. But if I am too busy to have a quiet time or a prayer life myself, that busyness will make me the kind of friend who says, “Of course I will pray for you…” and then walks away to do life…seldom thinking again of that small plea for such simple, but powerful, help.
What a tragedy to be so busy that my understanding of the power of prayer is so small that it does not drive me to pray for friends who are desperately hurting. What a tragedy if I am limping along trying keep it together myself, because I haven’t taken the time each day to allow God to create in me a heart for true friendship!
A prayer I often pray is: “Lord, please allow me to see (myself and) others the way you see them (and me)”
Then… we can ask God to give us the wisdom and determination to slow down and to be the kind of believer and friend that He planned for us to be in our marriage, our home…in our sphere of influence.
Through our prayer and friendship, we can make the difference between hope and despair in the life of someone who will, by the grace of God, bless us with the same!