Philippians 1:3-11 — If I had more time, I would write you a shorter letter
My title is attributed to many authors. Imagine, if you had time on your hands, and you wanted to communicate something important to your audience: what would you do?
Many would grind, work hard, on how they were going to communicate, what to say, and how exactly to say it. Time is often the issue.
In our day, we often feel pressed for time. Add to this environment the gift of instant communication—emails, text messaging, and more—and we often hit send too quickly.
Have you ever regretted hitting that send button?
As we come to the Letter to the Philippians, we do not have the problem of its author being rushed—he has plenty of time as he is doing time. I am not trying to make light of Paul’s situation. He is in jail. He is incarcerated by the Romans in the first century. Their jails were very different than ours. I am not sure of his exact situation, but he has time.
I had noted, when I wrote about Colossians, that letters connect us, communicate our longing for one another, and have purpose. Paul’s letter to the Philippians certainly fits this description. His genuine love for them shines through. His longing for them obvious. His purpose is clear—that living the Christian life is the BEST life. And by best, I’m not talking about being thin, pretty, wealthy, successful, etc… I’m talking about believing in your heart that God can order your life better than you can. All these themes are captured in this opening section.
There are two verses/concepts that especially strike me.
First, is Paul’s prayer for them in verses 9-11:
9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Love—abounding in knowledge & discernment: that is an interesting combination. I have been conditioned that love is a feeling, an emotion. I have certainly written about how sentimentality has supplanted our reaction to what makes up true love. I understand true love. However, I just have to pause and think about it. How about you?
Once I have re-grounded myself in what real love is, the rest of verse 9 makes sense. Look at how interesting it is. Love’s aim: to be able to know what is excellent—and then do it!
Love’s aim brings glory and honor to God—that is the first aspect that strikes me.
In verse 6 we read:
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Paul is confident that God will bring this good work to completion. I must tell you, I need to read this verse after verses 9-11. As I read verses 9-11, I can get overwhelmed. I have noted my need to first slow down and think about real love, but the bar gets higher. I can’t stop at thinking about it… I need to do it!
Can I? No.
However, verse 6 says God will. God will bring to completion this aim that has been put before us. WOW!
Some people don’t want to follow Jesus because they think they must stop enjoying life. The letter to Philippians stands as a stark rebuttal. Not only is the aim of our life true life—but we will reach it because of what God is doing in us.