There isn’t many Brits, certainly of my generation who don’t know the catchphrase, ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish.’ Magnus Magnusson (1929-2007) was Icelandic but lived the majority of his life in Scotland. He became a BBC journalist and came to fame for the television quiz programme Mastermind. Whenever time ran out during him asking a contestant a question he would say the phrase, ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’.
As we commence this prison letter of the Apostle Paul we are reminded to finish what we have started.
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1: 1-6)
When Paul prays for them he is always thankful and happy.
We will discover in this letter that the Philippian church had problems and Paul does not turn a blind eye. He describes those who insist on circumcision for the faith as ‘dogs’ and ‘mutilators’ (3:2). Apart from Timothy who is co-sending this letter and Epaphras who Paul promises to send to them, the only two people that are mentioned are Euodia and Syntyche who have caused a war in the church through their arguing.
You may wake to your day and you know the problems that are in your life and in your work. You may even know problems in your church. However, what will you spend time thinking about? Do you want to be discouraged? Not that we bury our head in the sand but our first call is that of thanksgiving not complaint. “Count your blessings name them one by one” is a hymn we probably all know and helps us to focus on what the Lord has done.
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” Paul doesn’t say he prays joyfully in the majority of his prayers for some of them, the nice ones. But all for all. Which person or situation is a challenge to pray joyfully for? Have you stopped praying like this? Then start and continue again.
We are going to see joy and rejoicing as a major theme in this letter.
Paul prays thankfully, joyfully, all the time for all of them, continually because ….
They have partnered with him continually from the first day
Paul is encouraged to write a letter to them as a response to being the only recorded church that had raised a financial gift to help him in prison which he received as a fragrant offering to God (4:18). They have proven to be true partners. But he remembers the first day being with them and planting the church there (in Acts 16). Paul and his missionary team had stayed in Philippi for several days because of a) the people they met, including Lydia, a demon possessed slave girl and a prison guard. They are amazing stories and they kept the team in the city because of what they encountered; b) the influential city which Luke had described as a leading city (Acts 16:12); c) God’s Divine purpose orchestrating them being there because of the vision of the man from Macedonia calling to them. This partnership was birthed on those 3 important aspects of stories, influence and purpose and it continued throughout the years. We must make sure it is true for our lives also.
Paul, the Philippian believers and also God.
God started a work in them and will finish it.
Paul didn’t start the Church, God did. Paul hasn’t furthered the work of that first fledgling church, God did.
God will continue until the return of Christ. God hasn’t finished with us yet.
If today looks bleak it’s not over yet. It isn’t finished until He says it is finished. Paul is confident, he has become convinced that there is more of God to come. He will continue to speak, move and lead us to be who we have been created to be.
Paul started praying with thanks and joy and continues.
Philippian believers started partnering with Paul in the work and continue.
God started a work in us and will continue.
I’ve started so I’ll finish.