Trust issues. We all have them. Some are so severe they create immeasurable anxiety and depression. And as you look at the book of Philippians, it is the polar opposite of what you would expect coming from a man in prison, and facing probable death for preaching the gospel of Christ Jesus. Instead of long letters proclaiming his innocence and demanding a fair trial, asking his lawyers to do what it takes to free him from false accusations, Paul pens a letter to the church in Philippi chock full of encouragement with an underlying theme of joy. Therein lies the beauty of this New Testament letter. Regardless of his personal outcome, he spends his days encouraging others who will carry the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. That includes us today! We are recipients of this remarkable letter because of Paul’s longing to preach the Gospel regardless of personal circumstances, knowing GOD is the author and perfecter of our lives. Perceiving at some point in the very near future his life would end on earth, Paul spends the better part of all his imprisonments writing letters to the fledgling churches in the first century. The bulk of which make up what is now known as the New Testament.
Whenever Paul entered a new city, he visited the synagogue first to proclaim the news of Christ Jesus. Though he was considered an Apostle to the Gentiles, he always took the Gospel message to the Jews first because Paul was first a Jew and a very scholarly one at that. So much so he was a Priest who was on a mission to end the growth of the Christian faith until God course-corrected his mission! Philippi was the first city he visited where so few Jews existed that there wasn’t a synagogue (less than 10 families). It is considered the first “gentile” city, and the first European city in which the Christian church was established. Being part of the Roman empire didn’t mean the people of Philippi were god-less, though their practices in spirituality were completely and utterly god-less. These people had no understanding of The Law and Jewish traditions and culture. When Paul spoke of the one true God to those in the city, they believed in faith. Free from the grips of sin the people of Philippi were a generous group, and supported Paul in his mission for the rest of his days. The city was the portal for which the gospel went to the ends of the earth.
It is believed this letter was penned after Paul received a donation from the Philippi church while in prison in Rome. Paul was accused of a crime and arrested in Jerusalem and transported by the Romans to Caesarea Philippi. As a Roman citizen, he made an appeal to Caesar which obligated the Romans to take him to Rome. In all of Paul’s journeys his one desire was to reach Rome so that he could preach the Gospel of Christ Jesus there. His way was made through the prison system! Through that avenue, the Gospel message made it to the highest seats of government. It was not done easily, and not without intense suffering.
As Paul sat considering his end may be near, he sent word to his friends in Philippi thanking them for their generous support, encouraging them to remain steadfast, worry-free and trusting God’s plan for the Gospel in the world. It is hard to imagine Paul not dealing with trust issues, anxiety or depression given these dire circumstances. But the tone of his letter embodies the one thing that most of us desire above all, trusting God with our future. Paul knew his future on earth was for one sole purpose, to share his testimony of the redeeming power of God in his life. And if not that, then his future meant being in the presence of God. He envisioned God being the author of all his future, which cast away anxiety about what “might” happen. He used each day as it was given, focusing on the message for that day alone. He had no need to suppose what the future may hold. He embraced the day he had with reckless abandon to the Gospel of Christ Jesus. That he knew. That was life. And if not life, then fully present with God.
When you get overwhelmed by your day or even thinking about the future, cast your anxious thoughts aside (a theme you will hear in the book of Philippians). Trust the promise that God is with you each moment. Remember those like Paul, who have gone before you in circumstances far worse. The threat of death can either grip us with fear and render us completely useless or we can rest knowing that God goes with us through the process delivering us safely into God’s hands at the end.