Philippians 1:3-4, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,”
When I was a child, I learned a song called “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy” from my mother, and to this day I can still hear her singing it. It was one of those repetitious songs that you probably heard if you grew up in a Christian home or went to Vacation Bible School. The entire song is devoted to singing about the joy of Christ that all believers have inside of them, filling their hearts with praise. In other verses, it speaks to the “peace that passes understanding” and “the wonderful love of my Blessed Redeemer.”
Seemingly enough, this succinct song gets straight to the point of from where a Christian ultimately derives his or her joy and that this joy is a response to the eternal love that Christ has for all who call him Lord and Savior. Paul, in the next two opening verses of his letter to the Church and Christians in Philippi, speaks to this immeasurable joy indirectly by recognizing how impactful the Church in Philippi has been to him, to the ministry of the gospel, and to the fellowship of the believers all across the Roman Empire. This will all be fleshed out as the letter goes on, but for now, the task at hand is to understand why he had such joy for this particular church and how the joy he, Paul, has for Christ indirectly in the joy he has for the Philippians.
When Paul writes, “I thank my God in all remembrance of you,” he’s not trying to butter up the church so that he and Timothy can have more money for other church planting and missionary endeavors. Neither is he flattering them to get their defenses down so that he can hit them square between the eyes with some corrective theology or take them to task for grievous sins. No.
When Paul says that he thanks God in all his remembrance of them, he genuinely means it. You see, the Philippian Christians were some of the most committed partners that Paul had in ministry. They were not only extremely generous financially and made every effort to see that Paul and Timothy did not have to be “bi-vocational” missionaries, but they also cared deeply for Paul’s well-being. They grieved when they heard that he had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel. They were deeply concerned that Paul’s life hung in the balance and that he could be executed at any moment. They were worried that their pastor, their father in the ministry, would be lost to them forever. This deep concern and steadfast love for Paul, on top of the financial partnership, has caused Paul to have a sincere love and “soft spot” in his heart for this church.
Paul is incredibly thankful for these dear brothers and sisters because it’s their own prayers that strengthen Paul. It’s the news of men and women being won for Christ due to the efforts of their evangelism in Philippi, and it’s their commitment to the gospel and getting the gospel right no matter how hard it may be that makes Paul reflect warmly and lovingly. It is the Philippians love, concern, support, prayers, and partnership in ministry that increases the joy of Paul. Even while in prison, Paul can rejoice, not only because of his salvation which would certainly be cause enough but also because those whom he has ministered to are now ministering to him from afar and continuing the ministry that Paul began in Philippi.
In reading these verses, one can not understate the joy that being a follower of Christ brings into a person’s life. Paul, while in prison, was still joyful and worshipped the Lord Jesus and thanked God for continuing the ministry in Philippi. The Philippian Christians had joy in their hearts for Christ and Paul because it was he who brought the good news of Jesus Christ to them in the first place.
I have joy in my heart and thank God often for the men and women who have nurtured me in the faith and especially those who have played critical roles in my Christian walk. My boyhood pastor, Dr. Harry Lucenay, was the man who baptized me and always answered my inquisitive questions as best as he could. I thank God in all my remembrance of him.
I thank God in all my remembrance of Dr. T.O. Spicer from Fayetteville, AR, who gave me my first ministry job and gave me many opportunities to preach and teach. I thank God in all my remembrance of the Lovell and Barfield families, who while I was a college student took me in as one of their own, cared for me, supported me while I went on mission trips, fed me, and acted as parents to me when my own were back home in Texas.
There are so many more who I could write about who “make my prayer with joy” because God has been so gracious to me like he was to Paul. The same can be said for those of you who are reading this and this is the point of application. Who are you thankful to God for? Who has blessed you, encouraged you, strengthened you in your faith, been there for you when things looked bleak, and even come alongside you in ministry? Do they not bring you joy? Be thankful for them! Rejoice for God has given you a great gift in them. Give God praise for them and tell them how impactful they have been in your life. I’m often asked this question, and I’ll close with this, “How was Paul so impactful in ministry?” The answer I always give comes from these two verses here. Paul was thankful, Paul was overflowing with joy for others in Christ, and Paul gave God all the glory.
James Forbis is a graduate of The University of Arkansas, a former Jr. High and High School football coach, and American history teacher. He is completing his M.DIV at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission Studies and Expository Preaching. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur and Tex-Mex addict. Most Saturday’s you can find him cheering on his Arkansas Razorbacks, hiking or fishing, or reading up on his favorite subject, the Revolutionary War, or spending time with his wife.