Read Philippians 1:1-30
From a prison cell in Rome in about 62 a.d., Paul reflected on people he had known and experiences he had had some 550 miles to the east and as far back as 10-12 years earlier. His memories were fond ones. They must have included people like Lydia and her family. The conversion of her family and her warm hospitality were surely highlights. The story of the jailer’s middle of the night conversion and care for Paul and Silas was perhaps one of his favorites. Certainly these were but a couple of many memories that caused a joyful smile to spread across the apostle’s face as he penned the words of this letter.
But not only did Paul express fond memories of the past. For these people who had become so dear to him, he also had great expectation for the future. It is true that a prison wall, chains, and hundreds of miles prevented him from direct contact with them. Still, he knew that God would complete in them the work He had begun. God does that, you know. Though He often chooses to use us to bring encouragement and growth in the lives of others, He is not ultimately dependent upon us. Are there people in your heart that you need to entrust to God, inviting Him to pick up from here?
Fond memories of the past. Great expectations for the future. But this first chapter also includes a positive report about the present. Paul wanted them to know about his current circumstances. And the report is not what one would expect. How could it be a positive one? After all, he was in a prison. Daily, he was living with the uncertainty of possible execution. Still, life for him was not defined by his surroundings or circumstances. Life for Paul was living for Christ (21). And his greatest joy was experienced in knowing that the gospel was advancing (v. 12) in the lives of others.
Those thoughts about past, present, and future certainly mess with our minds! What is it that really matters? Where should joy really come from? Can I trust God with others?