December 10, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Philippians 1)

Submitted by Jiseon C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Philippians 1:3-5

·       Note the reason for Apostle Paul’s gratitude and remembrance of the Philippians.  Consider the people in my life with whom I can share a sense of “partnership in the gospel.”  What is the state of my relationship with them?

The reason for Apostle Paul’s gratitude is that the Christians in Philippi share partnership with him in the gospel. He remembers them in his prayers with a sense of joy because their partnership provides him deep comfort and gratitude towards God that he is not alone in his labor.

The people in my life that can I share a sense of partnership in the gospel are multifold. I think about my leaders who have first shared this gospel with me as an undergrad for whom I have such a sense of gratitude and deep appreciation. From Pastor Ed and Kelly, Patrick and Jeannie, Pastor Manny and Sunny, and so many others who have taught me the basic gospel, that I was a sinner in need of God’s grace through the cross and has taught me about God’s grand vision for this world and for inviting me to partner with them in ministering to younger ones to share this great news of salvation. I think about the state of my relationship with them as one that has changed so much through the years. Once I was just a young college student, but now I see myself as someone so integrally tied to their lives. Just a walk down the halls of our church building I see layers and layers of relationships, stories and history that we share together. There is Kelly, who took an interest in my life when I was just an 18 year-old girl, who took time to listen to my amorphous and rambling thoughts, and who persuaded me that God had a vision for my life. Now I am 33, and I find myself included in one of the older ones of our growing church, and included as a partner in the gospel, as Pastor Ed and Kelly share their hearts with us, in their wisdom of ministry, their counsel, and in opening up their home as a place to just share life together in. They were the ones who also raised up my leaders, including Jeannie. Jeannie was my freshmen small group leader, who counseled me as I was struggling to give my life over to Christ. She was the one who together with my older sisters in Christ, celebrated my salvation decision in March of 1998, over a home cooked lunch at her apartment on Central.  Then there are my friends. Most of us are now moms, but we were once just sophomores, many of us having made salvation decisions just the year prior and were struggling to try to keep sane while living with each other as students in Berkeley. We had some good moments and bad ones, while we were trying to act civil as roommates, as our characters were being shaped, and as we tried to commit to ministry. We started off with baby steps in trying to deny our fleshly and weak-willed selves, but now we are in our thirties and though our sufferings are not much in America, we still find strength in that while trying to be loving wives, raising young children, holding down jobs, and mentoring and raising up a younger generation of Christians. As old as we get, we still never tired of needing each other, of having that shoulder to cry on, to hearing my friends tell me that I need to keep leaning on them, and not withdrawing into myself. And there are my friends who provide such strength to me even though we are miles away, friends like Amy, who is leading the Hsinchu church with her husband, Pastor Andy. We used to serve in the same college ministry group while raising up our newborns together.  And there are my two sunny southern CA native friends Mia and Susan in Minnesota, serving in that absolutely idyllic but dreadfully cold Minnesota. There is Pastor Manny and Sunny, who have been my leaders for almost eight plus years before they left to plant the church in Austin, TX.  Now we don’t see each other much physically. But as I think about their labor, as they do the hard work of preaching the gospel, which is a difficult message to hear, shaping people and tirelessly working to build up and maintain a godly community, they nonetheless bring such strength and sense of warmth to my heart as I think about our partnership in the gospel. I think about the comforts of the Bay Area they left, the jobs, the familiar things. But they really have left the larger community of people here, and are attempting to build up the church in their respective church plants Then there are the younger ones, faces I have known when they were only 18 years old, faces like Carol and Jon.  Now, they are young parents, and we serve together in leading our own life groups in A2F ministry with Rick and Sue who were also my leaders during my college years. Together, through our commitment to God, we spur one another on. Truly these relationships inspire and motivate me to keep running the race here in Berkeley. They are the ones in whom I share a partnership in the gospel.  I thank God as I recall them, and so many others, one by one.

Philippians 1:6

·       What is the ground of Apostle Paul’s confidence regarding the Philippians?

The ground of Apostle Paul’s confidence regarding the Philippians is that it is God who began the work who promises to bring it to completion. Because it is God who never wavers or changes his mind, He is that one who calls things that are not as if they were (Romans 4:17). Because God is the author of life and because he is himself the guarantor of his own covenants, Paul had the firm confidence that God will bring to completion the work that He has begun in the Philippian church.

·       Who is it that began the good work in me?

The one who began the God work in me was God. He is the one who has brought me to life, who has brought various older Christians in my life, namely my spiritual leaders, to teach me the Gospel, to raise me as a young Christian, to mature me as a minister, a friend, wife, mom and a partner in this gospel.

·       How has God been at work in my life to “bring…to completion” the work He began in me when I responded to the gospel?

He has been at work in my life to bring to completion the work he began in me when I responded to the gospel through countless ways. He led me through teaching me the doctrines and principles of the Christian faith, through various discipleship courses that I have taken, from Survival Kit 1, where I learned that I am part of his Body, that I have two natures and its my choice to fight my flesh, that the Word of God is the ultimate source of my authority, that I have a mission to reach the lost. He has taught me through testimonies of lives of older Christians that He is indeed trustworthy and that living a life of serving God and others really is the most blessed life. Through my leaders who have taken me under their wing, I have been loved, taught, instructed, corrected and exhorted to steer away from a life of selfishness to live a life of love. God gave me various opportunities to serve him by ministering to others and to see myself as a source of blessing onto others, instead of merely a consumer and someone who should just serve herself. This happened through various experiences, such as attending mission trips to various countries, in attending many worldview seminars. Yet most of the time, I see that God has been working in my life to bring to completion the work He began in me through the seemingly mundane, daily devotionals that I do, where His word continues to refine my thoughts and mind, form convictions, from passages such as 2 Timothy 1:6-7 that reminds me to fan into flame the gift that He has given me, from 2 Corinthians 5:20 that charges me to be an ambassador for Christ, to make appeals to others as if God himself were making his appeal through me. And through Bible studies on Romans that opened my eyes to see that I have been baptized or put into Christ Jesus, not only in the final resurrection, but also in his death. That I have died along with Christ in my flesh, and now I am called to live in his life. In all of this, I see that God uses the local church in order to shape his people and to bring to completion the work that he began in me when I responded to the gospel. It was largely in part due to my leaders who worked tirelessly to bring these discipleship courses, ministry opportunities, worldview teachers, training and life to life discipleship into my life so that I and others like myself could be led in this process of being brought to completion in Christ Jesus. This is the pattern I see in Apostle Paul’s relationship and ownership of the churches that he has planted. He not only gave them the gospel, but were daily burdened with seeing that they were brought to completion in the work that God began in them. As someone who has been given so much, I can only respond by wanting to imitate that heart, in wanting to see others through in being made complete in Christ Jesus.

Submitted by Mike F. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Philippians 1:3-5

·       Note the reason for Apostle Paul’s gratitude and remembrance of the Philippians.  Consider the people in my life with whom I can share a sense of “partnership in the gospel.”  What is the state of my relationship with them?

I share a partnership in the Gospel with so many in this church, and it reflects my own history and the way in which God has placed key people in my life over the years.  Looking back, I am especially grateful for those who have led me over the years, from Pastor Ed, Kelly, to Pastor Manny and Sunny in Austin, to Rick and Sue as without them, I would not have examples or role models to follow.  They were the ones who through their faithfulness brought me up to become an actual co-laborer in the Gospel.  They invested in me so that now, having done ministry for a number of years, I can begin to understand the heartaches and joy of trying to love people.  I also share a partnership with all of my fellow staff over the years, both those younger and older.  I am thankful to God for those who are younger, as it is a clear sign of Him being able to use a broken person like me to minister to students who now have become staff, and we together can work hard for the Gospel.  It still strikes me with wonder that some of the very freshmen I was reaching out to all those years ago are now sitting next to me at a staff meeting, planning for ministry events, discussing how we will go about ministering to people together.  I can look around the room at any event, staff meeting, or gathering and count many cherished relationships, many shared memories, many burdens carried together because we have done ministry together.

And yet, when I consider my own state of relationship with many of them, I know that I have let that seeming busyness of life, much of it my own perception, seep into the quality of my friendships.  We often talk about when how “sticky” our relationships are.  Stickiness encapsulates that combined quality of affection, of knowledge, and kinship in a relationship, and I know that I myself am not such a “sticky” person.  The answer or correction to this then lies in the next verses, where I need to concretely pray for and remember the people I co-labor with.  I can build my relationships up in this way, where I am concerned for and seeking to know what is occurring in their lives, so that they stay in my heart and mind even as we are separated by distance or ministry.

·       To what extent do I thank God for them or pray for them?  Who would consider me a partner in the gospel with them?

I tend to place tasks before relationships, so that even as I am working together closely with a small group of people, my relationships lack that depth they should have over time.  What causes this?  I think Paul speaks of an underlying reason here in this passage.  He remembers people with joy as he is praying for them.  Praying for people and being thankful for them factor directly into the state of a relationship.  Paul doesn’t have to be physically close to the Philippians in order to have this kind of kinship, and I need to learn from his example today. I need to remember those people who have partnered with me, with whom I share that title of minister, ambassador of Christ on a regular basis in prayer.  Here I see another urgent reason to pray.  It is not just to wage spiritual battle for people, but also to actually partner with people in the Gospel.  The more I share in the heart of other people in ministry, the closer I can become to them.  I know that my fellow staff, leaders, the younger interns would consider me a partner in the Gospel because we are serving together, but in order to be a truer partner in the Gospel, I know there are many aspects of relating to them that I have to work on.  I need to take initiative in making our relationships “sticker,” which entails praying for them, taking time to connect with them even if they are now outside of my immediate ministry.  For those peers and former leaders who are now on church plants, I can take time to call or e-mail them, taking time to find out what is going on in their lives and ask for prayer requests.  Taking these basic steps of knowing what is going on in their lives will enable me to partner more closely with them by sharing what is on their hearts.

Philippians 1:6

·       What is the ground of Apostle Paul’s confidence regarding the Philippians?

The ground of his confidence is God, who began that good work in the Philippians.  Paul knows that God’s faithfulness, together with the Holy Spirit, will continue to mold, shape, and make holy the Philippian church, so that it is ready for Heaven.

·       Who is it that began the good work in me?

In much the same way, the same God who began that good work in the Philippians has begun that work in me.

·       How has God been at work in my life to “bring…to completion” the work He began in me when I responded to the gospel?

God has been at work in my life to bring it to completion through His placing of people in my life.  This includes my leaders past and present, who taught me the Gospel and embodied it, which compelled me as a non-Christian to seek and investigate until I came to a point of decision.  God used them after this point to always point me to the Truth – the Truth about myself, my rough, raw character that needed correction, and that needed a group of people more mature than me to follow and imitate.  He placed people in my life who were wiling to disciple me “life-on-life,” so that through doing every aspect of life with them I was able to see how God can figure into my relationships, decisions, and priorities.  God has also been using His word daily to bring to completion His work in me.   Even last week, His word alerted me to the spiritual battles raging around me, the people I needed to love and remember, the ways in which I had to serve so that our church can continue doing the good work of salvation, the humility and servanthood I had to bring into my relationships on a daily basis.  God’s word has been that great pruner of the parts of me that are unholy.  His word always exposes me and shows me ways in which I have to repent because I have not adopted His values or I do not live out my life in the ways that He wants me to.  It is this powerful combination of His word and my fellow co-workers in Christ that continue to shape me into His image, and as I recount how God uses both of these to purify His people, it encourages me to cling onto those with whom I have a partnership in Christ.  These are the relationships I can cherish, and that will take concrete action and initiative on my part.  Furthermore, it reminds me too that just as God has used so many people to work in my life, I too need to cling onto His word and His people so that I can become part of that good work of completion for so many others.   In order for other people to respond to the Gospel, I too need to continue to submit to the good work He is trying to do in me.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father,

I am truly grateful for your continuing work that you are carrying onto completion in me.  You have been doing this through the many people you have placed in my life who have tirelessly loved me with the truth, and have modeled for me what it means to be a servant of the Gospel.  As you are continuing to shape and mold me, so I know that I need to become a truer partner in the Gospel by remembering and praying for each of the people whom I consider to be partners in the Gospel.  Help me to see that there are many people who do consider me a partner of the Gospel, and yet I am only one if I actually share in their hearts through prayer, and if I am expressing that concrete love that Paul embodies so fully here.  Help me to see also the urgency of doing so as I am daily involved in that process of making people into partners of the Gospel.  May I more and more become that sort of person who can partner alongside with You Father and share more in your heart as you have given me the privilege of ministry.

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Submitted by Lois B. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Philippians 1:3-5

  • Note the reason for Apostle Paul’s gratitude and remembrance of the Philippians.  Consider the people in my life with whom I can share a sense of “partnership in the gospel.”  What is the state of my relationship with them?

Apostle Paul was thankful for the Philippians because of their “partnership in the gospel.”   It’s interesting that this partnership is the main thing that Apostle Paul remembers in his relationship with them, and it’s something that allows him to pray “with joy.”   The main way that Apostle Paul remembers them is not about their accomplishments as a church, or how well they liked or appreciated Apostle Paul, or how much they supported him.  It’s about how they all have the same mission of making the Gospel known, that they had each answered the call to be God’s workers.

In the same way, for so many of the people I’m thankful for in my own life, I remember them as people who are partners in the gospel with me.  I remember my senior year of college when there was a chance to learn along with the staff how to reach out to students on campus.  Being a shy introvert, I remember being scared but also very excited and humbled that I got to experience “partnership in the gospel” with the staff, that we were all working together towards this goal of bringing the Good News to this campus.   Since then, that sense of partnership has been something that’s been growing and I’ve come to appreciate more over the years.  I’ve been seeing that it’s not so much about the number of days that we spend together, or how many details we know about one another’s lives, and although that’s all part of close relationships, it’s really the sense that we have the same God-given mission in life that ultimately makes us feel close, one in heart and mind.  I experience this with older leaders at our church, whose lives I see day in and day out, given to God’s work.  Because of their greater commitment and zeal for the gospel, I experience this sense of partnership with them, but more than that, they are people whose lives I want to imitate.  I experience this with my peers, some of whom I actually didn’t know very well in college but now consider partners in the gospel, as we’re spread out among different ministries: college, high school, middle school, Joyland, Impact, Elderly Care, InterHigh, etc.  We might not be able to see one another as often, but when I remember them or see them giving their all on whatever is coming up that week, I’m thankful that God has given each of us this higher calling to join with him in doing his good work.  The subject of our conversations and prayers is often about how things are going in ministry and how God has been shaping us as we try to obey and respond to His will for our lives. I’m thankful that God has elevated and deepened our friendships in this way.  I experience this also with the younger staff and students.  Their partnership in the gospel is something that actually protects me and drives me to be a better steward of the teachings, values, and experienced I’ve received, so that I can pass these down to them faithfully.

As I have all these people around me who I consider co-laborers in Christ, I see that I am very richly blessed and can experience something like Apostle Paul’s joy.  It’s that sense of partnership within my relationships that reminds me of what I have received through the Gospel, challenges me to greater faith and obedience, and elevates my life.

Philippians 1:6

  • What is the ground of Apostle Paul’s confidence regarding the Philippians?

Apostle Paul’s confidence regarding the Philippians is based on the fact that God is the one who is going to complete the good work in them.

  • Who is it that began the good work in me?

The one who began the good work in me is God, when He saved me by His grace through Jesus.

  • How has God been at work in my life to “bring…to completion” the work He began in me when I responded to the gospel?

God has been faithfully at work in my life since the day I decided to follow Him during my college days.  I started out as someone who just knew I was a sinner through my anger and bitterness and knew I needed God.  Since I accepted Jesus, God’s been at work by bringing me people who gently brought me out of my isolating ways and showed me God’s ways of enjoying fellowship with others.  In this way, I saw the Word of God coming alive for the first time as the bits and pieces of the Bible I had in my head seemed to make sense, as people explained DT passages to me and as I heard messages and testimonies.  Many times, I think God has just been trying to assure me of the simple facts: that He is real and good and that He loves me.  I can make things complicated in my own head, give too much credit to Satan’s lies, and end up thinking warped thoughts about God’s character.  Even though this is my pattern, God’s been persistent and patient in revealing to me who He really is.  Even looking back at this past month, there’s so much I can point to as proof of God’s goodness — there have been baptism testimonies, Thanksgiving Retreat videos, and people’s precious salvation decisions.  I’m thankful that He never tires of this work in me. Even though I might get frustrated at myself and feel defeated because I see little improvement in myself, I don’t need to despair because God is still actively in the process of completing His good work in me.  It’s not complete yet, but it’s in progress.  Each chance to die to my selfish desires so that someone else can be loved, each chance to speak the truth instead of hiding in fear, each time I run into a conflict, each time I clearly see my sinfulness – each of these is something I honestly want to avoid as a comfort-loving person, but it’s the way that God uses to move along his work in me.  This reminds me of a video clip we watched a while back of one man representing a Christian and one man representing God.  God was cast as an artist, sculpting a masterpiece out of the Christian.  There are times that the man complains of the pain of God working on him, chipping away at all the unholy pieces of him, little by little.  God’s reply is that He is doing this out of love because He sees what the man can become.  In the same way, I can complain that this process is not as easy or fast as I’d like, and start to wonder if the discomfort and pain is worth it.  But I need to remember that God is the one who is doing this work in me, out of LOVE, because He has a vision to see me perfect in Christ, as I was created to be.  The proper response, then, is to allow myself to just be reassured of the simple facts again: that God is real and good and that He loves me, especially because He is like this master artist, seeing me now as a work in progress that will one day finally be completed.

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