Divine Focus – Recognizing Paul’s Passion for the Church
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons[a]:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 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.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:1-11 NIV
As we join Paul in Philippians 1, we find the Apostle in far less than ideal circumstances. Paul had been illegally arrested, shipped off to Rome, and was awaiting a trial there. Also during this time, the church Paul had founded and established in Philippi nearly eleven years earlier (as reflected in Acts 16:11-40) was facing some internal division within their fellowship.
While the bleak situations would likely bring great discouragement to even the most strong hearted, faith filled, Christ follower, the Apostle Paul appears un-phased. Throughout the first chapter of Philippians it is amazing to see the divine focus that Paul has.
Rather than focusing on the problems he was facing (which is likely what I would do), Paul redirects his focus onto Jesus Christ and the Gospel. It is amazing to recognize that in Philippians 1 alone, Paul mentions Jesus Christ seventeen times and he mentions the Gospel five times. Because Jesus Christ and the Gospel occupied his mind, Paul makes little mention of his own challenges and hardships! The great Apostle Paul shows a sincere divine focus on Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
What about you? What is your focus on? Are you struggling because you focus too much on your own problems at home or at work? Are you struggling because you place too much focus on the things you feel you lack in life? To be truthful, I often struggle immensely with placing too much focus on my problems, and not nearly enough focus on Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
While Paul shows a laser sharp divine focus on Jesus Christ, it is also interesting to see that in the beginning of the book of Philippians, Paul also reflects his great love and passion for God’s people. Although Paul is in prison as he writes Philippians, he can find great joy despite his difficulty because he has a strong Christian fellowship that helps him to keep a divine focus on Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ is your divine focus, fellowship with God’s people will be in your mind, in your heart, and in your prayers.
Paul kept God’s people in his mind. V. 1-6
In verses 1-6, Paul clearly shares that when he thinks of God’s people, it brings him joy because he appreciates their partnership with him in the Gospel. Paul is also filled with joy when he thinks about the church because he recognizes the potential of God’s people that is still coming to pass. When Jesus Christ is your divine focus, fellowship with God’s people will be in your mind, in your heart, and in your prayers.
Because Paul had a divine focus, he was not always thinking about himself. He was thinking about the church or His Christian friends. As he prayed for them, Paul took joy in their salvation and growth, recognizing the great potential they had ahead.
When you think about God’s people, does it bring you joy because you recognize the great potential, or do you find reasons to grumble and complain? Are you confident that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus?” or do you remain burdened with a skeptical attitude? When you think about the church and God’s people, do you see the living, breathing, embodiment of the Bride of Christ on earth, or do you simply see a social club? Do you see the church as the avenue that Jesus Christ has personally chosen to deliver hope and the Gospel to a lost and hurting world, or do you see a group of people who come together to sing songs and listen to a message on the weekend?
Paul kept God’s people in his heart. V. 7-8
In verses 7-8, we can see that Paul had a deep concern for God’s people embedded in his heart. In verse 7, he says, “since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” In our culture today, we are encouraged to be our own individual. We are encouraged to think for ourselves and to look out for number one (or ourselves). In Philippians, Paul gives a strong reminder to Christ followers that you cannot really love God without sharing in God’s grace with others. If you claim to have a heart for Christ, the people of God MUST be in your heart too.
By the way, are God’s people in your heart? It is worth noting that Paul longed for the fellowship of God’s people. In verse 8, he says, “8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Sadly, for many Christ followers today, being a part of a church is more of a religious duty than a great privilege that we long for. Do you long for God’s people? Are they in your heart? When Jesus Christ is your divine focus, fellowship with God’s people will be in your mind, in your heart, and in your prayers.
Paul kept God’s people in his prayers. V. 9-11
In verses 9-11, we see that because God’s people were in his head and heart, Paul would pray for them as well.
Does it break your heart that some Christians live empty lives? It broke Paul’s heart so much that he needed to pray that they would be full of love and godly discernment. He prayed that they would be empowered to be faithful in their daily walk with God. He prayed that they would be fruitful in their service to the Lord. When Jesus Christ is your divine focus, fellowship with God’s people will be in your mind, in your heart, and in your prayers.
Are you praying for God’s people? When was the last time you prayed for someone from your church? When was the last time you prayed for the leadership of your church? God’s people must not only remain in your head and heart, they must also be lifted up in your prayers!
Lord Jesus forgive the many times that I have come to fellowship with God’s people out of a boring religious obligation rather than from a deep passionate love and longing for the fellowship. When my focus is on You, Your people will be in my mind, in my heart, and in my prayers. Today I ask that You would renew my mind. Renew my heart. Renew my prayers. In Jesus, name… Amen.