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Philippians 1:7-11: Prayer From The Gut

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The passage

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.

Is anyone here an interruptor? I grew up with 3 brothers in London, and I am definitely an interruptor. When we siblings get together there is not a second of silence, and probably only 1 in 10 sentences are completed. But we don’t even notice we’re doing it.
Perhaps even harder than talking with an interruptor is talking with a detourer. The conversation is proceeding normally, then suddenly they break off, talk about another thing, and then they’re back onto the first thing. For all of you who like your conversations to proceed in a nice straight line, well I’m sorry but you’re going to find Paul a bit difficult. This is classic Paul. He’s in the middle of telling his friends in Philippi how he prays for them,.
Philippians 1:3–5 NIV
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,
and then it’s almost like he breaks off to answer a question: Hey Paul, aren’t you exaggerating a bit here?
NO! He says, it’s right for me to feel this way about all of you. He then tells them why that’s the case, and then he returns to telling them what he prays for them. So today we’re going to cover the break, and the rest of the prayer.
So what does Paul say about why he feels the way he feels, about why he remembers them and thanks God for them a lot? Why does he always pray with joy about them?
What builds this kind of partnership? What makes the kind of friendship that is being talked about here.?
Philippians 1:3–5 NIV
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,
Philippians 2:3–5 NIV
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Phil. 2:
A long, long ago we did a marriage course with Noah and Danielle Chamberlain. One of the things that really stuck with me was the guy’s advice on how to build strong family - go camping!
And now he interrupts the prayer to
Why - because suffering unites people! The first time I went camping my friend filled my tent with slugs. Last summer some of my family were camping and their tent was washed away by a storm. There’s something about being tired and miserable with people that can bind you together with them. Maybe not at the time, but with our remarkable capacity to rewrite history we can look back with fondness.
Paul had seriously suffered in Philippi. This was no camping trip.
It’s interesting how many times in Acts people kick off against the gospel, not for religious reasons, but because it’s hurting them in the wallet. We heard a few months ago about the riot in Ephesus when the silversmiths union lost it because the idol trade was going downhill, and they claimed they were offended on her behalf, when really it was a classic case of economic interest.
Same deal in Philippi:
Acts 16:16–21 NIV
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. 19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
And then what happened?
Acts 16:22–24 NIV
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Acts 16:22-
Then there’s an incredible miracle whereby while they’re praying and singing hymns, which is definitely what i would do in a cold prison cell after being beaten with rods and severely flogged, an earthquake not only opens all the doors but also their individual chains. The jailer goes to take his own life, I guess because that’s less painful than what would be inflicted on him by the Romans if he didn’t, and Paul shouts out in the nick of time.
The jailer and his whole household hear the gospel and are saved.
And then:
Acts 16:33–34 NIV
33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Followed by:
Acts 16:33
Acts 16:40 NIV
40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
Tony spoke last week about the establishing of the church in Philippi, probably in the home of Lydia, a gentile woman. And here we see what happened as a result of that relationship. The brothers (which means the other believers in Jesus) gathered in her house and were encouraged by Paul and Silas. Once again, Lydia giving hospitality. And we see the jailer and his family come into the church family in incredibly stressful circumstances.
This suffering together led to deep, close friendship. The church in Philippi became in a real sense partners with Paul in his suffering.
But here’s the problem with the camping advice. Not all suffering brings people together.
Fostering and Adoption panel.
Greek civil war.
So what kind of suffering produces the kind of Christian partnership that Paul writes about?
Suffering for Christ
Suffering FOR Christ
Suffering for Christ is the kind of thing that happened to Paul a lot. We’re going to hear a lot about that as we go through Philippians together. We know that in Paul himself this suffering produced good things, as in:
Romans 5:3–5 NIV
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
We’re in a very mixed church here, because we’re in a mixed city. And that means that there are some among us who have really suffered for Christ, and some who haven’t really yet. The worst I’ve faced for Christ is a bit of social ostracisation which was mainly in my head. Yet one of my good friends who has now gone to sleep in the Lord was beaten by her husband merely for going to church. I know that some of you have lost all contact with family members.
What does it mean, in that context, to suffer together? I think Lydia is a good example of how we can do this. She wasn’t there in prison with Paul, nor was she beaten as far as we know, but there’s a clear sense that she, and the rest of the baby church in Philippi were waiting for them with bated breath, and she hosted him straight out of his suffering. How can those of us who have never suffered for the gospel partner with those who do? We can comfort them. We can show hospitality. We know that in some of his letters Paul asked for deeply practical help - send me my books and my cloak.
2 Timothy 4:13 NIV
13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.
We can practically help those who are suffering for the gospel. We can give what we have. We can use the political freedom that we have.
So as we stand with those suffering FOR Christ, we build true Christian partnership of the kind that motivates prayers like Paul’s prayer for the Philippians.
Suffering IN Christ.
Suffering IN Christ. I first really studied Philippians the summer before my first husband died and I think
I first really studied Philippians the summer before my first husband died and I think it prepared us well. There is a lot in this letter, and elsewhere in the Bible that really teaches us how to suffer in the way that produces perseverance, character, and hope. We’ve been thinking about how suffering can unite us with others and give us strong character, a bit like a camping trip, but this isn’t innate. If we want to follow Jesus, we need to suffer like him, whether we’re suffering literally for the sake of the gospel, or simply as a result of the sin and broken-ness of the world. When I say suffer like him, I’m not suggesting we need to go and find a cross to die on, but I’m talking about our response to suffering.
Suffering IN Christ. I first really studied Philippians the summer before my first husband died and I think
So Paul has gone off on his helpful tangent, reminding the Philippian church of why he feels so intensely for them, and he actually writes very strong words, calling God as his witness as to how much he longs for them.
Here he talks about longing for them with the affection of Christ.
The AV translation has it like this:
8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
The bowels of Jesus?
We tend to say thinks like “I have a heart for X”, or “my heart was so moved by Y”. In that culture, they did use heart to refer both to the blood-pumping organ, and also to the inner mind, but they often used bowels, a greek word that kind of sounds like spleen, to talk about compassion.
The spleen of Christ Jesus?
Here are some examples of Jesus being moved in his gut, with some different translations but the word is actually the same:
Matthew 9:36 NIV
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 14:14 NIV
14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matt. (:36
Mark 8:2 NIV
2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.
Mark 9:22 NIV
22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
Luke 7:13 NIV
13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
Luke 7:13
And by the way, in case any of you are temped to think that that’s nice Jesus and then God the Father is the hard one, this is the kind of Father Jesus talks about in the story of the prodigal son:
mirrors the compassion of the Father
Which mirrors the compassion of the Father
Luke 1:78 NIV
78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
Luke 15:20 NIV
20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
So Jesus was often moved in his gut by the people he encountered, by their physical and spiritual needs. He was moved in his gut by their grief.
And if Paul is saying he has the affection of Christ Jesus for them, what does this affection look like? It looks like the affection of Jesus. How did he respond to that feeling in his gut? He acted. He healed. He comforted. He fed. He taught. And then ultimately out of great, great compassion, he went to the cross.
And by the way
So when we say we have affection for one another in Christ, we’re not talking about a fleeting feeling of pity. We’re talking about a gut feeling that motivates action. Paul here is longing for the best things of God for these guys. He feels that need right in his gut. We would say “right in his heart” perhaps.
And he has nothing material to give them. In fact, he is in chains at this time. He’s more than likely being financially supported by them. So how does he act on his gut-wrenching compassion for them?
He prays?
If we can give, we must give. And yet there is something that all of us can give, whether we are rich or poor. Whether we are free and living the life of Riley, or facing a very uncertain future. Paul knows that prayer is so powerful and important that he almost seems to feel he has to justify it.
We can help one another through prayer. That is a universal way that all of us can act on our affection. Sure, for some that might then also lead to physical deeds of help, but the ability to pray is given to all of us. It’s clear here that Paul is regularly, and fervently praying for these guys.
So partnership in the gospel is developed by supporting those who suffer for the gospel. And it produces deep emotional connection. And that connection leads us to pray.
What kind of prayers?
Philippians 1:9–11 NIV
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.
Love on love. Love abounding. In what? Knowledge and depth of insight. For what? to be able to discern what is best to be pure and blameless.
Love and right-living are not ends of a spectrum of Christian life. They are intertwined. Love needs knowledge. Love in God is not a mere feeling, but it’s discernment. This is what Paul is praying for these dear friends - great love tied up with knowledge and deep insight.
This prayer is a chain of linked events.
love abounds more and more in knowledge and depth of insight
so they are able to discern what is best
so they are pure and blameless for the day of Christ
So they are filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ
So that God is glorified and praised.
And that’s the end goal here. Paul knows that the absolute best good for these guys is that their lives would lead to the praise and glory of God.
So what does this prayer mean for us? Well at one level I think it gives us a great model for how we can develop right feelings in the church, and then how we can pray for one another. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray for themselves, and here Paul is teaching us how to pray for each other. I use an app called PrayerMate sometimes to organise my prayers, and the reason I was first interested in it is because you can use it to pray prayers from the Bible for others. And super practically, here is a great prayer that we can be praying for each other and for our brothers and sisters elsewhere.
But it’s also a theologically rich reminder of our highest purpose, and that’s where I want to end.
Last week in Sunday school Hannah asked the kids if they knew what a catechism was, and I thought she said Cataclysm, which is like a serious natural disaster.
For much of church history not everyone was literate, and the Bible was pretty hard for them to access. Catechisms are a way to help people remember the essentials of faith. They’re a set of questions and answers that are learned, and good ones take all their answers from scripture. Now like liturgy, which can be fantastic, a catechism is dead if performed for the sake of it. But for all we like informality and a level of spontaneity in our worship, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath-water.
Westminster Catechism
Question 1. What is the chief end of man? Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
New City Catechism:

How and why did God create us?

God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.

A: God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.
This is not really very now. But all of us have to have an answer as to what we are for, or we have to be honest and say that we are not for anything. Every religious worldview offers an answer to this. And secular atheism when it’s honest says that we’re not made “for” anything, though it’s nice when we’re all nice to each other.
What is the prayer?
So right in this nice warm prayer we have a devastating challenge to our ego. Are we content to live for the glory and praise of God? Does He who made us have the right to want that of us? Of course some people say He not only has the right to want that, but He should have demanded it in the first place, and not given us free will at all. The Bible teaches that He designed us in His image to know Him, to love Him and, yes, to glorify Him. In the same way that a painter’s masterwork glorifies them, God’s masterpiece is humanity, and we were painted to glorify Him.
What would it look like to live for His glory? It looks like a kind of death on the one hand, but also it looks like absolute freedom on the other. Freedom from the judgment of others. Freedom from the need to display our status. Can I leave you with the challenge this week to meditate on what it might mean for you to live to the glory and praise of God? And can we be honest with ourselves about the cost of that, and the joy of that?
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