Encouragement That Surpasses Circumstances

Stefan Nitzschke January 3, 2021 Philippians 1:3-11
Outline

3 necessary actions as we start 2021

I. Thank the Lord For One Another (vv. 3-5)

Philippians 1:3-5 - I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

“The basis of the thanksgiving will be given [in v. 5]—their past and present partnership in the gospel. Paul, after all, rarely thanks God for ‘things’; his thanksgivings are for people, for those special ‘gifts’ whom God has brought into his life, who, despite whatever frustration or grief they may also cause him, are invariably a source of great joy and thanksgiving.” (Gordon D. Fee, Philippians NICNT. Pg 80)

A. With a heart of joy (v. 4)

Philippians 1:4 - …always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all…

B. Because of your faithful commitment to the gospel (v. 5)

Philippians 1:5 - …in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now…

II. Express Confidence That God Will Continue to Work (vv. 6-8)

Philippians 2:6-8 - For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

A. His work continues until the day of Christ (v. 6)

B. Resulting in a partnership that builds relationships

Philippians 1:7-8 - For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

III. Pray That Our Love Would Grow (vv. 9-11)

Philippians 1:9-11 - And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

A. Love characterized by knowledge and discernment

Philippians 1:9 - …real knowledge and all discernment…

B. Resulting in the ability to discern what is excellent

C. In order to be sincere and blameless

Philippians 1:10b - …in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ…

“Paul prays (1) for their love to abound yet more and more; that (2) this be accompanied by full knowledge and moral insight, so that (3) they might approve those things that really matter, so that (4) they might be unsullied and blameless when Christ returns, as (5) they are now full of the fruit of righteousness, fruit that is (6) effected by Christ Jesus and (7) for the glory and praise of God.” (Gordon D. Fee, Philippians NICNT. Pg 96)

  • Good morning and welcome to 2021!
  • I hope that you were able to spend some wonderful time with your family over the last two weeks.
  • But last week, in the final message of the year, we sought to remind you to not fall into the popular rut of wanting things to simply return to “normal”
  • The hope is that 2021 will be a year where you can look back at the end of it and see how you increased in your love for Jesus and grew in your obedience to Him
  • The title of this message is Encouragement that Surpasses Circumstances. With that in mind, please turn in your Bibles to Philippians 1:3-11.
  • As you are getting there, I would like to make three brief comments about what is arguably my favorite book in the Bible – the Book of Philippians
  • 1) It is known for its attitude of joy. The concept of joy appears with more frequency in this letter than in any other place in the Bible. It is truly an upbeat book that’s encouraging by its very nature
  • 2) It is a letter in response to a gift that, for Paul, represents a group of people focused on the same mission, and that mission is the gospel of Jesus Christ
  • 3) It is a letter written about 10 years after Paul started the church. These folks have a long relationship together and this is one of the churches that has kept that relationship strong and healthy.

**Read Phil 1:3-11.

  • This is the Word of the Lord. I would like us to consider 3 necessary actions as we start 2021.

I. Thank the Lord for one another (vv. 3-5)

  • After introducing himself, Paul starts the letter off on a note of thanksgiving and we begin to see the deep love he has for the church in Philippi
  • When you have a moment to reflect on our church family, I hope that thanksgiving and this deep affection comes to your mind.
  • We, like every church, have people who are not living for Jesus.
  • We, like every church, will have some clean up to do as this pandemic ends.
  • But that’s not the major story line of the last year.
  • Between COVID and all its implications, the election and all the fighting there, as well as the other social issues in our nation, we have had a tumultuous year
  • HOWEVER …
  • About 50% of our church family is attending in person, but very few of us see any more than about 10% of our church family on any given Sunday.
  • It’s part of being one church at three campuses.
  • Let me provide several examples …
  • We saw faithful giving in 2020 including the successful conclusion of the capital campaign
  • That might not seem like much until you think about the implications of the opposite
  • Even when people decided to individually tighten the purse strings, the commitments to the gospel ministry work continued
  • Where your treasure is… what?
  • Our people showed where their heart was
  • Living Nativity could not happen without people serving
  • We put a mask mandatory policy on all servants during the LN
  • Instead of whining about it and turning masks into a grand conspiracy theory, you simply said … people hearing the gospel is more important
  • That exact same attitude happened with Christmas For Everyone and the Christmas Eve services
  • We saw people more concerned about coming together for the gospel of Jesus Christ than sitting at home, tweeting about their mask preferences
  • Some of y’all, between the smocks and the masks, with hand-sanitizer in one hand and a Bible in the other, look like you’re about ready to preach away the pandemic!
  • Yet, every one of them serve weekly because they believe it is part of their gospel partnership – love for the body of Christ
  • I know of many who brought meals, without any formal organization, to families with COVID
  • It went beyond the body caring for the body.
  • That was strongly disregarded, even to the point where there was one evening where we received 3 meals!
  • And while there is a place for thanking one another (Paul writes the letter to thank them for their gift), the focus of this passage is thanking the Lord.
  • When Paul thought about the Philippians, he thanked God for them.
  • Please also notice that this is done…
  • This was not a mindless, detached prayer for them – he said he was…
  • Paul’s gave thanks to the Lord with joy. We can allow circumstances, both great and small to rob us of joy
  • Paul, being under house arrest and imprisoned for 4 years would know something about the challenge of circumstances. But they were not an excuse.
  • He was willing to look at his life and see the way this church partnered with him and cared about him. I think we can do exactly the same thing.
  • Yes, 2020 may have been hard. But 2020 was also latent with victories in our church family
  • I chose to talk about 4 ways that people served the Lord and each other.
  • Take a moment right now and reflect how the Lord used people in the church family to be an encouragement to you.
  • The passage also emphasizes that we are to thank the Lord…
  • His thanksgiving was not grounded in any gifts or favors, but rather…
  • Joy comes from something. Rather than being something I just have, it is something that is produced
  • In this case, joy comes from the faithful commitment to the gospel by your brothers and sisters.
  • When the Philippians sent a gift to Paul, Paul did not receive it as just a gift – but as a reflection of their partnership in the gospel ministry.
  • When you think about each act from that perspective, it produces joy that overflows in prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord.
  • The financial gifts to the ministry are a reflection of gospel partnership
  • The Children’s and Youth ministry workers are serving as part of gospel partnership
  • Our Christmas involvement was about gospel partnership
  • Our care for one another in meals, cards, encouragement, or gifts is gospel partnership
  • We wanted to encourage you with those words and also encourage you to also give thanks to the Lord for the people who partner in the gospel with you.
  • Look around the room. These are people (and many more like them) who have proven with their words and their actions that they are partners in the gospel with all of us.

II. Express confidence that God will continue to work (vv. 6-8)

  • We see this concept in the following verses:
  • As Paul continues his prayer of thanksgiving, he expresses confidence that the Lord will continue the work that he started
  • We’re not relying on our own strength to continue this gospel partnership, We’re counting on the Lord’s continued work in our lives.
  • I know that many are happy to lay aside the 2020 calendar and to forget, to the degree possible, some of the challenges it brought.
  • We look with hope to a better 2021.
  • That’s why, while we hope and believe that our circumstances in 2021 will improve, our true confidence comes from a God who is going to continue to work in circumstances that are easy and in circumstances that are difficult.
  • It may be that the Lord changes conditions and circumstances and allows us to be full-steam ahead shortly.
  • It may be that the Lord uses hardship to move his people to their proper places of service and worship.
  • Until the day of Christ… that is some reassurance for 2021.
  • We know that God is going to continue his work in us until he takes us home or he returns.
  • Either way, God’s work continues until the very end of our lives.
  • At the end of all this, we may learn about a few people who did not believe in the Lord as much as they say they did.
  • But by and large, what we have seen in a God-empowered ability to withstand adversity and remain focused on gospel priorities.
  • I hope that the vaccine works
  • I hope that people stop dying from COVID
  • I hope that all the small businesses can thrive and hire folks who need a job
  • I hope our country can fully reopen
  • But I do not know if all that will occur. What I can state with full assurance is that our God is going to be alive, active, and working until the day of Christ.
  • We see this beautiful sentiment in vv7-8
  • In vv. 7-8 we also find that Paul returns to his personal relationship with the church that has partnered so well with him.
  • We should expect that the Lord’s work in our lives would result in a stronger overall partnership.
  • We should expect that as he completes his work our areas of common ground become more important than ever before and the areas of our disagreement become ever less important.
  • It occurs where a group of people (typically soldiers) endure something together. Where they come from and how they got there is not nearly as important as the shared experience.
  • Maybe 2020 is one of those years for us.
  • Our unity was tested.
  • Our willingness to sacrifice was tested.
  • Our willingness to care was tested.
  • We have come out the other side experiencing 2020 together and we are stronger for it.
  • We start by giving thanks to God with joy because we watched each other place gospel priorities above other priorities in 2020.
  • Together we express confidence that our God will work in 2021 and all the way until the day of Christ to accomplish his goals and purposes.
  • As God continues to work, we should expect that our partnership would continue to produce joy in and affection for one another.
  • This year, we are to…

III. Pray that our love would grow (vv. 9-11)

  • v Philippians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
  • Prayer requests in our day and age often center around how a person feels (whether they are sick or not), or how a person’s circumstances are (whether they are easy or difficult). There is most certainly a place for these kinds of prayers in the Bible.
  • But when the biblical authors pray or ask for prayer, there is often a deeper spiritual connection to the request.
  • Paul rejoiced that the church participated in the gospel with him, he rejoiced as they shared physical provisions and compassionate love, he gives thanks to the Lord for them.
  • But as he turns to his request, he prays that their love might grow.
  • What is so surprising is how important this love really is; it is a…
  • Or in his words…
  • Paul does not ask that just any type of love would grow.
  • It would be possible to think of the various ways that self love masquerades as real love.
  • It is the “love” that gives only when the return on the investment is high enough.
  • It is the “love” that manipulates
  • It is the “love” that pretends everything is okay
  • There are many claims of truth, but some of those claims fall woefully short.
  • God wants to ensure that part of our focus is on the knowledge of the truth.
  • Sadly that is what some in our world have to offer… They have an appearance of love which is clouded by the real truth of selfishness behind it.
  • Once the selfishness is exposed, the love falls apart.
  • Discipline might not seem loving until the person grows up and is crippled for life.
  • Confrontation might not seem loving until the person grows up manipulating everything in their life to get what they want.
  • The loving response is whatever response the Bible would say in a particular instance.
  • Sometimes what is right and what is wrong is not crystal clear—it seems as if multiple options could be acceptable.
  • If that’s the case, then it‘s discernment that makes the difference—it’s discernment that ensures our love occurs in the proper lane.
  • God wants us to grow in our love that is characterized by knowledge and discernment.
  • I encourage you to make this one of your prayer requests for yourselves and for your church family.
  • Notice what happens when it does, it ends up…
  • There are some people who manage to live life accomplishing very little for Christ.
  • They can be wealthy or not wealthy, and they can be popular or in the shadows.
  • But everyone who accomplishes things for Christ is able to look across the horizon and discern whether there is value there.
  • Not every interest, hobby, or commitment is something that God would consider excellent.
  • Not everything we are involved in is worthy of praise
  • It can look out at life and register those things that matter and those that do not.
  • They seem to have an ability to look out and see things that are evil (and want no part of them because that is not consistent with knowledgeable love) and see things that are valueless (and want no part of them because that is not consistent with discerning love).
  • What’s the difference?
  • I suppose one might argue that there are many reasons, but one of them is right here:
  • Making decisions that are excellent doesn’t come naturally, it comes from a love characterized by knowledge and discernment.
  • It is as if there is no end to their talents. But they are not always the ones God uses to accomplish great things.
  • It is ordinary people, doing ordinary things—it’s those who look at the next 24 hours and rightly divide their time.
  • It’s a knowledgeable and discerning love that allows the person to test what is in front of them and make the right choices.
  • But even that is not an end to itself. It is certainly good to make excellent decisions, but notice what comes next—the stated purpose of this is…
  • Philippians 1:10b in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ
  • During stewardship month we teach that God can call us into account at any time.
  • There is an expectancy present in that truth. But Phil 1:10 addresses a slightly different topic.
  • When Jesus arrives, in what state or condition will he find his people?
  • One of my favorite desserts is the Oreo cookie – more specifically, double stuff Oreo
  • Have you ever had an off-brand Oreo?
  • It has never, ever, ever tasted right
  • In Revelation 3, He says to the church in Laodicea that He was about to spit them out of His mouth due to their own form of distasteful unauthentic Christianity
  • Next time you bite into an imitation Oreo and it produces the natural human response – immediately spitting it out of your mouth – let it be a reminder of what God wants of us
  • He wants our life … our thoughts, our words, and our actions to fit together perfectly.
  • He knows that if our love is abounding in real knowledge and discernment then we will approve the things that are excellent and therefore will be sincere and blameless at the coming of Jesus – we will be the real-deal

Paul prays (1) for their love to abound yet more and more;

that (2) this be accompanied by full knowledge and moral insight,

so that (3) they might approve those things that really matter,

so that (4) they might be unsullied and blameless when Christ returns,

as (5) they are now full of the fruit of righteousness,

fruit that is (6) effected by Christ Jesus

and (7) for the glory and praise of God.

—Gordon D. Fee, Philippians NICNT. Pg. 96

  • Paul reminds us as followers of Jesus that we have the fruit of righteousness due to the finished work of Jesus, and that all of is ultimately for the glory and praise of God.
  • Thank God for one another with you knowing that 2020 has many illustrations of gospel partnership.
  • Express confidence that whether circumstances improve in 2021 or not, we have a God who is going to work until the day of Christ and his work will also lead to unity around the gospel.
  • As we are praying, let’s ask the Lord to help us all grow in knowledgeable and discerning love.

Authors

Stefan Nitzschke

Roles

Pastor of College Ministries - Faith Church

Director of Faith West Ministry Housing - Faith West

Bio

B.S. - Management Information Systems, Iowa State University
M.Div. - Faith Bible Seminary

Stefan has been serving on the pastoral team at Faith Church since 2016. He and his wife have a passion for discipleship and evangelism. They are the blessed parents of four carefree boys and one sweet girl. Stefan is certified as a biblical counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and is a board member of Faith’s Community Development Corporation.