The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi from his prison cell these words:
I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of
the Spirit of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:19 - NASB)
I am aware that we are not in prison, although to hear some on the news describing our government guidelines regarding staying at home one might equate home with prison. But realistically, we here in Upstate New York are not in this kind of deprivation. That does not mean that others in our own state are not experiencing the loss of health, employment, and financial collapse. These are extreme times and we cannot put our heads in the sand and only be concerned for our own personal welfare. As Christians we are never able to reduce life in that fashion. So despite what may at first appear to be a legitimate self-interest, we are our “brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9-10). There is no avoiding this mutual responsibility.
The church in Philippi was responsible for the care of the Apostle Paul. For some of them this meant a change of attitude. Some Christians acted in such a way as to distance themselves from Paul’s imprisonment. “Out of selfish ambition…they stir up trouble for me while I am in chains” (Philippians 1:17). And indeed we see around us today some who profess to be Christians who are attempting to see our national health crisis as an opportunity for political advantage. They need an attitude adjustment. They need to learn what it means to follow Jesus.
Other folk immediately contributed to Paul’s defense. They may not have had political or influential means to gain his release, but they knew how to pray. They recognized that this event had not taken God by surprise and that he was still the Lord of heaven and e
arth. He could be called upon to act in ways that no human could do, nor could any human overturn the work of God. This is the strange and wonderful power of prayer. It is through prayer that Paul expects to see “the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19).
Whether we realize it or not, when we pray we put into motion the actions of God himself. I don’t understand how this works but that is exactly what this verse states. Prayer is not something that we do when we are unable to do anything important. Prayer is what we do when we want to do something important. Prayer connects us to a person in need through the power and presence of the Spirit of God. Paul’s prayers for them were opportunities of “joy because of your partnership in the gospel” (Philippians 1:4-5). We do ourselves, each other, and God a great disservice by taking a casual approach to the ministry of prayer.
But the Philippians didn’t stop with an attitude adjustment and a simple prayer. They got involved. They participated personally in providing needed support. They sent to the Apostle Paul a gift, necessary aid to provide for his material need (Philippians 4:10-19). This is not a mere philanthropic gesture like making a tax-deductible donation to some charity, as good as that may be. No, this is the act of Christian compassion that quite frankly cannot keep from sharing with others. The church in Philippi was known for such generosity. Paul writes about them to the church in Corinth saying,
Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty
welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were
able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded
with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not
do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in
keeping with God’s will. (2 Corinthians 8:2-5)
They had no thought that their gifts would completely meet the needs of those they gave to. Human needs always are greater than our limited resources. But Christian giving is prompted by being in right relationship with God and hearing his heart concern for others and stepping up to be his hands and feet to aid in the supply chain. It is as our opening quote states, “the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” God is the one, the only one who is able to “meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
As the church of Christ in Amber, New York, we have the responsibility to readjust our attitude and thinking so that we begin to reflect Jesus. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:4-5).
As the church of Christ in Amber, New York, we have the opportunity to pray for one another during this time of isolation. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
As the church of Christ in Amber, New York, we have the privilege of giving to those around us who are experiencing physical and financial need. “You sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift…I am amply supplied, now that I have received the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:17-18).
We have been working on a list of those within our church family who have been affected financially by this virus and the job layoffs that have been the result. This list will change as some who have been furloughed will hopefully be called back soon. But others not on this list may be added to it as they are given reduced hours or laid off indefinitely. If you would like a copy of this list please request it on the Contact page. Do pray for these brothers and sisters and if you would like to make a donation to help these people you may certainly do so directly, or you can make a donation to our church Samaritan Fund which seeks to respond to those in need.
This is practically what it means to be the church. Even when we can’t assemble as a community, we need to maintain loving contact as the community. Pray with the knowledge that you are doing something very significant for each other. Note the li
st of church folk in our Prayer Reminder and the Daily Prayers page listed on our church website. Give yourself to God and then to each other in the privilege of sharing resources to meet human needs in the name of Jesus. Be the church.
Hopefully it will not be long before we can all say to each other…See you in Worship.