Philippians 1

Paul begins his letter in a positive manner, rejoicing in the faithful at Philippi. Paul holds these people dear to his heart (8) and is even willing to offer up anything in suffering for them (7). Paul offers this up, not because they have been wayward, but so that they may enjoy a spiritual fruitfulness and be strengthened (11). He sees something positive in them and wants to add God’s grace in their suffering. He does not think of his own regret or sorrow. He seems to enjoy giving the gift, even if it is born from his suffering.

In fact, most of Paul’s “brothers in Christ {are} taking from {his} chains (14). They feel a joy by such injustice and brutality. How is that possible? The motive of Paul is for the “furtherance of the gospel” (12). He is not doing all this for himself. If this was to further himself, it would be illogical to look forward to or to see something positive in suffering. To serve the Gospel message is to serve God. His motives are purely for God as opposed to others who are for themselves or just out to destroy (16-17).

Paul just rejoices to know that all his suffering is serving Christ Jesus (18). He knows that it is not something he can do on his own. He even acknowledges the prayerful support the faithful have offered (19). He sees the fruitfulness of the faithful and rejoices in it. The fruitfulness is not something to be jealous about. It relieves him that all his work and suffering are not going in vain.

This is thought is what inspires him to say, “I have now full confidence that now as always Christ will be exalted through me, whether I live or die” (20). When we die, all of us will have to give an account of our fruitfulness in our life.

This fruitfulness is not based on how much money you made or saved. Nor does it depend on how beautiful you are in the way the world defines beauty. Rather, we will all be judged on how many souls we have helped get to heaven. This is the only fruitfulness that brings fulfillment. We can make a lot of money, but that does not bring fruitfulness necessarily. It may bring contentment for the time being, but not fruitfulness.

“Life is Christ” (21). Fruitfulness is life and it can only happen by God’s grace. When the fullness of fruitfulness comes to pass, that life is complete and “death is gain”.  Both are seen as a good. Yet at the same time, how good it is to gain so much more fruit while we are here (22). All this fruitfulness comes from Jesus as He invites us to suffer with Him. Jesus did not suffer to take away suffering, but rather to empower our suffering with fruitfulness. Thus, joy is possible while suffering. This is the experience of Paul.

Paul hopes to use this message to inspire the faithful to be willing to suffer for Christ’s sake (29). He wants to strengthen them. Paul knows the price that has to be paid to follow Jesus. He is not sugar coating it. He wants them to be prepared so that they too may become fruitful in their sufferings as Paul has (30). The faithful in Philippi seem to desire this fruitfulness.

Do you?

Father Barr