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Devotional #7 - 3/26/2020

From Meaghan Jenkins

Philippians 1 (pt.1)

Separated, But Not Shut Down

Separated from his friends. Trapped in one place. Unable to live out his normal routine. Facing an uncertain future. Can you relate? The apostle Paul wasn’t dealing with a pandemic, but I believe he would understand how many of us feel right now.
 
“1 Dear friends in Philippi, 1–2 My name is Paul and I’m joined by Timothy, both of us servants of Jesus, the Anointed One. We write this letter to all his devoted followers in your city, including your pastors, and to all the servant-leaders of the church. May the blessings of divine grace and supernatural peace that flow from God our wonderful Father, and our Messiah, the Lord Jesus, be upon your lives. 3–4 My prayers for you are full of praise to God as I give him thanks for you with great joy! I’m so grateful for our union 5 and our enduring partnership that began the first time I presented to you the gospel. 6 I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ! 7 It’s no wonder I pray with such confidence, since you have a permanent place in my heart! You have remained partners with me in the wonderful grace of God even though I’m here in chains for standing up for the truth of the gospel. 8 Only God knows how much I dearly love you with the tender affection of Jesus, the Anointed One. 9 I continue to pray for your love to grow and increase beyond measure, bringing you into the rich revelation of spiritual insight in all things. 10 This will enable you to choose the most excellent way of all—becoming pure and without offense until the unveiling of Christ. 11 And you will be filled completely with the fruits of righteousness that are found in Jesus, the Anointed One—bringing great praise and glory to God!”                Philippians 1:1-11 (TPT)
 
Paul was imprisoned for preaching Jesus as the one true King. We have our own struggles in spreading the Gospel, but the threat of imprisonment or death is likely not one of them.
 
Let’s immerse ourselves for a second in what Paul was experiencing…his cell is probably dirty, dark, and lonely. He’s separated from his brothers and sisters in Christ and unsure of what his future holds. He might be released. He could be executed. He is probably sharing close quarters with actual criminals. He’s guarded by men who are loyal to Rome and who believe he’s just another criminal.
 
But what does Paul speak of to open his letter? Grace and peace. Paul is not blinded by his circumstances to the truths and promises and character of Father God. He knows his dear friends in Philippi are also facing hardship, and he wants to minister to them. Paul remembers what is most important, and the Source. What God offers transcends any situation we might face. And Paul is persuaded that no matter how bad it might get, he is still called to rejoice in all things (Philippians 4:4). Will you take up that challenge? Because it IS a challenge! When I’m faced with hard or less than desirable conditions, truth is usually the first thing to go. And I’m very unlikely to encourage others with truth. It’s much easier for me to plan my pity party or blame someone or just give in to despair and welcome numbness.
 
But I want to know the truth. I want to see how God can enter into my life and bring grace (unmerited favor) and peace (freedom & tranquility) into the turmoil. Here are a couple truths I learn from these verses.
 
1. We may be separated physically, but we are still united in Christ Jesus.
 
Look at what Paul says about the Philippians:
“grateful for our union and our enduring partnership” - Paul experiences joy because they all serve the same God and partner together to make Him known.
He is certain the Lord is at work in them and will continue to transform and mature them until Jesus returns. We are on this growth journey together.
Paul says they have a “permanent place” in his heart and that he dearly loves them with the “tender affection of Jesus”. He isn’t required to be physically with them to love them.
He mentions several times that he prays for them and thanks God for them. Also possible when they are separated.
 
My takeaway: Get creative and be intentional in how you stay connected to the body of Christ! There are many ways you can have meaningful conversations and connections to each other right now without being physically together. And we need that connectedness – we weren’t created for isolation.
 
2. The Lord is still at work and on His throne! And we can still pray to and live for Him.
 
Paul writes:
He is praying for the Philippians’ sanctification and progress in spiritual understanding. He believes it will happen because God is faithful.
It’s possible for them to choose “the most excellent way of all”, which is God’s will. They can live a righteous life and endure in the faith until Jesus returns.
As they grow and learn, God will fill them with His Spirit (and the fruit that comes from being filled with Him) so they can glorify Him.
 
We are not left on our own during this crisis (or any day of our fragile lives). The Lord is with us and will not turn away from us (Deuteronomy 4:31; Isaiah 41:10), even when we choose another way and turn from Him. He is in control of this virus and the governments of the world. His plan is not on hold, nor does He fear tomorrow. We can be certain that He is doing what He has always done: pursuing lost people to rescue them from their sin and the death that it earns. He wants to know you, your classmates and professors, and each person on this planet. How does He get the message out that He is knowable and desires to save? Primarily through us – the body of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:27).
 
Our Creator and King is not limited by this pandemic, and neither is the power of His Gospel. God does not sleep or get distracted or overwhelmed (Psalm 121). He is in control and desires for many to come to know Him during this crazy time in our world.
We can still bring glory to God, even though we are experiencing a new “normal”.
 
Embrace this time as a season to return to your first love, or to discover for the first time a new Love that surpasses all others. The Lord is present and real. His truth still stands. Paul answers the call to remember the truth of God and speak it to himself and others amid suffering and uncertainty. Will you?
 
Do It Again by Elevation Worship
 
Join us tomorrow for Part Two – “To Live or Die: Christ Be Magnified”
 

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