Thankfulness for Christ and the Joy He Alone Provides by James Forbis for Servants of Grace
Philippians 1:3-4, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,”
When I was a child, I learned a song called “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy” from my mother, and to this day I can still hear her singing it. It was one of those repetitious songs that you probably heard if you grew up in a Christian home or went to Vacation Bible School. The entire song is devoted to singing about the joy of Christ that all believers have inside of them, filling their hearts with praise. In other verses, it speaks to the “peace that passes understanding” and “the wonderful love of my Blessed Redeemer.”
Seemingly enough, this succinct song gets straight to the point of from where a Christian ultimately derives his or her joy and that this joy is a response to the eternal love that Christ has for all who call him Lord and Savior. Paul, in the next two opening verses of his letter to the Church and Christians in Philippi, speaks to this immeasurable joy indirectly by recognizing how impactful the Church in Philippi has been to him, to the ministry of the gospel, and to the fellowship of the believers all across the Roman Empire. This will all be fleshed out as the letter goes on, but for now, the task at hand is to understand why he had such joy for this particular church and how the joy he, Paul, has for Christ indirectly in the joy he has for the Philippians.
When Paul writes, “I thank my God in all remembrance of you,” he’s not trying to butter up the church so that he and Timothy can have more money for other church planting and missionary endeavors. Neither is he flattering them to get their defenses down so that he can hit them square between the eyes with some corrective theology or take them to task for grievous sins. No.
When Paul says that he thanks God in all his remembrance of them, he genuinely means it. You see, the Philippian Christians were some of the most committed partners that Paul had in ministry. They were not only extremely generous financially and made every effort to see that Paul and Timothy did not have to be “bi-vocational” missionaries, but they also cared deeply for Paul’s well-being. They grieved when they heard that he had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel. They were deeply concerned that Paul’s life hung in the balance and that he could be executed at any moment. They were worried that their pastor, their father in the ministry, would be lost to them forever. This deep concern and steadfast love for Paul, on top of the financial partnership, has caused Paul to have a sincere love and “soft spot” in his heart for this church.