Suffering has an uncanny ability to kick us into a new future and a new hope as we are forced to imagine that new future. The key is to imagine and hope, and this is what Paul is giving to the Philippians. The ability to see hope beyond any suffering that may come to these believers of Christ. It is going to be, as Paul alludes to in his greeting, that suffering that will eventually unite us as Christians.
Paul tells the Philippians that they are saints in Christ – so what does that mean? Well, they would be entitled to the gift of full salvation through Christ. It says in chapter one, verse twenty-nine that we are given the gift of faith, so, in essence, Paul’s words “in Christ” tells us that we are given something to call our own salvation. In Christ, we are also given all we need. We are given a new way of life. In the big picture, as we heard in verse seven, we are essentially new people with new minds.
There is one more key phrase that Paul uses in his greeting and it is in reference to leadership. We first see it when he introduces himself and Timothy. Not one, but two people working for Christ. So, what does this mean for the people of Philippi? They need to work together in the church with the bishops and deacons. We are given here the relationship between leader and those they lead. How are they to lead? One word, “with” or another single word, “alongside.” The way it is written is pure genius as Paul addresses an area many leaders forget. It is that they, too, have gone through the exact same suffering, experiences and have the same hopes as those that are alongside them. It is the leadership of those who are content to stand among the saints as those who serve.
Jurgen Moltmann said in his great book, Theology of Hope, “Creative discipleship of this kind (working with others) in a love which institutes community, sets things right and puts them in order, becomes eschatologically possible through the Christian hope’s prospects of the future of God’s kingdom and of man.”
Paul paints a great greeting that at first glance looks just like that a simple greeting, but he goes deeper. Down into a world of suffering and then takes our lives.. skyrocketing into a hope for the future. As we wrap up think on this quote:
In regards to suffering:
It involves an indescribable sort of fidelity, an insane sort of hope, and indescribable sort of … well, it’s love isn’t it? There’s no other word for it … And don’t throw Mozart at me … I know he claimed his creative process was more than a form of automatic writing, but the truth was he sweated and slaved and died young giving birth to all that music. He poured himself out and suffered. That’s the way it is. That’s creation… You can’t create without waste and mess and sheer undiluted slog. You can’t create without pain. It’s all part of the process.
Paul is aware of the process. There needs to be a little hurt for hope to
shine through. Otherwise, what was the point of the cross? Isaiah 65 paves the way for Philippians 1:3-7:
Pay close attention now: I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.All the earlier troubles, chaos and pain are things of the past, to be forgotten. Look ahead with joy. ANTCIPATE what I am creating: I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy; create my people as pure delight. I’ll take joy in Jerusalem, take delight in my people: No more sounds of weeping in the city, no cries for anguish. What a sense of assurance we have in the greeting of Paul to the Philippians and even more so in the Words of God.