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a shared mission leads to connected hearts

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… because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.


I’ve always thought of the Apostle Paul as being a little rough around the edges. He wasn’t afraid to confront people who embraced false doctrine (Galatians 2:11-14), he parted with Barnabas (whose name means ‘son of encouragement’) in a very public way, and he survived beating and shipwrecks on multiple occasions. However, when Paul writes about the church at Philippi, his fondness for them leaps from the parchment. In Philippians 1, he freely speaks of his affection for this church. He goes so far as to claim that God can testify of his affection for them. Now, he’s showing his softer side!

Paul invites us to consider the reason he has so much affectionate for this group of people. He claims they are ‘partners with him in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.’ This bond was formed in the furnace of affliction. They had linked hearts, arms, and voices in the declaration that Jesus is King; a proclamation that was likely to get one ostracized from society and eventually imprisoned. It was this type of partnership that solidified their friendship. Throughout the Scriptures, a shared mission leads to connected hearts. A shared mission begets community, not the other way around.

I wonder if it’s difficult for us as Western Christians to develop community because we have lost the impetus and significance of our shared mission. We have Life Groups (which are great!) and a number of other ways to connect people with each other, but there is nothing like the bond that forms amongst people who serve together and suffer together. Think back to a time in your life where you were deeply committed to and connected to a group of people. Maybe it was a sports team, a band, or club. My guess is the reason you were so close with those people was because you had a goal you were trying to achieve with one another. That’s what Paul is experiencing and writing about in Philippians 1 and that’s what you and I were designed to experience as well.

The best part about Paul’s affection for the Philippian church is that it stirs in him great joy! Their partnership is a gift for the world, but it’s also a blessing to them. Take some time today and think about people who are co-laborers with you. Spend some time thanking God for them and then reach out to them via text, email, or phone call, and let them know you’re grateful for them. Partnership is one of the great joys of the gospel.

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By Ryan Paulson

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