Philippians: Joy in the mission of God

by J. Randal Matheny, editor

Yesterday morning, in the church here in Eureka, Illinois, I shared the passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:10-20.

Paul opened and closed his letter to that beloved church with references to their participation in his efforts to share the Good News. He began by speaking of their “participation in the [proclamation of the] gospel” (1:5) and of being “partners in God’s grace” (1:7).

The letter is usually read from the theme of joy. It mentions joy in noun or verb form some 15 or 16 times. It is an important thread that runs through the short book.

This joy is connected to fulfilling the mission of God. The last section of the letter points out that the gist of the message of the letter should be understood as thanksgiving on Paul’s part for their help.

We divided the lesson up this way:

  • Principle of the mission of God: confidence in being able to do it (v. 13);
  • Practice of the mission of God: the blessing of repeated giving (vv. 14-18);
  • Promise of the mission of God: he’ll supply every need (v. 19);
  • Purpose of the mission of God: to give glory to God (v. 20).

Yes, even that famous I-can-do-all-things verse is a missionary verse!

Paul says he can even suffer hunger for God’s mission. The Lord gives strength to do his will. He makes it possible to do the impossible, preach to the whole world.

Many, if not most, of the books of the Bible ought to be read from the perspective of God’s mission to save the world from sin. The church is God’s missionary society. (Do we really believe that still, with all our parachurch ministries?) The Christian is God’s agent for salvation in the world.

Often, however, we’re not reading the Bible with missionary eyes. We read it with selfish ends. So a book on the joy of God’s mission becomes a way to find happiness for ourselves by reinforcing our own self-centered concerns.

The church of God berates the denominations, and rightly so, for reading the Bible in the wrong way, according to its own prejudices. Let us not be guilty of doing the same!

God has his mission and it pervades the Bible. If we can’t see it there, we have missed where his heart lies.

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J. Randal Matheny

Servant of the Lord at GoSpeak
Randal and his wife have lived and worked in Brazil since 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. Randal's a lefty, a chocolate lover, an author and a poet. His microblog is randal.us.

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