Sometimes life makes it hard to pray. Maybe you feel tired or discouraged. Or perhaps the problems seem overwhelming. Paul opens the letter we will study this month on a joyful note saying that he thanks God every time he thinks of the Philippian believers and prays for them with joy (vv. 3–4). One fact that makes this impressive is that Paul wrote this letter and prayed for them while he was in prison and awaiting trial!
The letter is addressed to the believers in Philippi, a prestigious city in the Macedonian region (Acts 16:12). It was the first city where Paul preached after receiving a vision of “a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’” (Acts 16:9). The first convert was a successful businesswoman named Lydia, who came from Thyatira. She heard Paul preach and invited the apostle and his companions to stay in her home (Acts 16:13–15).
Given the difficulty of Paul’s current circumstances, we might be surprised to notice how often he speaks of joy and rejoicing in this letter (underline each mention as you find them!). But the joy Paul mentions is not some giddy feeling stirred up by positive life circumstances— instead, biblical joy springs from our conviction about God and our confidence in His promises. The thought of the Philippian believers brought Paul joy because he knew they were partners in the gospel. The word translated as “partnership” in verse 5 means “fellowship” or “sharing.” The Philippians shared in the gospel in two important ways. First, they embraced its truth by faith. Second, they supported Paul’s ministry by their generosity (Phil. 4:10–19).
The Philippians’ faith in the gospel and their support of Paul’s ministry were a work of God. Like Paul, we can be confident that God will complete the work He began in us. As we begin this study, ask God to fill you with His joy and to help you stay devoted to His work.