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Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Minister’s Yearning and Congregation’s Reveling: Philippians 1.25-26

A Minister’s Yearning and Congregation’s Reveling: Philippians 1.25-26
I’m taking the adults of our congregation through Philippians over the next several weeks. While reading, meditating, pondering and reflecting on that particular letter, a concept slowly rose up and slid its tentacles around my mind. I find this two-pronged thought needling me day and night. It is related to something I wrote back in July 2014, “A Minister’s Glory and Joy,”[1] but it goes a bit further and maybe a bit deeper. It’s found in the middle Philippians 1.25-26:
“Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”
As I stated, it is a two-pronged thought that covers a minister’s yearning and a congregation’s reveling.

A Minister’s Yearning
 The mission or purpose of every minister of Jesus Christ is to declare the praises and glories of God, announcing the good news of who God is and what he has done, is doing, and will do in Jesus Christ, with a view to making and forming disciples (Matthew 28.19-20; Mark 16.15-16). And to reach this goal, ministers must devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6.4). And it is right here that you begin to sense that a minister’s yearning, in the words of Paul quoted above, is “for your progress and joy in the faith”. Now yearning sounds pretty heavy, mainly because it goes beyond the professionalization of the ministry to something more red-blooded, to Paul’s own sentiment stated earlier “I yearn for you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1.8). There is a drive, a longing, a craving, a sense of real dissatisfaction until this desire is achieved. And it is a Christ-given, Christ-related yearning.

(1) A minister yearns for God’s people, who are under their care, to progress in the faith; to move forward and upward; to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3.18a). We long for our congregants to deeply experience the answer to this ancient prayer: “O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.”[2]

(2) But also a minister longs for their folks to truly meet with “joy in the faith”. There’s nothing more heart breaking than parishioners who are dour and dismal in the faith. This joy is a gift of God through the Holy Spirit: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51.12); “…do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8.10); and “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15.13). It is experienced corporately as sisters and brother in Christ stand “firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (1.27). This sense of having joy in the faith is characterized at the beginning of the next chapter where Paul appeals to the Philippian church,
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (2.1-5)
Hand-in-glove with the minister’s yearning comes the next topic.

The Congregation’s Reveling
It may sound odd at first, but Paul wants these believers to be able to brag and boast, specifically that, “in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again” (1.26). This reveling is primarily in how Jesus provided and cared for his people. But Paul, like many faithful ministers I know, wants to be the cause and catalyst for such exulting. He wants these people to be able to say, “Thank you Jesus for blessing us with Paul!” On Paul’s side, he wants to be able to celebrate the success Christ gave him with these people, “so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (2.16), just as he desires to do with regard to the Thessalonian Christians, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2.19-20). This, then, will result in a two-way glorying, “that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you” (2 Corinthians 1.14). A congregation thanking Jesus for their minister, now and on the Day of Christ; and a minister eternally grateful for the congregation. What a beautiful picture!  

The End
Pray for that your minister would be a Jesus-guided, Jesus-enable operative instrument for “your progress and joy in the faith” so that you may have “ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus”.

Ministers, as you devote yourself to “prayer and the ministry of the word”, pray that you would yearn “with the affections of Christ” for the people he has entrusted to you, and for their “progress and joy in the faith” so that “in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Philippians 2.16).

Finally, ask yourself (and especially ask yourself before the face of God) this question: what would the world outside of the church think and see if our congregations were reveling in Jesus because of their ministers and ministers were yearning for their people’s “progress and joy in the faith”?


Mike

[Feel free to publish or re-post; but as always, please give credit where credit is due. Thanks]


[1] You may read that article at: http://mphilliber.blogspot.com/2014/07/a-ministers-glory-and-joy.html
[2] Attributed to Richard, the thirteenth century Bishop of Chichester. Accessed on 30 October 2014 - http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/139.html.

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