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Improbable Joy – Philippians 1:1-11

Jan 7, 2024
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In Acts 16, we see how Paul uniquely found his way to Philippi during his second missionary journey. Philippi was about 10 miles inland, and was the gateway between Asia and Europe. The city was made a Roman colony in 42BC after Marc Antony and Octavian defeated Julius Caesar’s assassins, Brutus and Cassius, in a battle near the city. Due to this defeat, the citizens of Philippi had the same rights and privileges as if they were in Italy.

In Acts 16:11-15, we see that Paul found a group of women praying by the riverside. This was not normal for Paul because he usually would have gone to the town’s synagogue, but there wasn’t one in Philippi. One of the women, Lydia, was baptized by Paul, so she became one of the first Christian converts in Europe.

Acts goes on to testify that there was a demon-possessed slave girl that brought her owners wealth through fortune-telling. She was following Paul and he got annoyed and cast the demon out of the girl. This made the owners angry and Paul was beaten and thrown into prison. While in prison, Paul and Silas were singing and praising God. An earthquake opened all the doors and broke off all the shackles of the prisoners. The jailer, knowing he was going to be in big trouble, was going to kill himself. Paul stopped him, shared the gospel, and the jailer came to Christ. Because both Lydia’s and the jailer’s families were all baptized, the gospel began to spread in Philippi!

Ten years later, Paul is again under house-arrest in his own rented home in the city of Rome (Acts 28:30). The church in Philippi, the first church plant in Europe, sent Paul some money as a love gift to support him. So, Philippians is a thank you letter. It is also a letter of joy and encouragement because Paul had heard that the Philippian Christians were being persecuted, and false teachers were trying to submit the Gentile believers to the Old Testament law.

In Philippians 1:1-4, Paul is reminding the people that their allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ, and not to the emperor. He is also letting them know that his memory of them puts a smile on his face. Why? Verse 5 says, “because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

Verse 6 says, “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” To them, this spoke to partnership in the gospel. For them and for us, it is a reminder that God isn’t finished with us. We are His, and He will accomplish what He started in us. We don’t have to be “complete” yet. In fact, that won’t happen until the “day of Jesus Christ”.

In verse 9, Paul prays “that your love may abound more and more”. In Corinthians, Paul said, “now abide faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love”. Jesus said in John 15, “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. Love is the most important.

Paul qualifies this love as love “with knowledge and all discernment”. Love is not an emotion, but an act of the will. God defines love as the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. All other attempts to define love lead to chaos. If our love is just pure emotion without discretion or direction, it can bring devastation. it needs guardrails. If you just place feeling above knowledge, you are dangerous. You can feel one way one day and another way another day. Love is NOT letting another Christian do whatever he or she want to do. It is making sure they are living within the guardrails that God set up. Discernment, the other guardrail, means to be perceptive and understand the times, the situations, the people you are interacting with.


  1. Would anyone in your circle ever doubt that you love them? Why or why not?
  2. Who will you pray this prayer for this week (Philippians 1:1-11)?
  3. What do you need to adjust to choose hope and optimism each day? (Paul had joy in prison…)