Like most of you, I hope, I have a few encouragers in my life. You know, those people who’s default modes are positive attitudes. They don’t even consider the half empty portion of the proverbial glass, highlighting and prognosticating extravagantly on the half full part. I am sometimes jarred by their perceptions and melancholy drops away in their presence. Thanks to you all. God bless you!
The Apostle Paul has just written a beautiful introduction (chapter one) to his letter to the Philippians. In it, he expresses his heartfelt gratitude for them, for their encouragement to him, and prayers for him. He has reminded them that the greatest encouragement they can give him is to work together in unity for the gospel of Christ, persevering in blessing and in suffering.
Now he begins what must be one of the most beautiful chapters in the New Testament. He is about to lay a supernatural challenge before them: one that will require the help of God to succeed. First, however, he reminds them of a few potentially life-changing things:
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2
Easily passed over as an hours devour before the main course, this preamble offers many layers of encouragement and comfort. Interstingly, several times he uses the word if in these conditional clauses. True to the content of the first chapter ( Paul knows that God will complete in the Philippians the good things he started) these ifs carry with them a positive assumption, as if to say: “If (and I know you do) you have any encouragement, etc.” Still, the inclusion of ifs leaves open the possibility of another choice. It is possible for people not to have these things.
And what things are these? At the top of the list is encouragement. The source of the encouragement Paul is talking about comes from being united with Christ. We are united with Christ by faith (same Greek word as trust) in him. He has accomplished for us what we could not accomplish on our own. He has fulfilled the righteousness of the law, he has built a bridge between our fallen states (all have fallen short of the glory of God) and made a way (the gift of God is salvation through faith in Christ). Romans 3;23 and 6:23
Being united with Christ also includes his work in sanctifying (setting us apart) and maturing us. It is this Paul spoke about when he said a Counselor, and Encourager must come. Here is a point at which the doctrine of the Trinity (which I do believe in) becomes a bit confusing. The Holy Spirit is not only the Holy Spirit of God, but also that of Christ. In 1:19, Paul alluded to the Spirit of Christ who has helped him in response to their prayers. They too can count on the presence of Jesus in them to encourage them and to assist them to do all that he is about to lay out before them.
We can be encouraged greatly by being united with Christ. He not only promises peace with God for eternity, but also strength and empowerment for today. Whatever God has laid before you today—blessing, suffering, tasks that are beyond your abilities—he will help you to do. The “all things” that we are able to do through Christ who strengthens us includes anything he asks you to do. Look to him, not the wind and the waves. Walk on water. Be encouraged. Christ is with you and in you. Press on!