Philippians

One in Spirit

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We live in a country where our churches are divided into denominations. And at times, with no force of racism, they may even be ethnically segregated. There is also evidence that some church leaders are not open to working with other church leaders to reach the lost for Christ. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but wherever these divisions occur, I personally don’t believe it is what God intended. Philippians 2:1-2 reminds us that we should be unified under Christ, not separated. It says:

"If you have any encouragement from being united in 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." 

Paul is encouraging the church to be like-minded, and to be one in spirit and purpose. God knows what we can do when we work together. In the book of Genesis, at the tower of Babel, God says that “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” I realize that whatever we accomplish as a people for the kingdom of God must be led by the Spirit and not our own flesh, but even God acknowledges that when we work together there is nothing that we can’t overcome. So, I encourage you to pray for unity in the body of Christ. Imagine what we can accomplish if we were indeed united and likeminded.

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I believe that every believer on earth is a part of one single body. Jesus says that a house divided against itself cannot stand. We need to be united. Paul encourages us to be likeminded. For the past few years, churches in Kalamazoo, Michigan have come together to reach our community. About 8-10 congregations come together every summer for a “Jesus loves Kalamazoo” outreach. It is awesome to see us all come together to reach out to those in need and to spread the gospel. I believe that is what unity looks like. You may know of instances like this in your area where believers, or even churches, have united for the cause of Christ. If you do, then that’s awesome. If not, I encourage you to pray that God bring the body of Christ together, because as Paul reminds us we should strive to be one in spirit and purpose.

Opposite Effect

I find it peculiar that when people, governments or organizations of power try to unjustly silence or put pressure on the innocent, we often find that instead of what they intended to happen, the exact opposite happens instead. When they tried to silence and ultimately killed Jesus, instead of stopping what he started, it sparked a fire across the world and throughout history. The same can be said about the death of Martin Luther King, stories from the persecuted church, and other social or religious injustices. When some try to stop a movement, their very efforts are somehow turned to benefit exactly what they were trying to stop. Paul experienced this himself. In Philippians chapter 1 verses 12 through 14 Paul says this:

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."

So, I encourage you, if it seems as if someone or even spiritual forces are trying to stop what God has called you to do, remember Paul. By being put in prison, instead of stopping the spread of the gospel, God made the exact opposite take place. Paul explains that, “because of his chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly”. We are almost never allowed to see the entire picture. Our job is to be obedient and trust that God knows what he is doing, even in our darkest hour. And who knows, you may learn that God chose to use what was intended against you to have the exact opposite effect.

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God has a way of turning what was meant for evil into something good. He’s done it several times throughout history, and it is recorded here in Philippians when he did it with Paul. If you look hard enough, you may find times in your own life where this is true. God is, and has always been, in control. So when you are suffering, especially if it is for Christ, rejoice because not only is there a reward for you in heaven for your suffering, but you can also take heart that it may very well be a part of God’s master plan.