People who restore old cars do it because they appreciate the craftsmanship and the story behind them. A classic car is like a work of art. A restored classic car is like a work of art you can drive. Try that with the Mona Lisa the next time you’re at the Louvre and see where that gets you. (Probably jail.) Restoring an old car is restoring a piece of history and bringing a little piece of the past into the present. It’s like restoring a memory.
Our own memories follow us around like a shadow. Good ones can be like faithful companions. Bad ones can be like tormentors. For Paul, his remembrances of the Philippians were always fond ones, faithful companions when things were difficult. To them he said:
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. (Philippians 1:3)
I know that personally, there are people I often remember fondly when I am discouraged. When I think of God’s people, it’s their faces that I see. Good memories are good things. We just need to be careful that we don’t allow rehearsing past blessings to morph into living in the past. Whenever God exhorts us to rehearse past blessings, it is never to go live in the past but to remember again God’s goodness and the many ways He has proven Himself faithful so we can take those memories into our present. Paul was doing the same thing. He was remembering the Philippians and reminding himself of their faithfulness. Have you ever had to leave the responsibility of something in someone else’s hands? It’s natural to be concerned, but do you also remember the feeling of relief you felt when you remembered: “Oh, it’s in so-and-so’s hands. He’ll do a great job. Nothing to worry about.” That’s how Paul felt about the Philippians when he considered that church.
The Philippian believers are a good example of a congregation that ministered to its pastor, or in this case its apostle. Yes, it is the responsibility of church leadership to minister to the flock, but it is also the responsibility of the flock to minister to the church leadership. One of the best ways for a flock to do that is to continue to walk in the truth. When it came to the Philippians, Paul had very few stray sheep. Contrast that to his dealings with the Galatians. When he wrote to the Galatians there was no fond remembrance, not that he did not care for them, but their troubles were so severe, Paul had to dive right in to deal with their issues. Right after he wishes grace and peace on them from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, he reminds them right away of Who their Savior is and then marvels that they were so soon removed from Him that called them into the grace of Christ (Galatians 1:1-10). Where he must begin again with the Galatians by reviewing the basics of their faith, with the Philippians he is able to praise them for their godly walk and pray for their continued growth. What a relief that must have been to Paul in prison!
What are the things that Paul is rejoicing in when he remembers his Philippian brethren?
- He is thankful for their continued and consistent fellowship (v. 5).
- He is confident of their continued growth because of their unhindered relationship to Christ (v. 6).
- He is also encouraged by their vibrant testimony. He can clearly see they are partakers of his grace, because their shared faith in Christ was evident in their lives (v. 7).
As believers, we all have a testimony. We have testimony to the world, we have a testimony to our fellow believers, and we have a testimony to our church leadership who must one day give an account of their shepherding of the flock. When our pastor must give an account to God for us, will he be thanking God in every remembrance of us? Will we be a memory worth restoring?
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