The Yearning for Fellowship
By Pastor Aaron Adame
These days, I am reading the opening words of Paul’s letter to the Philippians with a fresher set of eyes.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:3–11 ESV).
Paul is writing this letter whilst in prison for his gospel ministry. A ministry that these believers in Philippi had partnered with him in to spread the gospel far and wide. I can only imagine that Paul had a lot of time to think as he was sitting behind bars. No doubt his thoughts drifted toward heaven, recalling his experience with Christ that converted him. At the same time, his loving thoughts drifted toward these brothers and sisters in Philippi. We get a greater glimpse of this tension later in the chapter: “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (1:22–24).
He loved these believers in Philippi. Though they had everything to owe to Paul for bringing the gospel to them and guiding them toward maturity in faith, Paul also had a special place in his heart for them. Perhaps Paul would even have said that these believers added more to his faith than he did to theirs.
Like I said, I have found myself reflecting on this text in a different way than I had before given the circumstances we are all currently in. Yes, none of us are in prison for sharing the gospel, so I don’t want to sound over dramatic. However, life during COVID-19 feels a bit like house arrest. Thus, this forced and necessary separation has caused me to resonate with Paul’s sentiment even more over his beloved church family. Here are a few of my observations and takeaways.
Please understand that I pray for the church regularly, intentionally, and even systematically through our membership list. However, my thoughts and prayers have gotten increasingly more direct and urgent. Since I can’t see you all, I know our Savior can; thus, my access to you is through Him at this time. And I intend to take advantage of that.
Thankfulness and Joy
Paul was admittedly joyful and thankful for his friends in Philippi, and I am as well for those at CCC. In fact, I am thankful in newer ways in light of all this. Thankful for your faithfulness. Thankful for your prayers for me and my family. Thankful for your love for one another that has been demonstrated by your intentional efforts to reach out and see how everyone is doing. My thankfulness for the body of Christ here has increased through this, along with my joy!
These believers weren’t just recipients of Paul’s ministry, they had become partners in the gospel with him. They shared their faith, held one another accountable, encouraged, admonished, exhorted, gave financially and faithfully, and served the body with the gifts God had given them. Please understand that we are all in this gospel work together. And it is only together that we will come out stronger and more refined when it’s over.
As the saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Paul’s heart yearned to see the faces of his beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. To share a hug (I’d wager it was during a long greeting time that would put ours to shame). To laugh and cry and pray together. I am so grateful for the technology that makes us able to connect even while we are apart. But a Zoom meeting is no substitute for real face time.
A Growing Confidence
In it all, Paul was confident that through their situation and commitment to the gospel, God was at work in them, bringing their faith to spiritual maturity. In this situation, though it is discouraging to not meet together, it is this truth that has given me confidence, that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion. God is not done with you or me or CCC! And while He works, please know that I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace.