Philippians: Presious Memories, How They Linger

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Memories of the precious fellowship of other Christians can keep us going when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances.

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Text: Philippians 1:3-8
Theme: Memories of the precious fellowship of other Christians can keep us going when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances.
If the Apostle Paul was with us today, I'm sure that the old hymn, Precious Memories would be one of his favorite songs. He would have particularly liked the third stanza:
In the stillness of the midnight, Echoes from the past I hear;
Old-time singing, gladness bringing, From that lovely land somewhere;
Precious mem'ries, how they linger, How they ever flood my soul;
In the stillness of the midnight, Precious, sacred scenes unfold.
As he thought about his Christian friends in the city of Philippi, I'm sure his mind was flooded with precious memories.
The apostle Paul came to Philippi in about A.D. 50 during his second missionary journey. It was a prosperous Roman colony, and according to Acts 16, "the leading city of that district of Macedonia." It was there that he and his companions met a business woman named Lydia. They shared the gospel with her, she was saved and then her whole family turned to Christ.
Now Paul, being Paul, got into trouble pretty quick because of his boldness in sharing the gospel. Before too long, Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten and throne in prison. While there, they share Jesus with the jailer and he and his whole family are saved! Well, golly-gee, we now have enough folks to start a church, and that's exactly what they did. And the church grew and was a strong vibrant up through the Middle Ages.
Despite some problems and growing pains, the Philippian Christian community was especially responsive to and encouraging of Paul. They supported Paul's ministry financially and also with prayer when nobody else would. Because of this, the church was always one of Paul's favorites.
It should come as no surprise to us then, that Paul begins his letter to the Philippian believers with words of thanksgiving and prayer for their love and support. What makes the story more interesting is that Paul writes this letter from a jail cell.
These first few verses teach us that memories of the precious fellowship of other Christians can keep us going when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances.

I. PRECIOUS MEMORIES CAUSE US TO BE THANKFUL

v. 3 "I thank my God every time I remember you."
1. there are some people and sometimes groups of people that we remember with special fondness
a. perhaps they were especially kind to us
b. maybe they helped us during a difficult time
c. possibly they befriended us and their presence brought a special joy into your life
2. can you think of such people?
3. when you think of them, are you thankful?

A. PAUL DECLARED HIS THANKS TO GOD FOR THESE BELIEVERS

1. the apostle is jubilant
a. he reflects on the wonderful way in which he has been led and on the evidences which the church at Philippi has given of its love for the gospel and for himself
b. when he thinks of the believers at Philippi his heart is filled with joy
“always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,” (Philippians 1:4, ESV)
ILLUS. Some time ago, I read about a worship servce at a Presbyterian church where people were given helium filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt like expressing the joy in their hearts. Since Presbyterians are known to be a bit more formal in their worship, they don’t always feel comfortable saying, out loud, praises like “Hallelujah,” “Praise the Lord,” or “Amen.” So, this would be a quiet way to express their joy. All through the service balloons rose toward the ceiling, but when it was over 1/3 of the balloons were still unreleased.
1) folks ... we need to learn to let our balloons go!
c. we need to learn to choose joy, to express our joy, to understand what joy is and where it comes from
1) much of it come from our relationship with fellow believers
2. Paul is thankful for their partnership in the gospel from the first day until now
3. Paul is thankful that he who began a good work in them will continue to work in them until the day of Christ Jesus
a. these are memories that bring joy to the Apostle’s heart

B. PAUL DECLARED HIS AFFECTION FOR THESE BELIEVERS

“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. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:7–8, ESV)
ILLUS. Some of you perhaps have seen the movie Brian's Song. It's a movie that tells the story of a friendship between two football players one black and one white. Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo first were team mates and then friends. Piccolo's and Sayers's sharply differing temperaments and racial backgrounds made them unlikely to become as close friends as they did, including becoming the first interracial roommates in the history of the National Football League. Their friendship deepened into one of the best relationships in the history of sports. During the 1969 season, Piccolo was diagnosed with cancer. He fought to play the season out, but he was in hospitals more than he was in the games. Gale Sayers flew to be beside him as often as possible. In 1969, Sayers was nominated to receive the George S. Halas Award as the most courageous player in pro football. Sayers and Piccolo, along with their wives, had planned to sit together at the award ceremony in New York. When the time to receive the award arrived, Brian was confined to his bed at home, too sick, and to weak to attend. As he stood to receive the award, tears came to Gale Sayer's eyes. Sayers, an ordinarily laid-back person, gave the following testimony as he received the trophy: "You flatter me by giving me this award, but I tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo. Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who should receive the George S. Halas Award. I love Brian Piccolo and I'd like you to love him. Tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him too."
1. Gale Sayers, a grown man, and a tough athlete was unashamed to declare his affection for a friend
2. it takes courage to express those kinds of feelings toward another person especially for men
a. but the benefit of doing so is that, like Paul, we can say, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you."
b. Paul yearns for these people with all the affection of Christ Jesus
1) it’s a word meaning to long for because of great affection
2) theirs is a friendship that goes deeper then just human friendship
3) they had a tie that binds them deep into comradery, but beyond that into Christian family

II. PRECIOUS MEMORIES ENCOURAGE US TO PRAY

“always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:4–5, ESV)
1. as Paul writes this letter he finds himself in difficult circumstances
a. he is in jail, probably in Rome, and the prospects do not look good
2. Paul could have surrendered to depression and despondency in his prayer, "God, this ain't fair. Life stinks!"
3. Paul could have surrendered to anger in his prayer, "Lord, this ain't right! I'm an apostle. I'm doing you will. Get me outta here!"
4. instead, Paul's mind is flooded with the good thoughts of his Christian family at Philippi and he tells them that he's praying for them!

A. PAUL PRAYED FOR THESE BELIEVERS REGULARLY AND WITH JOY

ILLUS. The great English preacher Charles H. Spurgeon once said, "Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly; others give only an occasional jerk at the rope. But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might."
1. when it came to prayer for the Philippian Christians, Paul ". . . grasped the rope boldly and pulled continuously with all his might."
2. precious memories of precious people encourage us to pray for them regularly and with joy
3. when people are devoted to our well-being, it's easy to pray for them in joy
a. Paul considered these people his partners in the gospel
“And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.” (Philippians 4:15–16, ESV)

III. PRECIOUS MEMORIES CAUSE US TO BE CONFIDENT

“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.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV)
1. God had done great things among the believers in this church
a. in the midst of a pagan city, a Christian community had been established
2. the potential for this small community of believers to surrender to the pressures of their cosmopolitan atmosphere were great
3. but Paul had instructed them well in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Apostles
a. he was not overly worried that they would surrender to the pressures of a lost society
b. in fact, as he wrote from his prison cell, great confidence gripped the apostle as he thought and prayed for the Philippians
c. Paul had a settled conviction that God was at work in their lives and that God would continue on to completion the good work He had begun in them
4. that good work was their salvation
a. their salvation was attested to by their love for and support of Paul and their partnership in the gospel
5. if or when the time ever comes for me to leave the fellowship of this congregation, my hope is that, like Paul, I'll be able to look back at this church and be confident that God will complete His work through you
a. and that in doing so, I will have the joy of knowing that God used me in some small way in and through your lives to accomplish that
b. to that end, I have three goals for my ministry here
1) to leave the church doctrinally sound
2) to leave the church spiritually alive
3) to leave the ministry minded

IV. PRECIOUS MEMORIES MAKE US LONG FOR THEIR FELLOWSHIP

“For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:8, ESV)
ILLUS. Last week at the MBC annual meeting, I ran into John Stowe. We stood and talked for about thirty minutes before things started and I had to go find my seat. John and Sue are two very special people in our lives. They made us a part of their family. As I said good-by John remarked, "It was good to hear your voice again." As I walked to my seat my heart just ached with a desire to see them again. Precious memories do that.
1. outside of the love of family, I think that there are few thing more precious than the love and affection that exists between believers in a local church
a. it was the memory of a very special church that kept Paul going during a difficult time in his life

V. APPLICATION

1st, You need to make sure you’re connected with God
2nd, You need to make sure you’re connected with God’s family
The question I have tonight is, "What are you doing to build precious memories, that will keep you going when you face difficult times in you life?" Precious memories don't just happen, they are made by investing our lives in each other.
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