Fuller

Cherished Co-Laborers

August 13, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture—Philippians 1:1 (NIV)

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons. . .

Focus

How do you know who is dear to you? Whom do you cherish? Paul does not make it two sentences into his epistle without demonstrating how dear the Philippians are to him. When we hold other believers dear to us, we find mutual reminders of the ties that bind us together.

Devotion

How do you know who is dear to you? How do you know they are cherished? I believe Paul gives us one example of what this can look like. While under house arrest, an impending court case and an ironic process of God got Paul to Rome. He found time for an uncanny type of solitude. He did not circle in his own circumstances exclusively or lament over God’s providence. Rather, he demonstrated that he was content; able to endure all things through Christ who enables him. While under arrest, Paul was free to bring the Philippians to mind.

You know those who are dear to you when, even in the most difficult of circumstances, they are still there with you. Paul could have said “Paul, servant of Christ.” but he included Timothy and implicitly demonstrated what he explicitly stated later: “I have no one else like him” (Philippians 2:20). Paul had many who were dear and he brought them to mind equally.

The Philippians were dear to Paul. He didn’t put himself above them by using some kind of title. He could have said:

  • Paul, the apostle to the nations.
  • Paul, seer of things in the 3rd heaven I can’t begin to describe to you.
  • Saul/Paul, Roman/Jewish, Pharisee, an eight-day one, etc.
  • Paul, I’m in Rome spreading the gospel (Rome, you all!)

Instead, he put the Philippians on the same level with him. He even called himself a slave. There was no need for him to assert authority or relegate the relationship to dogma or some ritualistic standard. The Philippians were people dear to him, people who made him say “I thank God every time I remember you” (1:4).

Paul’s expression of care reminded the Philippians who they are and who they are with. Since they were humans we know they had flaws. Paul reminded them the same thing we all must be reminded about ourselves and more so about others. Paul called them saints (hagios); set apart ones for God’s purpose. Paul wrote to everyone who was dear to him: the set apart ones together with the overseers and deacons.

If Paul had not written the words, it would not have been less true. But, because he did, we see clearly how dear the Philippians were to him. Someone in house arrest, someone who could say with certainty “to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23), chose to reach out to others. In his uncanny solitude of house arrest Paul penned these words and passed the letter on, most likely to Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25) because he was dear to him. Then Epaphroditus walked (certainly not alone) between seven hundred to twelve hundred miles to imperfect people because they were dear to Epaphroditus as well as Paul. The recipients received a walking epistle and a penned one telling them the same message: You are cherished. You are loved. You are dear.

Reflect

What is the content of the messages you send to others? What does it remind them of?

When people in the body of Christ come to mind what are the titles you associate with them? Are they saints (set apart for His service) or given titles based on their history?

Act

The location of saints is broader than your local congregation. What if the dear ones to you are right in your place of occupation? What would dearness to the saints you work with look like if you really saw them as ones you began a noble work with? Take some time and ponder what a letter to the saints of the workplace would need to say. In a fallen world that will remind them what they are not and what they can’t do and what they have done wrong, what can you remind them of?

Prayer

You are dear to us, oh God. We thank you for your loving kindness in your kingdom. We are excited for the day where we will love each other without hesitation. Instead of looking back at all that is wrong, teach us to also look forward towards the mark of corporate unity even in the corporate setting. Make the workplace a place of doing your work also. Remind us we get but brief moments in each other’s lives. And keep the songwriter’s words in our ears:

Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like that to that above.

Teach us to see what is above and give us wisdom to embody glimpses of it here. And thank you for making us set apart ones that are dear to you. In Jesus’s name. Amen.


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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The One Who Began a Good Work Among You Will Bring it to Completion (Philippians 1:1–26)


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