Paul was a people person. We seldom read of Paul alone; it is most often “Paul and Barnabas” or “Paul and Silas” or “Paul and Timothy” (as in 1:1) or Paul and a team of gospel workers. He enjoyed spending time and “doing life” with other believers, whom he referred to as “fellow workers” (v.3), siblings-in-Christ (v.8, 21), gospel partners (v.15), and fellow saints (v.21). I think he enjoyed picturing his name inscribed in the Book of Life next to the names of his closest Christian friends (v.3).
With obvious affection for his friends in Philippi, Paul expressed four hopes for them. First, he hoped that they would mend any broken relationships that might hinder the united work of the church. In particular he called the names of two women, Euodia and Syntyche, who were locked in a disagreement of some kind (v.2). These were apparently good, godly women who had been active and effective in the ministry of the church, but their broken relationship and refusal to reconcile was affecting others. I am sure their disagreement was real and hurtful, but Paul viewed it against the backdrop of the gospel (v.3), the power of which could overcome any relational sin, and the progress of which must not be hindered by a solvable problem. Conflict is a communicable disease — it always infects others. Do you need to take the first step in reconciling with someone today?
A second hope Paul expressed was that his friends in Philippi would experience the joy of the Lord. It is easy to become discouraged by the ungodliness of the world, the ways we fall and fail, and troubling circumstances around us — but no matter what we face we can always choose joy. When anxiety begins to creep in, we can take it to God in prayer and supernatural peace will replace the anxiety (v.4-7). When we set our minds on the things of God, discouragement fades away and joy returns (v.8-9).
Third, Paul hoped that his friends would learn the secret of contentment (v.10-13). Paul had learned to rely on Jesus to strengthen and sustain him, no matter what anyone else did or did not do for him. Paul had his good days and bad days, his happy days and sad days — but for him, every day was a grace day! His conclusion: if my contentment is based on who Jesus is and not how I feel, then I can be content no matter what! Furthermore, I will never face a situation in which my need will exceed God’s supply (v.19). Hallelujah!
Finally, Paul hoped that his friends would continue to invest in the gospel (v.14-18). They had helped him before by financing some of his mission work, and he thanked them for their most recent gift. The souls that would be saved (“the fruit”, v.17) because of their generous love offering were the return on their wise investment. You can be sure that whatever you invest in those who preach and teach and serve in gospel ministry will pay rich dividends throughout eternity.
Paul’s hope — a church of united, joyful, contented, generous believers — can become our reality. Let’s trust Jesus and make it so.