Seriously, aren’t our inclinations as people more like cats, than sheep as the bible describes. I mean I love cats, I’m actually a cat guy. However, when it comes to leading a heard of cats one has no hope. They are all fiercely independent, extremely territorial and ridiculously stubborn. All of these characteristics fight against their ability to unify with one goal and love each other deeply. Sheep on the other hand are quite dependant, supportive of each other and don’t mind sharing territory.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he commends the church for their “partnership in the gospel”. Gospel partnership for Paul is more than church attendance, being on a church roster or coming to a church picnic. While some of these things take the form of gospel-like partnership they fall short on many levels.
Gospel partnership is primarily based on two major components: 1. Deep Love, 2. A Shared Goal.
It is evident as you read the letter to the Philippians that Paul has a deep love for these people and they in turn have a deep love for him. These are people who were anxious for Paul and his companion’s lives, and Paul was concerned for the unity and flourishing of these people.
Not only was it a caring relationship, but it also had a purpose outside of the friendship, meaning the friendship had a greater joint goal. They had the same heart for Jesus to be proclaimed to the world. Their priorities weren’t on Paul’s comfort or the churches for that matter, but God’s mission to share the gospel.
Amongst other things, Paul’s letter shows 3 tangible ways in which we, the church, can emulate in our communities:
1. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
It is easy to say, “I love the work *insert name* are doing in various places in the world.” It is much harder to say, “I believe in the work these people are doing and will support them financially.” Paul says,
“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.” (Phil. 4:15)
Here is a church that didn’t just congratulate and admire Paul’s missionary efforts but also backed him financially.
2. Put Your Mouth Where God’s Ears Are
We do this when we pray to God. However, this kind of prayer isn’t just for comfort and protection, but for the frontline of the mission. Paul says,
“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.” (Phil. 1:3-5)
We move God’s hand through prayer and wage serious spiritual warfare through intercessory prayer. Hudson Taylor says “It is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone.”
3. Put Your Life Where Your Mouth Is
It isn’t just enough to say nice things to people. We must do more than give lip service. Paul regularly encourages the Philippians to watch their conduct. Paul instructs,
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Phil. 2:14-16)
What good is a word if it isn’t reinforced by your life. In fact, if your life opposes God’s message you devalue the message and make it something to be laughed at.
Ultimately, partnership is hard. Unity is hard. We all have cat like tendencies. However, one thing is sure, God does miracles through our partnership with His plan in advancing the gospel.