Welcome back! This month we’re zeroing in on passages from Philippians and praising God for the “dream teams” He puts together. Spurred by Paul’s words, I thank my God every time I remember you, we’ve reflected on the fellow faith-warriors, encouragers, I’ve-got-your-back kind of people who, when monsters loom large, remind us God has a larger dream and bolder plan at work.
This week as I’ve jotted more notes, I have a silly confession: I actually do not know how to spell “Philippians.” I habitually use two L’s and one P or spell it like the Philippine islands. Even if I manage to spell it correctly, I doubt myself every time. My recourse is to rely on Spellcheck or simply abbreviate “Phil” and let the chips fall where they may. I chuckle that it irks me so much (yes, that recovering perfectionist in me still rears her head on occasion), but really, it should stick by now.
That’s because Phillipians-Philippines-Phil has been my favorite New Testament book since I was a 12-year-old at Maranook summer camp hearing it preached with fervor and learning to study the Bible for herself. You’d think I’d simply know.
One thing I do know, however, is the memory verse I learned that week at camp:
For I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6 NASB
Except I can do more than say it: I can still sing the camp song version complete with handclaps and thrilling shouts of ¡Arriba! (I’ll give you a taste of my impressive rendition at the end of this post.)
That verse was a lifeline to an awkward middle-schooler who was learning that God had a game plan for her life and could be trusted to bring it to completion.
Funny thing is, though, even 30 years later, I’m still learning new things from a simple memory verse I mastered while climbing ropes courses and paddling canoes. That’s the mystery of the inspired, living word of God: The more we open our hearts and minds to it, the more we see new treasures. The Holy Spirit draws us to different aspects, awakening us to God’s kingdom purposes at work right now.
What He’s awakening in me right now is this: that “in you” part of the verse isn’t just about the individual, though that was the encouragement God brought to my heart so many years ago. As I’ve looked at the verse in its larger context, I see a bigger theme unfolding. Look at it in the context of last week’s verses:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:3-6 NASB
Paul was not just thanking and rejoicing over his friends, but he was also reminding them they were part of something bigger. They weren’t only part of his personal dream team, but they were part of a much bigger community. These men and women had opened their hearts to the dream of the gospel, not only for themselves, but for the broken world around them. In fact, we find out in Phil 4:10-20 that they were even helping the growth of local churches elsewhere through their financial gifts.
God begins good works in us– yes, you and me individually– and we can take confidence in His ability to perfect His plans from now until Jesus returns. However, He wants us to also have confidence that our individual lives are working together with s larger team of believers all over the earth, that we matter to His plan to reconcile the world to Himself.
And so, 30 years after memorizing a verse that is perhaps as close to a life verse for me as any other, I am more confident than ever of this:
God plants dreams within us, glimpses of His larger good work, but not one of us who steps out into restoring this broken world— from the mama teaching her baby that Jesus loves her to veterans like Beth Moore preaching to a packed arena — has to go it alone. He will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19), including our need for a dream team to run beside us on the journey.
And THAT is something to keep singing about!