Philippians – The Happiness Letter
In my long ago, former life, I was responsible for organizing at least four mission trips per year. It took most of the year in planning how we would come alongside our missionaries, writing a devotional message for each day of the trip, and then arranging flights, housing and meals. Yes, it was a lot of work, sometimes overwhelming, but very rewarding if your heart is led by God to make the most of this opportunity with high school and college kids and to lead with a heart motivated to please God in all you are and do.
These “kids” are now grown up. What I remember most about our students is watching that “deer in headlights” look on their faces at the airport, at the beginning of the trip, melt into deep love for God and for each other, with their hearts, minds and souls focused on the mission to help others know God more. With all that happens on a mission team with purpose comes, the struggles, the culture shock, getting to know each other as well as the people on the mission field with whom they are coming alongside, crying, laughing, sometimes accomplishing ministry for the first time in their lives where it depends on them, seeing and feeling emotions that have never seen or felt before because God intervenes in their hearts. He finally has their attention. The kids hear Him like they have never heard him before.
Then it happens. Kids are drawn together in love for each other in ways that reflects what the church on a mission every day should be. I always reminded them in “debriefing” before coming home that they can do this at home. Our “devotions” were always about applying God’s Truth to their current situations and circumstance. Our reflections of the day discussed at night as we gathered for prayer always lasted longer and longer as the days went by for the duration of the trip. We even had communion and washed each other’s feet in service to each other. Wow, what joy floods my soul as I remember!
On a mission trip, all the world stuff is left behind and Christ becomes the focus. His Presence in us becomes sharper and clearer. Our hearts are broken of those things that break His. Yes, I thank God for all those kids I had the privilege to come alongside for a little while and live life with them in ways that glorified God and helped all of us grow closer to Him and to each other. I understand Paul’s words of thanks for his friends who came alongside and lived life with him, with struggles and victories, and it makes my heart glad!
Philippians 1, The Message
3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
7-8 It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!
9-11 So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
What do we learn?
–Every day we are on a mission for God.
–Every day we thank God for those who come alongside us, join us and live life with us, loving God and each other.
–“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love…”
–Are we making Jesus Christ attractive to all?
–Are we getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God?
Yes, I remember all my “kids” on a mission across the world and in our own backyard…and I give thanks to God for each one of you!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for every person You put in my life to teach me, to cheer and guide me, to mentor and lead me. Thank you for those you put in my life to mentor and guide. We love them all as we love You. Thank you for all the opportunities you continue to give to come alongside others who are also growing in their love for You. Help us, Lord. May all we are on the inside and do on the outside reflect Your Glory and make you smile today. Bless all those “kids”. In Jesus Name, Amen