I was a freshman in college… so far from my home in rural Arkansas and the close-knit community that held me for 18 years, surrounded by new people, a new city, wondering where friendship would bloom. Since it was the 80s (no cell phones) my communication with my dormmates was in person or calls to one another’s dorm room land lines. Notes left on the door or bed of the one you were wanting to track down were a standard form of communication in my new community…
“Your mom called!”
“Come down to my room if you want to get dinner later”
“Good luck on your test!”
“Hope you are feeling better! Want to go for a walk later?”
The notes were signposts that these strangers were forming a community, caring, encouraging one another through the ups and downs of our new life. Somewhere along in my freshman year, I got to see the sweet flowers of friendship burst wide open as one friend who had been a perfect stranger just months before left me a note signed, ”Phil 1:3”
Familiar more with the narrative passages of the Old Testament and the Gospels than the New Testament Epistles, I had no idea what Philippians 1:3 said, but I did know where to find it. As I read it in my Bible: “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3, ancient words spoke deeply into my 18-year-old life! I was overwhelmed with gratitude. God had given me a real friend, someone who thanked God for who I was and what I brought to her life. I still remember how special that verse made me feel and how I, in turn, thanked God for the friends He had brought out of thin air from all parts of the country to enrich my life there just off West End Avenue in Nashville, TN in 1985.
In Philippians 1:3, I was face to face with God’s power, His sovereignty, His goodness and His love. And also, the door was pretty much flung wide open to Paul’s letters! I inhaled Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians and so on. Letters to long ago churches lived and made all the Bible knowledge I had been taught growing up in church come into living color.
In Philippians 1:3 the truth about friendship and all human relationships was set right in my mind. We want friends for us - for fulfillment, for companionship, for the fun of having our people - but this verse put the focus on God. I began to see that while relationships are the good stuff of life, they really point past themselves to the Giver of every good and perfect gift, God himself! Consider the implications: God designed and brought to life that special person for whom you give Him thanks! God put you on this planet at the same time, in the same place! God knew you needed a parent, a spouse, a friend, a neighbor, a mentor, a child who had just those character traits, or that unique personality, or that certain perspective, wit, wisdom to bless your life! He thought enough about you, cared enough about you, loved you enough to give them to you and you to them.
Also, in Philippians 1:3, we have an open door into a beautiful letter that feeds our hungry souls with the truth about how astoundingly good the good news the of the gospel is for us. Read on, dear friends! And let Paul’s ancient prayers become your prayers for today and Paul’s vision of Jesus Christ become yours as well. For you, dear friend on this journey, I thank my God!
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Offices by Biblica, Inc.™