The book of Philippians captures this notion of movement in any number of ways, and it’s one of the things that people often miss with this great Pauline epistle. This letter is referred to, it is taught, it is preached, it is read, and yet, interestingly enough, I think this very idea of movement, of pressing forward, is often left out.
Philippians is usually referred to, if you look at the commentaries, or if you’ve heard a Bible study on it, or if you’ve heard messages preached on it—I’ve done it this way myself in the past—it’s often referred to as the “epistle of joy.”
Well, there’s good reason for that. The word joy in its various forms—nouns and verbs and various cognates—it occurs more in the letter to the Philippians than in all the rest of Paul’s letters put together. So when we call it the epistle of joy we’re saying something important. But the question is why is this theme of joy so important for Paul?
I want to suggest that it has a lot to do with this notion of pressing forward; why Paul wants the Philippians to press forward, and why he wants them to press forward with joy.
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