Five years ago, I worked hard to memorize the book of Philippians in its entirety. I agonized over every verse, working diligently to make sure that I had these verses locked in my mind and (hopefully) in my heart. I didn’t keep up on my practice, so my ability to recite the book has long since escaped me. Even so, the effect this book has had on my heart has stayed with me since.
I think one thing in it that makes my soul sing is the evident love Paul has for his readers in the first eleven verses of Philippians. He thanks God for them. He remembers them in his prayers continually and with joy (1:3-4). He yearns for them with the affection of Christ (1:8).
These are beautiful, powerful sentiments. But make no mistake—they’re not mere sentiments. They express the heart of a true pastor.
I’m thankful to count many great pastors among my friends. What I’m most thankful for about them is they are men who love the people they serve, who know the importance of the responsibility they have before God. And in my conversations, even in the moments when they’ve expressed frustration about specific situations, they show they share Paul’s heart for the Philippians.
They are men who pray for their people—and do so regularly (even if they don’t think they do it enough). They want their people’s love to grow. They desire for them discernment and knowledge so they might approve what his excellent and so be pure and blameless before Christ.
When I read these verses, I’m thankful for Paul’s pastoral heart. I’m grateful for the example it gives me of how I can love and serve my family in a pastoral way.1 But it also makes me so grateful for my friends who share these affections. Friends who model them, admittedly in an imperfect way.
I might forget the precise words of Philippians. I might never get back to the place where I have it all locked down word-for-word. But this truth is one thing I carry with me continually. And that is something I’ll always be grateful for.