Positive Encouragement

Positive Encouragement

Gary Pollard

In Phil 1.6, Paul says “I am sure that the good work God began in you will continue until he completes it on the day when Jesus Christ comes again.” If this sounds familiar, it’s because he said something very similar in II Timothy 1.5 — “I remember your true faith. That kind of faith first belonged to your grandmother Lois and to your mother Eunice. I know you now have that same faith.” 

The confidence motif is repeated in both passages. It’s something Paul seems to say to give the person he’s correcting the benefit of the doubt. He also starts off his correction in both letters by saying something genuine and positive about their character. 

When we have to correct another member, we should never start with an accusatory tone. We should highlight the positive aspects of a person’s value and character and practically smother them with encouragement first. When Paul handles this uncomfortable situation he doesn’t say, “I’m sure you’re doing a great work, but…” He doesn’t tell Timothy, “I’m sure you still have faith, but…” The hug-followed-by-a-slap-to-the-face method does not and has not ever been effective. 

Instead, Paul encourages them by saying, “These are your positive attributes,” and then shifts his focus to positive examples of other people. It really is a masterful approach, but that makes perfect sense. God formatted both letters, so of course it was excellent. This also shows us that if we want to know how we’re supposed to do something difficult, we should look for a biblical example first. Chances are, God’s already given us a blueprint. 

We’re not told exactly what Euodia and Syntyche were fighting about, but there are some hints. The selflessness theme suggests a struggle with self-centered living. Love that hasn’t fully matured seems to evident from verse 9. Focusing on unimportant issues is also suggested in Paul’s prayer. Whatever it was, the root of their issue was a lack of selflessness. 

Down in verse 25, Paul talks about his struggle — he wants to leave this life and be with Jesus, but he knows the church at Philippi still needs him. He wanted to help them grow and find purpose through faith — evidently something that wasn’t already in place. 

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