For Your Progress and Joy in the Faith

You’ll find this phrase, “for your progress and joy in the faith,” in the middle of a Pauline passage, Philippians 1: 21-26, which needs to be read within the context of the entire, little epistle.

It is true that I did not post anything in the month of February. I have a draft that I never finished, and I’m not going to use it. I am starting with a fresh focus today that has been simmering in my mind recently, and it awoke me this morning: “for your progress and joy in the faith.” Such an intriguing thought nested within Paul’s themes.

I found this picture at the Good Samaritan Mission. It fits perfectly with the class I taught there called A Traveler’s Guide through Suffering and Joy.

Though a fresh focus, it fits well with my last post, my January post, which caused a number of you to contact me personally via email, phone, and even by card through the postal system! I felt a need to be more personal, because it is easy for us to simplify, unintentionally, those people who write or speak, because we do not see them in their contexts. So I gave you a bit more of my context. Thank you for your caring touches.

After writing the above introduction, I re-read the January post. Hmm. It was good to re-read it and compare its thoughts to where I am 6-7 weeks later. Actually, I found the post to be calming, not distressing. I did not remember that I had included Ephesians 2:10 and Philippians 1:21 in the article. So today’s focus, though fresh in some sense, is really a continuation of some biblical themes sown into the January entry, with an improved (refreshing?) report on my personal progress.

“We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,

which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Interesting. So, I awoke with the phrase from Philippians 1:25 being repeated in my head/spirit: “for your progress and joy in the faith.” I knew I was to write something about this.

What is the entire thought-flow? Here is Philippians 1:21-26 (NASB):

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sakes. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your pride in Christ Jesus may be abundant because of me by my coming to you again.”

Paul and I stayed at the Good Samaritan Mission for the month of February and attended church on Sundays at Balm Baptist Church, up the road from the mission, along with Bill and Theresa Cruz, the directors of the mission. Daniel Duncan, the rather young pastor there, was preaching through the book of Philippians.

Pastor Daniel Duncan preaching through the book of Philippians at Balm Baptist Church down the road from GSM. The mission’s directors, Bill and Theresa Cruz, are the curly haired couple in this picture.

I appreciated several things about his preaching approach. First, he teaches through the Bible, book by book, chapter by chapter. That way, he can’t pick and choose his topics, avoiding what he’s uncomfortable with. Next, I really like that he gave his congregation homework. He expected them to be prepared. Each week he assigned the given chapter (not that he got through a whole chapter in a sermon) to be read every day that week. Read the chapter (whatever chapter he was preaching from) every day. Study it. He encouraged people to know it better than he did. On a few occasions, someone had a comment to make during the sermon. The people were attentive.

Paul and I enjoyed his teaching on the first chapter and into the second. If I could suggest a next step, it would be for the pastor or teaching team to provide sermon notes and a notebook system in which the notes could be saved. As a teacher, I have never understood why a teaching pastor would work so hard on sermons and not provide a note-taking system and note-preserving system. Taking notes increases memory. Saving notes encourages a way of referencing content so that it can be more broadly and deeply applied. Everyone having the same storage system would encourage the sharing of ideas and content review (spiritual digestion, and more meaningful usage (real life application). And I suppose, pastors might be held more accountable for what they teach, because people would pay attention better.

Beautiful palm trees line the front of Balm Baptist Church. (Sorry that I don’t have a picture of the church!)

I will not forget that Pastor Duncan emphasized “for the progress and joy in the faith” (Phil. 1:25) in his second sermon. We see that “progress” is first mentioned in verse 12.
“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,” and verse 13 explains that his circumstance is imprisonment for the cause of Christ — through which he had become well-known in Rome, which produced courage within Christ-followers, to the point that they spoke the word of God without fear to many!

Progress. Progress of the gospel. Progress in character or virtue: courage, truth, and grace. Progress in faith. Progress in joy. Christ-forming progress in Christ-followers.

In the conference/classroom where I taught a four-session class at the mission on a theology of suffering and joy called A Traveler’s Guide through Suffering and Joy.

All of this fits perfectly with the course I was teaching at the mission on a theology of suffering and joy. No space to say much here, but I made progress in my teaching, in my health, and in relationship with a number of people. My class was small, but meaningful, and in another post I hope to tell you more about my progress on my journey. That was not what I was thinking about when I awoke with the phrase “for your progress and joy in the faith” this morning.

We know that growing in Christ (progress) involves growing in our faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). “We walk by faith and not sight” (II Cor. 5:7). Isn’t it interesting that growing in Christ (progress) also involves joy?  Courage, by the way, is one of the many flavors of joy. So, isn’t it interesting that joy almost always involves sadness or suffering? The book of Philippians oozes with sadness, suffering, joy, and progress.

Bill Cruz and Paul Olsen. Christ-followers. Friends. Crazy Guys.

Bill praying over Paul, before Paul leaves for the dentist to get two crowns! All went well.

Paul and I are thankful for our time wintering in Florida. We left Fort Wayne on Dec. 20 and we begin our travels home tomorrow and will be home on Wednesday evening, March 15. This is the longest we’ve been gone on a “snowbird” trip. I wasn’t sure if I could handle being gone this long. I wasn’t sure if I could manage a month at the mission. God strengthened me. I am thankful. I’ve made progress. (But I did not paint, destruct, construct, or do maintenance work as Paul did, along with these folks below.)

A work day at Good Samaritan Mission in February.


The GSM dog, Toby, loved by visiting children at the mission on Community Yard Sale day.


I found this card at the Dollar Tree! Sent it as a birthday card to a man in his 90s! Fits all of us.


“For our progress and joy in the faith.”

Progress: Christ-formation. Christ being formed in us.

Progress means we are where we’ve never been before.

Categories: A Personal Note, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “For Your Progress and Joy in the Faith

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you Karen, My. heart was encouraged by thinking about the joy that comes as we make progress in our walk with Christ. Glad you will soon be home! Bev

    • Karen Thomas Olsen

      Thank you, Bev, for your kind reply. I’m encouraged, and I greatly appreciate the card and words of encouragement you sent to me in the mail! You have blessed and inspired me for years!

  2. Martin W. Zuidervaart

    Karen, so good to have you back in circulation after a debilitating body-crash. Your text is brilliantly influential as usual, but I especially enjoyed the photos and the accompanying captions. Bill’s praying over Paul with robust masculinity suggests the idea that Paul and Peter prayed that way!

    • Karen Thomas Olsen

      Thank you, Marty, for your continued encouragement and prayers. Yes, I do love that photo of the guys praying. When Bill encircled Paul like this to pray over him, I just had to snap a picture. I’m glad I did! We are now home, reflecting upon the last three months with gratitude. We are resting, settling in, and enjoying the comfort of our lovely home. In such tumultuous times, we wonder what all of us are facing, but we know that the God we serve is the Sovereign Lord who is always present, in control, and the true authority. All things are working for our good, the salvation of many, the reclamation of the world, and for His glory. The best is yet to come. Hanging in there with you!!

  3. Maureen Bedinger Green

    I was glad to see your post! We are in Florida this time for just a quick visit with Greg’s 97 year old mother. I will miss the March coffee at the club house, but look forward to connecting with you after we return to FW April 5, and an Easter quick trip to Michigan. Your back door neighbor Maureen Green

    • Karen Thomas Olsen

      Maureen, it is so good to hear from you! I’m glad that you were able to make this trip to Florida! I look forward to seeing you in a few weeks!

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