When Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo, running backs for the Chicago Bears, began rooming together in the late sixties, it was a first for both of them. Sayers had never had a close relationship with a white person and Piccolo had never really known a black person.
During the 1968 season, Gale Sayers suffered a career-threatening knee injury. Many thought that he would never play again. But one year later, after a full recovery, Gale Sayers stood at the banquet of the New York chapter of Professional Football Writers of America to accept the George S. Halas Award as the most courageous player in pro football in 1969.
Sayers and Piccolo had planned, with their wives, to sit together at the banquet. Instead, Piccolo was confined to his bed at home. His fight wasn’t with a football injury, but with cancer.
That night, Sayers accepted the George S. Halas Award, but he accepted it for Brian Piccolo. As he stood to receive his trophy he said, You flatter me by giving me this award, but I tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo. Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who should receive the George S. Halas Award. It is mine tonight; it is Brian Piccolo’s tomorrow. I love Brian Piccolo and I’d like all of you to love him too. Tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love Brian Piccolo.1
“I love Brian Piccolo.” For some reason, those words sound strange coming from a professional athlete. In our culture, grown men do not usually express their affection so openly.
Before us now is a letter that is filled with expressions of love. As we read this brief letter from Paul to his friends in Philippi we are immediately stuck by the eloquent words he used to describe the deep feelings of attachment he had for all of them.
The small church to which he wrote was located in a Roman colony known as Philippi. For over a decade the members of this church had lived and worked together as a close-knit group of believers. Now as the apostle, who had founded the church some ten years earlier, wrote to them, he could not hide the deep sense of attachment which he felt. He had been separated from them because of his imprisonment, and he longed for them. His life seemed incomplete without their fellowship. Dr. John Townsend explains in modern terms the pain that was felt by the great apostle:
In physics, the second law of thermodynamics is known as the law of entropy. It states that things that are isolated move toward deterioration. Entropy operates in the spiritual world too. Whatever is cut off tends toward deterioration. That’s why the ultimate punishment, hell, is not defined by loss of consciousness or annihilation, but by its utter and complete separation from the love of God. That is why Jesus’ sacrifice for us involved His own separation from the Father when He became sin on our behalf. He suffered in that “He was cut off out of the land of the living” (Isa. 53:8). In other words, there is no life without relationship.
Paul’s personal relationship with these intimate friends was interrupted because of his imprisonment, but his love for them had not diminished. In fact, his opening remarks in this letter were devoted to a detailed expression of his love for them and the prayer that their love for him and for each other would continue to grow. As Paul communicated his feelings for the Philippians, he touched on many of the key prerequisites for loving relationships within any local assembly. As he concluded his opening remarks, he launched into a prayer for the growth and maturity of these associates for whom he cared so deeply.
David Jeremiah, Turning toward Joy (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2013).
We have just released a new Bible Study based on the book of Philippians.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #1
Philippians 1.1 – 5
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #2
The Worthy Life
Philippians 1.6 – 30
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #3
The One God Exalts
Philippians 2.1 – 18
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #4
What the Humble Seek
Philippians 2.19 – 30
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #5
The Passionate Pursuit
Philippians 3.1 – 11
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #6
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #7
Philippians 3.13 – 16
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #8
Centering the Gospel
Philippians 3.17 – 21
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #9
Philippians 3.1; 4.4
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #10
Philippians 4.6 – 7
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #11
Christ Is All / I Can Do All Things
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #12
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.