That is an awesome observation, Dave! After reading your post, I went back this morning and reread the chapter. Paul is really trying to encourage this church, like you said. It is interesting, because most of his letters contain some kind of rebuke about things going on in the church along with encouragement and instruction. To this church, he is concentrating on encouraging them to keep up the fight and not lose hope because he has been captured and put in prison. As he opens the letter, he seems so excited to write them, and is even thankful when God reminds him to pray for them!
To me, one of the most encouraging things he says to them is in verse 6 : "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." It was truly an honor for them to receive that statement, because of the reverence and respect they had for Paul and his position in Christ. He was able to say, through all of his experience, wisdom, and godliness, and because of the things he knew about them, that he was totally confident God was going to continue to be with them and continue the great work that He started in them! Like you, I am curious to know what became of the Philippian church. Knowing that they continued would really be encouraging in light of all the things Paul said. I wonder if there is a history of it somewhere on the internet. If I have time today, I will search for it!
Now of course we could personalize that statement (about God carrying on the good work He started in the Philippians through to completion), and many people have. Many have used it as proof of certain theological doctrines, which I don't intend to get into here (perhaps in another thread), but honestly, this is a letter that Paul wrote to a specific group of people that he had intimate knowledge of. That being said, as I read it years ago, while going through such a hard time, I was really wondering where God was in all that and what was to become of me. When I read it, it was as if God was saying to me, "Shawn, I am still here, I have not left you, and I will
finish the work I started in you." Certainly I am not making a broad statement about everyone God has called, and of course I had then and do now have the free will to stop following God or backslide, but at the time God really used it to encourage me and not to only stay the course, but to draw in even closer. I am glad Paul's letter to the Philippians survived until this day!