by Barbara Latta @barbaralatta
As Paul ministered to the churches he established, he never lost sight of them even when he was not there in person. His letters indicate his love and care for these saints and his encouragement to them that they stay in the fold of Christ and follow God’s precepts.
In verse seven of Philippians chapter one, Paul thanks these people for standing with him during his imprisonment. In that day to associate with a person who was in chains was shameful. According to that society, it put those people in the same regard as the prisoner they supported. The Philippian church, at the time of this letter, was the only one who supported Paul monetarily (Philippians 4:15). For this, he was ever thankful and commended their faith.
His prayer to these believers is similar to those in Colossians and Ephesians in that he stresses they need to pursue knowledge and discernment. He is not speaking of intellectual knowledge, as the culture around them thrived on different philosophies. He urges them to seek to know Christ, to discern what is of God so they will not be swayed by the society where they lived.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11 NKJV)
Jesus told his disciples (and He means us too) to abide in Him. This is how we gain that knowledge that Paul prayed. As we fellowship with Christ through prayer and Bible study, we can receive more revelation of who He is and the identity He gave us. (John 15:4). As we seek to know Him, we will be filled.
Here are 4 attributes we can receive from pursuing the knowledge of Christ:
We will have more revelation of his love (Romans 8:38-39). To receive God’s love, we must first realize that He does love us, individually and personally. He has already poured out His love through Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, so we don’t need to ask Him to give us more love, we just need the knowledge of what He already gave.
Approve the things that are excellent (Philippians 4:8). We should keep our minds on the words and attitudes of God and not negative, depressing thoughts. They do not lift us up or give any value to life. When thoughts of anxiety, strife, and condemnation enter our minds, we should replace those words with thoughts of excellence that come from the Father.
Be sincere and without offense until Jesus returns (James 1:19). Offense has grown into a platform in the world today. Someone is offended about something all the time. If we take these attitudes into our own minds, we will be distracted from our goal of growing in the knowledge of Christ. Jesus had more opportunity to be offended than anyone ever has. He is our example and He commissioned us to go and do the works He did. We turn from offense by not listening and taking the diatribes to heart.
Live in the fruit of righteousness (Matthew 5:16). The more knowledge we have of Christ, His character, and the gifts He has given to us through His sacrifice, the more the fruit of the Spirit will flow from us.
Can you see how each of these requests in the prayer build upon each other? As we pursue Christ and know more of His love, we will approve the things that are excellent. If we keep our minds on things that are excellent, we will be able to withstand offense. Then the fruits of righteousness will be revealed in the way we live.
The prayers of Paul in Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians are so powerful I keep them written down on a card in my Bible so that I have these words ever before me. I pray these for myself and my family.
In our world today, we can feel as if darkness is closing in. But when we look at the world through the eyes of God the Father, we can see how His Spirit is at work. He seeks to save the world and we are His hands, feet, and voice (Matthew 5:16). There may be evil everywhere we go, but where sin abounds, grace abounds more.
As Titus 2 women, we can live His message through encouraging those around us with the way Jesus has changed our lives.
What does this prayer in Philippians mean to you? Join the conversation.