We often say that our “love grows.”
When we put these two words together, we generally mean that we want our feelings of affection increase or that we want the bond felt between us to become stronger. We recognize that a loving relationship isn’t a static, one-and-done feeling, that it does develop…but I think we’re a little squishy when we try and describe exactly how this happens.
Sure, we’ll say that love grows in a variety of ways: over time, through shared experiences, and being together in the ups and downs of life. If you talk to others about growing in love with their spouse, their closest friends, or with a group of people, what is usually identified as the main driver of growth seems to be surviving a long time without abandoning one another.
In his letters, Paul often told his readers that he was praying for them, but it wasn’t a generic “I’ll be praying for you” platitude. He didn’t just ask God to “help” them with their “stuff”. We’re going to take a close look at not only what Paul told the believers in Philippi that he was praying for them, but also the reasons Paul gave for making his specific prayer requests.
So for starters, let’s look at the beginning Paul’s prayer request:
And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment
Immediately, we see that Paul wants their love to grow in two specific areas. We’ll take a look at the outcome of this kind of growth in a later post. First we need to understand what he means by knowledge and every kind of discernment.
The Greek word for knowledge refers to a full, intimate understanding of a subject. Similarly, the Greek word Paul chose for discernment speaks to how we perceive something or someone. The word refers to something deeper than just a sensory perception – sight, touch, smell – instead this discernment relies on the intellect.
Blind love or a love that is dependent upon our emotions is not ground for the growth of a relationship. As our feelings ebb and flow, we can end up doing more harm then good.
True Christian love isn’t shallow or squishy. It is grounded in an clear understanding and has an intelligent direction. This shouldn’t surprise us, because, after all, that’s exactly how God loves us.
Filtering by Category: Philippians
We often say that our “love grows.”
I recently watched a documentary about a Make-A-Wish event for a young cancer patient. When he was 18 months old, he was diagnosed; however, his family waited to do the Make-A-Wish event until he was five, so it could be something more memorable and meaningful to him.
It started out as a simple plan to let him play the part of his favorite superhero for a day, but it quickly grew into a large-scale, city-wide event. As word got around that a young cancer-survivor wanted to be Batman, people began offering their skills and connections to make the day as realistic as possible.
Here’s a rundown of just some of the people who got involved:
A boy donated his replica Batman costume and let the cancer survivor keep it afterwards.
One guy offered his black Lamborghini to be the Batmobile.
A local anchorwoman prerecorded the news broadcast that started the event.
The Chief of Police prerecorded messages to give out the day’s missions.
A social media company handled all publicity leading up to the day.
Actors played the roles of Batman, Penguin, and Riddler.
A local eatery provided their lunch.
During its busiest time of year, the opera house tailored all costumes.
A famous musician provided theme music.
A company overnighted a specialized computer chip to run the communication device.
A baseball team gave permission to use their mascot and stadium.
A social media expert provided official Twitter updates during the day’s events.
City Police, many of them on their day off, ensured the planned city route was unblocked and safe.
The mayor ended the day by presenting the key to the city.
A wealthy couple covered the city’s extra expenses for the day.
And many, many others donated their time and effort in both big and small ways…
On top of all this, roughly 14,000 people showed up to witness the events as Batman and Batkid went all across town to save the day. While they brought supportive signs and cheered him on, the sheer volume of people presented a huge logistics problem – one the police are all too familiar with. Safely managing a mass of humanity that large always presents a formidable challenge. However, the officers found something different that day – whenever they would ask people to move back and give Batkid some space, people in the crowd would turn around at start helping them move the crowds back to make way. No one grumbled, complained, or mouthed off at the officers. Additionally, there was no complaint of crime or problems from within the crowds at each of the event’s locations.
While the day of the event was hugely successful (it was done on a Friday), those involved said there was a curious spillover to the event that lasted well into the next week. In general, people were happier; people were friendlier. It was described as an afterglow to the efforts to take care of this young cancer survivor. No one expected it, but for a little while, the citizens gained something they didn’t have before.
But why did the crowds and city act this way? Because they put the needs of the little boy ahead of their own. Although this wasn’t a church-sponsored event, the participants provided a real-life example of what the Apostle Paul told the believers in Philippi:
in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Whether they had donated a Lamborghini or held up a homemade sign of support, each person’s focus was helping this one child. For a single day, they stopped their own agendas, let go of their personal worries, and they focused on someone else. No one did anything they would consider extraordinary – they all stayed within their skills and abilities – but when they did it together, something big and beautiful happened.
Does your small group or members from your church get involved in your community? Mine does, and I absolutely love it. We don’t go out to protest or yell preachy things from the street corners. Instead we follow this example:
Philippians 2:5, 7
Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who…emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant
When we empty ourselves of our pride, our agenda, our schedule and serve others with the skills and abilities God has given us – big and beautiful things can happen. In humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Get out among non-believers and serve – isn’t that what Jesus did?
However, the afterglow of our efforts will last longer than just a few days…instead, it will echo into eternity.
We’ve been taking a closer look at David’s instructive Psalm 37. He spends most of the psalm pointing out that God will take care of the injustices and evil we find in this fallen world. However, throughout the psalm, David is also constantly referencing the benefits of those who live rightly before God.
Here are a few examples of the many ways David describes the righteous:
But the humble will inherit the land and will enjoy abundant prosperity. (v 11)
The Lord watches over the blameless all their days,
and their inheritance will last forever.
They will not be disgraced in times of adversity;
they will be satisfied in days of hunger. (v 18-19)
I have not seen the righteous abandoned
or his children begging bread. (v 25)
For the Lord loves justice
and will not abandon His faithful ones.
They are kept safe forever,
but the children of the wicked will be destroyed. (v 28)
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord,
their refuge in a time of distress.
The Lord helps and delivers them;
He will deliver them from the wicked and will save them
because they take refuge in Him. (v 39-40)
The distinctions between evildoers and the righteous are pretty clear in the psalm, as David contrasts how the wicked and the righteous live their day-to-day lives. Evildoers will eventually face the Lord’s wrath and punishment; while the righteous have the Lord’s favor. Although the benefits listed above are impressive (the other benefits listed in the rest of the psalm are also impressive), I find myself wondering exactly how the righteous know to live like they do.
Tucked away in the middle of the psalm, while David is extolling another great benefit of the righteous, we find this:
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom;
his tongue speaks what is just.
The instruction of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not falter.
Do you see it? It’s easy to miss when we want to have the awesome benefits of speaking wisdom and what is just. I’m a big fan of having everything feel stable and steady, so I especially focus the reminder that the Lord won’t let the righteous’ steps falter. But the key to all these benefits is found in the first part of verse 31:
The instruction of his God is in his heart
We can’t live the right way if we don’t know what the right way actually is. When life comes at us fast, and detours happen, and we have people watching to see how we respond in the moment – we don’t have the time to stop everything and do an in-depth study of what God has said. We need our right-living reactions to be as natural as our reflexes, to know them “by heart”. The only way for God’s instruction about right-living to be in our hearts is for us to purposely and intentionally get them in there. The benefits that David lists for the righteous are there because they live the way God designed us to live…and they know how to live that way because they have prepared themselves to do so.
What’s God will for our lives? After we trust Christ as our savior (John 6:29, 11:25-26), God’s will for us is to live rightly – just like He created us to. How do we know what “living-rightly” looks like? We take God’s instructions – i.e. the Bible – and purposely put it in front of us, to the point we know it by heart.
So, where to start? I suggest the book of John, to see how Christ really lived. After that I would suggest either Philippians or Colossians – both are full of practical, easy-to-understand ways to live a righteous life before the Lord.