This is post #3 of a 26-session blog series entitled Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. It was Eugene Peterson who said that Philippians is Paul’s happiest letter. Join us as we explore this joyful work of Christ as it manifest itself amongst Paul and Timothy, and the early church of Christ-followers in Philippi. Just maybe, we might learn a few secrets to finding true joy in the midst of our lives as well. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1: 9-11 (MsgB)
I find it intriguing that Paul, who is known as a flaming evangelist, the very first missionary sent out by the church, goes in the direction he does here when telling his friends in Philippi how he and Timothy, and the rest of the missionary team are praying for them.
In truth, you’d expect Paul to focus his prayers and intercession on church planting and evangelism, praying that the good folks in Philippi would get up out of their seats and get going with getting their neighbors saved. You’d kinda expect a wild-eyed evangelist like Paul to be praying for a fire in the belly of his friends, a drive to go and do, for the greater glory of God.
But, look carefully here at Paul’s prayer…
As I see it, his entire prayer is for a huge increase, not in church-expansion, but in love-expansion.
Makes me kinda wonder if most of our Americanized church focus now-a-days, spending so much energy on getting our nation on board with our conservative values just might be missing the mark?
You see, if I’m reading Paul’s prayer carefully here, going out to save the world from fire and brimstone might be a good idea, but if we really want to see the world around us changed, it will begin and end with a major transformation within, a deepening of God’s love within our own hearts.
Kinda reminds me of what Paul wrote in one of his letters to his good friends over in Corinth.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1st Corinthians 13: 1-3 NIV)
Yes, yes, I know the subject of love seems so overused. The word, so common in our society, that people just yawn when someone suggests we need more of it.
But, let’s get real here for a moment.
The type of love Paul is referencing in his letters is not a sloppy, milk-toast emotion that makes for nice love songs and puppy-love sentiments.
As I see it, the love we find Paul praying for here is all about the type of love Jesus demonstrated on our behalf. Love that is a deep, pro-active, never-stepping-back kind of love. Agape-love is what the New Testament writers were calling it. A God-breathed, super-natural, all-forgiving love. An amazing-grace kind of love that is so un-conditional, so un-ending, and so un-yielding it will go to the moon and back in order to convince us that we are truly cared for.
What’s that you say?
You haven’t experienced that type of love?
In truth, none of us can experience that kind of love outside the warm embrace of God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the in-breaking work of the Holy Spirit.
But here’s the great news.
We Christ-followers can not only be recipients of that kind of love, if we pray for it like Paul does here, but we can also ask Jesus to give us a big enough dose of agape-love that it will not only fill up our cup, but it will spill out upon others as well!
Now, are you starting to see the power of Paul’s prayer here for his friends in Philippi?
Let’s read his prayer one more time…
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
Hey Paul, sign me up for more of that kind of love.
Today’s Prayer: Jesus, thank You for the reminder that Paul, Timothy, and the early church leaders understood the great need for an increase of agape-love. In all truthfulness, I’ve spent more time trying to do good things for God out of my own strength and wisdom as compared to praying for a deeper increase of agape love in my own life. Today, Holy Spirit, indwell and empower me with a big dose of God-breathed agape-love. For Your Name’s sake and for Your Glory. Amen.
Today’s Questions to Ponder: So, am I praying for the same increase of love I find Paul and the early church praying for here? Have I prioritized other activity for God over and above a greater outpouring of agape-love? If so, what might it look like for my prayers to better reflect the prayer of Paul here in today’s text? And as God answers that prayer for more love in my life, in what areas of ministry might I find more fruitfulness as well?
So, how are you experiencing Jesus as we ponder together on this journey into the Book of Philippians?
Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 26 blogs. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
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