I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
---Philippians 1:3-11 ESV
Can you picture it? Paul, once a mighty Pharisee enacting seemingly righteous justice on followers of The Way, now sitting in prison penning letters of affection and exhortation to those he once persecuted.
The hardships he endured are beyond comprehension to many Christians today. Yet in Acts 9:16, Ananias was called by the Lord to go and restore Paul’s sight after Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, and the Lord silenced Ananias’s fear of then-Saul by saying, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Paul’s suffering was extreme, yet necessary. Extreme, yet filled with joy.
(We too have the same prerequisite for suffering in Jesus’s name, as counter-cultural as that may seem, according to Romans 8:17.)
He prayed in all his prayers with thanksgiving and joy. True, Holy Spirit-empowered joy. And, Jesus Himself, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2).
The confidence of such joy is in the power of the One who is Himself spirit and life, who makes us alive in Christ. Reborn. Anew.
He who began that good work in us is faithful to complete it. He who raised Jesus from the dead is mighty to save in every fiery trial, in every painful place.
Fellow partakers of grace, do you know the power of the One at work within you?
Imprisoned for the sake of the gospel, Paul prayed that our love would abound more and more.
To abound carries the idea of multiplication and continuation. An abundance, like that of Jesus’s statement that He came to give life abundantly (John 10:10).
Interestingly, God has also promised His grace to abound to us in all things (2 Corinthians 9:8).
To consider abounding love, we must first realize that:
We can only love because God first loved us.
We can only know love by knowing God.
We can only know God by His Word.
Knowledge and discernment, according to Paul’s prayer, come by first being pierced by the sword of the Spirit (the word of God) and moved to obedience in faith. Being washed in the word and made clean, we can then be made perfect in love.
Pure. Blameless. Sanctified.
There, our love abounds. There we can approve that which is excellent in God’s eyes and produce fruit that brings glory to His name.
Paul’s prayer was rooted in love, penned in suffering, and overflowing in joy. Whatever gain he had before meeting Jesus was now counted as loss for the sake of Jesus, and for the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
All for the glory and praise of God. Hallelujah!
Whoever says, “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected… —1 John 2:4-5 ESV
Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. —John 15:3-5 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. —Romans 12:1-2 ESV