Ok, let’s see how far I can get with my response to Philippians chapter 1 until sunshine wakes up:
What does it say?/What does it say to me?/What will I do about it?/What stood out to me?
1. I love verse 6 where Paul says he is confident “that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” I like relating both to Paul’s side of this as well as to the side of the Philippians to whom he is writing. From the view of the recipients of that verse, I have to say, I am so very grateful to God for sticking with me. I love knowing that He has indeed begun a good work in me and will indeed be faithful to complete it. I have seen firsthand that rather than showing anger or frustration with me when I make the same mistakes over again or deal with the same struggles repeatedly (such as worry, lack of trust, fear, impatience, etc.), our heavenly Father is compassionate and loving towards me. He responds to my sin and imperfections with both encouragement and chastisement, but most importantly, He responds. I cannot imagine how scared I would be if I thought a day would ever come when God would “run out of grace” or patience with me and would give up on me. Hebrews 12:6 says that God disciplines those He loves, and I am so glad that He loves me too much to leave me the way that I am! Praise God for continuing to “deal with” me and teach me. May I have this same patience with my own child and make it abundantly clear to her that no matter what she does, I am sticking with her. What a beautiful display of love! One of my frequent prayers for my daughter is that God would be relentless in His love for her and in His pursuit of her, as He has been for me.
From the viewpoint of Paul, I think the first few verses are a good reminder that we need to invest in other people, pray for them, and find great joy in doing so. This makes me think of my former students and of course, Janie. Becoming a parent has highlighted my selfishness, and I am continually praying for God to help me be more selfless. This is such a struggle as I try to shift my thinking away from my own needs and desires and to focus more on the needs of another. I need to grow in this area and hope to learn this first and foremost with my daughter, but also to broaden the scope and learn to reach out more to others. I have not done a good job of serving consistently at our church and need to figure out where I fit in. I keep putting it off, but I know I need to do something.
2. As I reread the first chapter of Philippians, something about verse 9 jumps out at me and I must say, I am not sure what to make of it:
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment…
I don’t understand why Paul refers to love as abounding in knowledge and wisdom, instead of just praying that the people would abound in knowledge and wisdom. What does it mean for love to abound in knowledge and wisdom? I feel like I am on the verge of understanding it, at least a little bit, and that it is important, but I can’t quite get my brain around it. Thoughts, anyone? I think maybe it has something to do with the importance of continuing to study, learn, and grow in God’s Truth in order to be able to fully love others the way He intends us to. When I try to think of what love would look like without knowledge and wisdom, I think of immaturity, which would seem to make sense with the other references to spiritual maturity in the letter.
3. In my limited knowledge and understanding, I think that one of the greatest challenges in the Bible is in verses 27-28:
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you should stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.
Just something to think about. How often and to what extent is my conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ?
4. Verse 29 also stood out to me:
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…
If I understand this correctly, Paul equates the privilege of being able to believe in Christ (and even that we cannot do apart from the help of His Holy Spirit) to the privilege of suffering for His sake. This is also hard for me to wrap my mind around for two main reasons. First of all, although I have certainly experienced trials and difficulties, I don’t feel like I have suffered much for His sake. I think this is partly because I have the privilege of living in the US, and partly because I probably have not risked as much as I could or should. Secondly, I find it difficult to think of suffering as a privilege. However, I can understand it better when I think of how inspiring I find stories, both true and fictional, of people who suffer for great causes and principles. I pray that if I were ever tested in this area, God would give me strength to stand firm in the Truth.
I know there is a lot of content that I did not mention, but those are the main parts that stood out to me. I would love to know your thoughts and ideas! Please post comments with your thoughts if you have anything you would like to share.