Tuesday, July 18, 2006

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of the Father (Phil. 1:9, 10).

Philippians is one of my favorite books - probably because it's one of the first books I read over and over and over again, trying to gain insight into what Paul was trying to get across to the church and ultimately to me. What did I decide it all meant? Well, I think what I learned is this: I should not think more of myself than I think of others. If only I could be consistent in putting that into practice. If only my love would keep growing more and more and that I could discern what is really true so that I could choose always what is best, especially when it comes to my relationships with other people.

If only I could be like Paul, who put the Philippians's well being above his own desires (Phil. 1:20, 24). His deep desire was that he would never fail in his duty. Oh to be so dedicated to our God!

Of course, Jesus is the perfect example: "of his own free will, [Christ] gave up all he had and took on the nature of a servant...he was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death" (2:7, 8). Will I ever comprehend what this really means?

Then there is Timothy, who "is the only one who really shares my [Paul's] feelings and who really cares about you" (2:20). "Everyone else is concerned with his own affairs, not the cause of Jesus Christ," (vs. 21) but not Timothy. Timothy would put the Philippian's welfare above his own. Do I put other's welfare above my own?

Ephaphroditus, who evidently was from Philippi, was returning there with Paul's letter, had nearly died for the cause. Paul urges the Philippians to receive him with joy and to show respect to all such people as he, "because he risked his life and nearly died for the sake of the work of Christ in order to give me [Paul] the help that you yourselves could not give" (2:29, 30). Could I do this?

All of this in contrast to Euodia and Synteche, who could not agree as sisters in the Lord - women who had worked hard with Paul in the Lord were in conflict. Paul begs them to try to agree. Paul asks his faithful partner to try and help them solve their conflict. Was the book of Philippians written because of Paul's concern for these two sisters? Perhaps his love for them compelled him to write what he did. Consider these verses:
Now, the important thing is that your way of life should be as the gospel requires, so that whether I am with you or not I am able to go and see you, I will hear that you are standing firm with one common purpose and with one desire you are fighting together for the faith of the gospel (1:27).

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be innocent and pure as God's perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted (2:14-16).

All of us who are spiritually mature should have the same attitude...pay attention to those who follow the right example that we have set for you (3:15, 17).

The spiritually mature have found the pearl of great price and have counted everything else as pure garbage in order to possess it (3:4-10). Our citizenship is in heaven, so we should:

Always be joyful and show a gentle attitude toward everyone. We should remind ourselves that the Lord is coming soon. We shouldn't worry, but in all our prayers ask God for what we need, always asking him with a thankful heart. If we can do that, we will possess God's peace, which is far above human understanding and His peace will keep our hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus (4:4-7).

Paul's final appeal to the Philippians and perhaps to Euodia and Synteche is found in Philippians 4:8 & 9:

In conclusion, my brothers, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.

If we count others better than ourselves as Christ did, as Paul did, as Timothy did and as Epaphroditus did; if we cease to argue and complain; if we are spiritually mature and seek the pearl of great price and count most of what we think is important here in this life as garbage; if we as God's people stand firm together and fight for the gospel together, then perhaps we have learned the lesson Paul wanted us to learn. We will be a people who look for what is good and noble and honorable and lovely and true. We will be a people of peace, who shine like the stars in the universe as we honor our God and our King.

If you are in conflict with someone, consider these things. Blessings on you all!

Love's prayers...Dottie