I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:3-11
As Christmas music wafts quietly to our ears in the background of almost every store and deals for presents are announced our minds slowly begin to drift from being thankful. However, Paul writes in Philippians 1 about a different type of thankfulness. As Paul sits in a dirty jail cell he writes his letter to the church at Philippi to encourage them as they face false teachers and difficult circumstances.
As we read the passage we discover something about Paul. His thankfulness is rooted in people. Paul distinctly writes that, “He thanks God upon every remembrance of you.” Notice though, that his thankfulness is not some abstract thought that is here for a moment and gone the next. Paul’s thankfulness does not remain static, it leads to action. Specifically, Paul’s thankfulness leads to definite prayer. He prays for detailed growth in multiple areas.
- He prays for their love to abound in knowledge and discernment.
Paul understands that love is not merely an emotive thought that looks past sin. Rather, when a Christian grows in their love with knowledge and discernment they know best how to encourage and help the Christians around them to grow. Paul didn’t just want the Philippians to love more, he wanted them to love more in ways that would help people around them grow.
- He prays for them to approve the things that are excellent.
Paul knows that Christians need to mature in what they put their stamp of approval on and not just blindly follow what others endorse. Maturation in Christ means that the Christian is able to understand what is profitable and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8-9) and to think on those things. In a secular society it’s important that Christians watch what they approve and make sure that is honors God.
- He prays that they will be sincere and without offense.
It is not uncommon to hear the complaint that Christians are hypocrites and that complaint is not new to our generation. Paul’s desire for the church at Philippi is that they would be sincere Christians that are careful in how they reach the world around them. That they would be genuine, admitting when they have sinned and avoid being offensive in the way that they present Christ. These types of Christians tend to be compelling to those around them in their circle of influence because of the different life that they live. That’s why Paul continues on with that phrase, “being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ.” The only way that this was going to happen to the Christians in Philippi is through salvation in Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit.
These areas of prayer are ways that we can pray for the people in our own lives. Our thankfulness for people in our lives shouldn’t leave us just thankful but to spur us on to pray for their own growth in Christ. Paul loved the people at Philippi and was thankful for how they had supported him. What was his natural response towards them? To pray for their growth in Christ! May we live the same way!