1. Title: If You Love Somebody
2. Text: Philippians 1:1-11
3. Audience: Villa Heights Christian Church, AM crowd, May 1, 2005, First in the series “Praying for Loved Ones”
-for the people to understand the role that prayer should play in our lives toward people we love, and also what the nature of that prayer should be
-for the people to feel compelled to express their love in prayer for loved ones and to feel like prayer is genuinely caring for someone
-for the people to actively engage in the right prayers for people we love, and to find ourselves having the same prayers answered for us too
5. When I finish my sermon I want my audience to examine the amount of time they spend praying for the right things for the people they love. I want them to increase their amount of time, their eternal focus, and right attitudes about prayer for the people they love, and thus increase their love too.
6. Type: book, and expository
7. Dominant Thought: True love for people means we will ask the Lord to help them grow in the ways that are most eternal and spiritual
Intro - We’re starting a new series with this message today – Praying for Loved Ones. Next week, that will mean praying for Mom. All this time it’s going to mean praying for people that you love, and loving them by praying for them. We’re going to emphasize your prayers for those people: for parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, old friends, new friends, cousins, the person you’re dating, you name it.
I know there are a lot of things you can do for someone to let them know that you love them. You can sing it, you can sign it, you can buy them something nice (chocolate, balloons, or of course roses) you can just give them a big hug. For centuries, artists of all kinds have been working to come up with some other way to say “I love you.”
Paul loves the people in Philippi. What does he do? He wrote this letter. He also was sending them Epaphroditus to carry the letter and to convey his greetings. He wanted them to know that he cared about them. Hey, if you love someone, would you please let them know it, for crying out loud?! Somewhere, in the life of every person here right now, there’s at least one person today who needs to hear from you that you love him or her. And when you do that, you’ll make that person’s day, or week or year. But please, don’t leave it unsaid. Follow Paul’s example here. Much of this letter is intended to simply tell the Christians in Philippi that he loves them.
Read on and you’ll quickly see that Paul also prays for them. Nothing says, “I love you” like praying for someone…and it’s free! You see, love is all about being unselfish. It’s about seeking someone else’s good above your own – sounds like what happens when you pray for someone. So, this morning, I want us to look together at Paul’s example of praying for people that you love. Along with his work, prayer is apparently the way Paul expected to get things done.
I have some goals built into this message:
• I want us all to consider our own love for people – to ask ourselves if we honestly love them or not. That’s an important starting place.
• I want us to consider the way we express that love – how much of that expression of love is really going to last?
• Then, I want for us to step up our prayers for those people we love. I want us to increase how much we do it, and to improve the way we do it, so that the way we pray for our loved ones is decidedly the “right” way.
Here’s the short version:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to 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 God.
Pick that apart with me, and let’s learn what prayer sounds like when we really love somebody…
I. … that your love may abound more and more… (That love will grow)
If you want a treat sometime, volunteer to help with a kids’ class – with wee worship or help with a SS class or something else. At the beginning of class, ask the little kids for prayer requests they might have. For one thing, you’ll learn everything there is to know about what’s going on at home! You’ll also get an update on what’s happening with pets, if someone’s being mean at school, and everything else that’s on their hearts. You’ll laugh, and you’ll cry.
Notice something about most of the things we grown-ups bring up. Someone has referred to church prayer lists as an “organ donor” list! Usually, we’re talking about health concerns. There will also be a few crises here and there.
I want you to notice something about the prayers and the prayer requests of Paul. There’s not much about health there. Now, I believe Paul was praying for what they needed. But he was praying with an understanding that our holiness matters a whole lot more than our happiness – that spiritual vitality matters even more than physical vitality. So, with that in mind, he prays that their love will grow.
Picture it. I’m sitting down, with the pictorial directory in front of me, to pray for the members of VHCC. I go to the A’s, and there’s Ron and Jackie Arwood. So I begin to pray, “Lord, please help Ron to grow in his love. Help his love to grow exponentially, to the point that he overflows with love…” Why would I have that as a priority prayer concern for Ron Arwood?
1. Because love is the greatest command
Jesus replied: "’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
I could ask God for a lot of things on your behalf this morning. I could completely miss the boat on what to ask for too. But I know that this one thing can’t be wrong. You may have a lot of other needs in your life, but I can be confident that there’s no greater need in your life this morning than this one thing. I know that, if you mess everything else up today, but get this one thing right, you have at least gotten the single most important thing right.
I have a reason to pray that your love will increase. Not for God only, but then for God’s family – your brothers and sisters in Christ.
1 John 4:20-21
If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
So, I want Ron Arwood to get this right. I want him to get it right because it’s the most important commandment, and I want for Ron to be pleasing God with his life.
The next thing I would be doing is praying that Edith Baker would grow in her love: “Lord, please help Edith’s love to increase. Help it to overflow…” Why would I ask that?
2. Because love is “the most excellent way”
In I Co 12, Paul has just detailed how spiritual gifts are supposed to benefit the church – tongues, prophesying, and all that. And then, he gets ready to write the part of his letter that will become the great chapter on love – I Co 13. Before he starts he writes this:
1 Corinthians 12:31b
And now I will show you the most excellent way…
You see, there are lots of gifts – lots of things that are of benefit to the church and to you personally, but the most excellent way – the one that is the greatest – is love. There are all kinds of ways to treat people, all kinds of approaches you can use in the Church, but the most excellent way is the way of love. Paul went so far as to say,
…he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law…Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Raise the question about what to do when you have a conflict with someone, what to do when someone is hurting, how to deal with someone who is in error or in sin, and the best way will always begin with this: choose the way of love. That may sound like an over-simplification, but it’s always a good question to ask yourself: “Am I choosing the most excellent way here?” If the answer is no, then start over from the top.
So, I want Edith Baker to get this right. I want her to grow in her love so that the path she chooses will always be the most excellent way.
Then, I’d be praying for Randy Baldwin: “Lord, please help Randy’s love to grow. Help it to overflow in his life. Fill him up with love…” Why would I pray that for Randy?
3. Because love “covers over a multitude of sins”
1 Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
I understand one way this works. It’s describing what happens in marriage when one of the partners isn’t perfect – that’s every marriage. It’s describing the way a husband or a wife knows his our her spouse’s flaws and mess-ups but chooses to love that person just the same. It’s describing the way a church family works as its members take some imperfect brother or imperfect sister and love that person and help that person rise above a jaded past. It’s describing when a brother or sister is offended, and feelings are hurt, and in the midst of it all, someone makes the choice to love. A careless remark could have become the most important thing. A bad attitude could have prevailed. Instead, someone chooses to love, and it all comes together and this place – God’s family – becomes a place where multitudes of sin are covered over and buried in love because we understand that Jesus, with love that took Him to the cross, has covered those sins with His very blood. And now, who are we to uncover them?
Jesus isn’t asking us to do something here that He hasn’t already done Himself. He’s already been down the path of loving someone who doesn’t deserve it. He’s already shown us how to offer forgiveness to someone before they say “I’m sorry.” He’s already shown us how to take the risk of giving to someone who may not give back.
It’s called love. And I want it for the people in life that I love. If you want the best for someone, pray for them that God will make them overflow with love for Him and then for others. No single thing could be more important.
Paul goes on to say that he prays for the Philippians to grow…
II. … in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best… (That insight and discernment will grow)
Repeatedly, in this letter Paul keeps pushing the Philippian believers to get this. He’s not only praying that they’ll have it, he’s also trying to help them learn it. He wants them – and us too – to develop a right way of looking at life – to develop a Christian worldview.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…
So, all through this letter I find ways that viewing life as a follower of Jesus completely affects the way we see it! It affects our outlook on..
• 1:6 – not giving up
• 1:12ff, 4:4 – hardships
• 1:20ff – life and death
• 2:1; 4:2 – the way we treat others
• 2:19 – our concern for each other
• 3:4 – how we look at achievement
• 4:8 – our thought life
• 4:10ff – material things and contentment
Look again at v10 – …so that you may be able to discern what is best. The word has to do with moral sensibility – like when an expert is testing metals to determine what’s of great value and what’s corrupted.
Life is full of choices. How do we make the best ones?
Paul says in I Co 10:23 that everything may be “permissible” but not everything is beneficial or constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:32 - Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God.
We may have the freedom to choose some things, but that doesn’t always make it the best choice.
So, it’s right for us to be praying for each other – that we’ll have God’s help in making right choices.
I love my kids. So, guess what - I’m praying for them. I’m praying that they’ll have discernment. I’m praying that they’ll be able to recognize evil when they see it. I’m praying they’ll be able to distinguish between what’s real and what’s phony. I want them to be able to know what’s best, and to choose it consistently. I’m praying that they’ll look at life through trained eyes.
The situation today is Lots of knowledge, but little understanding
Lots of means, but little meaning
Lots of know-how, but little know-why
Lots of sight, but little insight. -- Robert Short,
I can’t stress enough how important it is that we all learn to have a worldview based on what’s real and true and right. It gives us the ability to live above consumerism. It gives us the ability to handle setbacks and challenges with wisdom. It enables us to handle ourselves unselfishly, and to order our priorities by what’s really going to last.
…our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…
III. …and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness… (That holy living will grow)
Pure – the word could come from one of two backgrounds – one describes a product that has been “judged by sunlight.” Someone interested in buying a piece of pottery couldn’t see it clearly inside a dimly-lit shop. The best way to check it was to bring it outside and hold it up to the sun. We have a front door at home like that. It looks OK. But when the sunlight comes shining at it from the outside, you can see where the wood has cracked. The other possible background is “sifted” – like when someone is panning for gold and they sift all the sand and gravel out of the pan and only gold is left. Either way, it’s a description of a life that is examined and has the imperfections removed. When a pure life is checked out, there are no hidden flaws – the sand and gravel are all washed away.
Then there’s this word “blameless.”
Story – Lynn Hall of WY says that one afternoon, their 5-year-old daughter, Katie, was singing a Scripture song they had recently learned – from Phil 2:15. Her husband and she listened proudly, as Katie sang out, "Do everything without arguing, that you may become brainless and pure, children of God."
It’s “blameless.” It’s a life that is not only without stumbling around itself, it’s also a life that doesn’t make other people stumble.
That other item is to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” That’s the outcome of the work that God’s Spirit is doing on the inside of His people. Fruit doesn’t get stuck onto the outside of a tree and change the tree. You can’t take a hemlock tree and stick a bunch of apples on its branches and say it’s a changed tree. But, suppose you could change the inside of the tree – its roots, its heart. Then, it would produce the fruit of its new identity.
Is it possible? Pure? Blameless? Full of the fruit of righteousness? Yes! We must! We need to expect it of ourselves, and we need to expect it of brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul did. How can we expect less of one another? Look at…
Philippians 2:14-16 Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
Paul wanted to know that it was worth his effort. So, there’s a dilemma in this whole scene. We have the same dilemma ourselves. Parents understand it.
Ill - An internet-based dating service called Cupid.com has a commercial on the radio. A lady’s voice says, “Sue Smith, this is your mother. Honey, I don’t mean to pry, but a little bird told me that your date last night didn’t go so well. Now, I’m not going to tell you what to do, but, Sweetheart, have you tried Cupid.com? (and she goes on to explain how it would help her find Mr. Right) The last line is “Cupid.com - Helping single women and anxious mothers all across the country.”
But, parents, you know that at some point, it’s no longer up to you. Your influence will be reduced to the teaching you did all those years before. Freewill is a double-edged weapon of great power. Who can fight his way through life with it and not also cut himself? But God seems to think it’s worth it.
So, you let go, and…then what? You pray. That’s what Paul was doing for his children in the faith. (2:16) “…in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” He understood that all he had invested into helping those people be followers of Christ could be lost. But, Paul was gone. He couldn’t look over all of their shoulders. No matter how much you love someone, you can’t choose everything for them. So he prayed…that their lives would be lived in holiness.
So, I’m praying, and I’m going to pray. I’m praying for my family and for this church family. I’m praying that these qualities will be happening in your life, and then, guess what – I’m watching to see it happen.
If you love someone, you’ll pray for them, and you’ll pray the right way.
The Bible says in Romans 8 that we have some weaknesses. We don’t know how to pray as we ought to. But, I’m sure that praying this prayer can’t be wrong: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to 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 God.
This morning, I’ve been praying, by name, for people who have yet to accept Jesus that I know about here. I’m praying for your growth in Jesus that begins with accepting Him.