Summary: In the midst of internal squabbles and pervasive selfishness, Paul’s primary request is for believers to experience an overabundance of love.
A week after purchasing a pair of glasses for her husband, the wife decides to take them back to the optometrist. The person behind the counter wants to know the reason for the return so she asks, “What seems to be the problem, mam?” To which the wife replies: “I want a refund for these glasses…my husband’s still not seeing things my way.”
We all want people to see things our way, don’t we? We tend to judge others by looking at them through the prism of our own perspective. And if we look hard enough, we almost always find things to not like in other people. I heard this week about a new “reality” TV show called, “Things I Hate About You.” The theme of this show involves a couple that agrees to be followed around by seven video cameras and a film crew for two weeks so as to capture annoying behaviors that drive the other bonkers. These irritating idiosyncrasies are then ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 to see which individual has more reason to hate the other (www.hollywoodreporter.com).
The Apostle Paul, when he looked closely at the Philippian believers, saw their selfishness, heard their grumbling and was concerned about their church conflict. When he wrote a letter to them, he addressed their selfish hearts when he urged them to consider the example of Christ and put the needs of others before their own (2:3-5). He also told them to get a grip on their grumbling and complaining so they would shine like stars in a crooked and depraved generation (2:14-15). And in his closing comments, he urged two women to be at peace with one another, instead of finding fault with each other (4:2-3).
Here’s the principle. You can always find something to hate about someone, and if you look close enough, you can compile enough evidence to ignore and write off those who don’t see things your way. And, just as the church at Philippi had enough problems to justify judgment, so too, our church has enough selfishness, grumbling and conflict to validate the withholding of love and grace. And yet, in spite of all their problems, when Paul writes to the Philippians, he thanks God for them (1:3), he prays with joy for them (1:4), he calls them partners (1:5), and he’s confident that the work God began in them will eventually be completed (1:6).
And then he expresses his deep devotion in verses 7-8: “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Notice the emotive expressions that he uses:
“feel this way about all of you”
“I have you in my heart”
“I long for all of you”
Paul is crazy about the Philippians. Why is that? I think the secret lies in his prayer life. Two weeks ago we studied how to pray from Ephesians 6:18. Our prayers should be:
We also learned that when Paul asked for personal prayer, he requested intercession so that God would give him boldness. By the way, wasn’t it wonderful to hear from Art and Marita Mikesell last Sunday? God has sure given them boldness in what they’re doing. I was personally challenged by Art’s example after church when we went out to lunch with them. During the first five minutes we were in the restaurant, Art initiated spiritual conversations with three individuals, and gave each one of them a gospel tract.
Have you ever struggled with what to pray for when you pray? One author writes: “Often we simply don’t know what to say when we pray…our usual response is to pray like this: ‘Lord, uh…uh…uh…bless Sally…And…uh…uh…please bless Bill…And…uh… I ask that you really bless our missionaries…As one man remarked, if you took the word ‘bless’ out of our prayer vocabularies, some of us would never pray again” (Pritchard, “Beyond All You Could Ask or Think,” Page 27).
This morning we’re going to look at what we should pray for when we pray for others. Turn in your Bibles to Philippians 1:9-11: “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.” This passage contains an overabundant request, three overlapping results, and an overriding reason for prayer.
An Overabundant Request