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Summary: A sculptor can leave his work and come back to it another day, and take it up where he left off. But it is not so with the growth of the soul. The work of grace in us either waxes or wanes, flows or ebbs.

Abounding in Love, Knowledge, and Discernment

Phil 1:9-11 NIV

Background

Paul, was in Rome under house arrest, he had founded the Philippian church during his second missionary journey (Acts 16:11-40). The believers at Philippi, the main city of Macedonia, had assisted in Paul’s support while he was at Thessalonica and Corinth (4:15-16; 2 Cor 11:9). Upon hearing of his imprisonment, they sent Epaphroditus to Rome with another financial gift, which was probably what enabled Paul to live in his own rented house (Acts 28:30) rather than in jail. While in Rome, Epaphroditus became ill and nearly died (2:27). When he recovered, Paul used the occasion of his return to Philippi to send this letter, essentially a thank-you note for their gift.¹

1. Paul despite his plight was experience joy and contentment in the Lord.

2. Paul was expressing his friendship, his shared joy in their common faith, and a desire that their walk of faith would be uninterrupted.

Illustration: A sculptor can leave his work and come back to it another day, and take it up where he left off. But it is not so with the growth of the soul. The work of grace in us either waxes or wanes, flows or ebbs.

3. Paul is praying that we would abound in love, knowledge and wisdom. He knows that there are No Short-Cuts to Growth

When James A. Garfield was president of Hiram College, a man brought his son for entrance as a student, for whom he wished a shorter course than the regular. "The boy can never take all that in," said the father. "He wants to get through quicker. Can you arrange it for him?"

Mr. Garfield, a minister-educator said, "Oh, yes. He can take a short course; it all depends on what you want to make of him. When God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years, but he takes only two months to make a squash."

Many want instant spirituality— like instant coffee or potatoes! It doesn’t come that way! There are no short courses! No shortcuts! No gimmicks! It takes time to grow! Growth is a sequence—an orderly arrangement!

How does this apply to us?

In today’s text, we see that the believers in the city of Philippi had demonstrated growth in their spiritual lives, but Paul prayed for more progress.

Phil 1:9-11 NIV

This was a prayer for Christian maturity, so that they would grow in knowledge, wisdom, and righteousness.

1. He prayed for them to be abounding in love;

Phil 1:9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,

a) The Greek language has three words for love:

Eros (romantic love),

phileo (brotherly love),

agape (a self-giving love).

b) People can love with phileo and eros on their own, but the agape of God is quite distinctive.

This is an others-centered love. It looks for needs in the lives of others and seeks to meet those needs with no thought of returned favors.

c) Paul prayed for this love to “abound”—not a one-time overflowing, but a continual activity.

2. He wants us to have a Person to God Relationship.

Phil 1:9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,

The Greek word for knowledge focuses on a person-to-God relationship, whereas the Greek word for discernment points to a person-to-person relationship.

Paul wanted the Philippians not only to abound in love but also to experience more of God so that they could grow into a mature understanding of His ways.

3. He prayed for their Depth of their Discernment;

Phil 1:10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,

a. Paul understood the struggles we face in our choices. He wanted believers to evaluate the things of life correctly.

b. Many things in life have no ultimate value, and the Bible reminds us that to find the real worth of things, we must weigh them in the light of eternity and approve the things that are excellent.

c. There must be an ultimate standard to follow, one not to be found in the varied philosophies of mankind, but arrived at only through a knowledge of God’s Word (Heb. 4:12).

d. Genuine love, when making a decision, asks:

• Does the Bible speak against it? (Ps. 119:9–11)

• Will it glorify God? (1 Cor. 10:31)

• Will it harm me physically or spiritually? (1 Cor. 6:12)

• Could it cause another to stumble? (Rom. 14:21)

• Would I make that choice if Jesus were standing right here?

Application for our lives

1. When we are abounding in Love, Knowledge, and Discernment, we will make daily progress, by not considering what we did yesterday, but what advance we can make today.

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