Summary: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Oh, really? How did you get there? God shows us how in Philippians.
Building Strength in Christ
This past Thursday I fulfilled an assignment for a graduate class called Spiritual Formation. Each student was required to take a personal retreat and document it in a reflection paper. The assignment was this: we were to spend an entire day (eight hours minimum) alone with God. Now you might think that being a Christian and a preacher, I would really WANT to do something like this, but for some reason, I found it really hard to make myself do it. Taking an entire day to go off alone to be with God... it sounds nice and easy, I dare you to try it for yourself. No, I ENCOURAGE you to try it for yourself!
Let me just say that after doing it, I am hooked. What a day! I can much better understand and appreciate why Jesus often went off to spend time alone with the Father. This was one of the most spiritually encouraging things I think I have ever done.
So, what do you do for a whole day without TV, Radio, computer, phone calls, people, text messages, email, etc., etc., etc.? What happens when you get alone with just you and God for at least eight hours? We read about many of the characters of the Bible spending time alone with God, don’t we. Moses and Elijah did not just one but 40 day periods alone with God. Jesus also went out to the desert for 40 days right after his baptism and spent the whole time fasting before the Father. Interestingly, the Father wasn’t the only one that met Jesus out there. There is an enemy, one who also comes to us when we attempt to meet with God. One who will fill your mind with excuses and your schedule with business to keep you from meeting along with God. In fact, I’m convinced he was trying to keep me from taking a day alone with the Lord. I’m very thankful for Jenny’s encouragement to do this. I also want to thank the middle school class for praying for me about this. I taught their class Wednesday night before taking this retreat. I shared with them what I was doing and they promised to pray for me. I resisted doing it until the last day before class, and I wasn’t sure why. It just seemed like every time I’d try to nail down a day to do it, something would come up. In my darker moments I even thought about just making up something for a paper! Can you believe that? Where did THAT come from?
Some of you may be able to identify. It’s like trying to read your Bible through in 90 days. You’ve got to MAKE the time happen, or you won’t get it done. There’s a million excuses that fill your mind, and a billion things that get in the way. It’s a kind of discipline and spiritual warfare. We tend to have so much going on and so many things pulling at us that we tell ourselves, we just don’t have the time. But is this really true or are we being influenced by the enemy? What do you do if work or school demands you to take time to be there? Do you make excuses? Do you let other things get in the way? What do you do if your children have a game or performance? You take the time for those things! Do you not? Why? Because we place a high priority on these matters, don’t we? We do what we believe is MOST important, don’t we. We come to church because we believe it is important, don’t we. We all live by a kind of code, an internal standard of measuring what matters, a value system. But also, we are influenced by spiritual influences that are unseen, but very actively present. Ephesians 6:10f make this clear.
Where does your code come from? What shapes your internal value system? Is it God? To what degree do you allow God to guide your life? Look at Philippians 1:6 and tell me where Paul says their value and priority system comes from.
I am confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Who began a work in them? Who would perform it? What must happen for this to continue?
Paul writes to the Philippians in chapter 1:9-10 about God building this Christian value system and spiritual code of ethics in them.
And this I pray that your love may abound more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ...