Summary: Paul wants us to invest in God’s love for a good return
December 14, 2003 Philippians 1:9-11
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.
At the end of the year some of you may receive a year-end statement on what your various funds have done throughout the year. The basic concept behind a mutual fund, is that you regularly invest money in a large variety of stocks, in the hope that they will go up during the year. Then, when you receive the statement - it tells you how much money you have invested, and how much money you have made in short term and long term gains.
What would you think if every year you received a year-end statement on your spiritual growth? How do you think it would read? Would it say, “you grew ten percent in faith, two percent in works, but you shrank eight percent in love”? How much would it say you invested? Obviously, such a report would be hard if not impossible to make for us, since much of it isn’t able to measured like money or assets. Yet Paul was very interested in the topic of growth - getting the Philippians to grow - something that all of us as Christians should be interested in and try to follow. He said, This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more. It was what he was praying for in today’s text - specifically a growth in love - or agape - for the Philippians. So today we’ll look at -
The Agape Fund
“Love” is a pretty broad term. There are four different terms for love in the Greek language that all have different nuances. The one that he uses here is agape - which is often used for God’s love for us - which is often referred to as “unconditional.” It’s used in John 3:16 as the driving force that drove God to send His only Son to die for us. It’s used in Romans 5 by Paul to describe how amazing it was for Jesus to die for ungodly people like us. Paul wanted that same kind of love to “abound” in the Philippians. “Abound” is used to describe the growth of a flower when it goes from a bud to full bloom. So Paul regarded the Philippians as plants that were growing - but still hadn’t hit full bloom yet. That’s what he was praying for - that their unconditional love would abound.
Unconditional love can be applied in a variety of ways. It can be applied to parents dealing with children who are acting rebellious. It can be used in employers dealing with employees who are being greedy. Some people might do great at showing unconditional love to the poor, while they are completely impatient with the rich. There once was a woman who showed a wonderful sympathy and love for little children and the disadvantaged. Everyone thought she was the most loving person in the world. But she was completely different in her own household. When she got home, for some reason she was unable to reflect any of that kind of love to her husband and children. She constantly yelled at them and was very demanding of her children - to the point that the husband and wife finally got divorced. Her love didn’t reach all aspects of her life. That is probably the case more often than not - that we can be loving to those who we work with or go to school with, but have a much harder time with our family and those nearest to us.
In this case, Paul was praying for the Philippians to show their love in two specific instances - that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. The first thing Paul wanted the Philippians to do was to grow in their love in the sphere of knowledge. One of the main problems that God had with the Old Testament Israelites is that they ultimately didn’t KNOW their Lord. When the Israelites entered the promised land God told them, Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Dt 11:18-20). Yet years later God told the Israelites through Isaiah - The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. (Is 1:3)