The Tie That Binds
Written by Bronwyn Cardwell (First 5 Ministries)
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
When my daughter was in Egypt for two years as a missionary, I longed to see her and talk to her because she was part of my heart. We long for those we love.
This was how Paul felt about his spiritual family in Philippi. They had shared the joys and hardships of life and ministry, even imprisonment; but they had also witnessed God’s miracles, grace and faithfulness together. There was a bond between them because of Jesus.
Even though separated by distance and imprisonment, Paul was thinking about his friends, praying for them and desiring to encourage their hearts through his letter. Paul was also a man of prayer, and he prayed with the power of God over those he loved. Let’s look at the deep meaning within his prayer in Philippians 1:9-11:
- “That your love may abound more and more.” This love (agape in Greek) is both active and directional, encompassing both the vertical love for God and the horizontal love for others that Jesus talked about in Luke 10:27. This kind of love can only come from the Source of love and can only abound when our hearts are filled by the Spirit of God.
- “With knowledge and all discernment.” Paul was not praying for increased factual knowledge about God, but for spiritual knowledge that flows from personally knowing Jesus. Paul knew the secret of knowing God: he knew that the more we know Him, the more we love Him, and the more we love Him, the more we are like Him. This is the same kind of knowledge Paul spoke of in his letter to Titus: “… knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness” (Titus 1:1).
- “So that you may approve what is excellent and so be pure and blameless.” Paul knew the struggle of choosing between the good and the best. He prayed that his fellow believers would be able to choose the excellent (of eternal value) because choosing the excellent leads to walking blamelessly before God. The enemy desires to cloud our vision with confusion and deception; however, focusing on Christ removes the clouds and gives clarity so that we choose God’s best.
- “Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ.” Paul asked God to fill his friends with the abundance that comes from knowing and trusting Jesus. Good fruit comes from good roots, and we need to be “rooted and built up in Him” (Colossians 2:7a).
- “To the glory and praise of God.” Paul wraps up his prayer with a ribbon of praise and glory to God, asking that his friends would center their lives on bringing glory to the Father by living for Jesus.
May we, like Paul, be people on our knees for those we love, praying for the power of God over their lives.