“And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can determine what really matters and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”- Philippians 1:9-11
Last week we learnt about growing in godly loving. Paul prayed for these believers to grow in their love for God and each other and that this love would be guided by certain criteria. A way to picture this is to see love as the water running down a river between two banks: knowledge and discernment. The result of growing in discerning love is spiritual development. Today we will briefly look at the second aspect of Paul’s prayer.
2. Growing in godly living
“so that you can determine what really matters…”
Paul’s goal for these believers was to determine what really mattered in life. Another translation (one which I prefer here) is “that you may approve the things that are excellent”. The word “determine” is the same word that Paul used when he wrote to the believers in Rome regarding the will of God saying “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2) So we see that this discerning love involves a process of evaluation. When we find ourselves in various circumstances we will use our thinking capabilities given to us by God to evaluate those circumstances and to finally make decisions. The product of our evaluation as believers is to discover the will of God in all our circumstances. In Paul’s prayer he prays that these believers would discover the will of God to be “excellent”. We tend to rate things by using various levels of criteria such as good, better, and best to separate the quality of things. Yet that is not what Paul is getting at here. The Greek word for “excellent” has the idea of being different. God’s will is not just excellent it is different! So as we refer this back to love, Paul is saying that he wants these believers to grow in love so that they make choices that are excellent or different from the world around them.
Someone once helped me to remember Romans 12:2 “good and acceptable and perfect will of God” by using the acronym GAP. God calls us to be different from the world, to have a GAP between us and unbelievers. It is as a result of our differentness not necessarily our knowledge of the Bible that will provide us with opportunities to be a witness for the Lord and to share the Gospel with people around us. Paul’s prayer for these believers has to do primarily with their spiritual growth and their testimony. How is your testimony in the world? Can people look at your life and see that you are a Christian just by the way you go about loving, living and making decisions? Let us pray for each other to have God honouring testimonies before the unbelievers whom we see on a daily basis.