Text: Philippians 1:3-11
Often, our actions are a window into the desires of our hearts. True – we can put on a good show for others, but those who know us best often have an insight into what drives us. If we are desperate for power or insecure within ourselves, for example, we might be short-tempered at home. Truth will out. Our heart’s desire is to be important and in charge.
Sometimes, our heart’s desire is evidenced by what we’re willing to sacrifice for. Right or wrong, Eric Liddell was willing to give up his Olympic dream because he wanted to honour God more. I might think that fair-trade clothing is a good idea – but if I’m not willing to pay the extra price for it, you can be sure that my assertions on behalf of justice for the poor are empty.
Paul’s experience with the Philippians gave him an insight into what it was that was driving them; their actions were a clue as to what desires were uppermost in their hearts. As a church, the Philippians were incredible supporters of Paul and his ministry. In fact, Paul recognised them as being more than just supporters. They were his partners in the task of telling the world about Jesus. Partners through thick and thin. They weren’t a particularly wealthy church, but were known to be incredibly generous.
To them, Paul was more than just a random name on a missionary list, someone to whom they sent a bit of money when they could afford it. He was their man. His task was their task, his mission their desire. They went out of their way to support Paul in practical ways.
Paul’s mission to share Jesus with the world was one that had convinced and captivated them. Seeing others come to know Jesus was something they held to be of the utmost importance. And out of that desire, they acted.
Paul was, no doubt, grateful to them. But as he starts his letter, he writes that he was grateful to God for them. Because Paul recognised in their actions more than merely human behaviour. He recognised that God had started an incredible work in them; that God was changing their priorities to align with His. I think he recognised something of God’s nature in them.
What’s more, Paul was convinced that what God had started he would finish. I love Philippians 1:6. It reminds me that salvation is from start to finish a work of God’s grace. I can’t save myself, and I can’t change myself to be like Jesus. But God has saved me, and willed that I be like Jesus. And he will accomplish that.
But how did Paul know that God had started a good work in them? How can we be sure that God has started something in us that he will finish? And what, come to it, is that “good work” that Paul speaks of in verse 6?
And, if God is the initiator and finisher of the “good work” in his people, why does Paul make such a big deal about their partnering with him? And why does he pray for their love to overflow more and more? If God is going to finish what he started, why does Paul pray for the Philippians to grow in knowledge and understanding (discernment)? Why does Paul pray what he prays?
Our actions speak about our hearts. We always do what we want to do. Paul’s prayer for the
Philippians is one that we would do well to pray for each other: that our love would overflow – that our actions would bubble out of a growing love for God; a love that is based on an ever-deepening knowledge of God and his ways. May Paul’s prayer be answered in us. May we hunger to know God better. May we learn to desire him above all else. And may our actions betray our hearts for the glory of God. There’s sill much room for growth! May God finish what he started, and may we chase after that for which Jesus has already taken hold of us.