Feast On Grace
be still and know
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6
Drink deep from the well
With chains around his wrists and shackles on his ankles, Paul wrote to the church of Philippi from a Roman prison cell. The letter to the Philippians is woven with joy that is a result of suffering for the name of Christ. Paul wrote his letter from first-hand experience and proclaimed with his life, letters, and love that Jesus is worth it. Even in a prison cell, Paul was not idle from participating in the works of God. He prayed earnestly for the church at Philippi and he believed that through Christ Jesus, they would continue to abound in love to the glory of God.
The love with which Paul writes to the body is deeply rooted in his love for Jesus. This kind of love is known as agape, or unfailing love. Apart from Christ, you cannot understand this kind of love in your own human understanding, nor can you live it out. But when the gospel saves you and the blood of Jesus washes over you, agape love becomes an insatiable hunger and an evidence of His work in your life. Though Paul was in prison, he had a holy hunger that the gospel would continue to make its way across the world. He prayed that the church would grow deeper and deeper in their love and knowledge of Christ.
There are a few things to note about this passage:
1. Prayer is powerful. Though Paul could not travel and he could not preach publicly while he was in prison, he could still pray. He prayed with vigor, with boldness, and with confidence. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us that we are to "pray without ceasing." James 5:13-17 reveals to us the power of prayer to heal and accomplish the will of God. Prayer is a weapon, a privilege, and a precious gift from God. Even in times when we feel as if we are in "prison" through hardship, suffering, and trial, we can pray knowing that God hears us. He is honored by prayer and He answers us. Shackles don't mean He is distant. Shackles make us draw us nearer and cling more tightly to Him. Paul didn't complain about his suffering, he rejoiced in it because he understood that through suffering he would know Christ more, and that was his greatest joy. We, too, can know the same kind of joy through suffering.
2. Love is at the root of the Christian life. Paul begins his prayer in verse 9 where he says "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." As the agape love of the people continued to overflow, so would the advancement of the gospel continue to spread. How does this kind of love grow and deepen in our hearts? Only through the knowledge of Jesus. In 2 Peter 1:3-9, Peter explains that we have been granted ALL things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Jesus. Peter gives a list of characteristics that we should be "supplementing our faith" with and they all lead to love (verse 9). The more we know Jesus, the more our love will grow because Jesus is the source of love. The cross of Christ was the most glorious display of love. The beautiful thing about God's Word is that every verse is a chain that links one story of redemption. Jesus is woven throughout every page. He is the center of it all.
3. God is not finished. The Lord finishes what He starts. I love starting art projects. I have several journals that I've begun and paintings with a few strokes on them that are left unfinished. Unlike my tendency to begin a project and leave it undone, the Lord always finishes the work He begins. Philippians 1:6 tells us that "he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Right before Jesus breathed his last breath on the cross, he cried out these three words - "It is finished" (John 19:30). Jesus finished the work the Father had given Him to do when He died on the cross, was buried, and raised to life. God finishes what He starts, and He will continue to work in your life, making you more into the image of Christ through the process of sanctification, until the day of Jesus Christ when He comes again.
4. The table of God is diverse. In verse 7, Paul refers to the church of Philippi as being "partakers with me of grace." They literally "shared" the grace of God with Paul. They were fellow proclaimers of the gospel. Who exactly is this body that Paul is referring to? Head over to Acts 16. In verse 11 of Acts 16, we see the beginnings of the church of Philippi through the conversion of Lydia, a wealthy business woman. Following Lydia's conversion by the riverside, Paul and Silas freed a slave girl who was demon-possessed. They were thrown into jail because of this act and while they were in jail, their chains were loosed by the Lord. Instead of fleeing the prison, they stayed, and as a result the jailer and his household also became believers. This group of people that began the church at Philippi was a diverse. They all had one thing in common - a love for Jesus. The church at Philippi would become a part of Paul's traveling ministry. They stayed committed to supporting him and furthering the gospel. They were "partakers of grace," dining with Paul at the feast of God's table. The beautiful thing about the kingdom of God is that every nation, tongue, color, and background will all be dining at God's table in heaven. As partakers of grace, we are to support one another in love all for the purpose of bringing glory to God our Father. We will feast together at the table of God's grace.
5. No chain, no prison, no past, and no present can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:39). His love binds us together in unity, holds us together in hardship, encourages us in battle, compels us in life, and fills us with all good things. Feast on His grace today and abide in His faithful, enduring love.
ask and apply:
- Do you believe in the power of prayer? Why? Why not? How does Paul's prayer encourage you and teach you to pray?
- Read Romans 12:1-2 and Philippians 2:9-11. What is the purpose of our being transformed?
- In verse 6, Paul encourages the believers with the truth that God will complete the work He is doing in their hearts at the day of Jesus Christ. How does this encourage you? God is constantly at work in your life. You are not who you once were. Keep your gaze focused on Christ knowing that He is changing you even when you don't realize it.
today i learned:
Love is at the core of the life of a believer and it is found in Christ alone.
today i will:
Today I will set aside time to pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ and encourage them in the Lord.
Abba, we praise You for the grace that You've given us through Jesus. Together, we can love one another and share the gospel for Your glory. We ask You to further our love for one another and for You so we may be able to live a life that is pleasing to You. The years we have here are so short. Help us to live them well and with our gaze set on eternity to come and not the problems of the present. You are with us, You are for us, and You are able to do all things. We love You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.