No Sloppy Love
Lord, as I come to You now, help me to love You with my heart and mind and strength!
Read PHILIPPIANS 1:7-11
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
A heart of love for others (7-8) will lead to a heart of prayer for others (9-11).
Gauguin’s “The Vision after the Sermon” (1888) depicts a group of meditating peasants in white bonnets. On the right, the address they have just heard is portrayed by Jacob wrestling with an angel (Gen. 32:22-32). The contemplative domesticity contrasts with the violent, mysterious, elusive struggle of the deeply flawed patriarch. The moral dilemmas of modern living require us to throw off our starched white bonnets and wrestle with sweaty, painful discipleship. How can a politician or a financier walk Jesus’ path amid secular negotiation and compromise? How do pastoral leaders guide broken people in the way of holiness amid complicated sexual relationships? How does a missionary support an African or Asian believer facing the demands of family loyalty through ancestor worship? There often does not seem to be an obvious way forward.
These verses give us the prayer we need. The profound affection that Paul feels for the Philippians, with its source in the agape care of Christ, is poured into his constant prayer for them. In sticky discipleship quandaries, it is not a choice between demonstrating love and doing what is right, although superficially it might seem like that. A pastoral heart craves discernment and wisdom that can only be worked out through devotion to Jesus and a dogged refusal to let go of his compassion in a messy world. It enables us to determine what really matters. We are encouraged to remember that, even if we are wearied and confused in the struggle, as our passion for Christ deepens and grows our lives will overflow with a godly harvest to the praise of God.
We may disagree with fellow believers in how this works out. We may fail spectacularly or miserably. But perhaps it is in clammy wrestling rather than in clear-cut answers that our engagement with God gives us a deeper understanding of him and his grace-filled ways.
As Paul prays for the Philippians, what is his mood? Why do you think he feels that way? Make a list of Paul’s petitions and use them in your prayers for others.
Father, today I want to navigate the quagmires of life with wisdom and confidence. Grant me discernment, knowledge and insight.
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