Prayer for a Growingly Discerning Love :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Prayer for a Growingly Discerning Love

Tim Berrey
3:21 read

Choices! Like it or not, life is full of choices! Many of life’s choices are rather minor. Do I buy Turkey Hill ice cream or Breyers? Do I drive my bigger gas guzzler or take the smaller vehicle that’s more cramped? We typically make choices based on what we like or think is wise. Choices take on a more important dimension when we are trying to honor someone else’s perspective. In the spiritual realm, our choices matter greatly because we are not making choices based upon what pleases ourselves but upon what glorifies God. To glorify God requires discernment. This explains why Paul’s primary prayer for the church he planted in Philippi is that they will have a love that is growing in knowledge and discernment. Here’s his prayer:

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:9-11, NKJV).

If we begin at the end of Paul’s prayer, we see that his ultimate purpose for the prayer is that the Philippians would bring glory and praise to God. There is nothing God is more passionate about than His glory, and a believer should share in that passion.

So what brings glory to God? In Philippians 1:9-11, it is the righteousness-filled life that ensures our being sincere and without offense in the day of Christ. This righteousness is by Jesus Christ; it is being produced in union with His death, burial, and resurrection. As we let Christ live in us, we can be filled with the fruit of righteousness. This brings glory and praise to God.

Paul’s prayer takes us behind what leads to a righteousness-filled life: approving things that are excellent. The Christian life is full of choices, not just between good and bad, but between what is expedient and what is not, and between what is excellent and what is not. “Approving” includes the decision-making process—assessing a situation, a circumstance, a relationship, a crisis, an activity and deciding what really matters. It is recognizing that things differ—that not everything has the same merit or value. Wearing a backpack while you run a full marathon is not wrong, but it is not an excellent choice. Choosing the land near Sodom was lawful for Lot, but he did not choose what was best. His choice mattered, and the consequences speak for themselves.

A person’s choices are not made in a vacuum; they are an expression of what they like or what they love. We choose what we choose because we love what we love. (That’s why I choose Turkey Hill ice cream.) The crux of the matter then is that we love things worth loving (so that we choose things worth choosing). This brings us back to the key petition in Paul’s prayer: that the Philippians’ love would abound in knowledge and in all judgment. This is not a generic request for the Philippians to love God and others. This is a petition that their love would grow in discernment so that their choices will lead to the kind of righteous conduct that brings God glory.

This kind of request is not flashy and rarely makes it into missionary prayer letters. But Paul thought it vital to the success of his church plant in Philippi. It is vital for our missions endeavors as well. Our people can live righteously without a church building or glitzy programs, but they cannot live righteously (and therefore glorify God) if they don’t have a love that is discerning.

What applications can we draw from Paul’s prayer for the Philippians?

First, we need to pray this prayer and pray it often. Pray it publicly in the hearing of our people so that they begin to feel its importance.

Second, keep the glory of God central in all we do. We want to grow a mission work that brings glory to Godthat reveals who He is and causes people to express their admiration of Him as a result. Your work as a missionary is all about God, not about you, your church, your people, your mission board, or your supporters. This is opposed to other goals: to be seen as successful, to reach as many souls as possible, to vindicate your diligence, to try a theological experiment, or to please those who sent you. A discerning love is key to your ministry bringing glory to God.

Third, show your people how to do their homework about the choices they are called on to make. Learn enough about the culture of your place of service so that you can get a feel for what your people are up against in their battle to be in the world without being of it. Provide some guidance for them as they make crucial choices Abounding in knowledge assumes effort! Prayer is not a substitute for effort; it is what makes the effort profitable. Teach your people biblical principles which they can then use as a kind of lens to evaluate what they see all around them. We are not to be foolish but rather to understand what the will of the Lord is (see Ephesians 5:17). This, again, implies spiritual sweat! Through prayer and analysis, we are seeking to make excellent choices. Essentially this is fearing the Lord—prizing His perspective about everything.

Finally, labor in secret prayer for your people for the choices that you know they are making. Paul’s petition is an implicit confession that discerning love is a supernatural work. It is something that we must pray into the lives of our people. And if God will see fit to answer our prayers, we can be assured that we will have a ministry that redounds to the glory and praise of God. That, ultimately, is what our missions endeavors are all about!


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