Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5 that he was controlled by God’s love, shown for us through the faithfulness of the Messiah who loved us and gave himself for us:
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
This is the kind of love Paul had in mind when he told the Philippians,
For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:8)
Take a look at Paul’s prayer in the next 3 verses:
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
Discernment About What Is Important
“Discernment” is a key word in this Philippians passage. Paul wanted his friends in Philippi to know which things matter in life, and which things don’t. If you have true insight so that you know what really matters, then you will be sincere, blameless, and pure when the day of judgment comes. There is a connection between knowing what’s important and doing what is right.
Isn’t it interesting how often our lives are consumed with things that just aren’t important?
As he neared the end of his life, Paul wanted the Philippians to know that the gospel matters, and the way we live our lives matters.
Fruit of Righteousness, An Honorable Life
I want your life, at the end of the day, when you stand before Christ, to be filled with the fruit of righteousness. That comes from knowing what the right things are, from doing the best things, and from caring about those things that are good and honorable and filled with integrity. That’s what gives life its joy and its meaning and its ultimate purpose. Those are the things that really matter. You can’t separate what matters from what is right and true and good.
Life is not a poker game where you add up all the chips at the end and see who won. Success has to do with what Paul called the fruit of righteousness. He was talking about an honorable life, lived out in faithfulness. That’s what matters at the end of the day.
The Importance of Friendship
Notice also that Paul expressed his deep friendship for the Philippians in this passage. Did you know that more than sixty percent of all the proper names in the New Testament come from the letters of Paul? Friendship was a big deal to Paul. We know about people because Paul knew people. The letter to the Philippians shows this deep sense of friendship.
All of us need friends. We need people to share our lives with. We need people who will laugh when we laugh and cry when we cry. We need friends with whom we can share our meals, and our innermost thoughts and problems. We need people who will pray for us and pray for our children, people who will share life with us in the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Paul had a deep capacity for this kind of friendship, and he shared it with the people of Philippi. They supported and encouraged him in good moments and bad, and they participated with him in his life’s calling, the progress and furtherance of the gospel. He loved them, and he knew that they loved him.
Friendship requires that we extend ourselves. The life of the Christian is the life of the cross. It’s a life of generosity and of giving.
May God give us the courage, the willingness, and the humility to extend ourselves in friendship, and the discernment to know what really matters in life.
The previous was adapted from a sermon featured on Dr. Sloan’s radio program, A Higher Education, on July 17, 2013.