Monday, August 13

Where Would We Be Without Each Other? (Part 2)

Under Construction: Where Would We Be Without Each Other? (Part 2)

Many years ago, Billy and Ruth Graham were driving through a long stretch of road construction.  They had numerous slowdowns, detours, and stops along the way.  Finally they left the construction zone and smooth pavement stretched out before them.  A sign caught Ruth's attention: "End of construction.  Thanks for your patience."  For years after that she said these words would be perfect as an inscription on her grave stone.  Though I haven't seen it, I'm told when she died in 2007 they were included on the stone.  

You know, we're all "under construction."  Beginning when we trust Jesus as Lord and Savior and continuing throughout our lives, we are being made more and more into the image of Jesus.  Eventually, this life will end and we will be like him for we will see him face-to-face in his presence (1 John 3:2).  Finally, our construction will be complete.

Read: Philippians 1:1-8
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,  

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  6 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.  7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.  8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Last post Paul began his letter by leveling the ground before the cross.  We saw that we are all equal in the sight of God.  There is no hierarchy or special category of Christian.  He was Timothy's spiritual father, yet they were both servants of Christ.  The average Philippian Christian was just as important as the elders and deacons.  Where would we be without each other?

In today's passage, Paul begins showing us how spiritual friendship works.  First, we should be thankful for one another (v. 3).  Human nature is to compare ourselves to others.  We want to know how we measure up.  We realize we may not be the best or the brightest, but we also aren't the worst.  As we look at others, we might be jealous of their abilities or their looks.  We might try to make ourselves feel superior to them by putting them down.  There's something in us that wants to feel significant and after the Fall, we too often find it in comparison to others.

If anyone had a right to feel significant, it was Paul.  He was an apostle.  He'd seen the Lord.  He spoke with power.  God worked amazing miracles through him.  Yet Paul saw himself rightly as a servant.  He wasn't better.  He didn't feel a need to compare himself to anyone else.  Instead, he was thankful for them.  He didn't see them as a bother or a nuisance or an obstacle.  He didn't think of them as inferior or less important.  He gave thanks.

Part of God's construction in our lives is to teach us how to see others, not through comparison, but with gratefulness for them.  When we think of them, our first thought should be thanks.  We need one another and we need to learn to be grateful for one another.  When we can give thanks for even the most difficult people we know, we will be on our way to be made like Jesus.

The second thing we see is that we should pray joyfully for one another (v. 4-5).  When we learn to be truly thankful for others, it helps us rejoice for them.  Paul rejoiced because he remembered how they had partnered with him in the gospel from his first visit to Philippi many years earlier until that present day.  They had received the Word of God and they had believed; they had supported Paul with prayers and finances; they had grown and shown lives changed and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

Like Paul, we should pray with joy when we pray for our brothers and sisters - our partners in the gospel.  We should rejoice in God's work in and through them.  We'll feel less compelled to try to make ourselves significant th comparison and increasingly aware of how each of us is made uniquely in God's image and has an incredible amount to offer.  We need each other and can rejoice in that reality!

A third lesson that helps us be a spiritual friend is we can pray confidently for others because the results are in God's hands (v. 6).  I'm not responsible for making you (or me) into Christ's image.  I can't do it!  And neither can you!  It's God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, who transforms us into the likeness of Jesus.  

Paul prayed with confidence for the Philippians and we can pray confidently for one another because God who began the good work in each of us carries it to completion.  We can pray confidently for God's work in the hearts and lives of those around us trusting that he's the one transforming them.  What God starts, God finishes.  It won't be until the day of Christ - the day he returns once and for all - but it will happen!

The fourth lesson in this passage is that we should pray from the heart (v. 7-8).  Paul loved the Philippians with a deep love.  He says that the thanks and joy and confidence he has as he pray for them comes from his heart, from the deep affection he has for them from Christ Jesus.  

Sometimes we don't feel a deep love for the people around us.  Even the fellow believers we know and relate to can be a challenge.  But when we take the attitude of Paul that they are our partners in the gospel; applying all the truths we've just read about, we cannot help but begin to love even those who seem unlovable.  Like Paul we keep them in our hearts.  

One of the most important parts of spiritual friendship is the ability to share openly and honestly with one another without fear of judgment.  Another part is praying for each other.  If you've identified people to pursue a spiritual friendship with, pray for them!

1) Thank God for them

2) Rejoice for how God is working in them - since they are "under construction" just like you. 

3) Pray with confidence, knowing God will do the work and finish it too.

4) Pray from your heart.  Ask God for more and more love for your friend.  Pray that the affection of Christ would fill you toward your friend like it filled Paul's heart toward the Philippians.

Where would we be without each other?  We are all works under construction and we need one another as God is at work in us to transform us into the image of Jesus.  One day the work will be completed and we'll be able to say, "End of construction.  Thank you for your patience!"  In fact, we might even add, "Thank you for your partnership in the process!"

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