Prayers of Paul - Love and Wisdom — A Christian Growth Message - Hope 103.2

Prayers of Paul – Love and Wisdom — A Christian Growth Message

A series untangling some of the Prayers of the Apostle Paul by Simon Manchester of Hope 103.2's Christian Growth and pastor at All Saints in Woollahra.

By Simon ManchesterSunday 26 May 2024Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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When I became a Christian at the age of 18, I was given a small boys group to look after. Most of the boys were about 12,13 or 14. I remember one week, one of the boys brought a friend along the boy of about 13. And there came a time at the end of the little meeting where we’d put our chairs in a circle and we would pray. And the boys were invited to pray just a line.

And, the new boy who’d come was obviously unimpressed with the group and especially the fact that there were only 20 or so and so he prayed this prayer. I never forgot it. He called out in a loud voice. Oh, God, send more people. I repeat, send more people. I never forgot this prayer, And, uh, it seemed to me that he had been watching too many war movies or he was thinking that prayer was ringing triple oh, or 911 or Morse code or something. I don’t know what it was, uh, and it actually made me wonder whether God in his kindness would listen as he would to that prayer from that little boy.

Now, the reason I mention that is because we are thinking on these Sundays every second week about how we might pray Well, and, uh, obviously we’ve got the Lord’s Prayer, which is a wonderful skeleton to help us to pray. You can do a lot with the Lord’s Prayer, and maybe you’ve learned some childhood prayers that come back to you and, uh, in your when you’re stuck. That’s what you do. But the Apostle Paul tells us how he prays.

And in many of his letters in the New Testament, he gives us his short prayers. They’re wonderful prayers, but they’re complicated. That is, they’re not easy to get a handle on. And that’s why we’ve been trying on these Sundays to get a handle on the prayers. This is the third of the series, and today we come to what is probably one of the simplest of the prayers, and I think we can reduce it to two words. Uh, Paul is praying that believers would grow in love and wisdom.

He wants the people of God to be very loving, and he wants them also to be wise, he wants them to be perceptive discerning, insightful or we may use that word discriminating in the best sense. I I’ve found this prayer very simple over the years, memorable and useful. Sometimes you’re just thinking of somebody and you think I don’t actually know what to pray for them, but to pray that they’ll grow increase in love for God, for the people of God, for the lost and to grow in knowledge. It’s a very wonderful prayer. Uh, friends, Is it not great thinking of being insightful? Discerning, is it not great when you are with somebody who is discerning, you go to the doctor, you talk about your symptoms and the doctor can see the problem.

It’s so helpful.

Uh, you go to a counsellor because you just have free floating anxiety and the council helps you to see what is causing it so helpful.

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Or you think of the friend who you’re just chatting to about something that’s difficult, and they can see the way through so helpful now, the most crucial discernment of all is to be able to see the truth of Jesus Christ. You know, Jesus said on one occasion, this is eternal life to know God and to know his son. Jesus Christ.

Uh, the Bible describes the unbeliever as spiritually blind. They just can’t see the truth of Christ until the light of Christ breaks in.

And suddenly they see, uh, this, uh, old book which, um, I brought up to the front here, which, uh, I’m holding in my hand is the true story, which I have mentioned before in this pulpit of a man called William Haslam who lived in the UK in the 18 forties, fifties sixties and seventies. And, uh, he decided to go into Christian ministry, but he knew nothing of the gospel. He didn’t know Christ at all.

And so what did he do when he became a reverend? He worked on his building that that’s all he could see. So he made it really pretty. And, uh then he helped others who were also lost in churches to work on their buildings to make them better building it. But he had nothing to say to the people who came until, and I think you know this story.

He was preaching one Sunday, and as he was preaching his kind of blind, tedious, boring sermon, I better be careful what I say here.

Suddenly the penny dropped. He suddenly realised in the middle of his own sermon who Christ was. And the whole sermon took off with zeal and joy. And a visiting preacher sitting in the back row stood up and called out to the church. Your parson has been converted.

And the whole church stood up and sang the Doxology praise God, from whom all blessings flow over and over again because their minister had finally been converted. So you see, what’s interesting about Haslam is that he was religious. Yes, he was. He was a good man. He prayed prayers. He loved the prayer book. He was an upright man, but he was completely spiritually lost until the lights came on.

So spiritual discernment is crucial. You could be in the ministry and blind. And of course, many who are not in the ministry are spiritually blind. You need to be spiritually enlightened, to be saved and then to be useful. Haslam had no discernment until the penny dropped. And he saw who Christ was.

Um, so he was a blind man, spiritually. And you don’t really want a blind man to help you much, do you? you don’t ask a a physically blind man to come and paint your house. You don’t ask a physically blind man to drive you to Newcastle. And, uh, a spiritually blind man, of course, is also a spiritually blind woman. Is no real help in the church except for superficial and shallow things. Now inside the family of God, When the lights have gone on and the person is a believer and the people are believers, there is a need for growing discernment, increasing insight. And that’s what the Apostle Paul is praying for because he’s praying for the church to be increasingly discerning. So this is a very simple prayer. It’s a prayer that we can use. We could pray this for family and friends. Oh, Lord, please give to my loved member of the family who’s not a believer, something of your love in their heart. And please help them to see clearly.

And then we could pray. This, too, for believers. Lord, you’ve put your love in their heart, help it to abound.

You’ve given them eyes to see Christ help them to be more and more discerning. That’s our passage this morning, Philippians 19 to 11, Page 1747. I want to think about this under two headings this morning. Very briefly. The first is the importance of love and discernment, and the second is the impact of love and discernment. We’re looking at the Scriptures. Where does God promise to speak to us in the Scriptures?

So first of all, the importance of love and discernment is a very practical subject. Imagine you’ve come to church today and you can’t even think because you’re so overwhelmed with issues that are swirling around. Would it not be good if God gave to you a greater awareness of his love and a greater insight into what’s really going on?

I think it would. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of lying awake at night, and there’s about 20 issues that are swirling around in your head and you just think they’re so important and they’re so difficult and then you wake up and 18 or 19 of them just disappear. They’re just not issues anymore because you’ve seen through the fog. So the first thing that Paul prays for in Philippians Chapter one is that the Christians may have great love in their hearts. Is it important to have great love in your heart? Yes, it is because when God’s love drives your heart, you are normally a happy and healthy person.

I don’t know if you’ve ever met a very loving person, but they’re normally a very liberated person than if you’ve ever met a very loving Christian. They’re normally a very liberated person.

Uh, the love of Christ sets a person free because we suddenly say to ourselves, Well, Christ died for me.

The condemnation has been taken away. I stand in God’s good books forever. I’m a secure person. And then, of course, when the Holy Spirit produces love in the Christian heart and it begins to really abound, we find ourselves really set free. Paul puts it like this in Romans Chapter five, he says God demonstrates his love at the cross, but God pours his love by his holy spirit into our hearts. So imagine you’re very chewed up. You’re very concerned, as I am often consumed with myself, and God shows his love to us again at the cross. And the Holy Spirit causes the love of God to abound in our heart, and we find ourselves wonderfully liberated. I want you to know that, uh, the word love in the New Testament is an active word. It’s a decision making behaviour.

So the father decided to send his son. The son decided to give his life. The Christian decides to help another. The love of the New Testament is active, decisive secular love is often passive, responsive, reactive. You see something or someone attractive and you respond to it or you fall in love. It’s reactive.

So when Paul prays for Christian people to abound in love, he’s praying that we’ll be active.

In other words, we’re saying to ourselves, How can I grow in my love for God? How can I grow in my love for God’s people? How can I grow in my love for the lost actively love of God is meant to overflow.

Some years ago, uh, I put a blow up, uh, paddling pool in our back garden and, uh, you know, those paddling pools, you blow them up And there it was, lying in the back garden, and, uh, our cat during the night leaped on to the rim of the pool and just put one tiny claw one needle claw through the top of the pool. And of course, the whole thing deflated and gallons and gallons and gallons of water flowed down the side of our house in the middle of the night. I remember waking up thinking we now live next door to a river.

And, um, the foolish illustration is this. That God makes it possible for the love which he has shown us at the cross. And he puts in our hearts to overflow to him and to other people. And, uh, when the believer, the man or the woman who puts their trust in Christ gets the love of Christ and experiences the love of Christ, it sometimes overflows in very wonderful ways. So there are many things that Paul could have begun his prayer with in Philippians Chapter one. But this is the first thing that the love of God would abound in the people of God, because a loving Christian is a great advertisement for God and a great advertisement for the Lost. And we could do with God’s love abounding in our hearts. And he’s capable and willing to help us.

So back to, uh, Verse nine love abounding and knowledge or insight. Why is it important that there is love and insight?

And the answer is because God wants more than love in our hearts. We need knowledge as well as love, and the knowledge is not a Google type of knowledge where you just know about everything. This is knowing God better.

This kind of knowledge is where you are faced with trouble or setback or doubts or decisions. And you say I know who God is. I know what he’s like. I know he’s loving. I know he’s wise. I know he’s faithful. I know he’s my shepherd and therefore I will go on trusting him. Now. Why is it so important to have love and knowledge in the Christian life?

And the answer is because if you have love without knowledge, you can become mushy. Think of the person who’s so loving that they would never say anything that needed to be said.

They just couldn’t bear to say to a motorist who was driving in the wrong direction. That’s the wrong direction. You’re gonna need to turn around. They’re just so loving. They can’t bring themselves to say anything. They’re so accepting that they can’t do what Jesus did, which is to warn a person lovingly and urge them to change direction. The love without knowledge person can be weak and dangerous.

But then the knowledge without love person can be brutal. They’re so wrapped up in their own correctness, they’re proud. They’re cold, they’re careless, they’re dominant. They’re so pleased with what they know. They don’t really care about the person, so they speak the truth. But they’re not helpful.

The knowledge without love person can be so harsh. They’re dangerous. No wonder Paul puts the two together. He says in Ephesians four, we’re to speak the truth in love. And he says, here in Philippians, we’re to pray for love and truth or love and knowledge or love and discernment. This is a fine prayer to pray for self because we get so unbalanced in certain ways. Some of us lean to love without knowledge. In other areas, we lean to knowledge without love, and we need this great twosome. That’s the first point this morning, the importance of love and knowledge, love and insight. And then secondly, this morning, the impact because this is meant to be present in us for a purpose for a reason for an effect, and you’ll see in Chapter one, Verse 10, Paul says. There’s a reason that I’m praying that love and knowledge will abound because he says in verse 10.

So that and then he gives two reasons why he wants us to have love and knowledge, the first in the present. It’s so that we can choose the best path. And the second verse 11 is that on the last day when we meet Christ, we will have, as it were, the fruit of his work in us. So Paul is praying that we’ll have love and knowledge so that we can go through our days like the doctor like the counsellor seeing the best way forward. What a wonderful thing to live your life with love and knowledge, love and insight to see the best way to respond, behave to go.

And then, of course, he also wants us on the last day when we will stand before Christ and the believer will say, I owe my security 100% to you and your death on the cross.

But you have worked in me some fruit, some good. Some effect, which I’m so pleased to have been able to do in your service yesterday. Um, my wife and I went to the farewell of a minister and his wife who’ve just finished 47 years of, uh, serving in various churches. I was very struck by the fact that, uh, the speeches and the tributes about this man were very much the quality of his life again and again. It was the quality of his life that the men and the women spoke about. It wasn’t that he has had a ministry in the limelight, but he has shown so much of the light of Christ in his life. And I was reminded of that very searching comment that I heard many years ago that when people have forgotten what you said and when they’ve forgotten what you did, they will remember who you were.

Doesn’t mean, of course, that for the minister, the word will be lost. Doesn’t mean that the deeds that we do for Christ will be lost. But it means that it’s our person that’s usually remembered. And Paul, you see, is praying for the Christians to have this double impact that in the present we’ll see the best path to walk and in the future at the Day of Christ will stand before him with great joy. Everything foolish on that day will be blown away. Everything wise will be established.

And, uh, we want people, don’t we who are going to meet Christ one day to meet him with joy? We want people to be grateful for rescue, but we also want people to live lives that show the fruit of his work in us.

I’m reminded of the parables of Jesus when the master would gather his servants having given them certain gifts or coins and then he would gather them to see how they had gone with what he had given them. And you, the master was not a tyrant. He was incredibly generous. You know, the servant who’d used 10 coins well, is given as a reward in the parable 10 cities. But the person who just buried and hidden away what Christ had given they had no reward.

And Paul, you see, is praying for love and knowledge to move through us so that we walk the best path and we meet Christ with joy and all of this verse 11 as we come to a close, is for the praise of God. It’s for the glory of God, which seems to me exactly where all praise should go. In the end, Since everything good comes down from him, everything should be accredited and given to him.

And I’m thankful, You know, that, uh, at the end of so many of the rugby league games, quite a tough world, the rugby league competition. There are so many believers that seem to be in the teams. And at the end of, uh, so many of the games, this little group on both sides, both teams will get together and kneel down in a little circle, whether they’ve won or whether they’ve lost. And they’ll give some kind of praise back to God.

Maybe because they’ve been kept safe through the game. Maybe they’re giving thanks for their Saviour who’s worth more than all the rugby competition. And the cameras, of course, don’t know what to do with this group of Christians in a circle, praising God thanking God. And the commentators don’t know what to say. And they wouldn’t dare say anything neg. Negative, because these boys are big boys and there they are giving glory to God.

And that’s exactly what The Apostle Paul says is in the end, the end of our lives that we are thanking him because everything good has come from him. So here’s Paul’s very simple prayer in Philippians Chapter one, and I take you back to it. He’s praying that we’ll have love in our hearts. He’s praying that we’ll have the ability to know and walk the best path. He’s praying that our life will be lived well for him in this world.

And he’s praying that on the last day, as we stand before him with great joy, there will be something to show of the way in which he has worked in and through us, and it will all be to his praise. It’s a great prayer to add to your prayers.

Lord, help that person that we know and love to have love in their heart and wise paths to walk. Let’s bow our heads and pray our gracious god thank you for the wisdom of this prayer in your word, and we know that in our own hearts we need your love to abound. We know that we need your wisdom to walk.

Well, we pray that you would help us to have the discernment, not only to know the person of Christ, but also to know the love and the will of Christ. And we pray this so that our lives lived in this world might be to your praise. And on the last day, greatly to your praise we ask it in Jesus name, Amen.