A treasured letter. Philippians 1.9-11
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Nineteen years old, 2100 miles from home, I remember getting out of my parents' blue Chevy, looking around at not a single familiar face. It was quite an experience-mostly a good one. See, I had chosen a Christian college in St. Paul, Minnesota, far away from my Northern California home. Coming to understand the Midwestern 'take' on things was probably my biggest adjustment, besides missing my mom, my piano, and my big black dog.
One thing was a source of continued joy while I was there-a letter from home. When I retrieved one from my mailbox, I read it, reread it, and then stuck it in one of my textbooks and carried it with me. I treasured the written connection with my mom and dad, as I pictured them sitting down at the kitchen table to write a letter to their little girl, far from home. Ah yes, those letters were treasures.
I knew Mom and Dad pictured me as they wrote on inexpensive, practical stationery. Just so, Paul pictured his friends in the Philippian church as he wrote to them from his Roman prison cell. No doubt recalling their familiar faces, he expressed his gratitude for their faithfulness to Jesus, and their continued love and support of him. Ah, how he loved them!
Meanwhile, in Philippi, as is the custom-well, wait--let's go there! Believers have gathered to worship God. There is a buzz in the air at Lydia's house because word is out -- a letter has arrived from Paul! Oh, how they adored their beloved pastor!
Lydia smiles as she welcomes her dear ones, and remembers to herself: 'Why, it seems just yesterday that I was praying with the women at the river, when Paul and Silas and the others joined us. We were wary of the strangers at first, until we listened to Paul; I had never heard anything like it. He kind of got this other-worldly look on his face as he told us how Jesus got his attention while he was traveling to Damascus*. Paul told us of the joy he had in his heart ever since, and I leaned in closer so as not to miss a word. He told us what it was like to experience the presence of God in his heart and life--no Jewish teacher had ever talked like this man! He really had our attention as he went on to tell us that his experience was not for him alone, but that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, wanted to have the same relationship with us . . . that we too could become his children. Oh, I shall never forget that day-it was the day of my rebirth-the day that I met my Lord, and was baptized into the Christian faith! So much has happened since then. Just looking around, it is not just those women and me anymore, many others have become a part of our gospel community. Ah, now someone is about to read Paul's words to us-
'Brothers, sisters, a messenger delivered this letter from our brother Paul; I know you will treasure its words just as I have since its arrival. Do not forget, Paul drafted this letter to us from a Roman prison; I cannot even imagine the depth of his love for Jesus Christ, and for us, that he would go to such lengths to send us encouragement, when he himself is in that torture chamber!
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now ... It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus." 'Uh, allow me to interject something here,' Lydia says-'for all of you who sacrificed your own comfort to send provisions to Paul, you see how much it meant to him! You see how much it aided him in his travels to spread the good news of the gospel-the same good news that he had brought to us all those years ago.
Permit me to continue reading, brothers.' "And this is my prayer:
that your love may abound more and morein knowledge and depth of insight,
so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-
to the glory and praise of God."
Wow, wow, wow! What a passage, what a prayer!
What do YOU think Paul meant, in praying that 'their love would abound more and more...'? I must ask you--since you came to know Jesus, do you love others more freely? Less judgment, less criticism ... more understanding, more patience--?
And who do you know that might treasure a letter from you, expressing your love, joy and gratitude?
*Acts chapter 9