Temple Baptist Church - 3-7-2012
A. I often read the prayers of Paul and gain some interesting insight into the heart of a great man of God. What a miraculous change God wrought in a man who was the greatest enemy God’s people had up to that point in history. Humble but strong; either a person’s best friend or greatest enemy; totally sold out to the Lord in all that he did or hoped for. “For TO ME to live is Christ!”
B. Now, we look into his closet of prayer and, therefore, into his very heart as he took his innermost desires and concerns to his Lord.
1. Notice the place of his praying. “My bonds.” Paul was incarcerated. He was imprisoned wrongfully with his only fault loving sinners and trying to keep them out of a devil’s hell. You and I would be screaming, “I’m innocent! I’ve been framed! Get me a lawyer! Let me out of here!” Paul has no thought for self as we will see in these verses.
2. Notice the joy of his praying. “I thank my God!” “Making request with joy.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks.” I am sure that Paul was not thankful for being falsely incarcerated in a dark, damp prison. I am sure he was not too happy with the “water and bread of affliction” that was normally fed to prisoners. Prison in those days was a little different from the “day rooms” that are made available today. I am sure that Paul was not thankful for the abusive language and maltreatment that he received at the hands of God’s enemies. But, in the midst of affliction and heartache, Paul found something to be thankful for and readily gave thanksgiving to the Lord. Joy has been defined in acrostic fashion as “J – Jesus first O – other second Y – you last.
3. Noticed the objects of his praying. “All the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” His heart’s desire was for the welfare and edification of the church at Philippi. God’s man loved God’s people. I have a problem with pastors and missionaries who do not love the people that the Lord allows them to serve. I fear that too many preachers have forgotten that the ministry means “to minister.” Not to “be ministered to.”
C. Now, for a few minutes, let us look at the content of the prayer:
1. He prayed for their labor of love in the ministry. “Fellowship in the gospel.” Many times, the work of the Lord is a lonesome work as many believers place self and self-desires ahead of what the Lord wants and commands us to do. Fellowship within the church and fellowship in the “white already to harvest” world in which we live. Our Lord’s prayer request was for “labourers” to be sent into the God’s vineyard. The labourers are truly few and getting fewer all of the time with less and less men and women surrendering to the Lord’s will. Churches everywhere with no pastor; mission fields with none to go plant churches; our Jerusalem dying without Christ and without hope with only the cults “compelling” them to come in.
2. He prayed for their unity in love. “ Love may abound yet more and more.” As sound doctrine is the foundation of the local church, love is the glue that holds it together. I reiterate that the greatest enemy of the local church is division in the pews and that is a constant problem. A pastor can preach on the subject until he has worn it out and still have someone get mad or get their feelings hurt the next day. It is a never ending dilemma that must be dealt with and the success of the local church is up to you individually. Get mad or get hurt and you become an arm of Satan. Our Lord told Peter to “get thee behind me Satan!”
3. He prayed for their sanctification. “That ye may approve things that are excellent.” Living above the “snake line” by choosing the superlative. Snakes do not go above a certain elevation. This invisible line of elevation is often called the snake line. Many hunters and campers are keenly aware of this fact and intentionally pitch their camps above the snake line. Good is good; better is better; and best is best! So many of us choose the good or better over the best because it is convenient or is the easiest path to trod. I have often said that we need to give “God the benefit of every doubt.” If we choose the superlative, then we will live with a clear conscience and no regrets.
4. He prayed their lives would reflect the glory and praise of God. “Unto the glory and praise of God.” May each of us live in such a way as to never bring shame or reproach to the name of Christ as we are called “Christians.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.