WEEK THREE, DAY FOUR, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION
WEEK THREE THEME: COMMUNITY
DAY FOUR THEME: THE WORK OF THE COMMUNITY
SCRIPTURE: PHILIPPIANS 1:3- 11 (CEB)
“I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now. I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.
I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart. You are all my partners in God’s grace, both during my time in prison and in the defense and support of the gospel. God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.
This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ in order to give glory and praise to God.”
THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!
SOAKING IT IN: Paul speaks well of the relationships made throughout ministry. The ministry of Christ Jesus for the sake of the Kingdom of God allows all of those connected in it to become family. Life may take you away from this family after a time or for a time, but you never lose the fondness and love for them and the connection stays strong.
Connections made for the cause of God are not just acquaintences for the moment, they are rooted in the heart of God. Terry is a United Methodist Pastor, and the ministry we have shared over the past 44 years has taken us from place to place. Terry in currently serving in his 9th ministry opportunity. In each of those places of ministry, we served together with some amazing people who influenced our lives and made us stronger and better people because of who they are in God. Their faith journey influenced and encouraged our faith journey. To this day, there are names that will come up from way in the past that will give a strong tug at our heart strings and bring a huge smile of gratitude and remembrance. The togetherness that was felt during that time in ministry together is real and everlasting. We may not have been able to keep close contact over the years, but in a moment we are back together, grateful for the relationship and the way God used us together for His work. “When we all get together” again in our heavenly bodies, I can only imagine the times we will spend reuniting and celebrating our paths having crossed!
I think Paul was Methodist too! His ministry took him far and wide, and he made wonderful “community” in each and every place. In this scripture from Philippians, Paul’s memory has floated over the folks from Philippi and his heart is overwhelmed and joyful as he reflects on the ministry and support that they each offered to the other during their time together. This grouping was not a happenstance and wasn’t just thrown together. God joined the effort and the ties are now bound forever. Paul cannot just think on them and dismiss the experiences as a part of the past. No, those experiences are still multiplying on into the present, adding to the Kingdom or Community of God for great good. These relationships actually have a way of running even deeper than our biological family. These relationships are the new family where there is always room for more as the common good is shared and sought after with undying faith.
Family relationships are certainly precious and they become ever more enhanced through combined efforts both within the family and beyond in the family of God. Paul’s guidance here is in his example of ongoing prayer for and love for these people. It shines a light for us to continue to celebrate all those who we have shared in ministry with all along the way and hold them fresh daily in our hearts and prayers as we would our own biological family. It gives real meaning and truth to “The Family of God – joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod”.
I am especially touched by this particular portion of Paul’s prayer near the end: “This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ.” Paul know that in society and in community things are always changing. We all have moments in our past where life was “perfect” and we want to freeze it and live “there” forever. But that is not “real life”. There are constantly things that come around and threaten to break us all apart and divide us. As the changes come, we have differing opinions and take sides and our unity is damaged if not severed all together.
We must not let such things happen if we are united in Christ! We are to seek God’s guidance and open our hearts and minds to his teaching, taking on his heart about these controversies. God may have a work to do in us to bring us even closer to Him and the way He sees such things – the ways of His Kingdom. One of the most dangerous statements we can make individually or as a group is: “I’ve always believed this way” OR “we have always done it that way!” To “arrive” at “perfection” in any understanding or behavior, slams the door shut on growing in Christ. Perfection is literally unobtainable in this life. We are always growing or becoming stagnant. Paul’s prayer is for God’s people to grow ongoingly with knowledge and all kinds of insight.. in order to decide what really matters..being sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. Paul once had very strong opinions of Jesus and followers of Jesus – but in God’s perfect timing – while Paul was on the way to do harm to the followers of Jesus – Paul was changed. Paul (formerly Saul – Jew among Jews – persecutor of Christ) had a complete change of heart and mind because he encountered Jesus.
We have all been brought up with varying staunch beliefs and “understandings” about things of the world. As we grow in Christ, some of these will most definitely become challenged, and we will face tough decisions about what to believe going forward. Let us allow God to surround us in these moments and cover them thoroughly in prayer. Decide what really matters (most worldly things do not), and move forward with Christ as your example. Keep in mind – as I’ve heard Terry say a million times – the most common word in Heaven is going to be: “OH”! Now we see only dimly the things of God – then we will see face to face and have complete understanding – “OH”!!!!
Lord, help me to be aware of those that you have carefully placed me alongside of for ministry. Help me to bloom vivaciously where I am planted. Bless all our efforts as they combine for the good of your Kingdom. Use the relationships to make me a better person and a supportive and encouraging presence in their lives as well becoming a living testimony of You. Where my understanding and beliefs are weak and harmful, teach me and help me grow in knowledge and insight so as not to divide, but to always be a blessing to ALL who are my “community”. Bless be this tie in you that binds us for our eternal lives together. Amen!