Love and moral excellence. They go hand in hand.

I have a confession to make. Sometimes Apostle Paul’s writings are confusing to me and require translation of the translation. (The grammar nerd in me says he’s the king of the run-on sentence.)

Philippians 1:9-10 is just such a case. I have read the Orthodox Jewish Bible and the Amplified Bible this morning to better grasp what is being said, and I’m not sure I’m close, but a little truth is still truth.

Paul was writing to believers at Philippi, a town in Greece, and these verses are part of the opening of his letter, telling them of his prayer for them. (How wonderful to hear that someone cares about you and prays for you, right?)

His prayer wasn’t for protection from the persecution that they faced. It wasn’t for more provision. It was that their love in the Messiah would grow to the extent that they would increase in their godly knowledge and discernment so that their love would be displayed more fully.

The growth of their love in Jesus would be shown in their love for others.

This ever-increasing love in Jesus would also develop in them the incredible ability to sense what is vital, excellent, and of real value – meaning they would recognize the highest and best, and also recognize the moral differences. This is important, because it is this ability that allowed them to live untainted, pure, unerring, and blameless lives in preparation for that day when they would meet their Savior.

Their lives would be marked by their not stumbling, nor causing others to stumble.

For us, when our love for Jesus increases, it is brilliantly displayed in our love for others. Not only do those we’ve loved know it, but the watching world knows it, too.

And this wonderful thing begins in us that we sometimes attribute to conscience or intuition: we begin to notice the things that are not of moral excellence – they don’t line up with the character of God. Beyond noticing, they bother us and we are compelled to make changes in our lives to avoid those to live life without stumbling and without causing others to stumble.

In short, we begin to look a lot more like Jesus.

Believer, I am praying Paul’s prayer for you today. May your love in Christ increase so that it overflows. May your knowledge of Him and His discernment in you be so finely honed that you are the shining, blameless, untainted example of His character to the world around you in preparation for that day when you see Jesus face to face.

A few extra thoughts…

First, let me drop back and say, is it not amazing to hear that somebody has said I am praying for you? And this is what I’m praying? Sometimes we think that encouragement must be “Oh, you look fabulous.” “Oh, you sound fabulous.” Sometimes the best encouragement that one believer can give another is to say: I prayed for your health today. I prayed that your car that hasn’t been running would run well for you today. I prayed for your kids today.

I mean, the idea of encouragement is to fill somebody up, to build them up and to fill them up to fill their heart to where it feels loved. To give that kind of encouragement by simply saying “I have prayed for you.” That’s encouragement that that is beyond telling someone that they look great. Right? Yeah. So maybe we need to do that more often. I know I do. I do pray for other people, what I need to do is to let them know. I don’t need to keep that to myself. Okay, that’s something to remember.

What Paul was saying was that falling in love with Jesus displays from us in love for others. When we get closer and closer to the Savior, our love for him just overflows and it it splashes on other people. You know, when a bucket is overflowing and you keep pouring it in with heavy droplets and waves splash on those around the bucket. If we are the bucket, and we are being constantly poured into because we’re loving Christ, it’s gonna splash out.

We need to stop working to love somebody else and start loving Jesus more, to allow him to love through us to them. So you mean it’s not like this stressful thing that I have to keep at and just keep drilling it? No. Once again, it’s about surrender. It’s about surrender. It’s about giving up and letting God do what he wants to do through you. Hmm, there’s another thing to remember and think about.

And this thing about not stumbling. I would really rather not make a lot of mistakes and trip over my own self and fall. How about you? Yeah, I really prefer not doing that. However, we’ve just been told in this scripture that by loving Jesus more, growing closer to him, growing in the aspects of his character, we’re not going to stumble. And it doesn’t mean tripping and falling on ice. That’s a whole different thing. This is spiritually and emotionally, in our lives, in our life choices, we’re not going to stumble when we are staying that close to the Lord. It would be amazing to not make mistakes like that, but even better to me is that my choices would then not cause somebody else to stumble.

When I make poor choices, I’m leading somebody… you are, too. You may not think that you’re a leader, but you are. There’s somebody watching you. And there is somebody who will emulate you, who will do what you do, copy what you do, live like you live. So in our faith walk, which then determines our life walk, we need to draw closer to Christ. We need to build our love in him, to grow in that so that we’re not tripping our own selves up, and we’re not tripping somebody else up. Hmm.

It sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? No, no, no, no, no. Go back. This is because our love in Christ is growing, not because we’re doing something special. We simply allow his love in us to grow and blossom and overflow on to others. It might mean a lot of letting go. It might mean where you’ve been holding on tight to things that you need to do. And loosening that grip until you’re not holding tight to it anymore, but you’re holding tight to the Savior.

Listen, you can do this. I know you can. I believe in you. I believe in you but better than that. Almighty God believes in you. He is for you.

Coffee, Bible, Journal.

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Faye Bryant

Faye Bryant is an author, coach, and speaker who helps individuals escape the lies of the enemy, live into God’s truth, and build a better life by first feeling, dealing, and healing their way through a stuck future or an abused past, toward a deeper path of purpose, and into the unhackable life of their chosen legacy. Hers is a story of resurrection: from death to life!