Overflowing

I love this prayer for far more life that Paul raised to God on behalf of the Christians in Philippi. It is so rich!

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. (Philippians 1:9, NLT)

What does overflowing love look like in our lives?

  • Imagine God’s love filling you to the brim and naturally flowing out of you NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. When you encounter a difficulty your first words are genuine praise to God for giving you the opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness. That is overflowing love.
  • Imagine your understanding and experience of God’s love enveloping those around you. When someone mistreats you, God’s love enables you to sincerely forgive and bless them on the spot. This is overflowing love.
  • Imagine having an eternal perspective on the challenges of this life. When you receive bad news, your immediate response is to thank God for giving you all you need in this life and for your future with Him in heaven. This response is overflowing love.

We overflow with God’s love when we immerse ourselves in Him. Some of us find this easy and dive headfirst into God’s love, drinking in as much as possible and reveling in it. We are quickly filled to overflowing. But others are hesitant and cautious. They may slowly tiptoe into the depths of God’s love, stopping to test the water before each step. It takes time for them to truly believe God’s love is safe because human love has been hurtful. Regardless of the path, we are filled once we are immersed. And when we are filled with God’s love, it naturally flows out of us and touches those we touch. It is part of us. Far more life overflows with God’s love.

Being immersed opens the door for the second half of Paul’s prayer: growth in knowledge and understanding. As we study God’s Word, we learn more than historical facts; we gain insights about His character and plan. This knowledge increases our understanding of what God has instructed and why. Increased understanding deepens our appreciation and love for God. We see Him as a Person and desire to know Him better. His Word is not a novel we read once from cover to cover. It is a love letter that grows more precious with each reading (Psalm 119:97-104). We come to view God’s Word as a guidebook filled with principles, practicalities, and warnings that enrich our life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The more we experience the benefit of following God’s Word, the more we seek it out. Far more life is pursuing deeper knowledge and understanding of God.

I love Paul’s heart for these dear saints, revealed in the next part of his prayer:

For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. (Philippians 1:10, NLT)

A deeper knowledge and understanding of God changes us! It opens our eyes to the difference between our limited insight and that of God, the Creator of the universe who knows everything. It frees us to pursue what really matters: a love relationship with God and people. Without this, we can get caught up in pursuing things that ultimately don’t matter — influence, popularity, security, escape, pleasure — and miss experiencing far more life in Christ. When our hearts are transformed by Christ and our minds are renewed by His truth, we want to pursue what matters to God. Our desires change to line up with His desires. Far more life eagerly pursues God and His purposes.

Notice that living a pure and blameless life comes AFTER we are overflowing in love, have gained knowledge, and understand what really matters. Too many Christians think that striving to live a pure and blameless life will lead to a changed heart and renewed mind. (The popular phrase, “Fake it ’til you make it,” supports this mindset.) Even if their external actions look good, they are not living far more life. God takes the opposite approach: get to know Him, embrace what He says matters, and THEN you will have the power to live in genuine righteousness. We find far more life in the places where our heart, mind, and actions are in alignment with God. We are refreshed and energized as we obey Him. And this encourages us to bring more areas of life into alignment with Him.

Paul concludes his prayer with a challenge:

May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. (Philippians 1:11, NLT)

The fruit of our salvation is a righteous character that produces good works. Gardeners know that fruit is the desired outcome, the result. It is what we get excited about. Fruit is evident to all who look at the plant or tree. The fruit of righteousness — the power to overcome sin and act rightly — is available to everyone who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.

It would be nice if we changed from fruitless (sinful) to righteous (completely sinless) at the moment of our salvation, but that is not God’s plan for us. Yet Paul’s encouragement is that we ALWAYS be filled with righteousness. His prayer is that we are always filled to overflowing with God’s love so we are eager to do good to and for others. Every day. As we mature spiritually. No matter our circumstances. This is how we bring the most glory and praise to God. This is where we experience far more life.

Sisters,
What helps you to continue going to God to be filled up?
How would you summarize what really matters to God?
What is the quality and quantity of fruit in your life? What is hindering its growth? How will you overcome that hindrance?
Pray these verses for yourself and overflow with far more life this week!
-Shari

Far More Good News

I have been contemplating the question, “What do our lives look like when we are passionately pursuing Christ?” I’ve been wondering about the commonalities among people living this way. During one of my God Times, this passage caught my attention:

Live as citizens who reflect the Good News about Christ…don’t let your opponents intimidate you in any way…God has given you the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him.  (Philippians 1:27, 28a, 29, GW)

It seems the Philippians were passionately pursuing God. Three things stood out to me about Paul’s instruction: reflect the Good News; don’t let opponents intimidate; and it’s a privilege to suffer. Let’s explore them.

First, like the Christians in Philippi, we are surrounded by bad news. We constantly hear of problems, tragedies, evil, and dissatisfaction. I am tempted to withdraw from media to avoid the negativity it promotes. But the bad news around us creates a perfect backdrop for the good news of Christ! The message of Christ offers the safety people are seeking. Far more life shares the Good News of peace and hope in Christ.

When we experience far more life, we naturally want to tell others about it. We want them to know Christ and discover the richness of a relationship with Him, too. We hear the bad news that burdens them and want to offset it with the Good News that changes everything. Sometimes we have the opportunity to speak, other times we do not. Either way, I appreciate the heart Paul had for the Thessalonians:

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (I Thessalonians 2:8, NIV)

Far more life is sharing life with others. There is something special about relationships that are centered on following God. There is a depth of connection that forms as we walk through life together. I have belonged to small groups and ministry teams that sacrificially supported each other through hard times, genuinely loved each other through trials and misunderstandings, and joyfully celebrated together when God blessed a member or granted our prayers. Many defining moments of my life have been shared with these dear people! We live far more life together.

Second, we face opponents who want to intimidate us. A Christian worldview is not popular, in fact it is often denounced and ridiculed. We are wise to carefully choose what we say and when we say it. But we don’t have to be intimidated about believing and living out the Good News of Christ. Far more life is boldly accepting and living out God’s love.

When I think of loving boldly in the presence of intimidating opponents, I appreciate the example of Guido in the movie Life is Beautiful. Despite being in a Nazi concentration camp, he goes to great lengths to keep his young son physically and emotionally sheltered from the reality they are facing. He also finds a way to communicate to his beloved wife that he is still alive. Guido successfully lives within the restrictions placed on him by the Nazis but is not intimidated by them. He lives out his love with boldness. No external situation he faces can extinguish it. The same is true of God’s love within His children. Far more life stands strong against opponents.

This leads us to the third statement: God has given us the privilege of suffering for Christ. Privilege of suffering? We think of privilege as an easy life, removed from difficulty. But God has a different perspective:

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God (1 Peter 2:20b, NIV)

Why is suffering for doing good commendable before God?

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.  (I Peter 4:14, 16, NIV)

God’s children are not understood by this world. That leads to insults and suffering. God is proud of His children who endure that suffering graciously because they understand the Good News of Christ and the spiritual dynamics of this world. He is pleased when we keep doing what He says is good despite being misunderstood and oppressed. What was true of the first century Christians and is true of many Christ-followers around the world today:

Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (Hebrews 10:33-34, NIV)

Far more life takes suffering in stride and remains focused on eternal glory. It remembers this world is not our true home and this life is just a moment in eternity. Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of men and women who lived out that reality. After a long list of examples, the writer concludes: “the world was not worthy of them” (verse 38). Those men and women put their faith in God and the Good News of Christ above all else. They lived far more life and they suffered at the hands of those who could not comprehend it. We are not alone. We are not the first. We are probably not suffering the worst. But we can live far more life in our suffering.

So, what do our lives look like when we are passionately pursuing Christ? Far more life!

Sisters,
How do you reflect the Good News of Christ?
How do you share your life with others?
Does opposition intimidate you? Or make you bold?
How have you experienced the privilege of suffering for Christ?
Embrace far more life as you passionately pursue Christ this week!
-Shari

Far More Passion

When we started this blog journey, I promised we would discover our passion. I expected to discuss spiritual gifts and the satisfaction we find serving God and blessing others using the traits He wired into us. But that is not where the path has led.

As each week’s post comes together, a new perspective on passion is taking shape in my heart and mind. Using our gifts may be a way to express our passion, but recognizing the source of our passion is the key to sustaining far more life. If we want far more life moments, our passion needs to be fed. But what is the source? Fortunately it is revealed in Scripture:

But God was very, very kind. He loved us very, very much. We were dead because of the wrong things we had done. He has made us alive with Christ. You have been saved by his love and kindness. (Ephesians 2:4-5, WE)

…I also pray that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation. This way, with all of God’s people you will be able to understand how wide, long, high, and deep his love is. You will know Christ’s love, which goes far beyond any knowledge. I am praying this so that you may be completely filled with God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19, GW)

God’s love is our source of passion! It is the foundation on which far more life is built. As our understanding grows our passion is sparked. We discover far more life is only found in God. And it is not something we keep inside, it shines for all to see. Far more life is not really about us; it is about Him.

If you discovered the cure for cancer, wouldn’t you be passionate about sharing it with everyone suffering from that dreadful disease? If a doctor introduced you to that cure, wouldn’t you tell everyone about him or her as well? Of course you would! Sin is like spiritual cancer, and you have discovered the cure: perfect love! More importantly, you have a relationship with God who is Perfect Love!

Curing cancer — of the physical or spiritual variety — does not just prevent you from dying. It also offers you life. And once you have been rescued from death, you want to experience and share far more life with everyone who crosses your path! You are passionate about the cure and the One who cures. Living out this verse becomes your desire:

Everything you say and everything you do should be done for Jesus your Lord. And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus. (Colossians 3:17, ERV)

To our sinful nature, this verse can sound like a heavy burden to carry, one more expectation placed on us. But when we read it with a heart that is full of God’s love, it resonates with us and motivates us to respond. Living for Jesus in all we say and do is far more life! It expresses exactly what we want to do as a new creation in Him. It satisfies us and fulfills us because it is what we were designed to do. It is not a burden or an expectation. It is our response to receiving His love.

We can tackle any task with passion when we remember Who we are doing it for and why He deserves our best. When we understand and remember His love for us, we are motivated to love Him back. We are wise to adopt the instruction given to slaves just a few verses later:

Whatever you do, do it from the heart…you serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24, CSV)

When I grow weary in the middle of task, this verse encourages me to keep going. I ask myself, “If I was doing this for Jesus, would I be satisfied to stop now?” Usually the answer is no. I want to give Jesus my best. So I can cheerfully keep going — whether I am serving, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, or showing mercy — when I picture Jesus on the receiving end. I may not be passionate about the particular task, but I can be passionate about loving Jesus and being a vessel of His love to the people around me.

Let’s be honest: there are some things that we naturally enjoy more than others. It is okay to prefer babysitting a friend’s children over holding her hand through a medical procedure. It is okay to prefer giving money to hire a job done more than leading a work crew doing the task. It is okay to prefer writing one person an encouraging note over leading a large group Bible study. There is a variety of needs around us, so God has given us a variety of gifts and skills to meet them. Thankfully if we look around we can usually see a place to serve God and others that we will enjoy. But the fact remains: whether we are doing something we enjoy or something we don’t, we can always do it to the best of our ability with a passion for God. We can always choose far more life.

Sisters,
What reminds you of the vastness of God’s love for you?
Does that make you passionate for God today?
If your passion is weak right now, will you invest in better understanding God’s love for you?
Adopt the mindset that you are working for Jesus this week. What changes do you notice in your feelings, thoughts, and actions?
Enjoy far more life growing your passion this week!
-Shari