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

Safe or Good?

“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion” …

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver … “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The more I meditate on this exchange, the richer it grows. In this story, Aslan represents Jesus Christ and Susan is a child preparing to meet him. She wonders what all of us would wonder when meeting an unrestrained lion: is he going to use his strength and power to hurt me? What a vivid comparison to our concerns about God’s role in our lives!

We want God to be safe, meaning we want Him to be tame, predictable, and under our control. But this is not who God is. God reminded Job of this after listening to Job’s lament about the difficult circumstances he faced:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?… Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb?…Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place?…Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail?…Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?…Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?…Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high?…Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? (Job 38:4a, 8, 12, 22, 35; 39:19, 27; 40:9)

If you want to read more of this exchange, look up Job chapters 38 through 42. God’s power and knowledge is very humbling! But even this excerpt makes it clear: God is not subject to our desires and preferences. He is the Creator. He is in control. Embracing His role as King and our role as His subject is far more life.

Although God determines His own actions, Scripture assures us repeatedly that He is good.

Good and upright is the Lord. (Psalm 25:8a, NIV)

Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8a, NIV)

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. (Psalm 86:5, NIV)

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever. (Psalm 100:5, 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 118:29, 136:1, NIV)

You are good, and what you do is good (Psalm 119:68, NIV)

The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. (Psalm 145:9, NIV)

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. (Nahum 1:7a, NIV)

No one is good—except God alone. (Mark 10:18b, NIV

But the fruit of the Spirit is…goodness. (Galatians 5:22, NIV)

…you have tasted that the Lord is good. (I Peter 2:3, NIV)

Because of God’s goodness, we can trust Him to treat His children lovingly. The Bible is full of accounts that prove this over and over. One of my favorites is the account of Gideon in Judges 6 and 7. God had a special job for Gideon and told him about it. Gideon was slow to believe it was really God speaking — he asked for several reassurances — and God patiently provided each one. God told him step-by-step what would happen, and it all came true. God led Gideon and his army to a great military victory, even though they were greatly outnumbered. But God, in His goodness, looked at their hearts and provided just what they needed to trust and follow His instruction.

In my own life I have seen God’s goodness through His protection. Once he protected me from physical injury when my car was struck by lightning. Another time he protected me from a financial hardship by selling our house shortly before a major mechanical failure took place. He didn’t speak to me in the way He spoke to Gideon, but I believe His goodness was at work in those situations and many others I have faced.

So why, despite evidence, do we continue to doubt God? I think one reason is because we cannot see the whole picture. From our limited human perspective, we cannot see what might have happened without God acting in goodness on our behalf. We can only see what does happen, and sometimes it does not appear good to us. And we have an enemy, Satan, who doesn’t want us to see God clearly. He tempts us to focus on the hard and bad things God allows us to suffer. When we fall for that focus we forget to thank God for protecting us from worse situations (John 17:15). And for being with us through the hard times (Hebrews 13:5) and providing all that we need (Philippians 4:19).

We live far more life in the moments we release our idea of God conforming to our definition of safe and instead embrace the truth that He, in His goodness, provides all the safety we need. As we let Him be God, we are free to notice and enjoy His provision along our journey. We will encounter valleys along the way, but His goodness — and the opportunity for far more life — is always with us.

Sisters,
How are you tempted to make God be “safe”?
What evidence have you seen of His goodness in your life?
Pray for His perspective in the difficulties you face so you can see His provision this week.
Thank Him for being with you and providing all you need.
-Shari