ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
This week, Pastor Jim Pool from the Renaissance Vineyard in Ferndale spoke about the way that God uses our experiences in the past to prepare us for the tasks that He has for us in the future. Pastor Jim made numerous references to the story of David slaying Goliath, which is described in chapter 17 of the first book of Samuel. One of the ways that God prepared David to respond to Goliath’s challenge with courage rather than fear was through David’s care of his father’s sheep. While caring for the sheep, David had to fight both bear and lion.
The vast majority of us have not had to fight off lions, bears, or giants. But most of us have had opportunities to respond to challenges with courage, overcoming our fear and trusting that God will provide what we need. These experiences make it easier to respond to even greater challenges that come in response to God’s call on us.
In his letter to the church at Phillipi, the apostle Paul describes a similar process. Starting in verse 3 of chapter 1:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
When you have some time to pray, you might read this passage slowly two or three times, being open to the places which attract your attention. Paul clearly saw the church in Phillipi as his partners in God’s work. Do you see yourself as a partner with others in doing God’s work? Does this make you thankful? Disappointed? Excited? Despondent? Share this feeling with God? How does God seem as you tell him aobut your feelings? How has God worked in your life so far? Can you describe what he has done? Do you feel grateful? Disappointed? Share these feelings with God and look for his response, even if it is simply an attitude towards you. Paul prayed that the Phillipians would grow in their love, for God, for each other, for the good news of Jesus reaching others, etc. How does reading this make you feel? Talk to God about how you see yourself growing in love or not. Finally, what comes to mind when Paul speaks of being filled with the fruit of righteousness? Righteousness definitely involves avoiding doing things that God doesn’t want us to do. But it can also mean doing things that God wants us to do, as was the case with David fighting Goliath. Do you feel any nudges from God as you read this part of the passage? If so share your thought with God and listen for his response.
These are just some of the questions or thoughts that might come to mind as you read this passage in God’s presence. We offer these to open your mind to the ways that God might use the passage to speak to you. But your experience of reading this passage might go in different directions. That is fine. Simply follow those experiences in a similar vein to the questions suggested above.
You might write down anything of significance from this time of prayer in a journal or notepad.
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.