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
As Paul writes this letter to the believers in Philippi, he is under house arrest in Rome, awaiting his coming trial. But rather than complain about his circumstances or his lot in life, Paul is joyful, grateful, and full of words of encouragement to his brothers and sisters in Christ living in this Roman colony. Paul is far from self-focused, dwelling on his own situation. Instead, he is obsessed with the well-being and ongoing spiritual development of the church in Philippi. He is confident that God is going to complete what He started there. "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ returns" (Philippians 1:6 NLT). God was not done yet. He had more to do among the people of Philippi, continuing His transformative work in their lives and within the church.
So as Paul is prone to do in all of his letters, he offers up a prayer on behalf of the local congregation there. He shares that it is his ongoing request that their love will continue to grow unchecked – made possible by God's work in their midst and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. He also prays that their knowledge and understanding will grow as well. Specifically, he wants them to understand what is really important in God's grand scheme of things – what really matters most to God. Knowing and understanding what God wants will always result in lives that are pure and blameless. Comprehending God's holy standard and understanding that He has equipped us with His Holy Spirit as a power source to enable to live according to that standard are major requests on Paul's prayer list. Paul wants them to grow. He wants their lives to produce fruit that reflects the reality of their salvation in Christ. That fruit will appear as righteous character, or a Spirit-produced change in behavior. Paul describes the nature of this fruit in his letter to the Gatatians: "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). That list is extensive, but it should also be expressed in our daily lives. Each one of those characteristics is a visible expression of the invisible presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. They are evidence of His power and presence, reflecting that He is doing a work in our lives.
Paul was not angry about being in prison. He was not upset about having to suffer for Christ. Instead, he saw it as an opportunity to serve Christ and to minister to the body of Christ by using the opportunity to write letters to the believers in Philippi, Galatia, Ephesus, and Colossae. Paul stayed busy, not having a pity party, but using every available moment to minister to the body of Christ and to continue spreading the Gospel every moment of every day. His greatest desire, expressed in the words of his prayer, was that the people of God in Philippi would continue to grow, mature, and exhibit the character of Christ in every area of their lives. And that would be his prayer for us as well. Overflowing love, ever-increasing knowledge and understanding, pure and blameless lives, and Spirit-produced fruit that is both visible and tangible – all these things are needed in our lives today. May we pray as Paul did, asking God to make these things a reality among His people today.
Father, may Paul's prayer become our ongoing prayer for one another. We need for our love to increase. We need to grow in our knowledge and understanding – comprehending what really matters to You. We need your Spirit to produce fruit in our lives that clearly reflects His activity in our lives – transforming us from the inside out. Amen