We see Paul imprisoned yet set free by his partnership in the Gospel, his ability to partake in the grace that overflows, and despite all the setbacks and trials, he is able to continue to give thanks while…
Praying for Growth (8-11) 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
What a powerful prayer—he shows us the results of partnership and partaking in grace is that what we experience is no longer private. It is like a pot of water on the stove, as the heat gets turned up, the energy transferred, what is inside bubbles up and boils over and eventually if allowed, over the edge. God through his grace gives us Agape love but as we put it into motion, the divine was never meant to be confined. Paul longs that God’s love would bubble up inside us: our knowledge and discernment, our intellect and experience, all that it would then burst out into the real world as we find it. That God carrying us would get the praise and glory of guiding us as well. All along, it would be to God’s glory and for our good—changing our relationships, finances, perspectives, ideas and identity. Yet sometimes people can struggle. Jim was a young leader mentoring a new attender by the name of Alex. Jim dropped by Alex’s work at the car dealership where Alex worked. “Jim, I feel like a hypocrite every time I go to church because I fail to live for Christ so often.” “Alex, what do you call this part of the dealership?” Jim asked, nodding to the area outside his cubicle. “You mean the showroom?”
“Yes. And what’s behind the showroom, past the parts counter? “The service department,” Alex said confidently. “What if I told you I didn’t want to bring my car to the service department because it was running rough,” Jim asked. “That would be crazy! That’s the whole point of service departments—to fix cars that aren’t running right.” “You’re absolutely right,” Jim replied. “Now, let’s get back to our initial conversation. Instead of thinking of church as a showroom where image is everything, start thinking of it as God’s service department. Helping people get back in running order with God is what the church is all about.” Source: Choice Contemporary Stories and Illustrations For Preachers, Teachers, and Writers, Craig Brian Larson
Church isn’t the showroom it is the service center where you get fixed up and sent out. Amy Carmichael reflected on this concept of growth, “Sometimes when we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. I feel that I shall never be like that. But they won through step by step by little bits of wills little denials of self-little inward victories by faithfulness in very little things. They became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps. They only see the accomplishment, but even so, those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph no spiritual maturity. That is the work of the moment.” Church is the place where God welcomes us in to open the hood, allowing his sinless life to bear the fullness of sin, allowing his death to be the part that makes us holy and whole. It is the place where we are equipped to ride with Him again. On this Homecoming—we have reason to give thanks, but giving thanks is the beginning, not the end. Giving thanks is the start not the finish.
Conclusion: What would it look like in your life if you doubled down in your partnership in the Gospel, if you once again fork ready partook in grace, and if you prayed for growth by taking hold of the moment? AS Thanksgiving nears—why not spend the next few days giving thanks for the gifts that transcend your earthly condition, and draw you towards the eternal. As President Lincoln looked at the fractured world around him, none-the-less, his proclamation read: “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” As Paul would attest—we truly have reason to give thanks! It is time to go home!