More and More (Phil 1:9)

Updated: Aug 26




When our grandson Micah learned to ride his bike Sabra and I had the privilege of watching it firsthand. We were up at Brightsand Lake with my daughter and her family enjoying a summer holiday. Caleb, Micah’s older brother had already learned how to efficiently navigate his two-wheeler, and this compelled his younger brother Micah to follow suit. We were at one end of the campground and Caleb and Micah were at the other – about a ¼ mile apart. And they would come to visit Nana and Papa. Here would come Caleb in the lead – always in the lead – freewheeling effortlessly along, and behind him the younger Micah struggling to keep up as he teetered back and forth, now leaning on the left training wheel and now on the right. As I watched, my heart went out for Micah.



Being the younger brother has some disadvantages. I have an older brother and the span between us is about the same as it is between my grandsons, Caleb and Micah – just a couple of years. Because the older brother is… well… older, the younger brother has a way of finding himself on the losing end of virtually any and every competition. Whether throwing a ball, learning something new at school, or being the first to go with Dad on some privilege that being older grants him, the older brother is always coming up on top. For him this is normal. On the other hand, the younger brother is left wondering at times if he will ever win at anything. You either learn how to lose gracefully as a younger brother, or you find yourself sulking a lot. And older brothers seem to have a vested interest in seeing you sulk, especially after you have lost at Sorry for the eighth time in a row.


This younger brother syndrome was alive and active on the day that Micah learned to ride his two-wheeler. I wanted him to succeed at the task, to have that sense of, “Yes I can!” I knew he could do it. He had his doubts. And watching his older brother ride around with ease seemed only to worsen the situation. But as the days progressed, and Micah dared to let Grandpa raise the training wheels a little higher, he had his first glimpses of, “I can!!” Just a few feet of freedom but it was a taste of what was to come and his face lit up like a lighthouse.


When I was teaching my girls how to ride their bikes it became very evident to me that you can’t short circuit the process; you can cheer them on but they have to skin their own knees. Even though you have all the confidence in the world that they will succeed, they have to come to that understanding on their own – the hard way. Effortlessly navigating on only two wheels seems like an impossibility when you’re five. And the experience of trying the task seems only to confirm it. I remember the tears of frustration and now I was watching Micah with his own struggles. His confidence was on a pendulum, “I can! I can’t! I can! I can’t!” It’s a painful thing to watch as a grandparent. But soon “I can!” won out and Micah was free, the impossible had arrived, the training wheels were a thing of the past. He was free… well almost free.


He rode his two-wheeler back home to show his Mom and Dad how proud he was but as he entered their campsite and went down a bit of an incline, fear got the best of him and so did the picnic table. He crashed headlong into it, banging his knee. And there in a heap on the ground, his newfound confidence evaporated. What happened in that moment? Instead of focusing on where he wanted to go, he focused on his fears. He rounded the corner, picked up speed and thought, “Oh no, the picnic table!” and steered right into it.


Micah, of course, would get over this soon enough; his confidence returned, and now just like the rest of us he can’t even imagine what it’s like not to be able to ride a bike.



 

Learning to ride a bike and learning to run with Jesus both require risk

 

There are plenty of parallels between learning to ride a bike and learning to walk the Christian life. With both, there are times when we find ourselves on the front lawn so frustrated that all we can do is kick at the thing and walk away as we try to hold back the tears. And watching others do it so effortlessly isn’t always encouraging. Sometimes it just makes things worse and you just want to run up and throw a stick in their spokes. Walking the Jesus way, like riding a bike, seems like an impossibility. And it is if you insist on sitting still. No one ever learned to ride a bike by refusing to go forward; it’s an impossibility. Learning to ride a bike and learning to run with Jesus both require risk, and it’s an authentic risk; you can’t learn either skill without experiencing your share of skinned-up knees and the odd over-the-handlebars crash. And it’s it true, isn’t it, that God is just like us parents watching our kids learn how to ride a bike. He’s our biggest cheerleader! He knows we can do it; he believes in us even when we don’t believe in ourselves. His faith in us is greater than our faith in him.


As we peer across the landscape of Philippians what we see before us looks like an impossibility. There’s Paul out there freewheeling along on two wheels, so busy preaching that half the time his hands aren’t even on the handlebars. That’s encouraging! Or is it? Part of us wants to cheer and speed on after him. The other part of us… well not so much. Here’s Paul, in prison no less, and he’s rejoicing!


“No one can do that!!! That’s impossible!!!”


And Paul says, “No it’s not! Come on! Give that thing a push and let’s go! You can do this!”

Paul faces the greatest of trials – he might even be executed for his faith and he says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!”


“What?” we say, “No one can have faith like that!!”


And he says, “This is who you are! We can all have faith like that! You can do all things through Christ!”

 

Staying still is safe, but it's not life

 

And sometimes the best we can come up with is, “Shut up Paul! That easy for you to say!”

And there we sit with our brand new bike, afraid to get on it and pedal. It’s safe to sit on the thing with our feet planted on the ground but pedaling is another matter altogether. Staying still is safe, but it’s not life; it’s not what we were designed for! We know in our bones we’re made to ride that thing! So we screw up our courage and try again only to end up face-first in the flower bed or sprawled across the pavement. And we kick the bike and stomp off in a rage. But you know that thing won’t leave you alone will it? It haunts you out there laying on the lawn, begging to be ridden.


In Philippians, Paul is overflowing with encouragement. He’s cheering us on. He’s reminding us who we are! And who we belong to! He’s not lacking confidence in our ability! And in so doing he’s modeling the heart of God in Jesus Christ for us. “God is my witness,” says Paul, “that I long for you with all the affection of Christ!


Philippians 1:1–8

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 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.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.


Paul isn’t dreaming this stuff up! He’s plugged into the heart of Jesus and he’s modeling the Savior’s love for his people!


So here we are, we’ve heard it and we’ve chosen to believe it. We’ve walked back on over to that new bike again and we’ve swung our leg over it. “Maybe I am who he says I am. Maybe I can!” Are these things true? Is this the way it is? Are the impossible things possible? Yes!! What seems impossible is very possible! Paul is bursting with this kind of language as he begins to write this glorious letter. He begins by saying, “Every time I think of you I pray with joy!” Isn’t that glorious? He’s celebrating our faith!


“O Father, sometimes I wonder if there is anything worth celebrating in me.”

 

Get your eyes off of yourself

 

And he says, “Would you get over that! Would you quit doubting who you are in me! Do you think I don’t know your warts? Do you think I don’t see your struggles? I do, but they’re not who you are! So listen to me, I’m saying, ‘You can!’ Look at the cross, look at the empty tomb! Get your eyes off of yourself and onto me! You can!”


Folks we need to plug into this introduction in Philippians and own it like it’s written to us. “I pray for you all the time!” says Paul. And in verse 9 Paul gives us the specifics of that prayer. This ancient prayer is an expression of what Paul desires most for the church in Philippi. It’s what God desires most for the church in Lloydminster. It’s what I’ve been praying for you this week.


Philippians 1:9–11

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.


This is a “Keep on pedaling!” prayer. This is a, “Don’t give up!” prayer. This is a prayer, brothers and sisters, that insists that we can’t sit still. “More and more!” says Paul. “God has started something in you and he’s going to get the job done!” That’s the message of verse 6. And now here in verse 9 he tells us how to cooperate with what God is getting done. “May your love abound more and more!” Listen, verse 6 is very important. God has begun a good work in you and he will bring it to completion. You’re not on your own. It’s not up to you. He began it. He will bring it to completion. He is the one who does the impossible. Our job is to cooperate with his work. And verse 9 tells us how. Verse 9 tells us how to embrace his work in our lives.


Remember my grandson and the picnic table? He ran into it because that’s where he focused. Fear of crashing into the thing drove him right into it. One of the things you do when you’re teaching your daughter to ride her bike is that the place to focus is not on the front wheel, or on her feet, or on the ground a foot in front of her. You tell her to look out further ahead, where she will be going. That’s half the battle; focusing on where you’re going, not on what you’re afraid of! And that’s what Paul is doing here in verse 9. Focus more and more on love. Abound in it, overflow with it.


At the center of this glorious letter is a piece of poetry, perhaps a hymn (Phil 2:5-11). Paul either wrote it for the occasion or he’s quoting it. Either way it is designed to be the beating heart of the letter. The hymn takes us to the cross of Christ and urges us to embrace it, for on the other side of the cross is exaltation. The poem documents the way of love – Christ’s self emptying love. Nothing says the love of God like the cross does and nothing carries greater assurance of the truth of that testimony than the Resurrection! God is love! If you forget everything else don’t forget that. And because that is true you know that the most important thing he wants from us is love. Paul is pointing in this direction in 1:9-11. Abound more and more in love, so that you might be like Christ.


 

Abound more and more in love!

 

And so here is Paul with his prayer. And here we are straddling our two-wheelers. Do you think he’s going to say to us, “Now just sit there where it’s safe! If you would just stop insisting on pedaling that thing you’ll be sure to stay out of the hedge. Your knees won’t get all skinned up and your new dress will be free from grass stains.” Brothers and sisters if that’s what it looks like to ride a bike I don’t want one! I want to experience the miracle of riding the thing! I want to live! I want to ride with Jesus and feel the wind of the Spirit on my face! And so Paul urges us, “More and more!” More and more what? More and more love!

To love is to keep on pedaling. Not sure how to ride this thing? This is how you ride it! Keep stepping out in love, keep running after love, keep pursuing it, don’t give up! Empty yourself for your neighbor! Put somebody else’s needs ahead of yours! Give, even when it’s foolish to give, and then give some more! Abound more and more in love! This is your focus; don’t lose sight of it! You want to know what keeps you from ending up in your neighbors rose bush or sprawled across the pavement? Love does. Get your eyes off of what scares you and put your eyes on love. This is the blueprint for the Christian life. Any other path will leave you in the ditch. Any other focus is destructive. You’ll end up in a wreck and you’ll run over someone else along the way.


 

We take our eyes off the ditch and put our eyes on Christ.

 

Listen to the text.

Philippians 1:9–11

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.



that your love may about more and more

  • The overflowing of love, the abundance of love, more and more love, is the key to cooperating with God’s work in our lives.

in knowledge and depth of insight,

  • You want knowledge? You want insight? It arrives through the pursuit of love. Pursue love and the result is knowledge and insight.

  • We don’t pursue knowledge and insight for their own sake. We pursue love and in that pursuit, we are given the knowledge and insight we long for.

so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,

  • Abounding more and more in love gives us the wisdom to make the right choices. Paul would say, I think, that the beginning of wisdom is love.

  • And what’s the outcome of a wise life? “that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.” The wisdom that flows out of love keeps us on track, running after Christ.

filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ

  • Here’s something critical to see. Back in verse 6 Paul assures us that what God has begun in us he will bring it to completion. Our hope is not that God begins a good work in us and it’s up to us to get the job done! If that was the case it would never get done! No, when he calls us to faith he begins a good work in us and he will bring it to completion until the day of Christ.

  • Here that same truth is reinforced. Abounding more and more in love is how we cooperate with the work that God is doing in our lives. He won’t pedal the bike for us. We have to participate in what he is doing; we participate by abounding more and more in love.

  • And when we do that the fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ fills us.

  • When we say, “Yes!” to more and more love Jesus does his work in our lives. And all this…

to the glory and praise of God.

  • Here is where it all points. This is what it’s all about – that God is honored in and through our lives! This is what we desire isn’t it? I know this is what you desire!

  • How do we do this? We take our eyes off the ditch and put our eyes on Christ. We abound more and more in love. And when we do that God does his astounding work in us.


So we’re set here on our bicycles and we have a choice. We can choose to focus on fear and just sit here ringing that shiny new bell in our pretty new dresses. Or we can choose to take the risk of faith, we can choose to focus on love; more and more love. And we can choose to believe that down the path of love we will find ourselves equipped for the trials ahead, wise to the ways of God, bearing the fruit of Christ in our lives to the glory and praise of God.


There is a glorious two-wheeled freedom that awaits us out there brothers and sisters. It looks impossible; it looks miraculous. It is! It’s the work of God that he longs to perform in our lives. We just need to participate in it.

It’s time. It’s time to know the wind of the Spirit of God in our faces. It’s time to yield to God’s work in our lives. It’s time to respond to his incessant urging, “Yes you can!”


And this I pray: that your love may abound more and more.


Keep on pedaling!




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