Many parents love to track the growth of their children by marking their height each year on their birthday. But is it possible to measure our growth as believers? More importantly, how does spiritual growth take place?
In today’s passage, Paul prays for the spiritual growth of the Philippian believers. We may be surprised to note that the growth he envisions does not begin with effort but with love. Paul does not say whether this is love for God or love for others. But there is no real reason to differentiate between the two. Love for others springs from our love for God (1 John 4:20). We might also have expected Paul to pray that their love would increase so that they have more and more of it. Instead, he asks that their love would grow in knowledge and depth of insight (Phil. 1:9). The phrase “depth of insight” could also be translated as “discernment.”
Knowledge and discernment are related. To discern is to draw a distinction or make a judgment. It involves the application of knowledge to the circumstances of life. It is possible to possess knowledge without love. We may also love without discernment. Knowledge without love leads to cold rationalism and a lack of compassion. Love that is not informed by discernment leads to sentimentalism and self-indulgence.
When Paul describes the result of adding knowledge and discernment to love in verse 10, he speaks of its cumulative effect. As we love like this, we will be “pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Although we play a part in expressing godly love, Paul describes this growth in passive terms. It is the fruit “that comes through Jesus Christ” (v. 11). Even our practice of righteousness is a work of grace. This is why spiritual growth begins with prayer.
>> Do you want to grow spiritually? Ask God for the grace to grow. Is there someone you know who needs to mature in their walk with Christ? Pray for them by name.
Nurturing Father, give us the grace to grow in love, knowledge, and insight. Grant this also to the believers we know who are still immature in their faith. Teach them to rely fully on You.