Author: Ron Graham
Paul, in his prayer for the Philippians, asks that their "love may abound in knowledge and all discernment" and that they may "discern things which are excellent" (Philippians 1:9-10). An alternative translation instead of "all discernment" is "depth of insight", hence the title for this lesson.
This discernment or insight given us by the Lord is not meagre. It is a whole lot of insight, a whole lot of discernment, as the word "all" in "all discernment" indicates. It is to have "the eyes of your understanding enlightened" (Ephesians 1:18). so that you become "filled with the fruits of righteousness" (Philippians 1:10-11). So we are talking not about glimmers of insight and enlightenment, but a fulness of it.
In this lesson we are looking at how we can have this depth of insight. We draw five points from Philippians as follows...
Self centredness and self interest is a very common attitude. "Everyone looks out for his own interests" says Paul (Philippians 2:21). But he tells us, "Do not look only to your own interests, but look also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4).
In the relationships between Paul, the Philippians, and Paul's companions Timothy and Epaphroditus, we observe this focus on the interests of others rather than of self (Philippians 2:19-20,25-26).
By looking out for the interests of others, you have to think about experiences different to your own, and examine how the word of God applies to circumstances other than your own. Mind you, we are not encouraging you to be a busybody or a humbug. Indeed, as a portion of learning to look out for the interests of others, we need to gain insight into how we may be supportive and helpful without being inquisitive, intrusive, or manipulative.
Selfish and self-centered thoughts are shallow thoughts. When you are at the centre of your thoughts and interestes, then the circle around that centre will be very small —too small to develop any depth of insight. We might state our first point in the form of a don't —don't be wrapped up in your own affairs.
Your insight into spiritual things, and into life itself, will only be as deep as your Bible knowledge. Did you note how Paul joined knowledge and insight together in our opening text when he spoke of "knowledge and all discernment" (Philippians 1:9)?
Later Paul speaks of "holding forth the word of life" (Philippians 2:16) You cannot hold forth the word of life if you are not studying it and thinking about it constantly.
The Psalmist says, "Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day!" And what is the result? "I have more understanding than all my teachers... I understand more than the ancients... through your precepts I get understanding" (Psalms 119:97-104). If the law could do that for the Psalmist, how much more can the gospel do for us?
Paul’s whole aim in life was "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection" (Philippians 3:10). He regarded this knowledge as transcending all other wisdom. He called it "the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8). He got that knowledge and depth of insight from the same source as anyone else gets it, namely in "the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27). We need to immerse ourselves in the gospel and know it throroughly —more than we know anything else. We might state our second point in the form of a don't —don't leave your Bible on the shelf.
This world is only a small part of reality, and small is the mind that thinks only of this world. Philippians chapter three contrasts those whose "mind is set on earthly things" with those whose "citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:19-20).
That phrase "our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:19-20) would mean a lot to the Philippians. Philippi was a Roman colony. Its citizens were residents of Philippi Macedonia, but citizens of Rome Italy. They lived as if they were in Rome, and Rome was where they felt they really belonged. It would not be difficult for them to think likewise of themselves as residents of earth but citizens of heaven.
Paul wrote to the Colossians, "Seek those things which are above where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth, for you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:1-3).
We must see far above and beyond the earthly things that are seen with the eyes of our flesh. We must use the eyes of the inner person to see, by faith, the things that transcend earth, flesh, and time, things which are eternal rather than temporal. We should recognise these things as having "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2Corinthians 4:16-18). We might state our third point in the form of a don't —don't make this world the limit of your horizon.
Paul understands how anxious a person can become whose view of life is earthly. He also understands that daily prayer can anchor a person in a peace that surpasses ordinary understanding, a peace that comes of deeper insight. In speaking to God about everything that concerns us, we are led into a depth of insight about those things that we could never discover on our own. So Paul says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).
Worry clouds the mind. The anxious mind cannot be an insightful mind. Prayer banishes worry because it places our concerns in the hands of the ruler of the universe and his ministering angels. What more can we ask? So keeping in mind the power of prayer, we might state our fourth point in the form of a don't —don't be worried or anxious about anything..
Following closely upon our last two points, Paul calls us to govern our thinking so that we eliminate all the filth and trivia that fills the worldly mind. In some second hand shops you can hardly find valuable items amidst all the dusty clutter. If we let the world govern our thinking, our minds will be cramned with the mental equivalent of bric-a-brac.
Today's information exposion, like any exposion, has scattered rubbish far and wide. We need to clear the trash from our minds so that we can see the treasure, so that we can "discern what is excellent" (Philippians 1:10).
So Paul exhorts us that, "Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are reputable, if there is any virtue and any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8). Thus we might state our final point in the form of a don't —don't let your mind dwell on junk.