I always think it so interesting how Paul prays for those fellowships that he knows are sharing in the work of the gospel; how he thanks God for them and prays that their love - their faith - will be heard of and talked about and that the love he sees in them will grow.
This letter is no exception - Paul writes to tell them of his situation, of the fact of his rejoicing that even in his imprisonment the gospel is being preached and then he prays for them that their love will abound more and more.
How is the love to abound? In real knowledge and discernment.
How will they gain real knowledge and discernment? As they renew their minds with the Word of God.
What will happen as they do that? They will approve the things that are excellent. They will know the way that the Lord would have them live, would have them think, and they will choose that way.
Why is that important? In order that they be sincere and blameless until the return of Christ Jesus.
How will that sincerity and blamelessness be manifested? They will be filled with the fruit of righteousness.
How does that fruit grow? Through Jesus Christ - through His indwelling Spirit in each believer.
What will be the result? Glory and praise to God
And this 'love' is not a mushy, sentimental feeling - something we might have for those who think like us, behave like us, live like us - whose families we know, whose interests we share - no this love is an action - it is a decision to act with benevolence towards another - to do the thing needed, not the thing wanted. To speak the truth in love, to show mercy and compassion and kindness and grace even when they do not 'deserve' it.
This love is 'agape' love - the same love that Jesus said would be evidence to the world that we are His disciples. How would it evidence that? Because no human being can consistently love this way except by the power of the Spirit of God who lives within them.
And isn't this how God will complete (perfect) the work He began in us? Isn't it as we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, as we pray, as we praise the God who gave us life and as we surrender every part of that life to Him?
Isn't it as we pray for one another and as we all choose to love our brothers and sisters in Christ? As we choose to live in fellowship, in community believing that it is through that fellowship that God will bring about the transformation of our souls?
Are you a part of a local fellowship? Are you working together to bring about the proclamation and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you growing in love? in real knowledge and discernment?
Is the fruit of righteousness being manifested in and through your life? Are you going along with the work of the Spirit in you as He seeks to transform you into the image of the Lord Jesus and are you working together with other believers to build up the body of Christ Jesus in this nation?
Isn't it as He works through each individual believer that the whole body of Christ is strengthened and established - is made more gloriously like our Saviour and is enabled to stand and to stand strong in these days of great trial?
Paul will write to the Ephesians from that same prison cell - 'Make the most of your time for the days are evil...'
As I pray for you - won't you pray for me, that my love will abound more and more....that the fruit of righteousness will be manifested and that God, our majestic, wonderful, magnificent Heavenly Father will be praised and honoured and glorified through our lives together.