In ministry, as well as life, people who develop programs or businesses, mentor others, or invest in something will often find themselves reflecting on those things and people. In the introduction to the epistle to the Philippians, Paul found himself reflecting on the church he helped to plant. In his joy, he frequently thanked God for them and their joint fellowship in the spread of the Gospel (Philippians 1:3-6).
In verses 7 and 8, Paul continues to explain why he should be thinking about the Philippian congregation and be thankful for them. He had a love and affection for them not only on account of their fellowship in the Gospel and their aid of his ministry in and out of prison, but also a desire for their continued growth. When we are invested in people, we want them to continue growing and developing in the right direction. After all, the more that we invest in a person the more we will have affection for them.
After this justification, Paul specifies his prayers for the Philippians (Philippians 1:9-11). He prays for their love to grow in two ways: in knowledge and discernment. Knowledge deals with the relationship we have with God. The better we understand what He did for us, the better we will understand His love, and the better we understand His love, the more we will seek to keep His commandments (John 14:15, cf. 1 John 3:23, 24). As we grow in our faith, our knowledge of God increases and with it our ability to show love to others. Discernment deals with our ability to tactfully approach others and gives us the ability to have ethical awareness in the situations we find ourselves.
With this knowledge and discernment, we are able to approve or test what is right and wrong (Philippians 1:8). We need to be able to determine what is excellent or right by God's standards for three reasons.
First, we are to seek to be sincere in our actions towards God and others. We do things because it is right to do them, not because of some benefit to us. Secondly, we seek to present ourselves blameless or without offense until Christ's return. We do not want to be a stumbling block to those in or outside the church, nor do we want to stumble in our walk (1 Corinthians 10:32, cf. Romans 14:20-21). Lastly, we do that which is right because we are filled with the fruit of righteousness, which only takes place because of Jesus Christ's love and sacrifice for us with the end result leading to the glorification of God (Philippians 1:11).
All the aspects of this passage should cause us to reflect on our thoughts and prayers for others. Are there people in your life that you have invested in and have a love for? Most likely, there are. If not, seek out those who you can help. If so, are you praying for their continued growth so that their love may abound through their knowledge of God and their ability to tactfully deal with others? We should all pray that we can be fruitful in our spread of the Gospel for the glory of God.