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“Just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.”—Philippians 1:7–8 (NKJV)
As a young kid, there were times when my parents had to educate me when it came to my use (or rather misuse) of words. In my innocence, I recall using the word “hell” in a way I had heard on television . . . and it brought a swift and strong response from my father! Here’s another one, I once casually said, “I swear to God…” within earshot of my mother. I don’t even remember what my next words were, but I’ll never forget hers, “Son, you shouldn’t say that because it’s a very serious thing whenever you talk about God.” It took me a moment to process this. Everyone at school said that all the time. Was it really as big a deal as my mom was telling me?
I’m so thankful she spoke up and corrected me that day, because it is a big deal whenever we involve the Lord in anything that flows from our lives. When God is invoked in our mode of communication, it should be thoughtful and respectful not careless or inconsequential. If we blur that line and we “swear this to God” and “swear that to God,” it really cheapens what should be sacred in our lives . . . it loses its weight and meaning.
Why the preamble? Because I want to emphasize this as there are instances when it’s alright to say, “I swear to God,” like when we’re sharing something we mean with every ounce of our heart. It’s when we want to get across that if we stand for anything, we stand for this. That’s essentially what Paul is saying here in Philippians when he uses the expression, “God is my witness.” It’s Paul’s way of saying, “I’m bringing the authority and gravity of God, Himself, into this . . . I truly mean this!”
And what was it that Paul wanted to get across so powerfully? He wanted the Philippian Christians to know just how much he loved them and longed to see them. In fact, he wanted them to know they were in his heart, and he didn’t hesitate to state this with God presiding over everything. If I may paraphrase somewhat, Paul was basically telling the Philippians, “I swear to God I love you!”
Now you might be thinking, Wow Paul, way to go! You really get a gold star for loving those people so much! But hang on! Paul’s love for the Philippians isn’t something reserved just for him or them. It’s to be a way of life for every follower of Christ. Paul would share elsewhere that it’s actually God’s love being poured out by His Spirit which enables him (and every other Christian) to love others (Romans 5:5).
Do we love others to the extent Paul loved the Philippians? If not, it’s only because we haven’t opened ourselves to the work God’s Spirit desires to do in us. He loves to fill us with His love, which is the only way we will truly embody His heart for others.
Pause: How was Paul able to love the Philippians as he did?
Practice: Consider who you need to love according to God’s love and how you will make this a reality in your life.
Pray: Lord, I ask You to show me how to open myself to Your love, not only to receive it, but to extend it to those You have placed in my life. Help me to love well as I draw closer and closer to You. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.