Several years ago, there was a wildfire near our home just west of Gunnison. It was an extremely dry summer, and there were a number of fires burning throughout the state. Living as low as we do, about 8000’, we are surrounded by sage, not by trees, and therefore don’t expect our home to be threatened by fire as much as we might if we lived on forested land. As it turns out, sage burns fast and hot!!
Honestly, I don’t believe that our home was ever in any imminent danger even though the fire was close enough to watch from our back deck. Topography and wind direction made it almost certain that the flames would stay well to the north of us; nevertheless, the local authorities evacuated our subdivision.
When your home is threatened and you have only moments to grab whatever you can, it suddenly becomes clear which things you value the most. Our first thoughts were for our pets that were loaded into carriers and put into our two pickup trucks. Next, without even a word to each other, Karen and I simultaneously grabbed our mountain bikes, sea kayaks, and other gear and clothing that would be hard to replace, along with the computer from the church office which was in our home at that time.
Somewhere along the way, it dawned on us that there were probably personal papers and files that a responsible adult should be concerned with, maybe even before the bikes–maybe not, but we grabbed them anyway.
When we had everything we could get into the trucks, we drove down through the rest of the subdivision to help some of our friends gather their things. It was fascinating to see what people were loading first. I’ll never forget; there was one guy that had a small pickup truck backed into his driveway. In the back was an enormous mounted elk head. Nothing else had been brought out of the house yet, but that trophy elk wasn’t getting left behind. Others had motorcycles loaded, boats hooked up, or piles of clothing. Some took the family photos before anything else. In each case, whatever was taken first represented that individuals value system.
Whether we know it or not, we all live our lives from a set of personal values. We make decisions, choose friends, and build our lives, from an otherwise invisible set a beliefs and priorities. Our actions and choices are what make our values visible. In his letter to the believers at Philippi, Paul recorded his prayer concerning their spiritual and moral value system. Here is what he wrote:
And this I pray: that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight [that your love may display itself in greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment], So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value [recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences], and that you may be untainted and pure and unerring and blameless [so that with hearts sincere and certain and unsullied, you may approach] the day of Christ [not stumbling nor causing others to stumble]. (Philippians 1:9, 10 Amplified Bible)
Paul first prays that believers would grow in the love of God. There is nothing so life changing as the revelation of how deeply and fully God loves you. That revelation quickens His unconditional love within us, empowering us to love others as Christ loves us.
Next, Paul prays that we would grow in our knowledge of God. This word knowledge is a strengthened form of the Greek word ginosko. It speaks of a participatory knowledge, a knowledge that lays claim to our personal involvement. Paul is essentially praying that we would grow in knowledge as we walk closely with God in everyday life.
Finally, Paul says that as we walk in God’s love, and in this participatory lifestyle with Him, that we will grow in our ability to both discern, and prize which things are “vital, and of real value.”
The word “vital” means full of life. Paul wants our hearts to be drawn to things that are filled with, and reflective of, the life of God. We all know that there are a multitude of attitudes, activities, and pursuits that are available to us in life. Some of these are full of God’s heart and lead us deeper into His life. Others strongly conflict with God’s own values, yet many of these negative things are highly valued by the culture in which we live.
Our new nature loves and craves the things of God, but it takes time for our outward lives and priorities to begin to reflect that new nature. Paul is praying that it would become easier and easier for us to not only discern which things are full of God’s life, but to prize them and choose them above other things.
This is a great prayer! I believe this prayer is an accurate reflection of the Holy Spirit’s own passion for us, and His work in us. He wants our lives to overflow with strength, health, joy and peace, and He knows that as we prize what He prizes our lives will flourish.
So where does this leave us? Every one of us needs to submit our values and priorities to the Lord for His examination, and be open to the changes that He wants to make. But remember, the key to prizing new things, is to simply prize Him above all things. Through quality time spent with God, spent in His presence and in His Word, our priorities and desires slowly but surely become more like His. Soon, you will find yourself loving the things that God loves, choosing those things first, and easily walking away from the things that do not produce fruit in your life.