An Expression of Love
One of the things my grandfather used to say as I bade him farewell was “I’ll be thinking away about you.” It always struck me as a strange thing to say. But by it he meant, “I care about how you are. I’m under the burden of what you’re doing. I’m interested in where you’re going.”
Paul used similar phraseology when he wrote words like “feel,” “heart,” “yearn,” and “affection” to the Philippian church. Phronein, which means “to think,” is translated in the ESV as “to feel” because this verb is expressive not simply of a mental focus but also of a sympathetic interest and genuine concern. Paul was telling the Philippians that though he was physically separated from them, they were very dear to him and remained in his thoughts and prayers. He was “thinking away” about them.
Paul—that man who had once been consumed by a hatred for Jesus’ followers—came to have this affection because Jesus gave it to him. He and his fellow believers were now bound together by God’s amazing love toward them. The standard and source of his affection was none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. As Bishop Lightfoot wrote, Paul’s “pulse beats with the pulse of Christ; his heart throbs with the heart of Christ.”
Because the Philippian believers were such an important part of Paul’s life, his love for them moved him to prayer, for Paul understood that prayer is one of the key expressions of love. His love was not revealed in a cozy sentimentalism or in fine-sounding words. Instead, he prayed for his friends, and he did so daily.
When “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5), we will find ourselves immediately drawn to others who love in the same way. It is the love of family life, for we share the same Father—and one of the fundamental ways in which we will express that love is to pray.
Do you love your children? Pray for them. Do you love your church? Pray for them. As Christ’s love expands your heart and flows through you, the affection you have for those you hold dear will move you to prayer. Be “thinking away” about those you love—and be “praying away” for them too!
7But we were gentle3 among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
9For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11For you know how, like a father with his children, 12we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
13And we also thank God constantly4 for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men5 but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
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