PHILIPPIANS 1 – The Key to Knowledge
It was October 24th 2014 and Mark was about to head away on another trip with his work. I’d been designing a cupboard for our kitchen and Mark wanted to get it built before he left. We’d dismantled a pine bed that he had built sixteen years earlier. Then, with wood taken from book shelves that were no longer needed in his office, we had what we needed for the job. The plan was to join planks of wood together from these to make up my new kitchen cupboard.
But joinery is actually a hard thing to do! Those simple boxes with shelves in them that are currently dotted about my kitchen, aren’t so easy to replicate from a discarded bed and bookshelf! The main problem we faced was a radiator that couldn’t be move. It happens to be the last radiator on our heating system and, being closest to the back door, it has the valve for emptying the system. I was under orders from Mark not to cover up the radiator because he’d need to have access to it. So, I sat designing and re-designing for three days. Each night, when my brain ‘debriefed’ in my sleep, I’d wake up knowing the support flaws in my latest plan. Over the course of the week, I ended up changing my design three times and the plan I settled on, was an elaborate one…
My clever cupboard had removable panels made up of planks of shelving wood, braced together with little metal brackets. I even made notes on the plans for where the brackets and screws should be positioned on the inside the cupboard so that they’d be out of sight. I had a ‘hatch door’ with little latches built into the side of the cupboard closest to the radiator – in order for Mark to have access to the radiator. I’d also worked out the heat-flow on the radiator and bought a heat shield for the hatch door. This would push the heat up into the room. I then positioned a grill into the bench-top that would go over the radiator so as to let the heat out. This was in addition to heat escaping from the exposed side.
Armed with my long list of items that included 28 right-angle brackets and 13 straight brackets to hold together all the planks of wood, we headed off to the DIY shop. However, every time I put an item in the trolley, or I asked Mark to help me find it on the shelf, he’d ask what it was for. After telling him, he kept saying, “Well that won’t work because of abc.” Or, “Wait, that’ll be cheaper in xyz shop.” We left after half an hour of going around the shop without having bought anything!
By the end of the day we’d manage to buy a heat-shield and brackets in other shops but, by evening, Mark had changed my plans. He went out after dark and bought a large panel of thick plywood to make a simple box cupboard like all the other ones in our kitchen. Oh, and by the way – he didn’t need a hatch-door or removable base board, to get to the radiator because the valve was within arm’s reach from the side.
I flopped into bed, tired and cross at all my wasted hours during the previous week, for a plan improvised from a bed and book case! With extensive information on any topic readily available through a simple google search, I’m still struggling to “discern what’s best” even for a basic box cupboard! So today’s chapter makes me think and re-think about how it’s possible to discern what’s best when it comes to the most important questions of all, such as: Who made me and, having brought me this far, is He capable of carrying on a good job to completion?
Today’s “breadcrumb” comes from the first part of Paul’s letter to the Believers in the Roman city of Philippi. He starts with offering “Grace and peace” from “God our Father”. [v2] But it’s interesting to note that he’s writing this letter while sitting in chains as a prisoner of Rome. All this makes me wonder if we could dismantle our life and reconstruct it into something better, the bear essentials for starting over would have to be grace (the sense of blessing) and peace (the sense of protection), and this is offered from our God and Father – the One who originally designed us and made us in His own image. This “gospel” [v7] is the Creator’s “good news”, and it begins with being “confident that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion” – even if He has to keep working on me until “the day of Christ Jesus”, when Jesus returns. [v6]
Paul’s letter quickly becomes personal [v12-18], and you may be tempted to think, “What on earth has any of this to do with me?” – especially when it’s intended to be a letter to the believers living in some ancient Roman city in the 1st Century AD. But, quite miraculously, the Great Story Teller, has managed to keep this personal letter (which is only two sheets of paper in my Bible) safe-guarding it uncannily, these past 2,000 years when many other documents from the ancient past have been lost! So why would a 1st Century letter end up in my hands today?
Father God doesn’t want our love for Him[a] to be based on “fairy tales” but, instead, strong in “real knowledge and depth of insight”. [v9] If I’m wanting to be found “pure and blameless for the day I meet my Maker” [v10], I’ll need to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness” that comes from Him. [v11] With these keys to knowledge in my hands, I’ll be able to discern what’s best/good, and then “approve the things that are excellent – to the praise and glory of God”. [v10]
What I find interesting is that Paul had an “earnest expectation and hope”, that he’ll not be “put to shame in anything”. [v20] He said, “I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” [v19] But history doesn’t give us any proof that Paul was ever released. So why would a “good God” allow a seemingly bad story (of a Follower in prison for his sincere efforts), to be told and retold these 2,000 years?
The story shows that the Creator God works in complex ways – far beyond what we could ever imagine or hope for – and it’s almost always inside “the bigger picture”. Whether released or not – in chains or free – Paul had one prayer that was answered: “…that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death”. [v20] Two thousand years later, his letters are printed and reprinted in the best-selling book of all time. They’ve been translated into over 2,000 languages and sold and read in every country on earth.
My Maker hasn’t “sticky-taped” my life together with bits of discarded stuff from the past. He hasn’t put me together, or reassembled me, with screwed-in brackets like a motley patchwork braced in every hidden corner. The key to knowledge is confidence in my Father God. Whatever happens in my life – good or bad – my prayer is that I’ll stand firm and “in no way alarmed”—which is a sign of salvation for me. This too, hard as it is, is also from God. [v28] The bigger picture (if I want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus at all), seems to include not only believing in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. [v29]
After experiencing the good, the bad, and the truly ugly, it’s clear that Paul had some idea of “a bigger picture”. Torn between the worlds [v21-26], Paul knew that there was more to this life than what was right in front of him. That same Faith, in the Eternal LIFE provided by our Heavenly Father, was what got us through when our only son left us his Maker’s Kingdom. Whether I understand that bigger picture or not, my role now is to “conduct myself in a manner worthy of this gospel of Christ” by standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving together with all Believers [v27] for the faith of the Creator God’s Epic Storyline – His extremely “great news”!
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[a] Deuteronomy 6:5