Philippians 1:9-11 A Call to Spiritual Reformation

William Carey (1761-1834) is known as the father of modern missions. Carey was a cobbler, a shoe maker, who had a burden in his heart for the nations without Christ. He made a map of the world out of shoe leather, and would look at it, and pray for the world, as he made shoes. During those early years he also taught himself Hebrew, Italian, Dutch, and French, often reading while working on his shoes.

In 1789 Carey became the full-time pastor of a small Baptist church in Leicester. Three years later in 1792 he published his groundbreaking missionary manifesto, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.

This short book consists of five parts. The first part is a theological justification for missionary activity, arguing that the command of Jesus to make disciples of all the world (Matthew 28:18-20) remains binding on Christians. The second part outlines a history of missionary activity, beginning with the early Church and ending with David Brainerd and John Wesley. Part 3 comprises 26 pages of tables, listing area, population, and religion statistics for every country in the world. Carey had compiled these figures during his years as a schoolteacher. The fourth part answers objections to sending missionaries, such as difficulty learning the language or danger to life.

Finally, the fifth part calls for the formation of a Baptist missionary society and describes the practical means by which it could be supported. Carey's seminal pamphlet outlines his basis for missions: Christian obligation, wise use of available resources, and accurate information. Carey later preached a pro-missionary sermon (the so-called deathless sermon), using Isaiah 54:2-3 as his text, in which he repeatedly used the epigram which has become his most famous quotation: “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”

Carey finally overcame the resistance to missionary effort, and the Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen (now the Baptist Missionary Society) was founded in October 1792. A year later the Lord opened the door for Carey to go to India himself as one of the first missionaries to that country. Carey translated the Bible into 37 different Indian languages, Many of these languages had never been printed before. The Lord had gifted Carey with a great intellect but the fruitfulness of his ministry can be attributed to someone else.

Back in England, Carey had a sister who was a quadriplegic. She was unable to walk or use her hands. Every day for 50 years she prayed for her brother, and his work in India. She wrote him encouraging letters by holding a pencil in her teeth. Carey made the famous statement: "Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God."

A large part of Carey's fruitfulness must have been the result of his sister's faithful prayer life. How can we learn to pray like

How can we learn to pray like this? A good model is found in Paul's letter to the Philippians.  It was written by Paul while a prisoner in Rome about the year 62 AD and sent to his friends at Philippi to the church founded on his second missionary journey. You can read about it in Acts 16. One of the church members there, Epaphroditus had been sent to Rome to bring some money from the church to help Paul while in  prison.


Paul's letter therefore is something of a "missionary thank you"  but it is much more than that.  In his letter Paul shares the secret of Christian joy.  Paul mentions joy, rejoicing and gladness 19x in four short chapters.  Now the unusual thing about this letter is that from what we know of Paul's circumstances he had no earthly reason for rejoicing at all. 


He was a Roman prisoner, and he did not know whether his trial  would result in an acquittal or execution. He was chained to Roman guards and denied basic freedoms. Yet in spite of his danger and discomfort, Paul overflowed with joy.

What was the secret of this joy ?  We shall find that the answer lies in another word often repeated  in this letter. That is the word "mind".  Paul uses the word 10x, the word "think"  5x, and "remember"  once.  Add those together and you have 16 references to the mind.


In other words, the secret of Christian joy is found in the way we think - our attitudes.  For our outlook so very often determines our outcome. This is no shallow "self help" book that tells us to think positively, or to convince ourselves everything will turn out all right in the end. It is a short letter that explains how we can continue to experience God's joy irrespective of our circumstances.


“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)


There is single-mindedness in Paul's prayer.  He has a goal in mind for them, and to this end he prays. Their fellowship was not static. It needed to grow and expand. Fellowship means much more than having your name on the electoral roll, or attending a meeting. It is possible to be close to people physically and miles away spiritually.  Equally you can be miles away physically and yet very close spiritually. This was true here between Paul in Rome and the church at Philippi. 

There are three parts to Paul's prayer. 


1.     Prayer for Love and Insight

 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” (Philippians 1:9)


First of all Paul prays that their love would abound more and  more in knowledge and depth of insight.  In our house one of the favourite TV programmes used to be "Blind Date".


The love Paul describes here is not the kind you would see on Cilla Black's programme. It is not wishy-washy or based a few hours  together.  Paul prays that their love grows through knowledge and insight. And that takes time and trust.  Neither does Paul simply pray that they grow in knowledge.  Knowledge without love leads only to arrogance and dominance over people, for knowledge is power. That was Paul's first prayer. For love and insight 1:9.  And he had a reason. He prayed that our love and insight would lead somewhere. It would lead 1:10


2.    Prayer for Discernment

“so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:10)


Discernment of what is best and pure and blameless in our motives and decisions. Let me ask you, do you feel pure and blameless. Do you feel you are experiencing God's best for you? Quite often I feel guilty because I fail to fulfil other people’s expectations of me, perhaps because I don't live like they do. Its like living with a weight on the shoulders. Paul calls it the yoke of slavery in Galatians.  How do I know the difference between genuine guilt and false guilt?


If I cannot put my finger on a specific sin I need to confess,  yet I feel weighed down with guilt, I can know for sure it is not  from God. Its a false guilt. Therefore I don't have to live under it.


I can reject it, and refuse to live under it. The difference between being yoked to Christ, and being yoked or enslaved to people’s expectations, is this. If it feels like your carrying a yoke, its the wrong one. Jesus said his yoke was light and easy. We shouldn't feel it. Maybe the reason you do not feel pure and blameless is because you have never experienced God's love and forgiveness, never known for sure that God loves you totally and unconditionally. For that is why Christ died, not to make you feel guilty, but to forgive you, and give you a new life, a new start, every day. Take time this evening to reflect on these truths for they are our inheritance, our throne rights as children of God.  As individuals, as families, and as a church we shall have to make important decisions in this coming year. Paul’s prayer was that our love and understanding would grow, so that we would be pure and blameless in our attitudes, and that our decisions would be the best. But that’s not all he prayed. 


3.    Prayer to be Filled with the Fruit of Righteousness 


filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:11)


The last part of Paul’s prayer was that as these things become true in our experience we would literally be filled with the fruit of righteousness, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the evidence of the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives.  This week let your circumstances bring you closer to your Christian friends. If you have the single mind Paul had - living for Christ and the  Gospel - then you will discover that difficulties and challenges you face will actually strengthen your fellowship in the Gospel, and that your fellowship will greatly increase your joy.


Lets read this prayer together and make it our own.


“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)