Phm 1:4-7 “I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.”
There are many wonderful principles set forth in Paul’s words to his fellow servant, Philemon. Notice the manner in which Paul expresses his relationship with God: “I thank my God…” As the years pass, I rejoice more and more in the very personal relationship that my God has blessed me to have with Him.
His majesty is such that He does not become any less your God because I declare Him to be my God. He is no less my God (or Philemon’s) because Paul declared that He is his God. As our relationship with Him deepens, we give Him the preeminence before all others regardless of how precious they are to us.
It is impossible to read this letter and not realize how deeply Paul loved Philemon and his service to God. However, it was to God first that Paul’s thoughts turned. When we think of the people that we love (spouses, children, parents, church family, etc.) and the good things we enjoy, is our first thought “Thank God?” We should always make recognition of the fact that every good and every perfect (complete) gift comes from Him (Jas 1:17).
Paul next alludes to something that is vital to the life of a child of God; being steadfast in prayer. In many of Paul’s letters, he makes some expression concerning his habit of praying often and diligently for his brethren. Prayer is something that takes time and effort. It is true that we can pray anywhere, but do we? It is also true that, while we can pray “on the fly” as circumstances dictate, the scripture is full of examples of having a dedicated place and time to devote ourselves to prayer.
The work of God in our lives is not done in a corner. Paul tells Philemon that he has heard of the love and faith Philemon has toward Jesus and all the saints. The word “toward” carries the idea of being near to. It is not just that Philemon thought about Jesus and all the saints: he put action with desire to minister according to the will of God. Paul’s prayer was that the participation (see Strong’s definition of “communication”) or activity that was generated as a result of Philemon’s faith would result in his full discernment of every benefit of Christ’s existence in him.
In this particular instance, Paul knew that Philemon was going to need a deep recognition of how the Lord had worked in his life. Paul was going to request something of Philemon concerning a former servant of Philemon’s named Onesimus. This request was going to require that Philemon remember and see how the grace of God had worked in his own life. We still need a deep recognition of the work of His grace in our lives today if we are going to be able to minister before God to His children.
To effectively minister to the children of God, we must be stripped of all self-righteousness and see ourselves for the sinners we are. Until we know that our only hope and confidence is in Jesus Christ, we cannot demonstrate the love and compassion we need to display toward His people. If others rejoice in us, then it should be in this; that we have sympathy (see Strong’s definition of “bowels”) for the saints of God. We need to encourage them to walk Godly in this present world.
We often hear it said that we should “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” I understand that sentiment and the truth behind it. The problem we often have is that we get so busy hating the sin that our love for the sinner gets lost along the way. While our love for others should never draw us into their transgression, neither should their transgression prevent us from showing them the same love that Jesus has shown us. We cannot lose sight of the fact that Jesus loved us while we were yet sinners and think that we can properly minister to His children who are still living in sin’s bondage.
May we always thank God for the love and faith of our brothers and sisters, and may we always pray for them to continue in His way, acknowledging every good thing that He has put in them (and us)!