In our study of Philippians 1:9-11, we have observed the first two “steps” towards bringing glory to God in our lives:
Step #1: Abound in love
Step #2: Use knowledge and discernment
In our text, these first two steps seem to serve as a “prerequisite” for what comes next…
STEP #3: APPROVE WHAT IS EXCELLENT
Paul says in verses 9-10, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent.”
The Greek word translated “so that” in this verse literally means, “into, unto, towards” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). This seems to mean that if we adopt the things that are mentioned in verse 9 (love, knowledge, discernment), those things will move us “towards” this next step; they will put us “into” a position where we can get closer to bringing glory to God. In other words, these ideas are very much connected.
But what is this position/step that we are discussing today? What does it meanto “approve what is excellent?” Perhaps a study of a few words in this phrase might help:
The word translated “may approve” is a Greek verb that means, “to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). It also means, “to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy.” This is a natural extension of possessing “knowledge and all discernment,” and might simply be seen as the practical application of those things.
Think of it this way…
If you are shopping for a new car, you probably shouldn’t immediately go to the nearest dealership and buy the first thing that catches your eye (even though that might be easy and fun). A smart shopper will likely take some time to do some research. You might look at online consumer reviews, safety ratings, expert opinions, side-by-side comparisons, or other sources of information on the car that you are interested in purchasing. In fact, you might even ask around about the best – or most reasonable – dealerships in your area before you choose a place to shop. You could also ask around and see which salesperson has the very best reputation, so that you could ask for him/her when it’s time to make your purchase. To top it all off, you might even choose to take someone with you who is skilled in the process of buying a car, so that you can make sure that you get the very best “deal” possible.
Basically, there would be LOTS of things that you could do in order to be prepared to make the very best decision possible when it comes to buying a new car. These preparations could be compared to Paul’s mention of “knowledge and all discernment” in the sense that this is the information that you need to know, and the practical skill to use that information properly.
In this comparison, the “approving” that Paul speaks of in this passage would be the actual “choosing and buying the right car.” It is the carrying out and proper use of the tools and wisdom that you have acquired. It is the practical and real-life decision-making that all of us must eventually participate in. After all of the Bible studies, prayer, spiritual conversations, and gathering of information have taken place, this is when we put those things to use in the real world.
The word translated “what is excellent” in this verse literally means, “differ[ent] to one’s advantage; worth more than, superior to” (BDAG Greek Lexicon). In other words, these are “the things that really matter” in life. Thayer’s Lexicon would add that, “it makes a difference, is of importance; things that excel.”
The Christian who brings glory to God is not simply the person who tries not to do anything wrong (although this is certainly part of the Christian life); our “path to glory” is about recognizing and choosing the things in life that are different, important, superior, and worthy; the things that really matter!
In life, this concept has been summed up in something called the “Eisenhower Principle,” which seeks to help us see the difference between the “urgent” and the “important.” Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once quoted Dr. J. Roscoe Miller as saying, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” The basic difference between these two categories can be seen in the following descriptions:
- The urgent things in life demand immediate attention, and are usually tied to someone else’s goals, expectations, etc.
- The important things in life usually DON’T require immediate attention, but they are tied to OUR goals in life; or more accurately in this case, GOD’S goals for our lives
Paul would put it this way to the Thessalonian brethren: “But test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (I Th. 5:21-22).
How are we doing on this third step towards bringing glory to God? Are we actually using the knowledge and discernment that we acquire on a regular basis to make wise decisions in our lives? Are we able to tell the difference between the “urgent” and the “important,” or do we find ourselves constantly saying, “I know I need to _______________, but I’m just too busy.”
If we are going to bring glory to God through our lives, we cannot skip this third step! It will not be enough to simply POSSESS knowledge and discernment; we must USE them in our daily lives to choose and do the things that really matter!
If we will practice this, we are certainly on the path that brings glory to our God!
Join us next week as we move on to Step #4: Becoming Pure and Blameless for the Day of Christ.