"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment . . ." (Philippians 1:9)
Let us think about this word ABOUND. We find this same word in 1 Thessalonians 3:12, where we read, "May the Lord cause you to increase and ABOUND in love for one another, and for all men just as we also do for you." The Greek word translated "abound" holds in it the meaning of superabundance, both in quality and quantity. The prayer is that both the quality and the quantity of your love will increase. May there be a different quality of love in your hearts, and may there be a greater quantity; may you have more love to give.
This word "abound" is a word of SUPERABUNDANCE. The prayer is that you will have over and above the love that you need; that there will be an extravagant amount of God's love channeled through you. The prayer can be expressed, "May agape love run over, as a cup overflows, or as a river overspills its banks."
As we read this prayer, our response is not to be one of determining to be more loving. The love Paul is praying for here is a supernatural love. It is a divine love. It can neither be increased or decreased by the human will. Dr. Norman B. Harrison describes it as "God's own Love, actuating human life!"
Many years ago a young man was attending our church. He was working on a doctorate at TCU, and for a time he taught a weekly Bible Study in our home. One evening he told us a story about love that I have never forgotten.
He said that he had fallen deeply in love with a wonderful woman. After many months, he realized that more than anything, he wanted a permanent, life-long relationship with her, and he asked her to marry him. To his horror, she not only refused, but also told him that she did not want to have any relationship with him at all. In fact, she never wanted to see or hear from him again.
This, he said, was not the worst of it. The worst was that he absolutely could not stop loving her. Trudging back and forth to his classes, he was aware of waves of love flowing out of him for this woman who cared nothing for him, who had totally rejected him, who wanted nothing to do with him.
One day, thinking on these things, God spoke to him. Clearly, into his mind came these words, "Now you know a little of what I feel." That was the worst thing of all, to contemplate God, loving people who don't love Him, who refuse a relationship with Him, who want nothing to do with Him. God, giving of Himself, and unable to stop the pain of loving, because God IS love, and agape love GIVES. I think this gives us a glimpse of what is meant by ABOUNDING LOVE.
Clearly, abounding agape love is God's gift, but we have a part to play if it is to become a part of our lives. We must take the gift. Yet, how do we receive it?
First, desire the gift of God's love. In 1 Corinthians 12:31, we read, "Eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way." Then Paul moves into 1 Corinthians 13, known as the "love chapter". God's word tells us that the greatest gift that the Holy Spirit gives is love. With all your heart, desire the greatest gift.
Then, be in a right relationship with God, or His love cannot flow unhindered through you. We can begin with the prayer of Psalm 139:23: "Search me, Oh God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Ask God to show you the attitudes, the priorities, the self-centeredness that He will have to change before He can fill you with His love.
Lastly, believe that God is as good as His word; that He keeps His promises. In John 6:28-29, we find the disciples coming to Jesus with this question, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" And Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." Believe that God has done all that He has said He will do. Thank God every day that He is at work changing you.
Join us in this prayer: "Father, THANK YOU for the gift of Your love. I praise You for the opportunity to be in a relationship with you through Your son, Jesus Christ. THANK YOU that as I come to know You better and love you more, Your love ABOUNDS and OVERFLOWS from my life to those I encounter. I trust that Your spirit is at work in me, changing me daily to become more like Christ. What a blessed journey and adventure. May Your love ABOUND in my life! In Jesus' mighty name, amen."