Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from December 5-11 are provided by Pastor Shan Gian, who serves as the Fenway site pastor of Symphony Church in Boston. Shan, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Jenny, who recently gave birth to their first baby Tyler.
Devotional Thought for Today
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Some of you may recall a wonderfully cheesy Christian song from the 1980s from Michael W. Smith called “Friends.” The first lines of the chorus are, “And friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them.” While this song is cheesy, Smith, at least, hints at something that’s incredibly important for us to remember with regards to our spiritual friendships: For our friendships or partnerships in the gospel to last, the Lord must be the Lord of them.
The book of Philippians is oozing with joy and affection from Paul towards the church in Philippi. His heart of love towards these friends of his is undeniable when we read his letter, especially in these verses as he is so thankful for them when he remembers and prays for them with joy. Paul has such affection for them because of their friendship, but it’s so much more than a relationship based on similar backgrounds or interests. There was a strong friendship between them because the Lord was the Lord of them. Paul’s love for them was grounded in the fact that God was working in them.
It is crucial for us in the body of Christ to seek out and maintain spiritual friendships that will last for an eternity. Especially as we live in in a culture where the idea of friendship has been cheapened by the social media, it’s easy for us to settle for relationships based on similar age, interests, or opinions. Too often we’re missing out on the richness of joy that God has for us in true spiritual and eternal partnerships that are established and rooted in the work of God in our lives. As we are all a part of the body of Christ, let us seek to grow or maintain friendships where we can rejoice, as we see God at work in one another.
Prayer: Jesus, I thank You for all of the ways You’ve blessed me through the spiritual friendships in my life. I pray against shallowness and superficiality in my relationships, but that in all of them I will see Your faithful hand at work. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 26
Lunch Break Study
Read Mark 2:1-12: And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
Questions to Consider
- What were the obstacles to this paralytic man being healed?
- According to Mark, why does Jesus heal this man?
- How would you describe the friends of this paralytic man?
- There was such a large crowd in this house that people could not get through the door. There were also the scribes who did not approve of Jesus saying that this man’s sins were forgiven.
- Mark tells us in verse 5 that Jesus forgives this man’s sins and heals him “when Jesus saw their” It’s important to note that Mark says “their” faith, not “his faith.” It was on the basis of the collective faith of the paralytic man’s four friends that Jesus heals and forgives.
- Among a number of good words to describe them, I would choose loving, persistent and faithful. You have to assume that these four friends really cared for their paralytic friend. They wouldn’t have gone through the embarrassment of damaging the roof of another man’s house for the sake of a stranger, but they persisted through the obstacles with great faith to bring their friend to Jesus. What amazing friends!
Think about the relationships and friendships you have now. Take some time to thank and praise God for the friendships that have pointed or been pointing you towards Jesus. Also, think about some of these relationships that could go deeper. Pray that those relationships in particular can go deeper and that God will continue to bless you through the body of Christ.