I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
It is so easy to get sidetracked into secondary matters. Things which may have secondary importance in some way, which we may even need to sort out and decide for ourselves. But secondary in their status. They may or may not be a part of our lives, but it’s the kind of thing that can distract us from what is of first importance.
And the sad fact of the matter is that we’re so prone to get caught up in these kinds of things so that these secondary matters become primary to us. And we might even come to think that everyone should think and practice what we do. It may be perfectly fine for us, but not something that anyone else has to do.
What I’m thinking of are preferences about things that might be helpful for us and might (or might not) even help us focus on the essentials. What works for us, maybe too for our faith community, though often within that community there are many differences over these very same things. There is probably no end to what these things are. What we find helps us in all kinds of ways including diet, diversions, clothing, even Bible translations. You name it.
Paul’s prayer here is that we might have discernment to see through what is secondary, perhaps helpful for some at certain times. But to see what is always first. Only God can help us see that, which is precisely the point of Paul’s prayer, that the believers might understand in love what is best, what really matters. Using the secondary things to help us be settled in what in the end matters. In and through Jesus.