Warming the Soul in the Love of Our Triune God
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Phil. 4:19–20).
There is a truth each child of God knows, and yet we are so prone to forget how the very experience of it warms our souls like a heavenly, boiling pot of fine Welsh cawl on a cold winter’s evening. I can almost hear you whisper under your breath: “What is this often-forgotten truth you speak of?” It is none other than the wonderful truth and life-giving experience of warming our souls over the white-hot flame of our Triune God’s love, made ours through Christ’s precious, redeeming work on the cross.
The Heavenly Doctor and Puritan, Richard Sibbes, once dropped a sweet for the nourishment of his readers when he spoke of the soul being the home of all human affections. For Sibbes, to speak of warming the soul was to speak of setting the affections of man aflame by beholding something greater than the imagination can conceive and the heart can contain—namely, the beauty of Jesus Christ the Son of God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states it in a memorable way when it says: “What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” In the words of Stuart Ollyott, “Something must be both known and felt.” And of course, the Apostle Paul would agree:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Phil. 1:21–23)
Can you see how Paul knew the Son of God and desired him, even at the cost of his life? Something was known and felt!
The Apostle was in the thick of legal battles which were the cost of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, possibly imprisoned in Rome, locked up in chains (Phil. 1:7), watching on as his dear brother sent from Philippi—Epaphroditus—was on death’s door (Phil. 2:25–30). All of this while he was staring potential death in the face at the hands of willing executioners opposing his faith (Phil. 1:20–24). Yet, the thought of the Triune God was enough to warm his heart and refresh his soul to carry on his pathway through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps 23:4). Paul brings his readers to a stunning vision of this wonderful love of the Triune God in his prayer for the Philippian church:
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:3–11)
It was this vision of God’s love in Christ that led to substantial soul refreshment for Paul, for his ministry, and for the mission. It was this love Paul knew could bring his dearly beloved Philippian church through the same sufferings. So absolutely able was the Triune God to refresh the soul of Paul in the love of Christ that he could say,
“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” (Phil.1:23–26)
Just when it felt like the time to throw in the towel, the glory of the Triune God revealed in our crucified and risen saviour—Jesus Christ, the Spirit anointed Son of God, was enough nourishment for the Apostle’s soul to keep going. Paul was a suffering saint who knew the Triune God and found the deepest satisfaction of his soul in him alone.
Dear ones, you are promised so much in this life, but freedom from suffering is not one (Phil. 1:29). Where will you turn when the high tide of illness, injustice, persecution, poverty, or any other kind of evil or unease brings you to an abrupt stop? Warm your souls afresh at the white-hot flame of the Trinitarian love of God. Enough to turn your eyes from the pressures, performance, pain, and problems of this world, is he who wins us again and again by his heavenly kindness. It is this God who desires to be known in Christ and experienced within the deepest recesses of our souls. So it was for the Apostle Paul, and so it is for all of God’s dearly beloved children.
Benjamin Harrison is a church planter in West Wales supported by Union Mission,
and a current MTh student with Union School of Theology.
 Richard Sibbes, The Bruised reed in The Works of Richard Sibbes (Edinburgh: John Greig and Son Publishers, 1772), 42–55.
Lewis Allen and Tim Chester, The Glory of Grace: An Introduction to the Puritans (United Kingdom: Banner of Truth trust, 2018), 2–3.
 The Westminster Shorter Catechism with Scripture Proofs (reprint; United Kingdom: Banner of Truth Publications, 2021), 5.
 Stuart Ollyott, Something Must Be Known and Felt: A Missing Note in Today’s Christianity (Bridgend: Bryntirion, 2015), 5–12.