Philippians 4 is Paul’s farewell to the church at Philippi. But as he goes, he encourages them to “stand firm thus in the Lord….agree in the Lord”. He challenges them to not be tossed by the waves that will come at them and try to move them from their walk with Christ. He also challenges them to learn to agree. The key to both – three simple words – “in the Lord”. We won’t accomplish either on our own steam. We can’t withstand the attacks of the enemy nor can we live in agreement with those in our patch. But with Jesus at work in us – and we know that because Paul reminds them that their “names are in the book of life” – we can do both in the Lord! Is your name in the book of life? Don’t wonder – make sure!
Paul then gives us a very practical command to follow – “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”. Short verse – begins and ends with the same direction – we are to rejoice in the Lord. We are to celebrate Jesus. Do you take time to rejoice? Or do you let the world weigh you down and keep your joy covered up. He comes right along and reminds us why we struggle to rejoice: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”. Ok – admit it – you worry about stuff. And often it is worry about things you have no control over and can’t possibly change. So why do we worry when it is out of our control? Because we lack faith. We fail to trust God. Paul gives us the secret here – prayer, supplication, thanksgiving – ask God. Quit carrying the burden and turn it over to Him. Cast your burden – He can not only handle it – He is ready and wants it.
What Paul promises next is amazing: “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Have you experienced peace, God’s peace? There is nothing like it. When we are able to allow God to be God and let Him handle the rocks in our lives – turn over our burdens and concerns to Him – He can give us peace. He can provide peace for us when we face major life crisis – or when we are dealing with little nagging things. We don’t have to understand how or why – we just have to trust Him. Paul tells us a bit later in the chapter that “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”. God is able – more than able – to meet whatever need we have and hand over to Him. It is not a resource problem. It is a trust and faith issue on our part. Don’t keep wallowing in your worry – find His peace through trust and faith!
Finally Paul tells us that what we think matters – the things we allow to fill our hearts and minds is really important. He begins this last guidance this way: “Finally, brothers” – he is giving us the secret to God’s peace. Listen to what he tells us to “think about these things”:
– “whatever is true
– whatever is honorable
– whatever is just
– whatever is pure
– whatever is lovely
– whatever is commendable
– if there is any excellence
– if there is anything worthy of praise”
We need to focus on godly thoughts – ponder positive things – be considering what is near to God’s heart. But it is more than just right thinking: “what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you”. We need to think right, but more important – we need to live right. Obedience is part two of the equation. We get the right mindset and then we walk faithfully in obedience. That is how we experience peace. Paul goes on to tell us he has learned to be content in every situation, but most of all he knows for sure “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”. That same God is our God today. We too can do all things if we are walking in His power and in His strength. Too often though we try and do it on our own steam. We want to do it our way. We spend our time focusing on negative and earthly thoughts – not God and His ways. What an encouraging wrap to the folks at Philippi. It was also addressed to you and me as Christ Followers. Do you have God’s peace? Are you walking in His power and rejoicing as you go? He is the same yesterday, today and forever. It is up to us to walk with him!
Philippians 3 has Paul’s discussion about the power of Jesus in his life. But he begins by warning the church to “look out” – three times he uses those words and warns the church to avoid people or things that can cause us to stumble. Are you looking out and avoiding things that can lead you to sin or away from Jesus? We certainly need to be alert and aware. Paul is focused on one thing and one thing alone – Jesus Christ.
Check out how he describes his relationship with Jesus: “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ….I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Paul has made Jesus the center of his life – his only focus. And the goes on to tell us that he wants to “know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”. Paul understands that the power of Christ came with a price – death on the cross – and that he wants to share in those sufferings with Him. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? But the reality is that becoming like Him means we give us our own rights and become humble and selfless – willing to become nothing.
Paul reminds us to do this “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead….I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. Are you straining forward to get to God’s plan for your life? Paul tells us to forget the past – and focus on where we are going. Way too much time is spent wallowing in the past. That doesn’t mean we ignore it or pretend it didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean we don’t evaluate and learn from it. But we can’t get to where we are going by focusing too much on the past. We need to find people like Paul and do what he instructs “join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us”. We need to find examples to follow, and we need to be an example to others to lead. Sometimes we forget this part of our responsibility as a Christ Follower – others are to follow us. That is what disciplemaking is all about – leading others to maturity in Christ as they follow our example. Are you doing that – living life as an example that will lead others to the cross? Do you have an example to follow that gets you closer to Jesus? That is our call and God’s command for our lives.
Philippians 2 has Paul starting with focusing the church on unity. He says “so if there is….”
– “any encouragement in Christ
– any comfort from love
– any participation in the Spirit
– any affection and sympathy”
Pretty broad categories and with the word any it would take a very unique place for there not to be any of these things. What does Paul want to be the outcome if these things exist? “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord and of one mind”. He wants unity in the body of Christ. Now there is quite a different idea, eh? He wants us to act as one…..
He goes on to give us a hint as to how that can work. “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves…..look not only to (your) own interests….but also the interests of others”. We can work toward unity when we get our mind and focus off of self and on to others. That is how we gain humility and begin to become like Jesus. Paul says as we do this our mind will be “yours in Jesus Christ….He humbled Himself…..obedient to the point of death”. Jesus took humility and obedience to a whole different level. He was humble and obedient to death. That is some serious humility and obedience.
But Jesus’ humility doesn’t mean He gets no respect. In fact Paul promises this about Jesus: “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow…..and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. That is a promise I am excited to see happen. Jesus recognized for who He is – the Savior and Lord of all. Jesus will be glorified and praised. It should flow from us as Christ Followers now, but every person that is alive will honor Him when that day comes. Until then Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” – we are to find out what God intends to do through us and join Him in that pursuit. As we do we are to “do all things without grumbling or questioning….that you may be blameless and innocent….you shine as lights in the world”. We are to live as an example of how to get along with God. This gets a little sticky doesn’t it – without grumbling or complaining – that will require a change for many of us. But the reason we need to get over that and get on to praise – because we are the light of the world. We have a mission to fulfill. God expects us to be blameless and innocent and praising and glorifying Him. That is our assigned responsibility. Are you living that way? Humbly serving and sharing and praising Him? That is our call!
Philippians 1 is the letter from Paul and Timothy to the church at Philippi. They are writing to the believers there and begin by mentioning two of the groups in leadership in the early church – “overseers and deacons”. Other places call them elders and deacons – but these are the two groups that provided direction and service for the early body. The overseers fulfilled a spiritual leadership role – guiding the foundation of the church and providing spiritual oversight and control. The deacons served the physical needs of the body and the ministry – meeting tangible needs and serving people to make sure the work of the ministry was fulfilled. Two important roles that seem necessary in the functional church.
Paul goes on to remind the church of their “partnership in the gospel”. We are not alone in sharing the gospel. We are part of God’s family and we are His servant. Sometimes we feel like we are out on a limb doing it on our own. That is not how it really is. In fact, Paul reminds us that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”. God makes things happen – not us. We are the vessel – He is the one who makes it happen. Do you cling to that promise – that God will bring to fruition that which He has began to do in us and through us. What a powerful promise to claim.
Paul then talks about his prayers for this body – a great example of what we might pray for those in our circle. He asks that:
– “love may abound
– Approve what is excellent
– Be pure and blameless
– Filled with the fruit of righteousness
– Giving glory and praise to God”
What a powerful set of things to pray for – Paul and Timothy are praying this way for the church. We need to be doing the same. We need to lift each other up and place the well-being of the body at the throne of grace.
Then Paul writes one of the most powerful realities in all of scripture: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. Wow – those are powerful words. Have you considered that for your life? Do you feel that way – that living is good but spending eternity with Jesus is far better? Hard to get the old arms around isn’t it? But it is true – we are far better with Jesus than living our life here on earth. But Paul gives our role in life a strong requirement – “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…..standing firm in the Spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel and not frightened by your opponents”. We need to live a life worthy of the Lord – one that stands firm and is not swayed by any who oppose the message of Jesus. Are you worthy? Do you stand firm? That is God’s call for our life. To be His messenger faithful to walk in His ways without regard to what others may think or how they may respond or react. Be worthy of Christ!