Our Pastor has now expositorily walked us through the letter written to the Philippians, well save for the closing verses. The fourth chapter of this letter has been an especially prosperous journey for me personally.
Paul begins the fourth chapter of his letter to the Philippians with a command to “stand firm.” In their hostile world, they were not to be found wavering or falling back, but standing firm in their faith which, no different than us, is in Christ Jesus.
While much may have changed in our world since the Apostle penned these words, his command is still valid today and for sure the world is still at enmity with Paul’s Christ. How then will the Christian persevere in an environment adamant to ensure he or she does not?
Paul is very glad the question was asked, because he intends to tell us just that in the words of his letter, specifically in those verses following his command.
In verses two and three, Paul implores unity between believers. As an argument had obviously broken out between a couple of ladies in the church, Paul instructed they were to be united in Jesus and His Gospel (of the same mind). This would mean looking beyond the insignificant matters, such as carpet color, and on to the urgent task of the Great Commission. Paul calls for the magnificent diversity of the body of Christ to be seen as unified in its effort to declare Jesus to the world.
In verse four, we hear Paul describe God’s people as those who are rejoicing… always! No matter what the circumstances of life may bring our way, Jesus has done something that is worthy of eternal rejoicing. He has conquered sin and death! He has reconciled us to His Father in Heaven. Aside this, Paul sees nothing that might snatch away the Christian’s joy.
The pathway to perseverance must travel through self-denial. This is what Paul means in verse five when he directs, “Let your gentleness be known to all.” He really is telling us that nothing should cause us to lose our composure. There is good reason for our need to consider all others as better than ourselves, “The Lord is at hand.” If I truly desire for the grocery store clerk, or the careless driver, to hear and see the gospel within me, because Jesus is at hand meaning time is short, then I’ll be willing to be cut off in traffic and endure slow store lines. It’s worth remembering here that the believers Paul is writing to and many even in our day suffered and are suffering severely, much more so than anything I encounter on a normal day.
Paul’s fourth principle is monumental in importance, not so much because it is more important, but because our society is being destroyed by the failure to observe it. And yes, Christians are failing here right along with the rest of the world. Paul says, “Be anxious about nothing” in verse six. Anxiety medications are found in a growing number of homes in western culture. The cure Paul offers fascinates me, “pray more; pray diligently.” The way that believers overcome worry is through prayer. So if the larger majority of a nation is suffering from anxiety issues, what does this say of our prayer lives?
Finally, Paul declares that we must “think” if we will persevere. We must gain control of our thoughts and lend them to those things profitable for the Kingdom. He gives us a neat little list of where our thoughts and meditations should be focused vigorously; intentionally contemplative and emulative.
Where should the Christian’s mind reside? He tells us, “on things that are true, noble, just, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy.” These thoughts are rarely produced from a television screen, but always through the Word of God.
All of these principles are essential to win the race, to fight the good fight, to see come to fruition the perseverance of the saints. The Philippian’s letter is an anthem to my heart; I must “stand firm!” Do you hear it also?
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty (2 Timothy 3:1).