Session 15

 Philippians Study – Session 15

Philippians 4:4-9

 

            All Scripture, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, is inspired by God.  In that sense, there is no part of Scripture that is more or less important than any other part.  However, in another sense, there are parts of God’s Word that seem to stand out in importance and value to our lives.  They are like peaks in a majestic mountain range.  In our journey through Philippians we have come to one of those passages.  Philippians 4:4-9 is one of the great statements in the Bible, and it is packed with useful instruction for us.

            Philippians 4:4-9 consists of two paragraphs that are similar in structure.  Each paragraph begins with a series of instructions and ends with ends with a wonderful promise of peace.  The promise of the first paragraph is “the peace of God” (v.7), and the promise of the second paragraph is “the God of peace” (v.9). 

            This is such an important and beautiful part of God’s Word, I think the best way to approach it is simply to work through it word by word and phrase by phrase.

 

Philippians 4:4-7

Verse 4“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”

The word “rejoice” literally means to be full of joy.  Given Paul’s situation when he wrote this letter, that was an incredible thing for him to say.

·   He was locked away in a Roman prison...his very life was in question...

·   His friends in Philippi were embroiled in some kind of deep disagreement, and he couldn’t be there to help them...

·   The Christian community in Rome, where Paul was being held was divided...

·   Some of the Christians in Rome were jealous of Paul and were using the occasion of his imprisonment to attempt to undermine his leadership of the church...

And apparently Paul anticipated his readers questioning the wisdom of that statement.  I think Paul could envision them asking, “Has Paul gone absolutely mad?  Doesn’t he realize where he is?  Doesn’t he know what might happen to him?” And so for emphasis and clarity Paul repeats the statement  “...again I will say, rejoice!”

 

That statement is a reminder that while we cannot always choose our circumstances, we can choose how we respond to our circumstances.  Even in times of difficulty, it is possible for God’s people to rejoice.  The ability to rejoice, even in the hard times of life, does not come from naïvely burying our heads in the sand and pretending that everything is alright.  Instead, it is the recognition that we are never alone in our suffering.  As Psalm 31:7 puts it, “I will rejoice and be glad in Thy loving-kindness, because Thou hast seen my affliction; Thou hast known the trouble of my soul.”

 

Verse 5a“Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men.”

The word translated ­­“forbearing” is one of the great words of the New Testament.  It means  to be humble, gentle, reasonable, patient, and courteous.  Instead of being characterized by the kind of conflict Paul felt compelled to address in Philippians 4:2-3, he urges believers to be “forbearing.”  This same word is translated “gentleness” in that wonderful list of qualities in Galatians 5:22-23 called “the fruit of the Spirit.”

 

Verse 5b“The Lord is near.”

That phrase can be interpreted in one of two ways.

·         It could mean the Lord is near in the sense of His continuing presence in our lives.  Taken that way, this statement would be an echo of the promise that Jesus made to His disciples in Matthew 28:20 - “...I am with you always, even until the end of the age.” 

·         Or it could mean the Lord is near in the sense that His return to this world is near.  The New Testament view is that we have been living in the last days since the ascension of Jesus back to heaven.  The next great event in God’s redemptive history is the return of Christ.

Whichever way you interpret the phrase, the point is that it is the nearness of the Lord that motivates us to be “forbearing.”

 

Verse 6a“Be anxious for nothing…”

The word translated “anxious” is a very graphic word.  It means to be pulled in different directions or to go to pieces.  And the wording of the phrase “Be anxious for nothing...” indicates the readers were in the grips of anxiety.  In effect Paul says to them, “Stop worrying...stop being pulled apart...stop focusing on your problems and focus instead on God...”  Best definition worry I have ever read was written by Norman Vincent  Peale.  He described worry as "...the destructive process of occupying the mind with thoughts contrary to God's love and care."

 

Verse 6b“…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Instead of worrying about any­thing, we’re to take everything to God in prayer.  There is a wonderful thought in that word “everything.”  He is saying that there is ­nothing—

·         So big that God cannot handle it...

·         So small that God is not interested in it...

Just as a child can be sure a loving parent is interested in whatever happens to him/her, so we can be sure our loving heavenly Father is vitally concerned about all cares and anxieties in our  lives.  I Peter 5:7 says it well... "Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for  you."

 

Verse 7“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

The word "guard" in phrase "guard your hearts" is a military  term.  It was used to describe a Roman soldier, weapon in hand, standing in ­­­front of a door keeping anyone from entering.  The result of following the commands of verses 4-6 is that we experience in our lives the “peace of God.”  We have a sense of inner well-being that can only be explained by God’s presence in us.

 

Philippians 4:8-9

One of the great unexplored frontiers which we are just beginning to discover is the frontier of the mind.  We are only in the infancy of understanding the amazing on-board computer God has put in our heads.  However, even in our limited understanding, we do know that our lives are radically impacted by what we allow to be fed into our minds and what we do with the information once it is there.  That’s not a new revelation.  Hundreds of years ago the writer of Proverbs wrote, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” [Pro.23:7]  Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way:

“Sow a thought, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

Sow a character, reap a destiny.”

What he was saying that what we think and how we think, to a large degree, determines our destiny.

 

The basic command of Philippians 4:8 is found in the phrase “...let your mind dwell...” at the end of the verse.  The verb translated “...let your mind dwell...” in the NASB and “...think on...” in the KJV is logizomai.  It carries the idea of careful, thoughtful reflection.  It is referring to something much deeper than just a fleeting thought.  Instead, it means to ponder, to give proper weight to, or to concentrate with all the mental power we can muster.

 

Now look at the first part of v.8 at the list of things on which the minds of God’s people should dwell.

·         True - This means things upon which we can rely, which will not fail us, will not let us down...in Jesus’ great prayer in John 17 He prayed that God would sanctify His followers in the truth and then he explained what He meant by saying, “Thy word is truth...”...and to occupy our minds with what is true means to occupy our minds with God’s Word...

·         Honorable - Carries idea of things that are worthy of reverence...instead of being consumed by things that are cheap, flippant, trivial, unimportant, we should be consumed by the dignified, respectable, important things of life...doesn’t mean that we never laugh or joke or enjoy life...think Jesus lived with twinkle in His eye...it means that we are not to focus our lives on things which are dishonorable...

·         Right - Idea is giving to God and to others what is due them...we are to focus on doing what is right in relation to God and to other people...

·         Pure - This word carries idea of morally pure or undefiled...world is filled with things that are sordid, shabby, smutty...God’s people are to avoid those things...we are not allow our minds to become saturated by things that are impure...

·         Lovely - This word means love-inspiring...instead of filling our minds with things which arouse ill feelings toward others, we are to focus on things which cause us to love others...

·         Good repute - Barclay describes this as “...the things that are fit to hear...”...the world is full of words that are not fit to hear--not just the obviously profane words, but also words that are false, deceptive, and demeaning of others...we are to focus on things which are worth talking about and which we can take into the very presence of God...

·         Excellent/worthy of praise - The translated “excellence” is from classical Greek and is used nowhere else in NT...was used to describe excellence in every form--mental, moral, and physical...we are to focus on those things which motivate us to doing very best we can do, not on those things which allow us to settle for less than our best...

Those are the types of things which should occupy the minds of God’s people.

 

Now look at what the first part of verse 9 – “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things...”... there are two very significant things in that statement want you to see...

·         Paul had the courage to say, “Look at my life.  What you see in me, practice yourself!”...tragically, very few Christians can make a statement like that with integrity...we have to say just the opposite...”Don’t look at my life; just listen to my words.  Do what I say, not what I do!”...however, Paul was well aware that people learn by example, and he made sure his example was right...this is second time in this letter Paul invited his readers to look at his life and do as he did...in 3:17 he challenged the Philippians to “...join in following my example...”...and now, in 4:9, he issues to them the same challenge...

·         This statement is a reminder that the great responsibility of being a Christian is living like a Christian!...not saved by right living...saved by faith in Christ...but once we have made that faith commitment of our lives to Christ, right living is the evidence that you really are a Christian...

 

There’s a beautiful promise at conclusion of this paragraph…as we fill our minds with the right things and live our lives in the right way, then ”...the God of peace shall be with you...” That doesn’t mean there is ever time when God is not with us...but if we fill our minds with the wrong things and if we live our lives in total disregard of God’s will, we will find ourselves in the position of being calloused to, insensitive to the presence of God with us...on the other hand, as we fill our minds with the right things and live our lives in the right way, we become keenly aware of God--the God who brings peace and contentment--being in our lives…

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