Category Archives: Philippians

Philippians 4:21-23 – Greetings and Grace

As we come to the end of our study of the Epistle to the Philippians, we come to three verses which may not seem very important. What Paul says here is similar to what he says at the end of other letters. These verses include Paul’s farewell and prayer for the Philippian believers. What could you learn from these three verses? As we study these verses together, I think that you will see how important these verses are. Keep your eyes open and listen to what God says in this part of the Bible. There just might be more than you expect.

  1. The importance of Christian greetings (21-22)

    What kind of greeting is called for?

    Paul uses the word greet three times in these verses. In his time, the word meant “to give greetings (hello or good-bye) … to salute, greet, welcome, express good wishes, pay respects … to bid farewell … to treat with affection … met. to embrace mentally.”1 All of these definitions give the idea that one person is giving a happy greeting to people he cares about.

    While visiting the Willows yesterday, there were several elderly residents sitting outside. As I passed them, I waved my hand and smiled. My greeting was more polite than anything because I had never met these two ladies. But when I got inside and saw Norman, my greeting to him was much different. We were two Christians greeting one another with a smile based on our mutual experience in the Lord.

    Paul talks about greeting other Christians three times: (1) greet every saint in Christ Jesus, (2) the brethren with him sent their greetings, and (3) all the saints (including those in Caesar’s household) greeted them. With all of that in mind, I don’t think that this was a scripted phrase such as “I greet you in the name of the Lord.” Instead, they were greeting one another as fellow Christians. Because they all knew the Lord and had common experience as Christians, they were sending an affectionate, loving greeting to other believers.

    Who are the saints?

    One of the common misunderstandings taught by the Roman Catholic Church involves the word saint in the New Testament. According to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, “All Christians are called to be saints. Saints are persons in heaven (officially canonized or not), who lived heroically virtuous lives, offered their life for others, or were martyred for the faith, and who are worthy of imitation.”2 The website describes how a deceased Roman Catholic can become a saint. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes a deceased Catholic as a saint if they have lived a virtuous life and two miracles have happened after prayer is made to them. This has led to Roman Catholic followers to pray with the saints3 and to the saints for help.4

    There are many reasons why praying to saints is not good: (1) the Bible never tells us to do this, (2) Jesus is the only mediator between us and God (1 Tim. 2:5), (3) we are told to take our requests to God (Phil. 4:6-7), and (4) the practice of necromancy is an abomination to God (Deut. 18:10-12). For these reasons alone, it should be clear that speaking to a dead person (no matter how heroic or virtuous) is not something prescribed by or accepted by God. Instead, it is a false practice that turns people away from what God truly wants believers to do.

    1 Tim. 2:5 – “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and menthe Man Christ Jesus.”

    Phil. 4:6-7 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

    Deut. 18:10-12 – “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.”

    If you look at our text carefully, you will see that Paul was talking about people who were living not dead. In verse 21, he tells the Philippians to greet every saint in Christ Jesus. Does that sound like talking to dead people? No, he was telling them to greet other Christians whom they met. In verse 22, he tells them that all the saints were sending their greetings to them especially those who were in Caesar’s household. Does this sound like a bunch of dead people sending greetings to the Philippian church? No, he was talking about Christians who were alive, who lived in Caesar’s house, and who were sending their affectionate greetings to the believers in Philippi.

    So who are the saints? In the New Testament the word saint means someone who is “holy (moral quality), consecrated ([ceremonially] acceptable to God) … separate from common condition and use; dedicated … pure, righteous.”5 In other words, it describes what Christians are called to be.

    Rom. 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

    1 Cor. 6:17-18 – “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

    1 Pet. 1:14-16 – “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

    With these verses in mind, we should understand a saint as (1) a living person not a dead one, and (2) a Christian who is trying to live a clean life for the Lord. If you have been born again through repentance and faith, then you are called to be a saint for the Lord. We do this not to earn something from God but because we love Him and want to please Him. Are you one of these saints talked about here?

    Who were those sending their greetings?

    As we go back to the verses, let us take a look at the people who were sending their greetings. First, it is the Philippian believers who were to greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. These saints were other believers who lived in Philippi or in the surrounding area who knew the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, the brethren with Paul sent their greeting. These were Paul’s travel companions. At different times, people like Barnabas, Silas, Luke, John Mark and others chose to travel with Paul. Whoever was with him at the time, sent their greetings to the saints in Philippi. Third, all the saints especially those in Caesar’s household sent their greetings. As you can imagine, Paul was constantly writing letters to the various churches. He often passed along his greetings and a greeting from those with him. At the time, Paul was imprisoned in Rome. At the time he wrote this epistle, there were some Christians who were in Caesar’s household. They “were probably those who had come to Christ as a result of Paul’s house arrest. They probably included soldiers and relatives of Caesar’s household.”6 8 As these Christians heard Paul talking about the Philippian believers, they wanted them to know that they loved and appreciated their Christian brothers who lived so far away from them.

    During the last 28 years, my wife and I have been members of several churches in Michigan and Ohio. We have also ministered in churches in Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and at various camps. Whenever we come into contact with someone from one of these churches or ministries, we pass along our greetings to them. We remember the time we had with them. We remember the work that God did in their hearts. We rejoice with them when God saves a relative or works in someone’s heart that we knew from back then. We weep with those who go through hard times. All that to say that there is a special bond between those who are Christians wherever they may be.

    Why is this important? It is important because (1) the Bible tells us to do it, (2) we need encouragement, and (3) we need to encourage others. Just as regular church attendance helps a believer to grow, so does a warm Christian greeting help those who give and receive it. Every day, we fight a battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We often come into conflict with those who resist or fight against the truths in the Bible. This can lead to discouragement and sometimes depression. One of the means by which we can be encouraged is this simple and helpful Christian greeting. So make good use of this and try to be an encouragement to someone this week.

  2. The importance of Christian grace (23)

    What is grace?

    Over the years, the word grace has been used to describe a prayer before a meal and many other things. In Paul’s day, the word meant “grace, favor, kindness.” In other words, grace is a kindness done for another person that is helpful. When received from people, it is called being gracious. It is the kind thought, word, or action done to help someone who needs help. However, this is not what Paul is talking about. He is talking about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    What does Jesus have to do with it?

    While a kind word or a Christian greeting from another person can be helpful, Paul was wanting these Philippian believers to have the grace that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice that he uses the full title here. He is the Lord showing His deity. He is Jesus our Savior. He is Christ, the anointed One of God. If grace from another Christian is helpful, how would grace from the Divine, Saving, Anointed Son of God be?

    A couple of thoughts:

    (1) We need the grace of God for our salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). Without His kindness toward us, we would still be wallowing in our sin on our way to the final judgment. But because of His kindness, we heard the truth, were convinced to turn from our sin, and believed in Jesus who died for our sins and rose again.

    (2) We need the grace of Jesus for our daily Christian lives.

    Gen. 6:8 – “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”

    Acts 4:33 – “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.”

    1 Cor. 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

    Eph. 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

    2 Tim. 2:1 – “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

    Heb. 4:16 – “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

    James 4:6 – “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

    1 Pet. 5:10 – “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

    2 Pet. 3:18 – “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”

    As you can see, the Bible is filled with the grace of Jesus which helps and strengthens believers. As Hendriksen says, “In the final analysis our entire salvation from start to finish depends on God’s sovereign favor in Jesus Christ.”7 This is why Paul prays that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ would be given to them. We need His power for our everyday lives. Without it, we would not be able to handle the pressures of life. But with His grace, we can endure and smile through the good and bad times.

    This is what I want for each of you. First, I would like you to know the grace of Jesus for salvation. God was kind to send Him and Jesus was kind to willingly give His life to pay for your sins. His kindness is available to all who believe. Have you received His kindness and been saved from the punishment you deserve for your sin? Second, I would like each believer to know the grace of Jesus daily. Instead of trying to drum up the ability to endure, why not rely on the grace, the kindness, the favor that Jesus offers to each believer. With his help, you can have the power to do what He has called you to do and the ability to enjoy your life with Him.

Conclusion

In today’s message, we have covered only three verses. At first, they may have seemed insignificant and unworthy of a Sunday morning message. But after looking at them more closely, we have learned two important things.

First, we have seen the importance of a Christian greeting. It isn’t the words that are said but the meaning and reality behind them. When a Christian greets another Christian there is something between them that the world can’t understand. The comradery and brotherhood of believers is something that is special. And it is all because of what God has done in our lives. We Christians have something that others don’t have. We have been washed clean from our sins, forgiven by God, changed by God into a new person, made a part of God’s family, and given a task to complete. Those who are going in the same direction are happy to greet another member of their family with joy. Are you a part of this family?

Second, we have seen the importance of the grace of Jesus in our lives. While His grace was active in our salvation, it is also active in our daily lives. He kindly gives us the strength we need. He encourages us, teaches us, and helps us to become what we need to be. Without Him we would be nothing. But with His grace, we are able to do what we need to with a smile on our faces. Are you taking advantage of His grace today?

Footnotes

1 ἀσπάζομαι as defined by Mounce
2 “Roman Catholic Saints & Heroes!”
3 Dohlen
4 “Praying to the Saints”
5 ἅγιος as defined by Mounce
6 Lightner 665.
7 Hendriksen 214.
8 Hendriksen 214, “If among the early Christians there were those who belonged to Nero’s ‘household,’ today’s government-employees in far more favorable circumstances will have great difficulty when they try to find an excuse for failing to bear witness for Christ (verse 22).”

Bibliography

Dohlen, Cate Von, “How to Pray With Saints” as viewed at https://hallow.com/blog/how-to-pray-with-saints on 7/1/2023. [I do not condone the teaching in this article.]

Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp. 212-13.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 665.

Moule, H. C. G., The Epistle to the Philippians, Cambridge; The University Press, 1889, pp. 122-24.

Mounce, Bill, “Greek Dictionary” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary on 7/1/2023.

“Praying to the Saints” as viewed at https://www.catholic.com/tract/praying-to-the-saints on 7/1/2023. [I do not condone the teaching in this article.]

“Roman Catholic Saints & Heroes!” as viewed at https://www.roman-catholic-saints.com on 7/1/2023. [I do not condone the teaching in this article.]

The Joys of Giving – Philippians 4:10-20

During my travels, I have noticed many people standing by traffic lights asking for money. I have never been comfortable giving to these people because of something that happened in Columbus a few years ago. As I was driving toward Cleveland Avenue, I saw a woman pushing a cart and passing out cardboard signs for beggars to hold on each corner. What? Do you think that these street beggars are organized by someone? Apparently, this was the case.

While these false beggars should not be encouraged, there are some people who are truly in need. Perhaps you have heard of the family that lost their home in the recent tornado. Or you may have heard about an offering taken to help Peniel Bible Camp or a missionary. When there is a real need, loving Christians have graciously given to meet the need and have been a blessing to those who needed it.

In today’s message, we will be looking at Philippians 4:10-20. In these verses, Paul commends the Philippian believers for giving toward his needs and shares four principles that will help us to become cheerful givers.

  1. Joy comes from giving (Philippians 4:10).

    The first thing that Paul expresses is the joy he experienced when the Philippians showed their care for him by giving him a gift to meet his needs. If you have ever received a gift at a particularly needy time or have given to a needy person, you know the joy and thankfulness that results. “Thank you so much!”

    Where does joy come from?

    Sadly, some may not understand Paul’s motives in thanking these Christians. “The question might be asked, ‘Is this a weakness in Paul, to go into such raptures over merely earthly goods, as if he was a child who had just received a new toy? Or were his remarks to be taken as an expression of dire want, a kind of complaint with the implication, Please send me another gift soon?”6 But do you really think this is why Paul was reacting with such joy? No, he was joyful “in the Lord.” The gift was great and the people were helpful. But it was the Lord that brought such joy to Paul’s heart. He was glad to see how the Lord was working in their heart, motivating them to give toward his ministry work. As a result, “through them God had met his needs.”1

    How does care flourish?

    You may notice that Paul talks about their care flourishing. When something flourishes, it suddenly shows up in a big way. “As soon as the news of Paul’s imprisonment had become known in Philippi the desire had sprung up ‘to do something’ to help him. But at first no favorable opportunity had presented itself. It may have been that no messenger had been immediately available, or that for some reason or other it had been impossible to collect the gift from the various members. … As soon as this situation changed, the Philippians had acted with characteristic enthusiasm and devotion.”6

    I remember when one of our missionaries was robbed and his phone was stolen. While I was considering what to do, I learned that someone had already given toward that need. They were quick to give and the need was quickly met. This seems to be how the Philippians responded when they heard of Paul’s need. Their care for him flourished.

    Have you experienced the joy of giving and receiving? This is not a message designed to ask for support for anything. But there may come a time when you will hear that a church, missionary, or person is in need. It is good to prepare yourself ahead of time by setting aside money to help. But in any case, when you give, give cheerfully and rejoice in what God does through your gift. And if someone gives to help you in your own need, thank God for them and for what He has done for you.

  2. Contentment comes from Jesus (Philippians 4:11-13).

    In today’s culture, contentment is not something many have. People want more than their parents had at their age. We are blessed with an abundance of wealth and yet are we any more content? If only we had a better car, television, home, job, bank account, etc. “Many of us think that if things are going right and if we are in the right place, then we will be contented. That means that we depend on the circumstances of life for our contentment.”3 But that isn’t where contentment is found.

    How do we learn contentment?

    “The word content (autarkes) means ‘self-sufficient.’ The Stoics used this word (which occurs only here in the NT) to mean human self-reliance and fortitude, a calm acceptance of life’s pressures. But Paul used it to refer to a divinely bestowed sufficiency, whatever the circumstances.”1 In other words, contentment is something that God gives us when we are content in Him. When we look to Him to meet all of our needs, we will learn to be content with what God provides.

    How did Paul learn contentment? Paul experienced many ups and downs during his life. He had been beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and many other things and yet he sang in prison (Acts 16). He learned to be content wherever he was. But he also learned to be content when things were going well. While in Philippi, he and his ministry team were taken care of by the business woman, Lydia (Acts 16:15, 40). During his travels, the church at Philippi had given above and beyond what was needed on several occasions.

    How does Jesus empower contentment?

    In verse 13, Paul tells us where he found contentment in any situation. He found the strength to endure in Christ (another name for Jesus). “Paul said he could do everything—including handling poverty and living in abundance—through Him who gave him strength. This was not an expression of pride in his own abilities but a declaration of the strength provided by Christ.”2

    Athletes have used this verse to motivate them during competition, but is this really what Paul was talking about? “When Paul says all things, does he literally mean all things? Does it mean you can go outside and jump over your house? Of course not. Paul says, ‘I can do all things in Christ’—that is, in the context of the will of Christ for your life. Whatever Christ has for you to do, He will supply the power.”4

    So, if God wants me to be poor, He will supply me the power to endure poverty. If He wants me to be rich, He will supply me the power to use it for good purposes. With the strength given by Christ, I can do anything that God wants me to do. But do you believe that? Or do you think, “I could never do ______.” If you are a Christian, Jesus will give you the strength to do anything that He needs you to do. Will you trust Him to give you the strength you need?

  3. Benefits come from giving (Philippians 4:14-17).

    After all that he had just said, “Paul is careful not to leave the impression that the gift had been superfluous and that he did not appreciate it. On the contrary, he indicates that he was definitely pleased with it.”7 They had done well in giving at that time (14). In fact, he recalled that they were the only church to help him when he was in need on several different occasions (15-16). But he wasn’t mentioning this for his own benefit. He was more interested in seeing spiritual fruit in their lives (17). This brings up a question.

    What benefit is giving to the giver?

    We can see the benefit to the person who received the gift. But Paul seems to indicate that he was more concerned with what benefits would be received by the people who gave the gift to him. “Right giving always enriches the giver. ‘The liberal soul shall be made fat’ (Prov. 11:25). ‘He who pities the poor lends to the Lord’ (Prov. 19:17). ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy’ (Matt. 5:7). ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (II Cor. 9:7).”8 In each of these verses, there is a benefit to the giver. God tends to honor the one who gives to others with the right attitude.

    Do we give so that we can get or to be blessed by God? No, that would be the wrong motivation for giving. As we have been given so much by God, it should come naturally to do the same for others. And as we do that, God will be pleased.

  4. Provision ultimately comes from God (Philippians 4:18-20).

    At this point in his ministry, Paul was doing well financially. The gift given by the Philippian Christians was more than enough to meet his needs. “Paul did not want them to think he was still looking for more from them. He had received from the Philippians full payment, all the money they had sent, so he was then abounding and was amply supplied.”2 Epaphroditus had brought their gift to him and it had provided for his needs.

    What did they give him? “Just what was included in those gifts we are not told. Possibilities: money to cover expenses, reading materials, clothes (cf. II Tim. 4:13 for the last two items for which Paul asks at a later occasion).”8 Whatever it was, it was more than enough to meet the need.

    Who does God use to provide the needs of others?

    God often uses people to provide for the needs of others. When a missionary prayer letter arrives and a need is mentioned, God often moves the heart of a believer to send a gift to meet that need. When the church sign is getting old and dilapidated, someone sees the need and gives toward replacing it. God uses people and we ought to make ourselves available as those needs arise.

    When we give gifts in a cheerful manner, God acknowledges it in the same way that he acknowledged the sweet-smelling sacrifices in the temple. Their gift was “not merely an act of sympathy shown to a friend in need but a genuine offering presented to God to promote his cause.”9 So when you give toward the needs of others, you are being used by God to meet these needs. Hopefully, God will use each of us to help others this week. And as we do, He will be pleased.

    How does God provide for our needs?

    To this point, Paul had been talking about how the Philippian believers had met his needs. But now, he turns the attention to how God would meet their own needs. He was confident that “God would reciprocate to the Philippians. They had met Paul’s needs and now God would meet theirs.”2 Through the limitless and glorious riches of Jesus, their needs would be met.

    Throughout biblical history, God has provided for the needs of His people:

    Gen. 21:17-20 – God provided water for Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness.
    Ex. 16:4-6 – God provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness.
    1 Kings 17:4-6 – God provided bread and meat for Elijah which was brought by ravens.
    Matt. 6:31-33 – God promises to provide food and clothing when we seek His kingdom first.

    Could it be possible that you are currently wondering how your needs will be met? Have you ever considered that God can be trusted to help you? We often face needs and then try to find a way to sell something, work harder, or complain louder. Maybe, just maybe, we should stop all the commotion and turn to the Lord to meet our needs. If He could provide for so many people before us, He can surely do it again today. And that is probably why Paul concludes with verse 20. God deserves the glory for all that He has done and will do for each of us.

Conclusion

During our study we have learned four things:

1. Joy comes from giving (10). When the Lord uses someone to meet a need in another person’s life, there is great joy in what God has done through that person.

2. Contentment comes from Jesus (11-13). When we stop depending on our circumstances or possessions to bring us happiness and start looking to the Lord for the strength to endure difficulties, we will learn that contentment is more valuable than anything. That contentment comes from the Lord.

3. Benefits come from giving (14-17). When we stop clutching at our pearls and start giving to others, there is a definite benefit given to us by God. We not only find contentment in what He has provided, but we become people who are blessed by God for giving.

4. Provision ultimately comes from God (18-20). When we finally realize that God is the ultimate Giver, it will change the things that we focus on. We will no longer fret about our circumstances but will instead trust God to meet our needs through His limitless resources through Jesus.

With God’s help, let each of us trust the Lord to meet our own needs and then seek to be used by God to help others who are in need.

Footnotes

1 Lightner 664.
2 Lightner 665.
3 McGee 326.
4 McGee 327.
5 McGee 328.
6 Hendriksen 204.
7 Hendriksen 207.
8 Hendriksen 208.
9 Hendriksen 209.

Bibliography

Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp. 203-.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 664-65.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 326-.

Philippians 4:8-9 – Part 2

Last week, we looked at the things we should be thinking about. We learned that what we meditate about will affect our thoughts and actions. Paul now moves on to one more thought—the need to follow his example.

Philippians 4:9 – “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”

It may seem strange for Paul to hold himself up as an example to follow. In some situations, that would be looked down on as pride. “Look at me! I am your example!” But if you have been reading through the epistle, you know that this was not the case. Paul was a godly Christian who was following the Lord with all his heart. And as their teacher, he was a good example to follow.

  1. Follow my example.

    When I coached a junior high basketball team, I quickly found out that it was easier to show the players how to do something than to tell them. As I played the game with them, I was able to give an example of the things I had told them. The teaching mixed with an example was more helpful than teaching by itself. This is what we will see in Philippians 4:8.

    When had they seen Paul’s example?

    The Philippian believers knew Paul because they had met him and learned from him. As far as I can tell, Paul had been in Philippi on two different occasions. His first visit is recorded in Acts 16.

    He had spent several days in Philippi (Acts 16:11-12).
    He had spoken the gospel to Lydia who believed and was baptized (Acts 16:13-15).
    He had cast out the demon who had possessed a fortune teller (Acts 16:16-18).
    He and Silas had been flogged and imprisoned for doing this (Acts 16:19-24).
    He and Silas had prayed and sang hymns in the jail (Acts 16:25).
    He and Silas had experienced an earthquake that freed them (Acts 16:26)
    He had led the jailer and his family to faith in Jesus (Acts 16:27-34).
    He had confronted the city leaders about his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 16:35-39).
    He had encouraged the Christians in the city before leaving (Acts 16:40).

    That is the most we know about Paul’s time in Philippi. But there was one other time when he visited the city. His second visit was recorded in Acts 20.

    He encouraged the believers in Macedonia (Acts 20:1).
    He stayed in Greece for 3 months (Acts 20:2).
    He went back through Macedonia (Acts 20:3).
    He sailed away from Philippi (Acts 20:6).

    Although there are no details about his visit, it is assumed that he stopped to visit the church in Philippi. This quick voyage didn’t allow much time for a prolonged visit, but it would have been an encouragement to the believers there.

    What was Paul’s example?

    His doctrinal example — The Philippian believers had learned from Paul and received his teaching. They had learned1 from him. This involved his teaching them God’s truth which, as an apostle, he had received directly from God and from studying the Old Testament Scriptures. If this were happening today, what would you teach a group of new believers? You would teach about God, sin and judgment, the birth, life, teachings, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, forgiveness, the new birth, the future, and many other things. They had received2 things from him. Teaching is good and necessary for people to learn what God says, but teaching must be received for it to make a difference in your life. It is one thing to learn about the truth; it is altogether another to actually “receive, take possession of, [or] acknowledge”2 it.

    Do you know what God says in the Bible? Perhaps you have been taught what the Bible says or you have read some it, but there must come a time in your life when you receive it for yourself. This is called faith. Throughout the Bible, we are told to not only hear but to believe what God says. Have you come to that place yet? If not, I encourage you to keep studying the Bible. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

    His personal example — The Philippian believers had heard and seen Paul in person. His example had shown them what a true believer is like. They had heard3 him. When you are around a person for a while, you hear not only the words that they say but the personality and motivation behind those words. If Paul was anything like his epistle in person, his words must have been filled with graciousness and love. Do you remember how the epistle begins with grace and peace and thanks to God for them. When they heard Paul they saw a genuine Christian man. They had seen4 him. The Philippian believers had been visited by Paul on at least two occasions. “On his first visit and on subsequent stopovers, they had seen these graces displayed in Paul.”7 In other words, they saw the very things he was teaching in his personal life. He wasn’t just telling them to do something; he was actively living it out in his own personal life. They had seen it.

    Paul was a good example for the Philippian believers. His doctrinal example was such that they had received and believed God’s truth from him. But they had also seen the truth lived out personally by Paul. Over the years, I have had different Christian heroes. These were people who were examples to me like pastors, teachers, or individual Christians who taught me and lived a godly life. None were perfect but they each showed me something about their relationship with the Lord. I also hope to be a good example to other people but am well aware of my own failings. So, I will say what Paul said elsewhere: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). If you see something in me that points you toward Jesus, follow that.

    What were they to do with Paul’s example?5

    They were to follow his example and do the same things. The word “do” could also be translated as “practice.”6 Paul had given them an example not just to watch from afar but to actually put into practice. The word do “implies an ongoing, daily effort. This is not a one-time attempt or short-term effort to follow God.”9 What Paul wanted is for the Philippian believers (and for us as well) to follow his example and to become examples themselves.

    Do you think that you could ever become an example for others to follow? Your first response might be an emphatic no. But let’s think about that for a moment. Every Christian is called to practice the things Paul talks about in this epistle. And as we do these things (with God’s help), others will be watching. For example, when we help those who are not getting along, when we rejoice in the Lord even during bad times, when we are gracious to others, when we have God’s peace from praying to God, and when we are careful what we think about, do you think others will notice? In these ways, each of us who knows the Lord can be an example for other Christians to follow.

  2. Enjoy God’s presence.

    Paul concludes this verse with a promise. Christians who do the above-mentioned things will have the God of peace with them. Having God with us at all times is a special blessing. Jesus told his disciples to preach the gospel to the world but also mentioned that He would be with them (Matt. 28:18-20). That must have encouraged them to keep going during hard times. We have sung songs like “God Himself is with Us” and “God Will Take Care of You” because we value God’s presence with us. However, Paul describes God’s presence a little bit differently here.

    Why is God called the God of peace?

    If you were to give a description of God, what would make the list of his qualities? You might say that God is holy, loving, patient, all-powerful, wise, and perfect. But here, Paul calls Him the God of peace. Why is that? I think that Paul emphasizes God’s peace because of what he had been teaching them in Philippians 4:1-8.

    There were two church members, Euodia and Syntyche, who were not getting along. They needed God’s peace (4:2-3). There were events that would try to steal away their joy in the Lord (4:4). There would be situations where they would not feel like being gracious but God’s peace would help them especially as they thought about His imminent return (4:5). There were things that caused anxiety but God’s peace would be available when they prayed and thanked God (4:6-7). And there could be many worthless things that would fill their minds unless they chose to meditate on godly things (4:8).

    Think about that. God is the God of peace. He wants you to have the peace that only comes from Him. Whenever you are going through troubling or anxious times, think about the God of peace whom you know. Turn your troubles over to Him and find the peace that passes all understanding.

    Why would He be with them?

    Paul told the Philippian believers that the God of peace would be with them when they followed his Christian example. This makes me think back to the beginning in Genesis 3. After God created Adam, he interacted with him, spoke to him, and had a relationship with him. While we often think that God is far off, He actually is here with us today. He is wanting to be with us and to have a relationship that is good and enjoyable.

    Paul knew this by personal experience. “By pursuing the course of life which he had led, and which he here counsels them to follow, [he] had found that it had been attended with the blessing of the God of peace, and he felt the fullest assurance that the same blessing would rest on them if they imitated his example.”8 Once again, Paul was sharing with them (and with us) the wonderful news that God is with those who follow God’s ways. As was true for him, it is true for us. If we are willing to not only believe the Lord but to follow His instructions, our relationship with God will be good.

    Sadly, there are many people who claim to be Christians but who do not enjoy their relationship with God like Paul did. It isn’t that they are not true believers or that they aren’t apostles like Paul. The real problem is that some Christians don’t practice what they have been taught. Are you one of these people? Each of us begins our relationship with God through repentance and faith. We acknowledge our sin against God and turn to Jesus. When we place our faith in Jesus, who died for our sins and rose from the dead, we are forgiven and given new life in Him. But after we have become a Christian, we should not sit back and be lazy. We should learn from the Bible and practice what we learn from God. This is how we will develop our relationship with the Lord. And this is where we will find God’s peace.

Conclusion

In today’s Bible study, we have seen several things. We are to follow the example of godly Christians like Paul. Those who have taught the truth from the Bible and lived it in their lives should be the ones we pattern our lives after. And as we do that, God will be with us providing the peace that we need.

Will you follow Paul’s example this week? Although he was not perfect, we can learn a lot from Paul. He often put his life in jeopardy to preach the gospel and to teach Christians God’s truth. Will you be an example this week? Just like the rest of us, you are not perfect, but your life can be an example to others. As they hear your words and see your life, you can show what God has done in your life. That is being an example. Will you work on your relationship with the Lord this week? The Bible promises that God’s peace and presence will be with you as you do the things mentioned here. So take advantage of God’s offer to you. Get to know the Lord as you faithfully do what you have learned.

Footnotes

1 Mounce, ἐμάθετε (aor/act/indic/2/pl) – “to learn, be instructed”
2 Mounce, παρελάβετε (aor/act/indic/2/pl) – “receive, take possession, acknowledge”
3 Mounce, ἠκούσατε (aor/act/indic/2/pl) – “to hear, pay attention, understand, take in”
4 Mounce, εἴδετε (aor/act/indic/2/pl) – “to see, watch, realize”
5 Mounce, πράσσετε (pres/act/impv) – “to do, act, practice, execute, perform, practice, commit, be engaged in”
6 McGee 326.
7 Hendriksen 200.
8 Barnes
9 Bible Ref
10 Richison

Bibliography

Barnes, Albert, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible. as viewed in Pocket Bible.

Bible Ref, “What does Philippians 4:9 mean?” as viewed at https://www.bibleref.com/Philippians/4/Philippians-4-9.html on 6/10/2023.

Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp. 199-200.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 664.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 326.

Moule, H. C. G., The Epistle to the Philippians, Cambridge; The University Press, 1889, pp. 115-16.

Mounce, Bill, “Greek Dictionary” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary on 6/8/2023.

Richison, Grant, “Philippians 4:9,” as viewed at https://versebyversecommentary.com/1996/03/17/philippians-49 on 6/10/2023.

Philippians 4:8-9 – Part 1

Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Solomon was describing how a miserly man is controlled by his thoughts. No matter how generous he talks, his greedy thoughts will control his actions. That proverb is true for us as well. The way that we think will affect our motivation, desires, and eventually our actions.

As Paul comes to the conclusion of his epistle to the Philippians, he was concerned about the way the believers there were thinking. If their thoughts were not kept in check, they could go in the wrong direction and become people who were not pleasing to the Lord. So, in verses 8-9, he tells the believers to meditate on the right things and to follow his example. In today’s message, we will cover verse eight.

  1. Meditate on the right things (Phil. 4:8)

    In this verse, Paul tells us to meditate on good things. While there are many biblical admonitions to meditate on the Scriptures (Josh. 1:8; Psalm 119:97; 143:5), the command to meditate in Philippians 4:8 is not limited to what is found in the Bible. Instead it is reminding us that what we think about on a regular basis should be governed by principles that please the Lord. This week, we will think about our job, family, finances, and current events. And some of these things may take up most of our thoughts. So as we think about different things, let us consider a few thoughts based on what this verse says.

    Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

    These things are meant for Christians.

    The verse begins with the words, “Finally, brethren.” Who is Paul talking to? He is addressing Christian men and women who have been born again through faith in Jesus. This is not addressed to the average person in the world who does not know the Lord. We live in a world where people don’t respect life anymore. Young people are filling their minds with wicked ideas proposed in movies, music, books, and even schools. While the US has a few people who still think morality matters, most do not care about anything other than what is best for themselves. Until individuals are changed by God, will these principles make any sense to the world?

    Coach Jim Tressel wrote a book about life principles seeking to help his football players to become better men. When I bought the book, I was under the impression that he was a believer and that he would be sharing principles from the Bible based on the gospel. But I was disappointed. His book was more about Bible-based proverbs for being a better person. As I recall, there was no mention of sin and God’s judgment, the gospel of Jesus, or any mention of the need to be born again. That was disappointing. He seemed to be promoting principles without the power of God being involved.

    When we look at this verse and see what God wants for us, we must remember that this way of thinking is designed for people who have been spiritually born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. While the world could implement and benefit from following the things mentioned in this verse, the real power for a changed mind is found in the new birth which is given only to those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus.

    These things cover a wide variety of good.

    In this section, Paul lists eight characteristics of good things to focus on. Six of them start with “whatever is _____” and the last two start with “if there is any ______.” The first thing we should notice is that whatever and any include a lot of things. When we are considering whether to include something in our constant focus, there are many things that are good and acceptable to the Lord. As long as they are described by the following characteristics, they are good. The second thing we should notice is that there are many things that do not fit these characteristics. Whenever we are considering whether to meditate on something, there are many things that are not good and acceptable to God. If they are not described by these characteristics, they are not good.

    Reliable things (ἀληθῆ) – “true, genuine, reliable, trustworthy, valid”1

    The first category is reliable things. These are things that can be verified as trustworthy information. Nowadays, we are bombarded with information. If you plop down and start watching random YouTube videos or even watch certain television programs, you will quickly notice that much of it is based on hearsay or half-truths. It would be easy to get caught up with the latest political battle based on what one party says without knowing whether it is actually true. This doesn’t mean that certain things should be ignored. But it is often better to think about the things you know to be true rather than to speculate on what might be true.

    While you might be very interested in the stories presented in magazines and on television, stop and consider whether you are thinking about something that is verifiably true. Can you think of any literature that would give you an honest report on the world and life? Yes, the Bible is reliable and trustworthy. It is filled with God’s wisdom that applies to yesterday, today, and tomorrow. While it may be difficult to find something that is verifiably true on the internet, you can always count on the Bible to give you the honest truth about the world and life.

    Reputable things (σεμνά) – “worthy of respect, noble, … honorable, reputable”1

    The second category is reputable things. The word here is used three other times in the Bible to describe how deacons (1 Tim. 3:8), wives (1 Tim. 3:11), and older men (Titus 2:2) should be known. They are all to be honorable. To become known as an honorable person, you have to prove yourself over time. After time has passed, your life is examined and you are given respect for having a good reputation.

    The same must be true of the things that we choose to think about. Whatever has a good reputation and is known for being honorable. These are the things that we should be thinking about. The opposite is also true. When we know something to be dishonorable, not respectable, or to have a bad reputation, we should avoid those things. I recently started listening to an audiobook of one of the Classic novels. However, I stopped listening to it when a woman began to second guess being married to her husband. I quit reading that because it was dishonorable.

    Righteous things (δίκαια) – “in the NT this refers to God’s proper standards and actions”1

    The third category is righteous things. God has a standard for what is right and wrong which is clearly spelled out in the Bible. As His children, God wants Christians to be thinking about things that line up with God’s standards of right and wrong. In the Old Testament, God confronted the Israelites for not doing what was right. Some people were using trick scales to measure what they were selling for their own advantage (Micah 6:10-11). But that wasn’t right. It was the opposite of God’s righteousness and He was not pleased.

    When it comes to our thoughts, we need to think about righteous things. As you read an article, listen to the news, watch a movie, or interact with someone at work, we need to be careful that our thinking is right according to God and not just what is acceptable to the world. I recently read about a man named Niccolo Machiavelli. In his book, The Prince, he stated that it was okay for a ruler to be violent or deceptive if it benefited him. Christians should avoid things like this and ask God for discernment when something doesn’t meet up to God’s standards of right and wrong.

    Pure things (ἁγνά) – “pure … chaste, modest, innocent, blameless”1 “not mixed with moral impurity.”3

    The fourth category is pure things. The most common application of this category is sexual purity. But it is not the only way this word is used in the Bible. It is also used to describe purity from sin (2 Cor. 11:2), pure wisdom (James 3:17), as well as a wife’s chaste behavior toward her husband (1 Pet. 3:1-2). In each case, there is the idea of keeping something from being contaminated with sin.

    Our thoughts must be kept pure for the Lord. If we allow a little bit of sin to gain a foothold, it won’t be long before we are tolerating thoughts that are contaminated with things that please the Lord. Steamy romance novels and movies are not designed to keep your mind pure. They are designed to fill your mind with longings for something you don’t have. Don’t fill your mind with impure thoughts.

    Lovely things (προσφιλῆ) – “lovely, pleasing, friendly, grateful, acceptable”1 “Lovely (prosphile…) speaks of what promotes peace rather than conflict.”3 “pleasing, amiable. … Grace should make gracious.”6

    The fifth category is lovely things. At first you might think of flowers and scenery. But the word used here refers to things that are pleasant, amiable, and gracious. This is the kind of thinking that is always looking for the best in people. It is looking for the solution instead of the problem. Perhaps you have met people like this. They are always very positive because they are always thinking graciously.

    On a recent flight, someone had taken my seat. I had paid for a seat next to the window so that I wouldn’t have to worry about bumping against the other passengers in my row. But when I arrived, a woman had taken my seat and the seat next to it. Although she removed her bag from the middle seat, I was a bit miffed at not getting the seat I had paid for. At the time, I was rather bothered by this. But now that time has passed, I realize that it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

    The internet is filled with videos about people fighting for their rights. These people are often looking for reasons to be offended instead of ways to be at peace. While events can change the way we think, it is good to be thinking graciously toward others to begin with. When we do that, our response will be more like the way Jesus responded.

    Commendable things (εὔφημα) – “admirable … praiseworthy, … of good report, commendable”1

    The sixth category is commendable things. Here are things that godly people would consider to be good. These things are “positive and constructive rather than negative and destructive.”3 While we can’t always trust the majority to be right about something, it does say something if many good Christians recommend the same thing to you. Their commendation of a good book, Christian movie, or organization is helpful. These are the kind of things that we should be thinking about.

    What are some commendable things that we can be thinking about? Perhaps we could start reading another missionary biography about George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, or John Paton. Thinking of how God used them during their lives is a big help to our faith as we go through our own lives. When we see how God used them, tested them, and blessed them, our mind are filled with courage to keep pressing on for the Lord.

    We have covered six categories of good thinking now. If we were to sum up everything covered so far, it would be the next two categories.

    Virtuous things (ἀρετὴ) – “(moral) goodness, excellence, virtue, … goodness, good quality”1

    The seventh category is virtuous things. What exactly is virtue? Virtue describes something that makes you better than you were before. It is what helps you to develop excellence of character. The opposite of virtue is vice which is “weakness of character or behavior; a bad habit.”9 When our thinking is not controlled by what will make us better, we are more susceptible to what will make us worse.

    Does this make you think about what you are putting into your mind? After a busy day, it is easy to sit down and turn on the television to see what’s on. While there are some decent programs on television, we should be careful that what we watch is virtuous instead of the opposite.

    Praiseworthy things (ἔπαινος) – “ground or reason of praise or commendation”1 and “pleasing, agreeable, lovely, amiable”2 “It is right to praise what is rightly done, and such praise has a moral beauty.”7

    The eighth category is praiseworthy things. When something is worthy of praise (in a biblical sense) it is something noted by God as well done. Do you remember when certain Jewish rulers believed in Jesus but wouldn’t say so openly for fear of the Pharisees? In the passage (John 12:42-43), John concludes that these men were more concerned with receiving praise from men than God. With that in mind, what kind of things would earn God’s praise or commendation?

    I think this gets to the crux of the matter. God commends those thoughts and actions that cause a Christian to press on and to accomplish the things God wants us to be doing. So any good thing that motivates us to fulfill our God given purposes is praiseworthy. Does it make me want to tell people about Jesus? Does it make me want to proclaim the truth to others? Does it make me want to live righteously for the Lord? These are the things that are praiseworthy.

    These things are what Christians should meditate on.

    The final thought in verse 8 involves meditation. Today meditation sounds a bit odd because of transcendental mediation. We hear the word and think of someone sitting on the floor, humming, and trying to clear your mind of everything. Biblical meditation is the exact opposite. Instead of emptying the mind, God wants us to fill our minds with good things. As we think about what God has taught us and think about it again and again throughout the day, we are meditating on good things. This is God’s prescribed method for renewing our minds. As we meditate on this list of good categories, we will have a mind that is closer to the Lord and more like Jesus.

Conclusion

I think that many of you are thinking right now. You are wondering if what you have been putting into your mind is good and pleasing to the Lord. Perhaps the Holy Spirit has brought to mind some thoughts that should have no place in a Christian’s mind. One old preacher said, “The reason we have so many weak Christians is that they spend their time with the things of the world, filling their minds and hearts and tummies with the things of this world. Then they wonder why there is no power in their lives.”4

Let me ask you two questions: (1) Are you currently meditating on things that are not helpful to you as Christian? It is not wrong to listen to the news or to read books or watch television. But are those things becoming what you meditate on throughout the day? Make sure that you keep your focus on things that God has ordained to be helpful to you instead of things that will tear you down. (2) Are you currently reading the Bible, studying it, and thinking about it throughout the week? Meditation on what the Bible teaches will be helpful in keeping you from becoming conformed to the world. So, take some time this week to think about and think again about good things especially those good things that are found in God’s Book, the Bible.

Foot Notes

1 Mounce, Bill
2 Bauer, Walter
3 Lightner 664.
4 McGee 325-26.
5 Hendrikson 198.
6 Moule 114.
7 Moule 115.
8 Moule 116.
9 Oxford Languages

Bibliography

Bauer, Walter, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (BAGD), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp. 198-201.

Lightfoot, J. B., St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975, pp. 161-62.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 664.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 322-25.

Moule, H. C. G., The Epistle to the Philippians, Cambridge; The University Press, 1889, pp. 114-16.

Mounce, Bill, Greek definitions found at https://www.billmounce.com as viewed on 6/3/2023.

“Niccolò Machiavelli” as viewed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niccolò_Machiavelli on 6/3/2023.

Rienecker, Fritz and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

THAYER’S GREEK LEXICON, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com

The Cure for Anxiety – Philippians 4:6-7

On December 23, 1776, Thomas Paine wrote these words: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” He was writing as a patriot to those who were fighting against the tyranny of the British government. After the United States declared independence from Britain, they had to fight to defend not only their freedom but also their own lives and families. These were indeed times that tried their souls.

While most of us are not facing giant problems like starvation, poverty, or bodily harm, we do face problems every day. These problems get to us after a while. We think about them. We wonder how to solve them. We start to fret about them. And soon that problem becomes what we are thinking about all week long! Today, we will read two verses in the Bible that can help us overcome this constant anxiety.

As we look at the thoughts found in Philippians 4:6-7, we will consider three statements that God wants us to think about: (1) We don’t need to be anxious, (2) we need to talk to God about our problems, and (3) we can have peace.

  1. We don’t need to be anxious (Phil. 4:6a).

    Paul tells us plainly that we should “be anxious for nothing.” Nothing should induce us to start fretting as if there is no hope. If you are like most people, we are thinking “easier said than done.”

    What does it mean to be anxious?

    Bill Mounce gives a good definition of anxiety. It is, “to worry… be concerned; to expend careful thought… to have the thoughts occupied with.”1 “To care and be genuinely concerned is one thing. To worry is another. Paul and Timothy cared for the people they ministered to (2 Cor. 11:28; Phil. 2:20), yet they retained trust in God.”4 The anxiety Paul refers to is the mindset where we are constantly thinking about something without it being solved. This lack of a solution causes us to keep thinking, fretting, and worrying about how to handle the situation. “Such worry may be about food or drink or clothes or one’s life-span or the future or words to be spoken in self-defense or even about ‘many things.'”8 Whatever it may be, should we be fretting about it?

    What should cause us to be anxious?

    The answer is nothing. “Nothing is the most exclusive word in the English language. It leaves out everything.”6 Basically, we are being told as Christians that there is no reason to be anxious. “Does this mean we are … not to face reality? Are we to believe that sin is not real, that sickness is not real, that problems are not real? Are we to ignore these things? No. Paul says that we are to worry about nothing because we are to pray about everything.”6 That is what our next point is all about.

  2. We need to tell God our problems (Phil. 4:6b).

    How often do we share our problems with those who cannot help us? I have found myself talking about problems with people who could not help. I suppose it helps to vent sometimes, but does it? There is someone who can help, if we would just talk to Him.

    Who should we talk to?

    The answer is God. Peter knew this. He said so in the following verse:

    1 Peter 5:7 – “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

    Our prayers should be directed to God as He is the One who can handle every need that we have. We are told to inform God of our needs. We are to act as if we were standing before a king and making known to him what he did not formerly know. This may seem a bit strange because God already knows everything. But this is what God wants from us. Perhaps it is the conversation and relationship that God desires. Or maybe He just wants to hear from us and see our dependence on Him. In any event, we are told to talk to God about our needs instead of fretting about them.

    How should we talk to Him?

    Before we look at the four parts of prayer, consider what precedes them. He says “but in everything.” This is a reminder that God wants to hear from us about everything that is on our mind. I don’t think this is an invitation to rant or be disrespectful but is more like freedom to respectfully speak about the issues bothering us.

    “Some years ago, I am told, a [widow] in Philadelphia came to Dr. G. Campbell Morgan with this question, ‘Dr. Morgan, do you think we should pray about the little things in our lives?’ Dr. Morgan in his characteristically British manner said, ‘Madam, can you mention anything in your life that is big to God?'”6 He makes a good point. Is there anything too big or too small for God?

    We understand that our Heavenly Father is interested in whatever we are anxious about. But how do we express our thoughts to the One who already knows what we are about to say. In verse 6, we are told that there are four ways: prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and requests. While there may be some overlap, here are some thoughts about each one.

    Prayer – “Prayer is any form of reverent address directed to God.”8 An example of this was covered in the Adult Sunday School class this morning. When God announced his possible judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham respectfully addressed the situation with God (Gen. 18). He repeatedly approached the Lord with great humility but also with great passion.

    Genesis 18:27-28 – “Then Abraham answered and said, ‘Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?’”

    Supplication – “By this is meant the humble cry for the fulfillment of needs that are keenly felt.”8 A supplication is a request from someone who is in need and who acknowledges that. As we come to God, we must place ourselves in the proper attitude as a needy person entreating the One who can meet those needs.

    Thanksgiving – Rienecker describes this as “the grateful acknowledgement of past mercies.”2 Hendriksen goes even further: “There must be grateful acknowledgement for: … past favors, … present blessings, and … firmly-grounded assurances for the future.”9 I think that both ideas are correct. We need to acknowledge God’s provision and thank Him for it. If we remembered what God has already done, we would believe that God can handle the current situation, and that would limit the amount of anxiety we face on a daily basis.

    Requests – These are “not vague generalities. … There must be definite, specific requests.” If we would like God to work in specifics, we should ask in specifics. In Genesis 24:10-14, Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac. When he got to the location, he asked God specifically to reveal the right woman by a specific sign. In Judges 6:36-40, Gideon asked God to specifically give him a sign … twice. In both cases, God answered their specific requests.

    Before Sharon and I were married, I was a bit bashful about asking her to the Valentine’s Day Banquet. As I walked her to her dorm, I finally said, “I was wondering if you would like to go to the banquet with me.” Sharon’s reply was rather coy: “Oh you were, were you?” It was then that I had to be a bit more specific. Thankfully, she said yes to my specific request.

    I have been wondering if the lack of results from my prayers stem from that same issue. Perhaps I am asking in generalities instead of asking God to do specific things for us and our church family. In another letter to believers, Paul wrote, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” (Eph. 3:20). He knew that God could do more than we think He can. let me ask you a question. How have your prayers been? Have you been humbly bringing your prayers, supplications, and requests to the Lord with the specific items you need? Or have you been asking in generalities? Perhaps we need to rethink how we bring our requests to the Lord.

  3. We can have peace (Phil. 4:7).

    When we have specific needs, we may be tempted to worry. And that worry may become fretting if we are not careful to bring those worries to the Lord. But when we do take them to the Lord (and we know this to be true but often fail to take advantage of it), God promises to give us His peace.

    What kind of peace is offered?

    First, it is the peace of God. This ought to encourage us. It is not a peace that comes from our strength or abilities. It is the peace of God. And His peace is “fairly” substantial. Wouldn’t you agree? Second, it is a peace that surpasses our understanding. We often think about good, better, best for quality. But God’s peace surpasses all of those ratings. It is beyond anything we can experience elsewhere.

    Perhaps an illustration will help us to understand God’s peace. Do you remember when Jesus and the disciples were on the Sea of Galillee during a storm. The disciples were “losing it” as the wind blew and the waves crashed over their boat. But where was Jesus? He was sleeping. When the disciples chided him for not caring about their welfare, Jesus commanded the storm to abate: “Peace, be still.” Immediately, the sea was calm! This peace of God which Paul writes about is like that. It allows us to have a feeling of tranquility and the ability to sleep peacefully amidst the storms of life.

    How will God’s peace affect us?

    We are told that it will guard our hearts and minds. When we experience God’s peace, it keeps us from becoming anxious. It guards us like “soldiers standing on guard duty.”3 Just as soldiers guard a city against the enemy, so God’s peace guards our hearts and minds. Our hearts (feelings) and minds (thoughts leading to actions3) will be kept from feeling anxious and acting out those feelings. The prophet Isaiah knew about this peace.

    Isaiah 26:3 – “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

    Note that the peace that surpasses our ability to understand it, it rooted in Christ Jesus. In other words, this peace can only be found by those who are in Jesus, who have been saved, forgiven by, and changed by God. If you are a Christian today, you are someone who knows the value of Jesus. You have repented of your sinful ways and have placed your faith in Christ alone to be made right with God and have been saved from eternal judgment in Hell. And if you are in Christ today, you have something available that the world doesn’t have—God’s peace. Take advantage of it by taking your anxieties to the Lord.

Conclusion

J. Vernon McGee concludes with these comments: “Notice that we entered this passage in anxiety, with worry, and we come out of the passage with peace. Between the two was prayer. Have things changed? Not really. … Although the storm has not abated, something has happened in the individual.”7 This is true. God doesn’t promise to take away the problems. But He does promise to give us His peace.

I wonder this morning if you have come to church with a burden on your mind. You have been fretting about something that you think is too big for you or even for God to solve. Although it may seem like an impossible problem to solve, it is something you should give over to God. We have learned that all of our anxieties should be turned over to the Lord in prayer. And when we do that, God will replace those fears with His peace. Will you turn over your troubles to the Lord today?

Footnotes

1 Mounce
2 Rienecker 560.
3 Rienecker 561.
4 Lightner 663.
5 Lightner 664.
6 McGee 322.
7 McGee 322.
8 Hendriksen 195.
9 Hendriksen 196.

Greek Definitions

μεριμνᾶτε – “to worry, have anxiety, be concerned; to expend careful thought; to concern one’s self; to have the thoughts occupied with”1 “to be fretful”2
δεήσει – “prayer, request, petition … entreaty; prayer, supplication”1 “generally a request arising from a specific need”2
εὐχαριστίας – “expression of thanks, thanksgiving, gratitude”1 “the grateful acknowledgement of past mercies, as distinguished from the earnest seeking of fut.”2
αἰτήματα – “a thing asked, or sought for; petition, request”1
γνωριζέσθω (Pres/Pass/Imper/3rd/Sing) – “to make known, reveal, declare”1
εἰρήνη – “peace, harmony, tranquility; safety, welfare, health”1
ὑπερέχουσα – “to hold above; intrans. to stand out above, to overtop; met. to surpass, excel… excellence, preeminence… to be higher, superior”1 “to rise above, to be superior, to surpass”2
φρουρήσει (Fut/Act/Indic) – “The word is a military term picturing soldiers standing on guard duty and refers to the guarding of the city gate from within, as a control on all who went out”3
νοήματα – “the mind, the understanding, intellect… the heart, soul, affections, feelings, disposition”1 “act of the will which issues from the heart”3

Bibliography

Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp. 194-97.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 663-64.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 322-25.

Mounce, Bill, Greek definitions found at https://www.billmounce.com as viewed on 5/20/2023.

Rienecker, Fritz and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Be joyful and gracious – Philippians 4:4-5

After giving the Philippian Christians a pep talk about pressing on for the Lord, standing firm in the Lord, and having good relationships with other Christians, Paul now lightens up a bit. In verses 4-9, he gives several small but important instructions for us to follow. They are: rejoice in the Lord (4), be gracious (5), pray to God (6-7), meditate on good things (8), and follow good examples (9). We will look at two of these this morning.

  1. Rejoice in the Lord (4).

    People are looking for reasons to be happy. Buying a car, getting a promotion at work, going on a vacation, and many other things often make us happy for a time. But these periods of happiness don’t seem to last. When the happy event is over, we wonder how to get it back. When Paul tells us to always rejoice in the Lord, it is not the same as telling us to be happy all the time. It is something more substantial.

    What does it mean to rejoice?

    Paul uses the Greek word Χαίρετε to make this statement. It means to “rejoice, be glad.”1 It is something that should become “a continual and habitual action.”2 But even this definition is not quite good enough. I think that biblical joy is a deep-seated emotion of gladness which comes from knowing God and from considering what He has done for us.

    One commentator states that “joy is something we cannot produce ourselves; it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.”4 While joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit, we are still commanded to do it. If we have no way of gaining this joy, why then are we commanded to be joyful? Perhaps it is best to understand that we work in tandem with the Holy Spirit. He does produce joy in our hearts as we submit to Him, but we must consciously make the choice to remain joyful.

    What should we rejoice about?

    I recently heard about the unexpected death of a young woman in a nearby town. When things like this happen, how can we find anything to rejoice about? It would seem disingenuous to be joyful or happy after such an occurrence. We are not called to sing and smile nonstop. Doing so after a tragedy would be very odd. But during those times, we are given the opportunity to find joy in something outside of our circumstances.

    During our Wednesday evening prayer meetings, we have been studying the life of Job. Think for a moment about what happened to him. Because of Satan’s false claims against Him, Job lost all of his wealth and his ten children on the same day. He later lost his health. Even so, he was still able to bless the name of the Lord after these tragedies occurred. Consider two passages from the Book of Job.

    Job 1:21 – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    Job 2:9-10 – “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

    So where did Job’s joy come from? Did he enjoy the pain and loss? Of course not. And yet he was still able to have a calm, abiding joy during his troubles. Where does joy come from during tragedies? I believe Paul tells us the answer. He tells us to rejoice in the Lord. He is the only one who can give us joy all the time. I would like to share two ideas about finding joy in the Lord.

    First, there is joy in knowing who God is. This seems to be the key to everything. God is often understood as some implacable deity who is sending people to Hell as quickly as possible. However, those who know Him best know that He is good, loving, compassionate, caring, merciful, gracious, and much more. When you read through the Bible, do you notice how people interacted with God? Enoch walked with God. He knew Him well and enjoyed the relationship. Abraham was the friend of God and willingly left his home in Ur to move to the Promised Land. Why did he do this? He did it because he knew the character of God and loved Him. David was a man after God’s own heart and wrote many psalms praising God. He even said that he would like to remain in God’s house all the time because He loved God so much. The point is that when you know God, you will marvel at His character. And those who know Him find joy in knowing who He is.

    Second, there is joy in experiencing a relationship with God. It is one thing to know about God from reading the Bible. It is altogether something different to actually experience a relationship with Him. When I was younger, I knew about the Lord. I knew Bible verses by heart and could quote them, but I didn’t know Him. When God opened my eyes, it all changed. I began to read the Bible and see God on every page. I saw how He loved me, answered my prayers, comforted me, directed me, and much more. It has now been over thirty years and I have learned to trust the Lord completely.

    Do you know the Lord like this? When you know who God is and have experienced a relationship with Him through faith in Jesus, you will always have something to be joyful about. You know God! He is good! He has saved you from Hell! He has changed your life! He has a home in heaven prepared for you! No matter what happens today, you can find joy in knowing the Lord and trusting Him each moment of your life.

    Why do we have to be reminded to rejoice?

    Did you notice that Paul repeats the statement in verses four. He tells us twice that we should rejoice in the Lord. “Sometimes the trials and pressures of life make it almost impossible to be happy. But Paul did not tell his readers to be happy. He encouraged them to rejoice in the Lord. In fact, he said it twice in verse 4. … Surely there are many circumstances in which Christians cannot be happy. But they can always rejoice in the Lord and delight in Him.”3 Always and in all circumstances, find your joy in God Himself.

  2. Be gracious (5).

    The second statement we will cover today is about being gracious. When my chickens and ducks are together, they are mostly peaceful. But occasionally, a chicken will decide to peck a duck’s tail feathers out. Or an older duck will attach the younger ducks. If you were to follow me out each day, you would hear me saying, “Be nice!” The same thing can be said to Christians today. We need to be nice to other people whenever possible.

    What does moderation/gentleness mean?

    Paul used the Greek words τὸ ἐπιεικὲς ὑμῶν to make this statement. It means “reasonableness in judging. The word signifies a humble, patient [steadfastness], which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, and maltreatment without hatred and malice, trusting in God in spite of all of it.”2 We might also use the word gracious. When dealing with other people, we should be kind, selfless, and willing to yield our personal feelings when we are dealing with others. If you are gracious toward others, they will notice that despite any differences of opinion.

    We should note that this isn’t a command to give in to everything anyone ever says. That would lead to a lot of trouble. The company I work for provides transportation for railroad crews. When someone complains to one of our drivers about a perceived problem, I instruct them to talk slowly and kindly to the passenger. “Sir, I understand your concern and it will be addressed as soon as possible. In the meantime, I would appreciate your patience. I’ll do my best to get this taken care of as quickly as possible.”

    I recall an issue one passenger had with one of our vans. He was loading his luggage into the back of a van when he noticed a full-size wheel in the back of the van. He was concerned that during an accident the wheel could hit him in the head. A manager was nearby and addressed the situation. “Alright, I’ll take care of this. Sir, please take your seat in the vehicle. And, driver, don’t get into any accidents.” His quick and gracious response took the heat out of the situation and allowed the trip to be completed. I have admired him for that ever since.

    When Christians are gracious toward others, it is not a sign of weakness but of consideration toward the other person. With the right mindset it is possible to be “firm as a rock in respect of moral principle”6 but still gracious toward the other person.

    Why should we be known for this?

    Read the verse again. One reason for being gracious is that “all men” are watching. “Joy, an inner quality in relation to circumstances, may not always be seen; but the way one reacts to others—will be noticed.”3 People are influenced by the way that we interact with others. Are we joyful people who show the characteristics of the Lord in our daily conversations? Are we gracious or contentious? I think about this often as I am driving. Is my reaction to other drivers a good example of the character God is seeking to produce in my life? Am I gracious or overbearing? The same thing can be true about our differences with other Christians. The way we handle those differences will be seen by both Christians and those who have not yet believed. So we must be especially gracious because of the way our actions affect others.

    What does the Lord being near have to do with our graciousness?

    The last part of the verse almost seems out of place. Paul tells us that “the Lord is at hand.” There are two ways to understand this phrase. “The word could imply ‘near in space’ or ‘near in time.'”2

    In the first idea, Paul could be telling us to be gracious because the Lord is nearby watching how we respond. This is a good point. If the Lord is nearby, would you be ashamed to react that way? My “Jesus Saves” ballcap often makes me consider my actions in the same way. How I respond will affect the way that message is received. The same is true if I am consciously remembering that Jesus is with me every moment of the day. He is there to observe but also to help in those tricky relationships with others.

    In the second idea, Paul could be telling us to be patient because Jesus will return soon. “The idea seems to be: since Christ’s coming is near, when all the promises made to God’s people will become realities, believers, in spite of being persecuted, can certainly afford to be mild and charitable in their relation to others.”5 In other words, be patient and gracious because this circumstance is temporary. The Lord will return soon and our troubles will be over. That can be both comforting and convicting. It is comforting to know that it won’t last forever. But it is convicting because every Christian will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to answer for his work for the Lord. Have I been gracious in my dealings with people? Gracious like the Lord has been with me? It makes you think, doesn’t it?


    Conclusion

What God inspired Paul to write is important. It is more of an attitude than an action. So let’s ask ourselves two questions. First, have I been having a good attitude during the ups and downs of life? God wants us to develop a joy in knowing Him and trusting Him. His goodness to us should fill us with joy that no circumstances can take away. Second, have I been a gracious person to others? God wants each of us to be kind and considerate toward others. As we develop this characteristic, we will become more like the Lord and will be a good example to those who are influenced by our attitudes.

Footnotes

1 Bauer 873-74.
2 Rienecker 560.
3 Lightner 663.
4 McGee 320.
5 Hendriksen 194.
6 Moule 111.

Bibliography

Bauer, Walter, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans by William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, Frederick W. Danker, etc., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp.192-94.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 663.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 320-22.

Moule, H. C. G., The Epistle to the Philippians, Cambridge: The University Press, 1889, pp.111-12.

Rienecker, Fritz, and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Philippians 4:1-3

During the week, I often find myself on the road with nothing but the radio to keep me occupied. During this last week, I traveled to Lorain OH, Albany NY, and Altoona PA. Along the way, I listened to a variety of political speeches, radio talk shows, and Bible lessons. If you are familiar with radio talk shows, you know that they seem to be very good at getting you mad about the state of the country without providing a workable solution for fixing anything. Although I enjoy hearing the opinions proposed on the shows, I have come to the conclusion that they are like drinking too much Mountain Dew. They produce a lot of energy but don’t always help the situation as much as you would think. In our message today, I would like us to consider some very important things. But let us be sure to temper our excitement with the right attitudes.

Read Philippians 4:1-3.

“Therefore” reminds us of what Paul has taught us at the end of chapter three. He had told the believers to think, live, and wait like a mature believer. Because we are not living for earthly pleasures but are awaiting our heavenly home, we should have right thinking that affects the way we live and what we focus on.

In the first three verses of chapter four, Paul gives three directives to the people in Philippi. We see these in the verbs he uses: stand fast (1), be of the same mind (2), and help (3). These were things that the church at Philippi needed when Paul wrote to them. However, we don’t look at these directives just to think about what other people needed years ago. We look at them to see how they apply to us today. As we look at each one, consider how the directive may apply to each of us.

  1. Stand fast in the Lord (Phil. 4:1).

    This first directive reminds me of something that happened this week. My wife sent me a picture of one of our Pekin ducks. Poor Paddy seemed to be stuck fast in the muck. Thankfully, he was able to extricate himself, but warmer weather would have dried the mud and had him stuck in place. While this verse is not talking about getting stuck in the mud, it is talking about being firmly entrenched in the teaching about the Lord Jesus.

    To better understand the situation, let us consider two questions about this Bible verse.

    To whom was he talking?

    Paul was talking to the believers in the church at Philippi. But they were more than just Christians he had met at some point in the past. He loved them very much. “The apostle’s affection for this congregation is revealed by his love and longing for them and his calling them his brothers…, his joy and crown (stephanos, the runner’s wreath or victor’s crown…), and his dear friends… . These saints were to their spiritual father what victory wreaths were to runners in the Greek races” (Lightner 663). These were people that Paul knew well and had developed a close relationship with. “It is evident from these words that this was, indeed, a fine congregation” (Hendriksen 190).

    What did he want them to do?

    They were to stand fast in the Lord. Stand fast is another way of saying that they needed a firm foundation so that they would not be easily moved. This reminds me of the short block walls on either side of the basement entrance to our house. When originally built, the block were filled with concrete and iron bars so as to keep the dirt from moving them onto the sidewalk. With such a firm foundation, they have held up against pressure for many years.

    But what do retaining walls have to do with standing firm in the Lord? As you may recall, there were some troublesome people who were actively trying to mislead the believers in Philippi. Some were preaching about Christ with bad motives (1:15). Some were trying to convince the church that Jewish practices were still required for Christians (3:2). Some were focused on earthly things instead of heavenly (3:18-19).

    With all of these bad influences vying for their attention, Paul wanted his dear friends to stand fast in the Lord. But what did this mean? It meant that they needed to keep their motives right, their understanding of Christ right, and their focus right. They needed to stand firm in the true teaching about Christ so that they would not be moved from that solid foundation.

    This is a needed reminder for us today. In the past, there were fewer people influencing us. In Paul’s time, any traveling preacher who claimed to be a Christian would have been received with gladness. The early church was being persecuted by Jewish zealots, the government, and idol worshipers. They were the minority and needed as much encouragement and teaching as could be offered.

    But for us today, we can hear Bible teaching all day long. You hear it on the radio, on television, in books and magazines, and on the internet. And how much of it is good? The only way to know what is good doctrine is to compare what is being said to what God has revealed in the Bible. There are many smiling preachers on television, but not all of them will help you to stand firm in the truth of the Bible. So make the time to study the Bible and consider what is true. Then stand firm in that. This is what God wants for every believer.

  2. Be of the same mind in the Lord (Phil. 4:2).

    Being like-minded is something that doesn’t come naturally for us. During a recent trip to Detroit, I stopped at a White Castle restaurant for some sliders. My Ohio State sweatshirt was probably not very welcomed that deep into Michigan. But I still struck up a conversation with a man with a University of Michigan sweatshirt. I found out that his son played in the marching band at U of M and that he was displeased with the current football coach. That led to an interesting conversation which we both enjoyed. I guess love does cover a multitude of sins! While we didn’t root for the same football team, we were able to set aside our differences and enjoy a short conversation.

    As we look at Paul’s second directive, you will quickly see that two people were not very like-minded.

    To whom was he talking?

    Paul was not shy about mentioning people by name in his epistles. These apostolic letters were meant for the betterment of individual people in local congregations. Because of that, the people would not be surprised that he knew them by name or that he knew about sticky situations they were currently facing. And “after such an endearing introduction addressed to each and to all, the needed admonition intended for two individuals cannot seem harsh” (Hendriksen 190).

    In verse two, Paul addressed two women whose names are not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. Their names were Euodia and Syntyche. While we don’t know much about them, “it seems that they were causing dissension in the assembly” (Lightner 663). It is assumed that these women were not getting along with each other. We don’t know what the issue was, but can imagine the reality of such a situation because we have experienced it before.

    Over the years, we have all seen individuals not get along. Sad to say, it is a common thing with us. One person has a certain view about something but another person differs strongly. The disagreement ferments for a while and then the emotions get involved. There have been times (or so I have heard) where church business meetings have turned into fist fights. This is certainly not good. Jesus Himself told us that his disciples would be known by their “love for one another” (John 13:35). He also told the Jewish believers to get things right with a brother before offering an offering on the altar (Matt. 5:23-24).

    Apparently, there were two women in the church at Philippi who had a strong disagreement about something and everyone in the church knew about it. These two women were the subject of Paul’s second directive.

    What did he want them to do?

    He wanted them to have the same mind in the Lord. What exactly does this mean? “He did not mean they must be carbon copies of each other. They may have differences of opinion about many different things, but that will not separate two people who have the mind of Christ. It is one of the glorious truths about the body of Christ that each member can be different and yet all are one in Christ” (McGee 320).

    So what does it mean to have the same mind in the Lord? It means that they were both to have the same attitudes that Jesus had. We often look at the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). But do you remember the attitudes of Christ mentioned earlier in this epistle? They were love and humility (Phil. 2:1-8). If these women were to love one another and show Christ-like humility, they would find it much easier to get along with each other despite their differences.

    Applying this principle to other people is easy, but much harder to apply to ourselves. We tend to get caught up in our own thinking about issues and then forget to be loving and humble toward the other person. Maybe this is something that we need to hear today. It may be that there is something bothering you about someone else in the church. Maybe your ideas are different than theirs. Or maybe it is someone outside of the church. Whatever the case may be, allow the love and humility of the Lord to temper the differences and discussion. Only then can we hope to “be of the same mind in the Lord.”

  3. Help those who have labored for the Lord (Phil. 4:3).

    Over the last several years, our church has had a number of people visit and minister to us. Some have been pastors of churches. Some have been missionaries. As we recall their time with us, there is one thing that they all had in common. They were people who were laboring for the Lord. As Paul addresses the need of these two women, he enlists the help of another Christian but also notes the ministry experience he had with these two women.

    To whom was he talking?

    As I studied this verse, I learned something new. When Paul addressed his yoke fellow in verse 3, he may have been using “yokefellow” as a proper name (see Lightner 663). The Greek word σύζυγε means “an associate, comrade, fellow laborer” (Mounce) or “a person who pulls well in a harness for two” (Hendriksen 191). If Paul was calling this person by name, he certainly “was true to his name. A similar pun occurs in Philem. 11 ‘Onesimus (Useful) who once was useless to you but now it useful to you and to me.’ It is safe to infer that Syzygus, about whom we have no further information, was one of Paul’s comrades or associates in the work of the gospel” (Hendriksen 191).

    We may not have enough evidence in this verse to make a definitive declaration about the individual addressed by Paul. But we do know that the one being addressed was someone Paul trusted to take care of the situation.

    What did he want him to do?

    Paul’s love for these two Christian women is evidenced by his concern for them. Because of this, he wanted this man to help them. “Paul knew he could count on him to work with the women and bring them back to fellowship with each other and with the Lord” (Lightner 663). They needed help and Paul directed his friend to do what was needed to reconcile the two.

    As if it wasn’t enough to just ask for help, Paul explained why he was so concerned. These women had labored with him in the gospel. Somehow, they were part of his ministry either there in Philippi or somewhere else. “Well does the apostle remember the time when they contended at his side … against a common foe and in the gospel-cause” (Hendriksen 191).

    This is quite interesting as we often think that men are the Scriptural ministers of the church. But here Paul mentions these women as a vital part of his ministry team. Ladies, do you feel that you are a useful part of your church’s ministry. I can think of many things that would not get done if it weren’t for the ladies in our church. While our roles may be different, please know that your ministry is noted and applauded.

    How could these women be helped?

    The practical application of this verse is both simple and difficult. Helping two people to overcome their differences is not as easy as you would think—especially if you have gone through such an experience. There is often more heat than light and personal feelings can get in the way of reconciliation. But this shouldn’t keep us from trying to help others. As noted earlier, the key to overcoming differences is having the love and humility of our Lord. When we love others, differences don’t seem as important. When we are humble, we don’t view ourselves as the only one with the right perspective.

    Something that goes along with this is found at the end of verse three. When Paul refers to all of his fellow workers, he purposely states that their names “are in the Book of Life.” This is a good reminder that even though we may have personal differences with other Christians, we must remember that God has placed them in the Book of Life just as we were. We are all sinful people whom God has graciously chosen to save. Try to keep this in mind when conflict arises with a fellow believer.

Conclusion

As we think back on what we have learned today, we should remember the three main points. First, we need to stand fast in the Lord. Each of us needs to have a biblical foundation for what we believe and how we act. Without it, we can easily be moved by the next popular religious speaker on television. Read your Bible, meditate on the Scriptures, and base your thoughts and actions on it. Second, we need to be of the same mind in the Lord. Each of us needs to base our thinking on the love and humility of the Lord. When we do this, our interactions with others will be much different. Third, we need to help other Christians. No matter how much experience one may have, each of us needs the help of others in the Body of Christ.

One of the things that I have learned is that standing firm and being humble are not the same. It is easy to march with others for a great cause. And if you think about it, we have a great cause to stand for. We are serving the Lord and should not let anything pull us away from what He desires. But along with a firm stand, we need to be humble in how we do it. There may come a time when some of us have differences of opinion about somethings. Let’s remember to be humble when that day comes.

Bibliography

Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp.189-92.

Lightfoot, J. B., St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975, pp. 157-59.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 663.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 320.

σύζυγος as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/syzygos on 5/6/2023.

Philippians 3:15-21

When the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs, it was a big surprise. After the game, a reporter asked Giannis Antetokounmpo if he felt like a failure. Giannis was not happy with the question and told the reporter that his success wasn’t tied to one game. Sure, everyone wants to win the championship, but every day provides an opportunity to work hard and do better.

Sometimes the Christian life is much the same. There are ups and downs, victories and defeats, and emotions of all kinds. But through it all, we seek to grow in our relationship with the Lord and hope to do better each day. However, it is easy to talk about things like this but not have a plan to accomplish them. So, what can a Christian do to be successful for the Lord? As we read through Philippians 3:15-21, we will see three things that can help us to stay on the right track.

  1. Think like a mature believer (Philippians 3:15-16).

    Nancy Gallion’s mother was known for clever sayings. One of them was, “One junior high boy, half a brain. Two junior high boys, no brains.” We all understand what it was like at that age. Boys tend to be impulsive daredevils who act first and then think. The problem is that this often ends in trouble.

    Christians who wish to be mature must also learn to think before acting. One of the ways to find God’s wisdom is to read the Bible. The Book of Proverbs is full of wise sayings that will help any person to gain discernment and wisdom. As you read the Bible and understand God’s way of thinking, it will change your mind. This is what Paul wanted for the Philippian believers.

    What mind should we have? (15a)

    Paul called on the mature believers to have a certain mindset or way of thinking. But what is this mind? Look back to what Paul said in verses 12-14. He talked about pressing on and wanting to hear the “well done” of God upon his entrance into heaven. This is the mindset he was referring to. We should let these same goals be what controls our thinking.

    How will God correct our thinking? (15b)

    Notice what Paul says at the end of verse 15. If anyone thought differently, he stated that God would eventually reveal the truth of what he was saying to that believer. I have heard people say things like this before in an arrogant way. But I don’t think that is what Paul was saying. He knew that there could be some immature believers who were not yet convinced of the wisdom of this mindset. But he also knew that God was able to teach them and mature them in His good time.

    Can you think back to when you were a young Christian? There were times when I was young that my mouth talked before I thought. Sometimes I thought that I was smarter than my teachers. There are times when we are not very teachable but there are also times when we finally understand what God wants us to learn.

    What have each of us attained? (16)

    Paul begins verse 16 with a big “nevertheless.” This was his way of giving room to those who were not yet convinced. As we grow as Christians, we are all at different levels of maturity. Some have learned to trust the Lord for their needs while others have not. Some have learned to pray while others have not. Some are good at speaking for the Lord while others are not. Some have learned to control their temper while others have not. We are all striving to become better for the Lord, but we are all at different levels in various areas.

    So, wherever you find yourself today, thank God for what has been attained. Thank Him for what He has taught you, where He has brought you, and what He is currently doing in your life. Wherever you are as a Christian today, keep working at it. “The principle — namely ‘We are still far from perfect, but in Christ we should strive to become perfect’ — has been enunciated and exemplified. Let our lives be regulated by the consistent application of this principle. It must never be surrendered” (Hendriksen 177).

    In verses 15-16, Paul tells us to develop a proper way of thinking. We need to be motivated in our minds to press on and seek God’s “well done.” And as we seek to do that, we need to allow God to change our minds and develop our thinking so that we think as we should.

  2. Live like a mature believer (Philippians 3:17-19).

    Now that Paul has talked about having the right mindset, he moves on to the right way of walking. He uses the idea of walking to describe the way that we should live our lives. Our lifestyle will always be affected by the way that we think. If our thinking is right, we have a much greater likelihood of making good choices. But there is another factor involved in right living. It is the examples set before us. We must follow the examples of mature believers.

    Who is a good example to follow? (17)

    Paul was an apostle. He was a mature believer whom God had saved years ago. Over the years, he had taken the time to study the Bible, to get involved in the leadership of his church, and was eventually sent out by God to spread the gospel of Jesus across the Roman empire. So, Paul was not an immature believer telling people to follow his example. He was a mature believer who had earned the respect of those he was writing to.

    But as you read earlier in the chapter, Paul didn’t consider himself to be perfect or that he had finally retired from maturing as a Christian. “The apostle was not placing himself on a pedestal, as if he were perfect, but, quite the contrary, was urging his friends to strive after perfection, in the full realization that they were still far removed from the ideal, as was he himself” (Hendriksen 179). He continued pushing forward showing himself to be a good example to follow.

    But notice something else. “When Paul urged the Philippians to imitate him, he was not thinking of himself alone but of himself in company with others…. Note the pronoun we instead of I in the continuation” (Hendriksen 180). Paul usually traveled with other Christians on his missionary journeys. The lives of his travel companions were also an example to those to whom they ministered. This is a good time to think about your own example. It is not just the one in the pulpit who should be an example. Let’s all be an example for others to follow.

    Who is a bad example to follow? (18-19)

    We all know that there are two types of examples: good and bad. In verses 18-19, Paul noted that there were some who had become such bad examples that he considered them “enemies of the cross of Christ.” We are not told whether these were former church members but remembering them caused Paul to weep. Perhaps they were.

    These spiritual enemies had given in to earthly pleasures and were not seeking to please the Lord. Their description shows that they did not have the same mindset that Paul wanted for the Philippian believers.

    • They were enemies of the cross of Christ.
    • They were headed for destruction.
    • They were living for their appetites.
    • They were seeking glory in shameful things.
    • They were thinking about earthly things instead of heavenly.

    It seems that “the basic cause of it is that they have their hearts and minds on earthly things” (McGee 317). Their focus was on what would bring them pleasure now instead of what would gain them the Lord’s commendation in heaven in the future. Sadly, this is not something that only affected the early church. It is still something affecting people today. History is filled with accounts of religious leaders who stopped adding virtue to their faith, who became satisfied with the status quo, and who became enamored with worldly pleasures. The end result of such living is never good.

    Let us seek to follow the good examples of those who have been faithful to the Lord. As we read the biographies of great missionaries of the past, we must realize that they were not perfect. Many biographies only record the victories these people had and we sometimes get the idea that they were perfect. Let us also seek to be a good example ourselves. All of us have people within our sphere of influence whom we can help to become mature in the Lord. Just remember that we aren’t perfect and shouldn’t make ourselves look better than we actually are. Let’s also be wary of those who are bad examples. We need to mark these people and warn others of their bad influence so that the people we love are not tempted to veer away from what pleases the Lord.

  3. Wait like a mature believer (Philippians 3:20-21).

    Paul was a good example of someone who was living for the Lord. The enemies of Christ were bad examples because they were living for their own lusts. But what was it that made the difference between Paul (a mature believer) and the enemies of Christ? It was not only the mindset and lifestyle but the ability to patiently wait for the future. In verses 20-21, Paul shows that mature believers should not be infatuated with what they can get now, but that they should wait for what God has prepared for them in the future.

    Why should we wait? (20a)

    Paul uses the idea of citizenship to describe how a Christian should view this life as compared to the future. “The city of Philippi was a Roman colony. In Philippi the laws of Rome were enforced. The people wore the same kind of styles that were worn in Rome. They spoke Latin. Everything in Philippi was like Rome because it was a colonial city. Today, believers… should be a colony of heaven, and they ought to act like they act in heaven and speak the language of heaven. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, but it should be our goal” (McGee 318).

    Do you remember this old song?

    This world is not my home I’m just-a-passing through
    My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
    The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
    And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

    This is a good explanation of how mature believers think about our time on earth. It is a temporary assignment which shouldn’t have our full attention. We shouldn’t get to the place where we are living for here and now. We should instead be thinking about where we will spend eternity. I must admit that this is difficult at times. We enjoy our lives. We enjoy the relationships, experiences, and the things we own. But when compared with eternity, are these things really that important? Shouldn’t we be thinking about the future?

    What should we be waiting for? (20b-21)

    Paul lists two things that we should be waiting for. First, he says that we are to wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. After all our years on earth, there will come a time when Jesus will return in the sky and call each of us to be with Him forever. That should make you smile. We will finally meet the One who loved us and gave His life for us. What a meeting that will be!

    Second, he says that we are to wait for the transformation of our earthly bodies. Some of you are especially ready for this because of aches and pains. The Bible tells us that our bodies will be changed for the good.

    1 Corinthians 15:51-52 – “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

    But think also of what it will be like to be in a body that has no temptation to sin. There will be no more lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That, too, is something that should motivate us to be patient. We should patiently wait realizing that the sinful desires we have now don’t please the Lord and will be an embarrassment when He appears.

    There are many who tell us to enjoy our lives now. You only live once, so live well. Paul tells us to be patient. Our time of joy will come in the place where our actual citizenship is. Be patient and listen for the trumpet of God when all believers will be taken up to heaven to be with the Lord forever.

Conclusion

During our study of Philippians 3:15-21, we have seen a number of things. We need to think like a mature believer. Our mindset should be to press on toward pleasing the Lord. We need to live like a mature believer. Our lifestyle should be an example for other Christians to follow. We need to wait like a mature believer. Our focus should be on what God had in store for us in the future.

As we have considered these Bible verses, how has God spoken to your heart? Perhaps you have not been thinking like a mature believer. Will you repent of this and ask God to change your mind and to help you think the way He desires? Perhaps you have not been living like a mature believer. Will you repent of this and ask God for the help you need to live rightly? Perhaps you have not been waiting for Jesus. Will you repent of this and renew your focus on the future. If you will, the Lord will graciously forgive you and bring back that joy that you have been missing.

Bibliography

Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994, pp. 175-85.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, pp. 662-63.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 316-19.

What would you have done?

During our Sunday School lesson, we studied Genesis 12 which tells how Abram followed God’s direction and moved to the land of Canaan. However, after some time, there was a severe famine which affected Abram’s situation. He eventually moved to Egypt where some negative things happened. Our lesson book made the assumption that Abram was wrong to move away from where God had told him to move. But that is not actually spelled out in the Scriptures. It left me wanting to ask the lesson’s author, “What would you have done?”

In tonight’s message, we will contemplate that question. First we will examine what Abram did and the results. Second, we will look at biblical principles that will help us to make our own decisions during difficult situations.

  1. What did Abram do? (Gen. 12:10-20)

    Genesis 12 is the inspired record of how Abram responded to a difficult situation. God gave us these stories for us to learn from so let’s take a look at what Abram did and what we can learn from his decisions. First, he made a decision based on the circumstances (10). A severe famine was affecting his ability to provide for his family, his servants, and his flocks and herds. Something had to be done and he decided to move to Egypt. Second, he preplanned how to handle a possible conflict (11-13). Abram knew what it was like in Egypt. Perhaps he had heard stories of how a man had been killed to acquire his wife. So he preplanned with Sarai how they would respond if there was a conflict. Third, he got himself into a bad situation (14-16). Despite his plan, the ruler of Egypt took Abram’s wife from him and made her part of his harem. Fourth, he escaped with God’s help (17-20). If it were not for God’s response, Abram and Sarai’s relationship would have been permanently ended. But God sent plagues that convinced the pharaoh to give her back to Abram.

    If you were to ask Abram about the decision he made, do you think he would have done things differently? Perhaps he would. But he faced a famine and the possibility of murder. He could look back and see how God protected him, but at the time, he had to make a decision and he did.

  2. What would you have done?

    Someone once disagreed with Dwight L. Moody about the way he gave the gospel. Moody responded by asking his critic how he gave the gospel. The man said that he did not, but that he still didn’t agree with Moody’s way of doing things. Moody then replied, “It is clear you don’t like my way of doing evangelism. You raise some good points. Frankly, I sometimes do not like my way of doing evangelism. But I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”

    As we consider what Abram did and the results that followed, it is easy for us to be critical of his decision making. But it would be much more difficult to make those decisions in the moment. So let’s be careful that we are not overly harsh in our criticism. Also let’s think through how we would have/could have responded in the same situation. What would you have done?

    a. The natural response

    I think it is unfair for us to judge Abram harshly for how he responded. It is far too easy to point out his lack of faith and not consider the difficulty his circumstances put him in.

    You would make a decision based on the circumstances.

    Famines are mentioned many times in the Bible: Abram (Gen. 12), Isaac (Gen. 26), Joseph (Gen. 41-45), Naomi (Ruth 1), David twice (2 Sam. 21; 1 Chron. 21), Samaria twice (1 Kings 18; 2 Kings 6), Elisha (2 Kings 8), Jerusalem under siege (2 Kings 25); and Agabus (Acts 11). During each of those times, the people were short on food and had to make a decision to provide for their families.

    If you were in the same situation, you would have to make a decision as well. As discussed this morning, several people in our church moved from another state to this area for work. When you need to provide for your family, you sometimes have to make a decision that is different than what you had originally planned. You do it in the best interest of your family.

    You would preplan how to handle a possible conflict.

    Abram and Sarai were going to be living in a land where people did not respect God or His ways. And it was a place run by a dictator named pharaoh. In that time, the pharaoh could do whatever he wanted. Knowing this fact caused Abram to preplan how they would handle the possible conflict.

    If you were in the same situation, you would have had to think about these possibilities. Since we live in a land where people often steal things, we lock our doors. Since we hear about criminal activity, we prepare ourselves in case something happens. This is not unusual. When our children were little, we taught them how to open the window and crawl onto the roof if there was a fire. These are wisdom issues and not necessarily a conflict with trusting in the Lord. We should know how to respond ahead of time.

    b. The biblical response

    While there are some natural responses that all of us would have had, there are also some responses that should result from what God teaches us in the Bible.

    You should consider what is best for everyone (Phil. 2:3-4).

    When Abram planned the half-truth about his relationship to Sarai, he only mentioned what would be best for him. As Christians, we are not called to be selfish but to care about both our needs and those of others.

    Philippians 2:3-4 – “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

    When we were considering the move to Willard, we were sure it was God’s will. However, one of the children had a hard time accepting that fact. Leaving our home of 16 years, friends at church and school, and the neighborhood we grew up in was very difficult. In the end, we made a decision based on what we felt God wanted even though it was difficult.

    Making decisions based only on what will affect one person can be described as selfish. God wants us to follow His example and to do what is best for the interests of all.

    You should ask God for wisdom (James 1:2-6).

    James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

    James begins his teaching by telling us to be joyful during trials as it is a test of our faith. As we go through the trial, we will learn patience. And once we have learned patience, we will become a mature Christian. So how should we respond the next time we face a trial? First, we should look at the trial as a challenge. God has chosen to give us the trial to test our faith. So, we should joyfully accept the challenge. Second, we should patiently trust in the Lord during that time. As we realize that it is from God, we will more easily wait for Him to work in us.

    You should rely on God (Prov. 3:5-6).

    There are sometimes where it seems that there is no right decision. While we consider what is best for all involved and ask God for wisdom, we won’t always know what the right decision is. This is where we prayerfully make a decision and then trust God to lead and provide.

    Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

    When I was the summer assistant at Peniel Bible Camp, I met a man who drove a van with part of this verse posted on the spare tire cover on the back of the van. He told me that he was surprised one day to see the driver of the car behind him getting out of his car and running up to his van. When he rolled down the window, the young man thanked him for the message on his van as he was learning to trust the Lord at that moment.

    Abram may not have learned this lesson yet. But after going through the situation in Egypt, he learned that God was trustworthy. God not only kept him safe from murder but also kept his wife from harm. When we make decisions, we should not scheme our way out of them by devious means. We shouldn’t lie about things to get out of trouble. What we should do is trust the Lord to completely, not trust in our own wisdom, acknowledge God’s part in our life, and then follow His leading.

Conclusion

Tonight, we have taken some time to critique the way Abram handled his situation. He did what he thought was best but made some decisions that don’t seem to reflect a strong trust in the Lord. Now that we’ve finished looking at him, how about we do something else. What if we were to look back on your life and judge some of the decisions you made in the past? It might be decisions regarding your children, your marriage, or your trust in the Lord. Hmm… suddenly we all want to sing the closing hymn and go home.

It is easy to look back at the past decisions of others and even of ourselves and notice how we didn’t trust the Lord. Sadly, this is true of all of us at various points in our lives. But as we learned this morning, we should follow Paul’s advice about the past.

Philippians 3:13-14 – “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

We can learn from mistakes we have made in the past. But we should not stay there. Instead, let us look toward the future goal of the Lord’s commendation. None of us is perfect and we all fail at some point. But with what we have learned tonight, let’s trust in the Lord and make the best decisions we can this week.

Bibliography

“Famines in the Bible,” as viewed at https://christiananswers.net/dictionary/famine.html on 4/23/2023.

Philippians 3:12-14

Basketball was a big part of my life when I was a teenager. I played the game at every opportunity with whomever showed up on the court. As the years passed, I watched a lot of college and professional basketball and heard stories of those who had excelled at the game. I have read about players like Michael Jordan who worked hard at practice and during the season to become the best to play the game. Men like this motivated me to work hard, to keep in shape, and to try my hardest during every game.

Not all of us have an interest in sports. But we all know what it means to work hard at something. Whether it is working with a garden, working long hours at your job, or taking care of an elderly loved one, we know that certain things take a lot of effort. Sometimes it seems that all the work is not worth it, but we keep pressing on because we know the end result will be worth all the effort we put into it.

In Philippians 3:12-14, we read about the effort Paul put into his service for the Lord. In today’s message, we will be looking at two principles found in these verses. As we look at what Paul wrote, let’s ask the Lord to show us how we should respond.

  1. Keep moving forward (12).

    The idea of “keep moving forward” is a good one. Even Walt Disney has been quoted as using that idea. “Around here … we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths” (Beck). That idea is something that Thomas Edison also espoused. While trying to invent a lightbulb that would last longer, he experimented with many different materials until he finally had success.

    In the Christian life, we also need to keep moving forward. That is one of the messages Paul gives in verse 12.

    a. We have not reached perfection.

    If you recall what Paul had said earlier in the chapter, he was downplaying the importance of his previous religious accomplishments. He considered them garbage when compared to having Christ. But even with his high regard for what Jesus had done, he didn’t consider his salvation or even his service to have accomplished what he was striving for. He had not attained it yet.

    The idea behind the word “attained” is “to take, take up, take in the hand” (Mounce). It is one thing to talk about something and quite another to actually have it in your hand. Paul didn’t think he had attained what he was striving for. He also didn’t think he had reached a state of perfection. After all the great stories about Paul in the Book of Acts, we consider him to be a Christian hero. But Paul didn’t have that mindset.

    This is true of all of us, great and small. None of us has accomplished everything that God wants for us. No matter how many years you have known and served the Lord, there will always be room for improvement.

    b. We need to press on.

    Since none of us has reached perfection for the Lord, we need to press on. The idea is “to pursue, persecute, to systematically oppress and harass a person or group; to press on” (Mounce) I think we get the idea of pursuing or pressing on, but oppressing or harassing? Let me give you an example.

    During the third game of the 2023 NBA playoffs between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks, the latter team did their best to “systematically oppress and harass” the former team. At half time, the Cavaliers had a total of 32 points. This was the lowest amount of points they had scored during a game all season. Why was that? It was because the other team kept steady defensive pressure on them all through the game.

    While God is not calling us to oppress or harass anyone, Paul reminds us that there is some effort required in the Christian life. We don’t work to be saved, but we should work faithfully for the Lord after we are saved because we want to please Him. So we must press on and work hard at what God has called us to be and do.

    c. We need to work toward our purpose.

    Paul’s goal sounds a bit confusing. He wanted to “lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” It sounds like Jesus had grabbed hold of Paul for a purpose and now Paul wanted to take hold of that purpose and fulfill it. But what was that purpose?

    Do you remember when Saul (Paul’s former name) met Jesus on the road to Damascus? After being struck blind, the Lord sent Ananias to heal his blindness. Ananias was afraid of Saul, so God assured Him. “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” God’s purpose for Paul was for him to speak about Jesus before all types of people including kings and also to suffer for the name of Jesus.

    You might be a bit afraid at this moment, thinking that God wants you to speak and suffer. First, we have to remember that this was God’s specific purpose for Paul and not necessarily for us. Second, we must remember that God has called all of us to be his ambassadors wherever we go. This might include some suffering but it is still our responsibility to speak for him wherever he sends us.

    Since none of us has reached perfection or completed the task given to us, let’s keep pressing on for the Lord. Don’t let anything get in the way of you moving forward for the Lord and the purposes He has given us.

  2. Keep your eyes on the goal (13-14).

    During junior high, our gym teacher taught us how to play softball. Unfortunately, I was not very good at it. Every time I was at plate, I would swing the bat and miss the ball. The gym teacher had one of the other students pitch easy pitches to me, but I kept striking out. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that someone showed me what the problem was. I wasn’t keeping my eye on the ball. As this young man talked me through it, I kept my eye on the ball and finally hit the ball over the surprised heads of the outfielders.

    In verses 13-14, Paul reminds us to keep our eyes on the goal given to us by God. As we do, we should consider several things.

    a. We haven’t accomplished it yet.

    Paul had been given a goal to accomplish, but he didn’t consider himself to have accomplished it yet. The text uses the word “count” to describe Paul’s feelings. He wasn’t counting or adding up all of his service to God and considering himself to be finished. He knew there was more to do.

    I heard about a couple in Australia who counted on something before it was in their hands. The man was diagnosed with life-ending cancer. In the time remaining together, they decided to borrow money against the million-dollar life insurance policy and then live it up with the time they had left. They spent a lot of money on trips together and then found that the diagnosis was wrong. The man was going to live but they were now straddled with great debt. They had counted on something that didn’t come true.

    We mustn’t get to the point where we think we have arrived. If Paul didn’t count himself to have accomplished the goal given to him, how can we? While God gives each of us the ability to live, we need to live like we still have something to accomplish for Him.

    b. We need to reach forward not back.

    One of the things that limits our ability to press on for the Lord is what happened in the past. Paul had already listed his religious resume. It included what some would consider to be a long list of religious accomplishments for God. But Paul didn’t look back at those things and stop working. No, he looked forward to what he could do for the Lord now and in the future.

    Have you ever seen a runner stretching forward to cross the finish line ahead of the other runners? It is exciting to see them running as hard as they can and then reaching their head forward to cross the line first. This is the kind of effort that Paul was putting into his service for the Lord. No amount of effort was too much for him to give for the Lord. But what was the goal he was striving for?

    c. We must have the right goal.

    When LeBron James won the NBA championship for the city of Cleveland, it was a dream come true. He had tried many times before but never could get that elusive trophy. It wasn’t until 2016 that his goal was accomplished. Many of us cheered as the final shot and final block was made to secure the championship.

    Paul also had a prize he was straining toward. The goal was the prize given to faithful Christians. He described it as “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” What exactly was this? As mentioned in an earlier message, I believe this refers to the “Well done, good and faithful servant” and the special “entrance” into the kingdom mentioned in 2 Peter 1:11. This goes along with what happened at the ancient Olympic games. “The winner in those games was called to the place where the judge sat in order to receive his prize” (Lightner 661). Paul wanted to hear the Lord’s happy call for him to stand before him and to be recognized as faithful.

    This is the goal we should keep striving toward. No matter what age you may be, no matter what has been accomplished in the past, no matter what troubles may be in your past, the Lord wants each of us to keep moving forward and to keep our eyes on the proper goal. In other words, don’t stop now! Keep going. Our time to rest will happen at some time in the future and so will our time of reward. So keep plugging away. Be faithful and look forward to meeting the Lord someday.

Conclusion

Do you ever stop and think about what it will be like when we arrive in heaven? We have read about the pearly gates and streets of gold and wonder just how incredible it must be. Last week, someone we all know of finally got to see what heaven is like. Ron Hamilton, also known as Patch the Pirate, was an influential song writer and music publisher for almost 50 years. His Patch the Pirate adventure stories were filled with songs, smiles, and spiritual lessons that touched the lives of many people around the world. After writing almost 1,000 songs, Ron Hamilton was diagnosed with dementia. This last week, the Lord finally released him from his tired body and took him home to heaven.

I wonder what it must have been like to finally meet the Lord in the splendors of heaven. Someday, you and I will get that opportunity. If you are not a believer at the time of your death, you will eventually stand before Him to be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment. All unbelievers will eventually be cast into the Lake of Fire. Please turn from your sin and put your faith in Jesus, so you will miss that great judgment.

But if you are a believer, you have the opportunity to enter into heaven with great joy or with embarrassment. If you are a believer who has been squandering time, imagine the embarrassment of entering heaven’s splendor and seeing the Lord’s face. After wasting your talents on earth, you will be deeply disappointed in what you have to present to the Lord on that day. But if you have been pressing on toward the goal and have been faithful to the Lord, it can be much different. While none of us is perfect, it will be much better to step into heaven and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Christian, be faithful, keep moving forward, and keep your eyes on the goal because someday, you will stand before the Lord and give account of yourself. Will you do it with embarrassment or with great joy? With God’s help, let us each strive toward pleasing the Lord and hearing his commendation on that great meeting day.

Bibliography

Beck, Jerry, “Keep Moving Forward” as viewed at https://www.cartoonbrew.com/disney/keep-moving-forward-2918.html on 4/22/2023.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1983, pp. 661-62.

Mounce, Bill, various entries at https://www.billmounce.com as viewed on 4/22/2023.

Notes

Verse 12
ἔλαβον (aor act ind) from λαμβάνω – “to take, take up, take in the hand, Mt. 10:38; 13:31, 33” (Mounce).
τετελείωμαι (perf pass ind) from τελειόω – “to perfect, complete, finish; (pass.) to reach a goal, be fulfilled, completed, made perfect” (Mounce)
διώκω (pres act ind) – “to pursue, persecute, to systematically oppress and harass a person or group; to press on” (Mounce)
καταλάβω (aor act subj) from καταλαμβάνω – “to obtain, attain, take hold of; seize, overtake; (mid.) to grasp, understand, realize, find out” (Mounce)
κατελήμφθην (aor pass indic) from καταλαμβάνω – “to obtain, attain, take hold of; seize, overtake; (mid.) to grasp, understand, realize, find out” (Mounce)

Verse 13
λογίζομαι (pres mid dep ind) – “to credit, count, reckon; regard, think, consider” (Mounce)
κατειληφέναι (perf act infin) – “to obtain, attain, take hold of; seize, overtake; (mid.) to grasp, understand, realize, find out” (Mounce)
ἐπεκτεινόμενος (pres mid dep ptc) – “to stretch out farther; in NT mid. to reach out towards, strain for” (Mounce)

Verse 14
σκοπός – “a watcher; also, a distant object on which the eye is kept fixed; a mark, goal” (Mounce)
βραβεῖον – “a prize, bestowed on victors in the public games, such as a crown, wreath, chaplet, garland, etc.” (Mounce)
ἄνω – “above, upward, heavenward, top” (Mounce)
κλῆσις – “a call, calling, invitation;, in NT the call or invitation to the privileges of the Gospel, Rom. 11:29; Eph. 1:18; the favor and privilege of the invitation, 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:10; the temporal condition in which the call found a person, 1 Cor. 1:26; 7:20” (Mounce)