Devotional on the Epistle of Joy
(The Paradox of Philippians)
l:3-11 What a Fellowship! (TLH ) Hymn 192 st. 1-3
This hymn ends on a high note, an exultant, joyful note. That is also this epistle. It has that high (based on Christ’s resurrection and triumph) joyful, exultant tone. Another old hymn goes ‘What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms…safe and secure from all alarms.’ Paul could have written that, and included it in this epistle because it fits perfectly. If there are three words which characterize these verses and for that matter the whole epistle, they are: joy, positive, prayerful.
While Paul is under house arrest in Rome, he is praying; praying for the Philippians who walk in freedom! They were a people dear to his heart and so he could not but pray about them and for them. He thanks God for these faithful partners in the work who had supported him time and again with money and prayers. While under arrest, Paul is praying for others and thankful to God. Could we be thankful to God in such a situation? Would we be so earnest to pray for others, if our life were on the line?
Paul is so positive. Prison and joy just do not seem to be compatible. And yet for the Christian they are. If the wicked world would treat the Lord of all so vilely, why wouldn’t they treat us the same? So then bear those marks of persecution as marks of discipleship, even as medals of honor to suffer as our Lord did.
Joy cannot be quenched, not true joy. “Now nothing ever saddens the joy within my heart. No gloom shall ever shake, No foe shall ever take, The hope which God’s own Son in love for me hath won.” Throughout this epistle there is not an undercurrent of joy; it is a loud and distinct cry of joy. “Making my prayer with joy…Yes, and I shall rejoice…for your progress and joy in the faith…Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Yes, true joy is as Paul says “in the Lord.” Christ has won against all our enemies so soundly that each morning our heart may awake with gladness. He who has triumphed over the grave shares His victory with us sinners. So even though it may ‘seem’ like things are going wrong, I shall rejoice for my victorious Lord is in charge of my life.
1:12-14 All Things Work Together for Good Hymn 521 st. 1-3
“All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” That is a passage which is not too hard to memorize, but decidedly hard to learn for life and remember in adversity. Paul had learned this early on in his ministry and it shows. When he and Silas had been imprisoned at Philippi, on the second journey, it showed in the singing of hymns in their cell. The Philippians surely remembered this. So it certainly must not have been strange for them to hear from Paul that this Roman imprisonment had brought forth good. Throughout the whole body of guards as well as to all the rest it was known that his imprisonment was for Christ. Imagine the questions, ’Why do you willingly suffer so for this Messiah? How can you be joyful not knowing if you will be released or executed? Who is this Lord of yours?’ These would be exactly the questions and inquiries that Paul would be praying for and ready to answer. The Gospel would advance.
Not only one good thing came out of this apparent evil: the imprisonment. “Most of the brethren have been made confident…and are much more bold to speak the Word of God without fear.” The example was given them in Paul. Our problem in learning this truth of Scripture is our sinful flesh which is never patient to see the outcome somewhat down the road and is always so insistent as to ‘good for me’ with a total aversion of seeing any good in dying, least of all after torture. So it is we must learn first of all that death is gain, because Christ was victorious on Calvary. Then we must remember that this victorious Lord is in charge. “He leads me in His own right way, And never will He leave me. I take content What He hath sent; His hand that sends me sadness Will turn my tears to gladness.” To learn the truth of Romans 8:28 we need to read in the Word for instance Paul’s words here. We need to hear the absoluteness of God’s Word, All things… The Lord is in charge and what He ordains is always good.
And don’t be so selfish as to neglect to realize that good from your apparent adversity may come forth for others also. This was the case with Paul’s imprisonment in Rome – for the Praetorian guard, for the brethren in Rome, for the Philippians and for us here.
1:15-18 In Every Way Christ Is Proclaimed Hymn 508
Paul had a depth and breadth of vision that not many have. For us our enemies should be met and beaten. And in the turmoil of the struggle we don’t see above and beyond it. Paul could, by God’s grace and mercy. Paul had enemies. There were those jealous of him and his spiritual gifts and those envious of him as to the results of his preaching. Paul met his detractors head on. While at the same time, he didn’t lose sight that rivals were also preaching the Gospel. The Spirit could work through the Gospel even if preached by a mule type.
Paul had great joy when in Rome the Gospel was preached from good will. And even if preached from envy and rivalry, there was still joy, “Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice.” We should be bothered that some today preach for base gain, for honors to themselves, for ego expansion and for any other number of wrong reasons. Yet we should be glad that the Gospel is preached. We don’t condone those preachers. We should expose them. But at the same time rejoice because Christ is proclaimed.
There are so many false teachers about today also. The largest visible Christian denomination, Roman Catholic, has so much that is false. Yet we should be glad that yet there are within that body of the antichrist who do speak the Gospel. We should expose false doctrine and encourage its replacement with the pure Word and upon that basis the Gospel may be heralded even clearer, without contradictions.
Anyone who preaches is weak. The power is in the Word. It is the Holy Spirit who gives life through the Gospel. The Word is almighty. Have Paul’s long view “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice.” And pray, “Thou whose almighty Word Chaos and darkness heard And took their flight, Hear us, we humbly pray, And where the Gospel day Sheds not its glorious ray, Let there be light!”
1:19-26 Hard Pressed Between the Two Hymn525
The dilemmas we face in life are described variously as: better of two evils, between a rock and a hard place, a choice between good and alluring evil. Evil is always trying to entice us in its direction, so much so that at times it may appear very appealing or may only give us a choice of two of its forms. At other times we find ourselves in such straights that to choose either alternative leaves us a depressing dilemma between a rock and a hard place. Is this the way our dilemmas always must be?
“I am hard pressed between the two,” Paul says. But upon closer inspection his dilemma is between two good outcomes. On the one hand to live is Christ, and on the other to die is gain. If Paul lives, it means continue labor for the Master. This is of course good beyond question. Yet to die in Christis good beyond all comprehension. Paul desires to depart and be with Christ for that is far better. And if he remains alive it will be good for the Philippians as well as all others he reaches with the Word.
If only we could have this higher view of things. We are in a no lose situation. So often it seems that our dilemmas are no win situations. Paul is under house arrest facing possible execution. He has this higher view. Is it possible that our dilemmas are not as we see them so often, but rather no lose situations? Have you been in as tight a squeeze as Paul? Likely not. So if Paul can see in his situation that it will be good no matter how it turns out, how about you and your viewing of things?
Paul’s desire is to depart, and yet… Perhaps our desire is not so strong and vibrant. Perhaps we are getting caught up in petty things and losing sight of THE goal – the upward call in Christ Jesus. There is no question about it. Our sinful flesh has obscured our vision of things. We need to daily repent of our sins and fight against the old sinful flesh. We need to read and study the Word to get the higher view of things, the heaven view. Pray for a great yearning for Christ. “As pants the hart for cooling streams When heated in the chase, So longs my soul, O God, for Thee and Thy refreshing grace.”
1:27-30 A Manner of Life Worthy of the Gospel Hymn 396
As you walk down the road, could it be said of you, ‘There goes a Christian. Let me tell you about him…’? Is it obvious to others that you are a Christian? There are marks you know. ‘See how he lives. Listen to how he talks. Mark how he acts.’ Our manner of life should be of the Gospel. Christ came into the world (that despised Him) and lived the perfect life and died the sacrificial death, atoning for the world’s past, present and future sins. This astounds us. Does your life stand out from the dark backdrop of this sin darkened world?
Paul gives encouragement here to live the Gospel life. Stand firm. Don’t give in to error and wickedness. Continue in the Word that the Spirit might give you the Gospel cement to keep you in Christ. Don’t be frightened, even by the roaring of the lion. Remember that your worst enemy, the devil, has been bruised in the head. Christ’s death and resurrection was his death knell. “He can harm us none; he’s judged the deed is done.” Arm yourself with the Word. And then look about and see the devil’s weaker allies and know they too cannot rob you of the treasure.
See suffering as an integral part of living faith. To “suffer for His sake” is a noble thing. The sneers, the mocking words and anything else that comes when you live the Christian life is a sign that you are in Him. Engage in this conflict. Don’t think you can sit on the sidelines and be a Christian. He who confesses Christ before men by word and deed is also acknowledged before the throne of grace as His own. But those whose suffering for Christ as too distasteful, who think that to live the Word in one’s daily life is too radical will suffer far worse and have the most traumatic end.
The Gospel of Christ’s love is a high goal for life. We have to acknowledge that our life so often is not worthy of the Gospel. And having acknowledged that we strive ever anew toward that standard. “Oh for a faith that will not shrink Tho’ pressed by many a foe; That will not tremble on the brink of poverty or woe; …Lord give us such a faith as this…”
2:1-11 The Communion of Saints Hymn 464
In geometry there are axioms that are true and in turn have other statements and proofs based upon them. When we view the cross, we see two lines: the vertical, the horizontal. The vertical reminds us of the relationship of Christ with the individual. The horizontal reminds us of the relationship each believer has with fellow believers. Axiom – The horizontal relationship is based on the vertical. And a corollary is – The horizontal is based on the apex of the vertical.
At the top of the vertical is our Savior who came to earth humbling Himself even to death on across. Now He has ascended to heaven and sits on the right hand of God the Father. We each of us individually bow the knee and confess with the tongue that He is Lord.
There could be no relationship of love to one another, if He had not come, risen and ascended. By this He won and proved it. Now how are we to be one to another? “Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus.” Humble yourselves as Christ did. Count others better than yourselves. Look after others as you’d look after yourself. As the summary of the second table of the Law has it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
This love to one another finds its power in the love of Christ that has been poured into our hearts. Whenever we read in the Word about our Lord, we see how we aught to be one to another, even to the point of forgiving our enemies. The horizontal relationship is based on the apex of the vertical. All depends on our possessing Christ’s abundant grace and blessing. This is the tie that binds us together by which we are blessed, happy. On earth – “We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear, And often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.” Then in heaven – “…perfect love and friendship reign through all eternity. ”This is all because we are one IN CHRIST.
2:12-13 The Obvious and the Behind the Scenes Hymn389
Remember how on conversion people will so often give some credit to man in his conversion. Not many say it is a work of God entirely. We do. By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of works, for it is a gift of God. Some may even try to quote Phil.2:12 to show that man had something to do with it. But we read the verse following to explain that God works within to will and to do of His good pleasure. Either conversion is a gift of God or it isn’t. We see from God’s Word that it is either by grace through faith or it is of works.
Once we are converted then His Spirit works with our spirit. But it is still to God’s glory and by His will that we follow His Word and will in our actions.
Here Paul is simply telling these partners in the Gospel to live the Christian life they have been called into. Work on it! Carry out His love in your lives by your actions. And if we or they should get so disheartened by that nagging sinful flesh then he discloses that God is at work within us. This behind the scenes work is that of the Holy Spirit working with our spirit as a Christian to do His will. This is a great encouragement because we know how vile we are and prone to do evil. If it were not for His Spirit working with our spirit we could not do anything pleasing to God.
It is an awesome thing to contemplate that the Holy God works with this worm. We must view ourselves as totally unworthy of His help and presence in our lives. Like the wicked tax gatherer we plead “God be merciful to me a sinner.” This is that attitude of fear and trembling that Paul speaks of. It is not the fear of falling into the hands of the Righteous Judge who shall destroy. It is the awe of looking about and seeing we are cradled in the loving arms of the Almighty. And He does not crush as we so deserve. “Not what these hands have done Can save this guilty soul; Not what this toiling flesh has borne Can make my spirit whole. Thy work alone, O Christ, Can ease this weight of sin; Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, Can give me peace within.”
2:14-18 Cast Out the Negative with the Positive Hymn 28
The way of the world is to grumble and complain. Why? It is because the worldling thinks he deserves better than he is getting. He thinks more of himself than others do. This attitude is crooked and perverse, just like the world itself. The real story is that we are not worthy of the least of all God’s mercies. The fact of the matter is that we are among the ‘all’ who have gone astray, who go their own sinful way. If we then see how we really are, we can’t possibly grumble and complain. What we truly deserve we don’t get, and what we get we don’t truly deserve. God in His mercy has saved us by the blood of the Lamb who washes all our sin away. And He then has His mercies to us new every morning and showers us with blessings a plenty.
It is the Word of life, the Bible, where we get the true picture and appreciation of things. Paul here casts out the negative. “I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith.” He replaces this with the positive “I am glad and rejoice with you all.” This is typical of Paul. What about you and me? Do we know that by our daily sins we aught to be struck down? Do we realize that even our sinful thoughts are an abomination to the righteous and holy God? Can we see ourselves in any other light than undeserving?
Our Lord upon this earth in our place did not grumble or complain, and yet He was innocent though condemned. Our Lord did not lift up His voice and wail that He is not getting fair treatment and getting what He deserves. Our Lord was the sacrifice poured out to atone for all our grumbling, complaining, and haughty pride.
Let us learn how to better praise God being appreciative of all that He has done for us unworthy ones. We don’t have to learn how to grumble and complain, for that comes naturally. But we do have to learn how to praise God. “Now let all loudly Sing praise to God the Lord; Christendom proudly Laud Him with one accord. Richly He feeds us Always and everywhere; Gently He leads us With a true father’s care…Sing we His praises Who is thus merciful; Christendom raises Songs to His glorious rule.”
2:19-24 Look Around! Do They All Look After Their Own Interests? How Refreshing to See a Timothy Hymn 445
When I was a child we would go to visit by grandma’s best friend. My grandma lived with us. We went to here friend’s house who was also a grandmother who lived with her daughter’s family. We liked the friend of my grandmother, but not the little granddaughter. She had many toys. She had lots of things we would have enjoyed, except she was not about to share them with us children. She was selfish. We did not like to visit that house because of the selfish little girl. Whether we are children or adults we do not like to associate with those who always think of themselves first. Unfortunately, unselfishness is far less to be seen than selfishness.
Paul’s young associate was so refreshing to work with. Paul said, “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare. They all look after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Our Lord told us to seek first his kingdom and then we should have the earthly goods also necessary for our life here. But most people put what they need and want ahead of Jesus and His will. It is really so foolish. After all what did we bring into this world? Did we come with a suitcase chuck full of things? And what will we take with us when we depart this life? All we have is not our own. It is on loan to us, to wisely use to His glory.
Selfishness contradicts all of this. Selfishness says ‘this is mine,’ whereas it is only on loan to us. Selfishness says that it wants and even deserves more, whereas for our sins we deserve instead to be struck down and cast into hell. Selfishness puts itself first, where as we are to think of others ahead of ourselves and especially to put Jesus first. Timothy was a young man. So often the young do not have the wisdom to put others and the Lord first. Timothy did. How refreshing! A man like Timothy is precious. His worth you know. He is that faithful soldier who follows the commands of his Lord. You are not your own, you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your life. “Am I a soldier of the Cross, A follower of the Lamb…Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease While others fought to win the prize And sailed through bloody seas?”
2:25-30 Will You Take the Risk? Hymn 450
There are many of Paul’s co-workers that we know little about. Some we know nothing about except their names. Of Epaphroditus we know only a little. But what we know is exciting. At one point Paul says that he was near death. This was in connection with his service to Christ, “For he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete your service to me.” He was a man who was willing to take risks for the advancement of God’s kingdom.
What would you risk your life for? If a little were in the road and a large truck were barreling down the road, would you risk your life to save the child? What if your wife were held hostage by some wicked men, would you risk your life to save her? Would you take the place of someone who was held hostage and be willing to suffer his fate so that he might go free? Tough questions. What if taking the risk you tried to save one you didn’t know or even hated?
In our Lord Jesus we have the risk taken. He knew exactly what He must do – die, and not just for his disciples but for the whole wicked world. He faced this certain death to rescue us hostages, hostages of sin. And He was successful, His glorious resurrection proving that. Now what about you? Epaphroditus knew all that his Lord had sacrificed for him, the lost sinner. This was the encouragement for him to risk even his life to serve the Lord doing the work of preaching regardless of the cost to himself. He knew that his Lord was with him and would crown his labors with glory.
In Nigeria we talk about men going to the north to the hateful Muslims. But that means risks. They are not loving neighbors to Christians very often. They hate with a cruelty that is unrivalled. To witness to them may mean some temporary loss. But like Luther wrote, “Goods, fame, child and wife, let these all be gone. They yet have nothing won.” The kingdom of our Lord and Savior remains ours. Here He will rule our hearts and minds and there above after the last day He will rule body and soul forever. What indeed can man do to us? Therefore: “Soldiers of Christ arise And put your armor on, Strong in the strength which God supplies Through His eternal Son.”
3:1-11 True Profit and Loss Hymn 400
What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul? There is no true profit in gaining the world and losing the soul. But many spend their lives in fretting over trifles and in getting things that have no lasting worth. Not Paul. “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” He was a gifted and zealous Jew. This he gave up because the Jewish zeal was wrong. The persecutor became the persecuted. The honorable Jew became as refuse and off-scouring to his former associates. This doesn’t bother Paul because he has Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. He had the surpassing treasure of forgiveness of sins through the blood of the Lamb.
Paul even goes so far as to state, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him…That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” That is quite a mouthful. He doesn’t look back at what he has had to forgo and no longer has and moan about it. Far from it. He looks at what he has, Christ and His righteousness and glances back at what he may have lost with little concern.
To be a servant of Christ this is the attitude we need. As you study the Word of God daily you will be more and more convinced that Christ is the true profit. What the world acclaims as ‘great’ is garbage, you will see. What the world mocks in its wickedness you will consider as true profit. As you continue to study the Word, you will see more and more gifts and abilities and how they must be used in glory to Him and for the advancement of His kingdom that is His gracious rule in the hearts of men. You will even, like Paul, consider suffering for the sake of Christ as something to be borne with joy. “Take my life, my moments and my days, my hands, my feet, my voice, my lips, my silver and my gold, my intellect…ever only all for Thee.”
3:12-16 I Am On the Way Hymn 447
Jesus is the only way to heaven. In the book of Acts we are said to be followers of the Way. This Way is the strenuous life of a Christian following the Lord’s direction. We are like the athletes in a contest. We have begun the contest and are striving hard. We have not yet completed the contest. But we look forward to the prize at the end. Paul gives us some points to remember in this fight, this strenuous contest. One thing is to forget what lies behind. He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom. If we think that by being in this contest we are missing out on having something then we are undervaluing Christ and His care for us. If we regret some supposed loss, then we are not truly appreciating what we have in Christ.
Paul says we are straining forward to what lies ahead. There will be stress and strain to live the Christian life because we have a sinful flesh which will incessantly try to gain the upper hand. The devil and those who do his bidding, knowingly or unknowingly, are always ready to put hurdles and obstacles in our path. As we persevere, we must keep our eyes toward the end of this struggle. As Paul says, “I press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” It is so easy to get all wrapped up in the worries of this little time we have one earth. We must keep the prize of the upward call in mind and know that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. We must keep our perspective. And as we struggle and fight the good fight of faith, we must do all to not lose ground that we have already won by the power of His Spirit working in us. “Only let us hold true to what we have attained. ”There will be those times, sadly, when we shall be overtaken in a trespass. Then it is that we repent and regain the ground lost. “Fight the good fight…Run the straight race…Cast care aside; Upon thy Guide…Faint not nor fear…Only believe, and thou shalt see That Christ is All in all to thee.”
3:17-21 The Division: Of the Belly and of the Commonwealth Hymn 407
There are many ways that the division is portrayed. Those of the world and those in the world but not of it. The believers and the unbelievers. The sheep and the goats. Here we have mankind divided into: of the belly, of the commonwealth. Those ‘of the belly’ serve themselves and are enemies of the cross. They are enemies of the cross because the cross of Christ means selflessness not selfishness. It means humility and not pride. It means listening to God and not to yourself as knowing best.
“Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” What a tragedy it is for they also have forgiveness. But they reject it because they ‘know better’ having been duped by the devil just as our first parents were. Because they will not have God’s guidance and instead will do what they want and think best they do shameful things. How should we view these enemies of the cross? As Paul did, “with tears.” Our heart must go out to them because we know how sinful we are and but for the grace of God we would be one with them. But God has had mercy on us. He also would have mercy on them. They must repent. His desire is for them to join us in the commonwealth.
What a pure joy to know that all, not just some, of our sins are forgiven. What a great joy to know we are under Christ our King. What encouragement to try and share with the enemies of the cross what we have knowing its great value for this life and for the life to come. And God would have all men to be saved.
In this great commonwealth in which Christ rules we look to that glorious time when He shall come again to usher us body and soul to heaven. We know that here we have our beginning under Him and it is wonderful. Then we shall be under Him in heaven for eternity and my what it must be like?! We will be glad to transfer from the church militant to the church triumphant, to bid farewell to this vile world. But now in anticipation of that we also have tearful prayers for those as yet of the belly. “Lord, hide my soul securely Deep in Thy wounded side; From every danger shield me And to Thy glory guide.”
4:1-3 A Loving Relationship – Paul and his Co-workers Hymn 470
It was not just individuals who were co-workers with Paul. The Philippian congregation also was such having sent him support time and again. Euodia and Syntyche, women, had labored side by side with Paul. Clement and others were fellow workers. These and many more, his brethren, he loved. His terms of description indicate indicate this besides his open statement that they were beloved to him. There certainly is a special bond when we labor together in the Lord’s vineyard. It is as when several share in hard field work in farming. One helps the other. The mutual experience gives a unity of knowledge. Working together gives a comradeship, humility and equality of understanding.
Our Lord tells us that he who would be greatest in the kingdom must be servant of all. What better way to help than to work together. This is a serving of one another. We are not to sit on the sidelines and bark out orders. That is not the kingdom way. We are not to be overbearing toward one another, lording it over one another. Even the Shepherd serves. We are members one of another in the communion of saints.
Peter had an opinion of himself far higher than he aught to have had. James and John and their mother sought what would not be given. Paul here says, “yokefellow,” “side by side,” “fellow workers.” No matter how brilliant the general is unless he associates with his men he is viewed by them as haughty. But if he rubs shoulders with them, takes some of the risks they face and joins in with them, he has far more willing soldiers. Resentment lessens. Obedience is better. We want to develop that relationship among ourselves that Paul had with the Philippians. It is a relationship of love that shows itself in mutual assistance, working together and not against one another, and in sharing the same hardships. And if we cannot, then we should be keeping our brethren in prayer.
This can only be done from the position of repentance and humble faith. By seeing Christ wash His disciples feet we see the humility of the servant. By seeing Christ walk and talk and labor with His disciples we see faithfulness of the servant. May we regain what the early church had in loving relationship of co-workers in His kingdom. “Rise again, ye lionhearted Saints of early Christendom.”
4:4-7 Perfect Joy Casts Out Fear Hymn39
It is John who says that “perfect love casts out fear. ”As we study this letter to the Philippians and as we know its background we can say it is also perfect joy that casts out fear. Paul was under house arrest in Rome and yet time and time again he uses the word ‘joy.’ ”Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice.” It is only “in the Lord” that true, lasting, overwhelming joy can be found. He has come and done for us all that is needed for our salvation. We by faith are on the winning side. The Easter joy is a yearlong thing. He lives and reigns to all eternity. I one day will join Him in heaven. Now He leads me from victory to victory.
We, like Paul, know who is at our side and we can be gentle and kind in spirit as He was. There is no real reason to be worrying or fretting since He is at our side. He has told us that if we ask, it will be given; if we seek, it will be found; if we knock, it will be opened to us. He is not at our side to punish us if we make a wrong move. That would bring fear. He is not at our side to ignore us. That likewise would make us fearful. He is our dearest Friend, the best that could be. He is not our enemy by any stretch of the imagination.
Peace with God has been won by the incarnate Son through His labors on this earth. When we keep that in our minds and hearts, we can’t help but be joyful. We can be joyful because by faith we see the unseen Lord. We have read the testimony of Scripture and know Him and His love though we in these latter times have never laid eyes on Him. If Paul at the jail cell in Philippi could be singing hymns of praise to God, how about us in our daily life? If Paul under house arrest in Rome, facing possible execution could say ”Rejoice in the Lord always,” how about us when we face the little difficulties we do and the small problems in front of us. Remember who is at our side. Remember what He has already done for us. “…again I will say, Rejoice.” “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy Health and Salvation! Join the full throng; Wake, harp and psalter and song; Sound forth in glad adoration!”
48-9 The Higher, More Noble Things Hymn 398
In the western world where Christianity has been for so long there is a crudeness and a coarseness that has set in. People tolerate foul language where once they did not. There is a vile character to some movies which earn a great deal of money. It is as if that vulgar and vile is seen because people want to see it. Even in art there is a segment of artists who think it is fine to create profane and obscene works. There is a toleration of lifestyles which the Bible condemns.
The Word on the other hand gives us the higher, more noble things to think on and try to adhere to. “Whatever is true…” In a world filled with lies and deceit we are called upon to speak the truth in love. The devil is the originator of lies while our Lord is the truth. “Whatever is honorable…” How many times in government isn’t dishonor practiced. It seems sometimes that without money men’s words mean nothing. We have from the Word a code of honor to live by. Our God gives us His Spirit to carry this out. “Whatever is just…” In courts the guilty seem at times due to large amounts of money to escape justice. The Word tells us to uphold government that evildoers may be punished and good conduct be rewarded. “Whatever is pure…” Wrong motive, mixed motives are the order of the day. But from our heart is to proceed the fruit of the Spirit. “Whatever is lovely…”There is love and then there is love. Our world is one of self-centered love, while we are to be people who give of ourselves in loving God and our neighbor. “Whatever is gracious…” Instead of words and actions vile and beast-like, our lives should be gracious and praiseworthy. We should have others see our good works and praise God.
“If there is any excellence…”We should be thinking about virtues, those excellent principles and characteristics that we are always striving after yet never reaching in this life. If we think on these kinds of things then when the coarse, crude, vile and profane come into view we will readily reject them, having seen what far surpasses them. “Renew me, O eternal Light.”
4:10-13 The Secret Hymn 425
This secret is a secret to so very, very many people. How can we face plenty and want? How can we face the extremes of life and not complain, but even praise God? The secret – “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” This is not a secret that takes so much time to find out. All you have to do is read the Word. This is not a secret that is so hidden. It is clearly in the pages of the Word. The problem is that the god of this world has blinded eyes. Then people also look in all the wrong places.
Paul had learned in whatever state to be content. Who was in charge of the world whether Paul was in prison or free? Does anything escape God’s eye? Does He sleep or go on a vacation that He is not available for us at some time? If Jesus is King, then He is King. If He created and now sustains the world by the power of His Word, then He will take care of you. Our God has promised to never leave or forsake us. Does He promise and not fulfill?
And what about the great love our God has for us? Will His love ever end? If He sent His son into the world to suffer and die for us, will He now neglect us for whom the Savior bled and died? “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret…” Trust in the Lord. We must admit that we have not in any and all circumstances put our trust in Him. This we have got to be working on. After all we know the secret and now let’s put it into practice. “All depends on our possessing God’s abundant grace and blessing, Tho’ all earthly wealth depart…When with sorrows I am stricken Hope my heart anew will quicken…Well He knows what best to grant me; All the longing hopes that haunt me, Joy and sorrow, have their day. I shall doubt His wisdom never, As God wills, so be it ever…”
“I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” Don’t keep the secret to yourself. Tell this secret to any and to all. We don’t want this secret to be kept a secret!
4:14-20 A True Support Group Hymn 464
The Philippian Christians were a support group for Paul. Both the congregation as well as individuals gave and prayed and worked. And of course Paul prayed for them and sent this epistle to them. We need to support each other also in the church of our Lord today. We agree on God’s Word. We therefore work together to carry His Word to those around us. In this greatest work on earth we should be supporting each other. We need it. Sometimes a rebuke or a reprimand is called for. Other times comfort and encouragement are needed.
Sometimes the helpful word of praise is given. Paul called the Philippians his partners in the Gospel. A partnership means that both share in the work and it is not left to one to do all. A partnership means you know each other which makes it all the better to help each other. And how we know we need that help. The devil is the devouring lion. The world ridicules and the sinful flesh tries to embarrass us so that we compromise. Paul says to his partners “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” We need that mutual sharing of woes and burdens. We aught to be shedding that sympathizing tear for we are tied together in this fellowship by the love of Christ.
When you wonder what to say to a fellow Christian to help, think what Christ would have said and search the Word to better speak what is needed. If a fellow soldier is wounded and you are in his company, what do you do? You reach out to raise him up and have him lean on you as you assist him to medical help. It is no different in the church. We all are wounded sorely at times by sin. God has brethren there to lean on and to get the needed Word of help and healing to you. Our help to one another is “a fragrant offering, and a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
“Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love; The fellowship of kindred minds…one in Christ and one in heart.” The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.