1. SCRIPTURE READING:
Phil.4:1-9 (ESV) ~ “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. 2I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have laboured side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
We must agree that the church in general is very unstable and both the church as well as many of God’s children, seemingly do not remain standing against the onslaughts of Satan. In addition, we experience divisiveness; various problems; anxiety; pain and heartache, as well as disillusionment, etc.
The question now is; why does this happen? Because we so often do not conform to the requirements of the Word of God and consequently we have a lack of stability in our own lives and in the life of the congregation. In addition, the church and believers are under a full-scale and never-ending attack of the enemy. ln Joh.16:1-4 Jesus prepared us to expect this combat ~ “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” We must be aware of these satanic attacks, and that is why Jesus warned us to be vigilant. Peter and Paul constantly refer to this matter in their letters. We must never underestimate our own fleshly desires. So many times, we want to be considered as important, accepted by others, and often we want to be pitied for our own selfish reasons. We often compromise with the world making so-called love our excuse.
What I want to say is that we so often – give in to the attacks of Satan and our own sinful desires, as well as our sinful inclination. Paul issues a clear warning in our Scripture reading in order to ensure that we have no misconceptions regarding these matters.
3. SPIRITUAL STABILITY:
Our Scripture reading starts with the word “therefore” and I’m sure that you all know that when a verse or a paragraph in Scripture starts with the word “therefore,” we must immediately ask the question “wherefore”? In this case, the “therefore” is a glorious bridge between chapter 3, with all its great doctrinal statements, and the intensely practical chapter 4. Verse one summarises the preceding doctrines in one practical issue. Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us – because of His life, death, and resurrection and the resulting victory over sin and the devil – we are now to stand firm in Him and united as God’s soldiers against a spiritually hostile environment.
4. THE CHURCH IN PHILIPPI:
We must not be misled regarding the church in Philippi. They had an excellent relationship with Paul and he loved them dearly. They befriended and supported him under very difficult circumstances (4:16). For a lengthy period of time they were the only congregation that supported him financially (4:15). They worked closely with him (1:5); he held them in his heart (1:7); they prayed for him (1:19) and he longed to be with them (2:24).
All these admirable attributes did not imply that they were faultless. When we read through the whole Epistle we find that there was selfishness. Some people had fallen from a position of spiritual stability to become proud and haughty and consequently regarded their own interests as more important than those of others, or even more important than what God expected from them. There was conflict and the fact that Paul found it necessary to resolve these issues implies that the leaders were not doing their duty. People were also ungrateful, signifying what we often encounter in churches today.
Paul was deeply concerned regarding this church – that is exactly how we should be feeling about the church in general today. This compels us to examine ourselves regularly to ascertain whether there are deep-seated problems in our midst and should there be such problems the question is “What are we doing about it? What IS the leadership doing about it?” The leadership must always begin with themselves. If there is no spiritual stability among the leaders it will be reflected in the congregation.
Where there is no such stability we are being deprived of many things. It is a source of unhappiness and disillusionment for any person caught in this trap.
Not one of us wants to be caught in this whirlpool of sin and unhappiness. All of us want to be happy in the Lord. Every one of us desires to be stable and steadfast and we want to grow spiritually. The question is HOW? How can I be steadfast? How can I be like Christ? How can I live a holy life? How can I become spiritually mature? All these things are basic principles for a Christian life How can we remain standing? How can we prevent being burdened by sin or even succumbing to the attacks of the enemy and the world?
The key to these questions is found in Phil.4:1 ~ “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” Stand Firm in the Lord! Stand firm!
This is not the first time Paul said this to them He also said it in 1:27 ~ “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing ﬁrm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”
The Greek verb used is στήκω (“steko”) which literally means to defend your territory when it is being attacked. And that explains everything! Take your stand against Satan’s attacks! Don’t give in when being persecuted – don’t compromise – Stand firm!
In 4:2-9 Paul provides them with a few basic and very practical principles on how to live a stable, steadfast spiritual life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – he gave us the solution as to how to deal with spiritual warfare. In order to live a victorious Christian life, you must study the principles recorded in these verses, which we can see as the Pastoral Heart of the Word of God and they should be practised in the Church.
Let us look briefly at Paul’s instructions and principles:
• Agree: We find the first principle in 4:2b ~ “…to agree in the Lord.” Peace and harmony are prerequisites in a congregation. Whenever a congregation experiences instability or conflict (sin in other words), spiritual stability cannot be expected. Spiritual steadfastness has nothing to do with your circumstances – it has everything to do with your attitude! It involves your thinking? Are your thoughts God-centred or self-centred? This is the same thing that Paul had in mind earlier when he wrote in 2:5 ~ “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (NIV).
In 2:2, Paul singles out two of his Philippian readers by name and asks them to adopt a common mind “in the Lord.” Although the point is disputed by commentators, the disagreement between these two women may have been at the bottom of the disunity that concerned Paul throughout the letter. But Paul’s exhortation to Euodia and Syntyche is simple: He asked them to overcome their dispute with one another (putting down), by putting the qualities that he mentioned in 2:1-4 into practice (putting on). In other words, they should be in a Spirit-produced fellowship with one another and this relationship should be characterised by “tenderness and compassion;” a mutual love, and a unity of purpose. It should, in addition, lead them to put the interests of the other ahead of their own. They must therefore “agree in the Lord.” There must be peace and harmony between these two ladies. This is also an indication to us, to realise the importance of discipline (Matt.18) in the church – in able to enjoy a Spirit-produced fellowship, discipline must be applied if sin is present in the church.
• Rejoice: We find our second principle in 4:4 ~ “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Why must we always be glad? Let me give you a few reasons – I can rejoice because:
– God controls my life;
– God saved me through His Son and our Saviour Jesus Christ and thus made me His own;
– He promised me an inheritance in Christ Jesus;
– Jesus is coming to fetch me to be with Him throughout eternity. He is already preparing a place for me.
– I am glad because God is enabling me to serve Jesus Christ;
– God is using me to lead others to Christ, as well as to encourage other Christians to love Him more deeply and to serve Him better;
– I am full of joy because I have immediate access to God, through Jesus Christ my Mediator – and He listens to every word I say;
– I am full of joy because death will be my gain.
And so, we can add more reasons for being joyful, Are you full of joy? Just give some thought to who God really is and who you are in Jesus Christ. Re-adjust your focus. Look beyond yourself and focus on God and His Word.
Remember 4:4 ~ “Rejoice…” In other words, Rejoice – NOT in your circumstances, but IN THE LORD!
What, if you have lost this joy? Be still and take your focus away from your circumstances and yourself and put it where it belongs. Remember – That is an instruction – a command! And, whether we want to hear it or not – to disobey this command is a sin (which of course, is never joyful).
• Reasonableness: We read in 4:5 ~ “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” Here we encounter a problem. Let us look at different Bible translations, The NAV (1983 – ‘Nuwe Afrikaanse Vertalig’ – for those of you who are Afrikaans speaking) “praat hier van, ‘inskiklik.’” The OAV (1933 – ‘Ou Afrikaanse Vertaling’) “vertaal ‘reasonableness’ met ‘vriendelik.’” The K.J.V. speaks of ‘moderation.’ The World English Bible translates it as ‘gentleness.’ The Young’s Literal Translation says ‘forbearance.’ The Tyndale Translation says ‘softness’ (German: “nachsicht”).
What does Paul mean? In this instance the Greek is very difficult to translate but the most apt meaning is most probably ‘gracious humility.’
What happens is this. You can for instance say:
– You offended me;
– You ill-treated me;
– You condemned me;
– You gave me a misrepresentation;
– I did not deserve what you gave or said about me;
– You did not give me what I deserved.
We can go on adding to the list. What should my reaction be to all of this? I must say: “You did all of these things to me, but I accept it with gracious humility! I do not make any claims.”
But Paul also says ~ “Let your gracious humility be known to everyone.” Our gentleness – our humility – our reasonableness, must not be hidden. In our dark and cruel world, the light of our Saviour Jesus Christ and His Gospel shines brightly by gentle words and deeds which come from those who are learning Iowliness and meekness from Him who has bidden us to take up His yoke. My dear brother and sister, gracious humility and gentleness may be the first thing that a lost sinner notices about you, long before you have the opportunity to share the Gospel verbally with him, or her.
Gentleness enables a Christian to relate to children and very old folk, to the bereaved and sick sufferers, to those who are depressed and to those who have failed, as well as to those whose life seems “normal” for the time being.
• Anxious: We find our fourth principle in 4:6(a) ~ “…do not be anxious about anything…” Take all your anxieties to God’s throne. Don’t be spiritually unstable, it is unnecessary, because God is with us.
• Prayer: 4:6(b) ~ “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We must pray with thanksgiving in our heart – in other words, try to see God’s purpose in all circumstances and trials and thank Him, the sovereign God. Thank Him for…:
– The fact that He is always available;
– His unfailing promises;
– His plan for your life;
– His provision;
– His perfect work in your life;
– The promise of His return and everlasting life.
Thank, God instead of questioning Him. Thank God instead of doubting Him, Thank Him instead of rebelling against Him. 1 Pet.5:7 says ~ “…casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” and I add to it, “with thanksgiving in your hearts.”
What is the result of such an attitude? 4:7 ~ “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Guard you from what? Guard us from fear, anxiety and doubt.
Beloved, if we give our burdens to the Lord, we will find, peace and rest in our spirits. This peace will stand at the door of our hearts and guard our hearts and minds, so that anxious care and worry cannot enter. It is a glorious peace from the Lord that unbelievers cannot find and cannot explain, and it is a peace that even believers themselves cannot fully understand.
• Truth: To attain and maintain spiritual stability we must focus on the Godly virtues – those Godly virtues mentioned in Phil.4:8 ~ “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely. whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Please note – The last phrase is an instruction. Think about these things! THINK!
What must we think about?
– Whatever is true;
– Whatever is honourable;
– Whatever is just;
– Whatever is pure;
– Whatever is lovely;
– Whatever is commendable;
– Anything that is excellent or praiseworthy.
This is so different from what the world teaches us. Psychologists say we must delve into our past (“the rubbish bin of self”) if we want to get rid of trauma and psychosis, etc. No! We must do what the Word advises us to do. Focus on what is written in the Word of God – Focus on the Truth and you will experience stability. Then you will be spiritually and emotionally healthy. You will overcome the harassment of your traumatic past and you will be able to overcome the onslaughts of this world – you will be able to overcome the onslaughts of Satan and your own flesh. Then you will be happy and you, brothers and sisters, will no longer be stumbling blocks, Think about these things!
• Practice: Paul gives yet another list in 4:9 and he says that we must do these things – we must put these things into practice What are they? Paul says ~ “What you have learned and received and heard, and seen in me – practice these things.” The Philippian believers had to put into practice the truths that Paul has embodied as well as taught them. These truths must be put into practice. We have to live in such a way that the things we say are not drowned out by the lives we live. R.G. LeTourneau, inventor of the prototypes of nearly every piece of earth-moving equipment in use today, said: “If you are not serving the Lord, it proves you don’t love Him. If you don’t love Him, it proves you don’t know Him., because to know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to serve Him.”
True believers therefore hear. They meditate until they understand. Then they act upon it, putting it into constant practice, thereby showing that their house was built on rock. The result of this? 4:9b – Here we see that the God of peace will be with those who add holy obedience to their convictions and belief.
5. CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:
Our God of peace became Man for us. He died to give us peace with God. He rose again and ascended into heaven and will return to establish His reign of piece and He is with us now.
I know that none of these principles are easy. The difﬁculty of doing them and living them is where the problem of unity lies. It is one thing to say to each other: “Well, let us be of the same mind and work together. Let us rejoice. Let us show moderation,” but it is quite another thing to put these words into practice. Fortunately, Paul also knew how difﬁcult it is and therefore he has given us the solution to the problem. Have you ever noticed how many times he speaks of “being in the Lord”? In the original text, he mentioned this, three times in the ﬁrst four verses of chapter four and once he reminded the Philippians that…~ “the Lord is near.” The solution is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who will do in our lives, through the Holy Spirit, what we might judge impossible.
Christian unity will occur only as we surrender ourselves to Him and seek His will as His Holy Spirit enters our lives and begins to make us into the kind of men and women, children and young people that He would have us to be.