This ain’t easy, and wasn’t meant to be …

As described in the post for the outline, this chapter is rich with verses that impact your daily living. Let’s take them out into the light for a closer look. We will use the outline as a guide and add some meat to its bones.

Just a heads up, Paul is dealing with some real life issues in chapter four. And, he doesn’t line it with lace and velvet. He is writing while in prison and suffering for his faith. This chapter has stout lyrics set to a terse tune. You might feel a couple of “ouches” along the way. There are on purpose. So, to reflect the tone of the chapter, I have written with a serious disposition as well.

Each Christian should be:

Seeking unity in Christ: verses 1-5

Where two or three are gathered together … someone will fuss. Paul implored two ladies in the church at Philippi to bury the hatchet, and not in each other’s back. They were feuding and it was time to stop. He longed for them to walk in unity, and he admonished them to do so.

Paul does not instruct them to be of the same opinion, or “perspective,” (I am so tired of that word, it seems like a $52 word for opinion or personal preference). He told them to be “of the same mind.” This more than just agreeing. This means that they are to agree in thought AND attitude. This is a commitment to God’s Truth and submitting to it to direct their thoughts and actions. It is a surrender of self and determination to be like Christ.

Also, the Philippian believers were to rejoice “in the Lord.” Genuine joy does not bubble up from warm, fuzzy circumstances. It comes from knowing, trusting, and relying upon God and His promises. The way verse four is constructed means that the rejoicing is to be continual, or a deliberate ongoing action.

Knowing peace in Christ: verses 6-9

Here are eight critical words: God does not want you to be anxious! He wants you to have peace. You thoughts and attitudes will be determined by what you focus your mind on. If you focus on yourself, your situation, or your ability to take care of yourself, you actually should be worrisome and anxious. We cannot take care of our lives. God can, and must. Verse six shows us how to avoid worry and anxiety:

1. Follow His command. God grants us the power obey. You must commit to changing the way you think and what you think about. God does not magically change it. You must work on it. He will provide grace, strength, and wisdom. But, you must work at it. Memorizing key Bible verses is a great way to catalyze, then augment this. Did I mention that you must be disciplined in your thinking and work at it? Pause here for some self-examination … then work at it.

2. Pray. Duh! When you begin to fret or fume, you can stop it, quit focusing on self or the situation, and pray. Pray through your memory verses. Pray about the situation. Pray for power to overcome your anxiety. Then, move on. Remember Philippians 3:13-14 — forget the past and press on. Did I mention to work at it?

3. Be disciplined. Here’s the itchy reality: if you do not commit to changing the way you think or what you focus on, do not memorize verses, decide to focus on self rather than praying, and keep going back to whatever bothers you, then you do not want God’s peace. He doesn’t magically change all of this for you. You have to want it. You have to be disciplined in pursuing His peace. It’s a process, not an event. It requires focused effort, not hoping and waiting. Did I mention that this takes work?

Notice what His peace does for us in verse 7: it guards our hearts and minds. It doesn’t zap our hearts and minds, or put sprinkle magical, Heaven dust on them. It guards your mind and heart; it stands guard as you do what you are supposed to: fill your heart and mind with Scripture, pray, forget the past, focus on God’s word, and press on. Speaking of what we should focus on, verses eight and nine follow up on seeking God’s peace by telling us what to focus our minds on:

  • Things that are true (God’s Word); not things that exist in our mind and might not exist in reality. Have you ever kept track of things you worry about. It has been stated that 90% of the things that we worry about never actually happen.
  • Things that are noble, reverent, dignified; not things that are irreverent, or profane, or folly
  • Things that are fair and morally pure; not immoral or unfair things
  • Things that are pleasing and grace-based, not things that are upsetting or un-winsome
  • Things that are worthy of honor and praise.

If you memorize God’s Word, focus on these types of things (not on, ahem, Netflix or Facebook), commit to turning away from worry/anxiety when it springs up, and to praying, you will come to know the peace of God. If you don’t do these things, well, then you are asking for what you will get — frustration, worry, and fretfulness.

Before we leave this section, it is important to see that unity among believers comes through:

  • Having the same mindset in Christ. 3
  • Having ongoing joy in Christ. 4
  • Culitivating and demonstrating gentleness toward others. 5 (Note: developing gentleness is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, and discipline.)
  • Developing a non-anxious, peaceful mind. 6-7
  • Focusing on things that honor God and are wholesome.

Growing in strength in Christ: verses 10-13

Growing in Christ means pushing through our own emotions, thoughts, and motives. We must press on. Notice that Paul says in verse 11 that to be content in whatever circumstance required him learning to do so. Again, there is not a one time balm that God rubs on our minds for this. Paul said that “I have learned in whatever state I am in, to be content.” He learned it! Cringe alert: even though he had a hard life and was treated unfairly, Paul never felt sorry for himself or played the victim. He kept pressing on (Chapter 3:13-14). Did I mention that he worked at it?

So, the context for verse 13, which is often quoted, is one of learning to endure and gaining strength from Christ as we learn to press on and be content. I once saw a coffee mug in a Christian book store in Memphis that had a picture of a man playing golf along with Philippians 4:13 quoted on it. I laughed out loud when I saw it. Composing from a prison cell, Paul was not writing to the Philippians to say that Jesus would give us strength to improve at our hobbies, or be more successful in our leisure, or have an easier time with our easy lives. Paul was saying, “Hey, I am in prison for Christ, but I have learned to be content in whatever situation am I in because I draw strength from Him as I suffer for Him.” Jesus doesn’t care about anyone’s golf game. Really. He’s bigger than that. We should be too.

Receiving provision from Christ: verses 14-20

It is through fellow believers that God often provides. Notice how the Philippian believers had helped Paul by encouraging him, serving alongside him, and supporting him financially. We should do the same for other believers.

I will save a summary and wrap up for the post on Friday on application for chapter four. In the meantime, as a way to tie chapter four together I offer these wise words shared by a saint from years ago regarding living the Christian: God will provide the fish. But, you have dig the worms, bait the hook, and go fishing!

Well said. When it comes to developing unity in Christ, knowing peace from Christ, and growing in strength in Christ, did I mention that … you have to work at it?

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