When last I spoke, I talked about Paul’s encouraging the Philippians to live in unity, how they should interact with each other and the conduct they should uphold in the face of persecution, all rooted in knowing who they are and what they represent as believers. Something that Paul touches on not only in Philippians, but in many if not all of his letters. This knowing of who we are in Christ, and what that means to us and for us. I’m reminded of a Scripture from the previous chapter
Only let us live up to what we have already attained.Philippians 3:16 NIV
Let us act in a way that properly represents who God has already made us to be. In today’s message we will continue to explore what that looks like. Looking at the text we will find a call for unity, a call to rejoice, and a call to focus. So without further ado, let’s open up to
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:2-9 NIV
In our reading, the first thing we can see is Paul’s
Call to Unity
In verses 2 and 3 we find Paul mentioning a couple of people. Specifically Euodia and Syntyche. It would seem that whatever dispute they were having was significant enough that it warranted addressing in the company of the congregation. With that said, It’s clear by Paul’s language that although they were arguing, they were people who Paul thought well of. He thought to plead with them to overcome their differences, and asked his co-workers within the church to help them, so that they can be of the same mind.
Something that I’ve come to realize more and more as I continue to grow, is the necessity of unity.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV
And Jesus said in Mark 3:24
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.Mark 3:24 NIV
These are just a couple of examples of why unity is important. Now, there are hills that we as believers should die on. Like understanding that God exists, that Jesus is His Son who was sent to reconcile us to Him, and that Jesus is the only way to the Father.
If we can for a second imagine ourselves as a family. Do you think God, being a Father, wants to see his children fighting? I know some people listening are parents, would you want to see your kids fighting each other? I’m not a parent, yet, but I’m a son and a friend, and I wouldn’t want to see my parents or friends fighting. The point being, especially in God’s house, unity trumps disunity.
Now to my second point. Paul’s
Call to Rejoice
First we talked about unity within the church, now we are talking about what our attitude should be like when facing adversity, along with the why and how..
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:4-7 NIV
It can be a strange thing to think about. To rejoice, to be gentle, to not be anxious, all while facing persecution. Honestly, if a person told me that I should rejoice while I’m currently battling a storm I’d have half a mind to tell them off, or at least the old me would have. I know when reading this though, that Paul wasn’t just some bystander who couldn’t relate. That the words he wrote he himself had to put to the test. As a believer I suppose it would be difficult to be a light to the world if I acted no different.
When we respond with kindness when mistreated, are assured when facing turmoil, and can remain glad, we show the world that there is actually something to this whole faith thing.
We know that God is near and that when we pray and trust Him He can give us a peace which surpasses all understanding.
I’ll move to my final point. Paul’s
Call to Focus
Moving on to verses 8 and 9 we see a call to a kind of life that results from a specific way of thinking. Paul mentions some virtues that we should focus on. Paul says
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:8-9 NIV
Ultimately, in life, whatever we choose to focus on will lead us, for better or worse. We can focus on that which draws us closer to God and righteous living, or we can focus on something that leads us in the other direction.
When I was younger I used to think that what I, figuratively, put into my ears and eyes didn’t affect me. The music I listened to, movies with excessive violence, language, etc. It wasn’t until later that I realized that my attitude during the day could significantly change based on what I allowed myself to focus on. By cracking open the Bible early in the day I can find myself at peace during a hard day, whereas not doing so I can find my mind troubled even when the day is easy. A great illustration I’ve heard before is that people are like containers of toothpaste. Whatever we put inside ourselves will eventually come out when squeezed. What we allow ourselves to focus on will lead us.
That’s something we may want to consider when we go out today. It would be nice if we could have church everyday to help remind us, but I’ve found that I have a personal responsibility, to God, to myself, and to the body, to make sure my mind stays right. It’s not always easy living in the world that we do, there are many distractions that can present themselves, but as a believer I have now what I never had before I knew God, and that’s the Holy Spirit of God in me to empower me to do what would normally be impossible. The range goes for everyone who believes.
So whether it’s the need to be united, the need to remain strong, or the need to focus, we can.
Will you all join with me in continuing to strive for a manner of living that lives up to the Gospel of Christ. Not allowing for division and remaining strong and focused as we venture out into the world? Let’s pray.
Lord, I pray for peace, and I pray for strength. I’m sure we’ve all had battles where we’ve needed to rely on your strength, and even now there may be some in here or some watching online who are currently in the midst of their battle, but I just want to say that we put our trust in you today. That whatever we may have been brought to I can say with confidence that you will bring us through.
If there are any watching who have yet to come to know you or even just want to strengthen their already existing relationship with you, they can feel free to follow along.
Father, I thank you for your goodness and grace. And for the sacrifice of your Son on the cross for my transgressions. I recognize Christ as my redeemer who died and rose back to life and submit to Him as Lord of my life. Thank you for this day and for being with me always. Amen.
“‘“The Lord bless youNumbers 6:24-26
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’