August 21, 2016
Philippians 4 is truly one of my favorite passages in all the Bible! And yes, I like it best in the Revised Standard Version! …even though I know Jesus spoke, and Paul wrote – in the King James English! No, of course not. They spoke and wrote in Greek. But it was King James Greek!
Several weeks ago, I started this “journey” in Philippians, and I said that the church in Philippi was one of Paul’s most beloved congregations. And lest you didn’t get that, listen to these words at the beginning of this his fourth and concluding chapter. “Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” I love that! “My joy and my crown!” Think of the feelings that go behind those words!
After that there are some words about a couple of women. And he asks for prayer for them. Apparently there is some sort of disagreement. (Yes they had disagreement – way back then!) And he describes these women as having labored “side by side with me in the Gospel.” What does that say about the validity of women in ministry!
Next, Paul gives the first of his concluding thoughts. And these are important. These are thoughts he wants to “leave them with.” I often like to do that. At the end of my message you’ve heard me say, “Here’s the thought I want you to leave here with.” People often remember the last thing someone says. It’s part of how our minds work.
Well, the first of those “last things” is this. “Rejoice in the Lord.” And he says it twice! “Again I say, ‘Rejoice.’” And he tells them that for two reasons. One, he knows that the God who loves them wants his people to be joyful! And second, he, Paul, who also loves them, wants them to be joyful!
Isn’t that what we want for our loved ones? Don’t we want the people we love to be happy? I can’t tell you how many times people have said that to me about their friends and family. Maybe it was a sorrowful time. Maybe it was a time their loved ones were going through difficulties. Maybe they were making great changes in their lives. And the people have said to me, “I just want them to be happy.”
Well, Paul wanted that happiness for his beloved Philippians! And God wants the same thing. He wants us to live joyful, happy lives. Not perfect lives, mind you. And I say this a lot. We go through difficulties, loss, disappointment. But we can still have joy in sorrow.
C. S. Lewis even made a comment once, that joy and sorrow are not that far apart. Think of it. We sometimes laugh in the saddest moments of our lives, and we cry at our happiest. Think about that!
I had a tearful “good-bye” on Friday from a little friend I had gotten to know this week. We had a camp duck at Kirkwood! And as the camping season was ending, there would no longer be anyone to take care of him, and he wasn’t big enough to be on his own, yet. And I know what you’re all thinking! But that wouldn’t work out this time. So I packed him up, and on the way home, I took him to the wildlife rehab center in Chalfont. (That’s a great place, by the way, if you ever find little animals who need care!) Well, I was sad when I had to say “good-bye.” But, I was also very happy to know he was going to get wonderful, loving care, and be with a whole flock of orphaned and misfit ducks! And I don’t know
if the tears came more from the sorrow, or the joy!
Well, Paul tells us that God wants us to be joyful in this life he gave us – no matter what the circumstances! And I believe he was. He says so at the end of this chapter. In all his difficulties, and there were many, he did know how to be content – no matter what!
He gave them the secret of that contentment – that happiness. And here it is. “Share everything with God, and seek his peace!” That’s it! That’s first on his list of the ways to know the happiness God wants for us in this life. “Share everything with God, and seek his peace!”
Here’s the way he said it. “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Share everything! Supplication, is asking for things. Thanksgiving, is gratitude for the things God has done for us. In all things, good or not so good, share your lives all day long, with God – God who
walks beside you! Oh, you may forget some days. I know I do! But when you remember again, you’ll realize how great it is. Share all of your life with God, “and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So that’s the first thing. “Share everything with God, and seek his peace.” Then, here’s the second important part of this as Paul saw it. “Choose what you think about!” Without making a choice in our thoughts, our minds will race about everywhere. You know that! “So Choose,” he says, “to think about good things.” Again, here are his words. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Again, Paul wants them to be the positive, upbuilding, encouraging people he talked about earlier in Chapter 2. We talked about that last week. “If there is any encouragement in Christ.” That’s what Paul wants. He wants the very best for them. And so does God. Or perhaps I should say, God wants the very best for them, and so does Paul! So, thinking about whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and gracious and excellent, is a great way to be positive, upbuilding, and encouraging people!
We have a choice in this life when it comes to people. We can either look for the good in them and encourage them. Or we can look for the bad in them and criticize them. And that is our choice. And like “thinking on these things,” we have to make that choice, or the choice will be made for us, mainly by our feelings. Because, we tend to see the bad in others, especially when it affects us negatively. Isn’t that right?
So, in all things, Paul wants us to make that positive choice. And he sees “thinking on these things” as one of the keys to being “content in all circumstances.” And of course the last thing to that secret cannot go without saying. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” When you’re praying “in everything,” pray for the strength and the vision to see the good, to think on the true and honorable, etc… I believe that is a great prayer! And if we’re willing, God will honor it!
So, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Let all men see your forbearance.” That means, let everybody see how you love one another and look for the good in each other, even though you might not agree. And choose! Choose, to share everything with God and seek his peace. Choose, to think about what is “true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and gracious and excellent.” Choose, to seek the good in each other and encourage it! Choose, to seek God’s strength.
Know that God wants the very best for you! He wants you to be content and joyous, no matter what the circumstances! And he can give you the strength!
Eternal God, help us, give us the strength, to be content in all circumstances. Help us to be the joyful, encouraging people Paul was writing about in Philippians. Help us to know your peace. Thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness to us. Thank you for sending your son to show us your kingdom in our midst. We pray in his name, Amen.