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Thursday, October 1, 2015

TOMS: Philippians 4

For an introduction to this series, click here.

September 28, 2007

Paul wraps up this book with a variety of encouragements. 

"I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored 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." (4:2-3)

I cannot imagine what Euodia and Syntyche must have thought when they heard their names mentioned in Paul's letter as it was read aloud. There were no doubt some interesting looks around the room. But people arguing and not getting along in the church can be worse than open sin. At least that can be dealt with easily, if the church leadership has the guts to do it. But small personal arguments can tear a  church apart. The word translated "true companion" is an interesting one. According to the marginal note, the words can also be translated "loyal Syzygus" meaning it could be someone's name that is mentioned, a name that means "companion."

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, 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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me— practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." (4:4-9)

These are some of the hardest verses in Scripture to actually live out in our daily lives. It is hard to rejoice in all things, because not everything that happens in life makes us happy. It's hard to rejoice when bad things happen, at least things that seem to be bad. Of course we know that all things work together for our good, but we can't see it all the time. It's definitely hard to not be anxious about anything. Worry comes so easily to us. But the Lord doesn't want us to be that way. Worry and anxiety is hard on us physically, emotionally and spiritually. But we all do it. It is hard to think only of things that are lovely, pure, commendable, excellent, and so on, because the world we live in is full of things that are ugly, dirty, despicable and poor. I think they key to this passage is the last verse, where Paul reminds us that the God of peace will be with us. The Lord does not want us to be pollyannish about life, but He offers us peace, contentment and joy in the midst of our troubles.

I should mention in passing that I have heard people use verse 8, the "think on these things" verse, as a club to make people ashamed of their music, entertainment, whatever. Of course there is vulgar entertainment out there, but the way I have heard that verse preached, people shouldn't read their Bible, especially the Old Testament, because it includes many of those things that are preached against.

"I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (4:10-13)

Of course verse 13 is one of the most popular verses in all the Bible. Paul's statement is a statement of confidence based on a lifetime of experience learning what the Lord can do.

"Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen." (4:14-20, ESV)

Giving is a teaching in Scripture that is mentioned a lot, but unfortunately is rarely preached upon Biblically. Instead of laying a guilt trip on people, like most sermons I have heard, Paul points to the rewards of giving. The Lord blesses those who honor Him, and we are foolish if we ignore that fact. We are commanded to give, but we are not commanded in the normal sense of the word. We are commanded because it is the best thing for us, not commanded because of an arbitrary rule or because we will be punished if we don't.

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