"Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. 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.
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."
Philippians 4:1-9 (ESV)
The Philippian church, Paul describes as his ‘joy and crown’. Confident that the Gospel had transformed this community, he writes about small things that were surfacing and could cause big problems for them (and for us). We need to keep our mind at peace so that we can clearly hear God’s voice. Paul addresses how to frame thinking about suffering. Suffering is part of the package when you follow Jesus. We share in His life and resurrection but also His suffering. Jesus told His followers that they would have peace not when their circumstances were good, but in Him (John 16:33). Rejoice in God and receive His peace.
The Philippians had a lot of pressure from many directions. Back then, people had a short lifespan and there was a lot of poverty. The leader of their church was in jail far away, they were being pestered by the Jews to reject Paul’s teaching and in a Greco-Roman world would have been viewed as atheists for not following their numerous gods. They would have been blamed for bad things because they weren’t honouring the common gods. When things go wrong for Christians it isn’t automatically a sign that we’ve done something wrong. Our calling is to bring the Prince of Peace into a troubled world and we don’t need to find quiet and calm to do it because He lives in us.
Paul gives us three key things in this passage:
- Be a peacemaker (verses 2-5). Are you a creator of chaos or a peacemaker? We must constantly choose life and sow peace. To be gracious is to forego your rights for the sake of others. Paul writes specifically at the beginning of chapter 4 to help two members of the church agree so that they can be one in Christ. Don’t underestimate the power of a unified church. Ask yourself if you are a peacemaker in how you manage your relationships and conflicts? This is not about whether to stand for truth or never disagreeing but about letting go of the things that Jesus isn’t concerned about. Sometimes we need to lighten up, bring joy and choose to be in relationship over being right.
- Specifically tell God what you need (verses 6-7). Many of us suffer from anxiety and getting medical help is important but, we need to allow God into our inner monologue if we are ever going to change it. Paul says ‘don’t worry about anything’ instead, tell God about it in prayer. When Jesus taught us to pray it begins with reminding us of who God is and praying that He would reign in our present moment. Focus on our mighty God and reject anxiety.
Paul mentions petitions which are urgent requests: when a crisis arises. Don’t wait for the crisis to talk to God. It is so important to have regular times each day when we talk to God and first thank Him for what He has already done and second, tell Him what you need, trusting in Him to work in the situation. Your prayer is your time where you transfer the burden to God and He takes over. If God has provided jobs, homes and healings in the past, He can do it again! Confess to yourself what He has already done, and “lean not on your own understanding”(Proverbs 3:5).
- Think about good things (verses 8-9). We can easily fill our mind with bad things, or try and empty our mind but our mind is supposed to be full: full of good things. God promises that those who think on good things will have His peace (Isaiah 26:3). Consider what good things have happened recently? What are you hoping for? What beautiful things can you see when you walk outside? It doesn’t have to be a religious thing to be good.
SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
- Can you share any examples of when God has provided something very specific or seemingly a small detail that you had prayed about?
- List some good things! What are some of the things that God has already done for your group? What has He done this year? What are we looking forward to/hoping for?
- Without judging each other, how is your prayer routine going? What are some of the ways we could incorporate more chats with God into our day?
- What are some of the good things that we can share with non-believers to bring joy not religion (eg. walking together in nature, positive social media accounts, uplifting books, community projects or gifting food)?