Philippians 4 – Continuing in the Gospel
So you’re a Christian, now what? So you’re involved in ministry or serving at your local church, now what? Paul’s conclusion of his letter to the Philippian church is a call for all of us who claim the name of Christ to continue in what we say we believe. Paul challenges them in what we so often tend to pull away from as we walk with Christ – the practically functional aspects of our faith.
Paul begins by acknowledging and addressing what anyone who has been in church knows – there will be conflict even among believers. Paul encourages unity without ever really taking a side. We must assume that the disagreement may not have been of a moral nature since Paul doesn’t take a side. Church life will always be full of disagreements where no one is right. We must be willing to give grace and serve one another, especially when our personal preferences are the only points of contention.
This disagreement pulls Paul into a string of connected ideas that build on each other. And he starts with joy. What is the basis of our joy? If we could really dissect the roots or our joy, would we find God at the heart of our joy or our own personal preferences? Is our ultimate and final joy found in Christ or in something else we want? “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (v.4) If our joy is in the Lord we don’t have to hold on to personal preference. Finding our greatest joy in Christ alone will lead to several wonderful things:
- freedom from anxiety
- unhindered prayer
Paul does not mince words. Finding our joy in Christ opens wide the doors to be able go further with Christ in life. When we place our joy in any other thing, we neglect godly reason, freedom, prayer, and peace. Watch anyone who would rather hold on to their own personal preference instead of extending grace and you’ll find someone who struggles with one or more of these.
The peace that flows from our joy being found in Christ leads to a guardianship of our hearts and minds. Paul is not encouraging us to simply guard our hearts and minds ourselves, although we should be vigilant. Paul is suggesting a better guard than we could ever be. As we find joy in Christ and His peace dwells in us our hearts and minds are guarded by God Himself. This is a tremendously comforting thought. He is the one that determines what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. When our joy is in Him, we can trust Him to guard our hearts and minds more diligently than we ever could. Most of us miss our on this because we would prefer to do the guarding ourselves, and in holding to our preferences as our greatest joy we allow ourselves to be deceived as to what is true, honorable, just, pure, and the like.
God being our greatest joy leads to peace that guards our hearts and minds that translates to outward manifestations of the Spirit’s working. Paul gives two examples that should be evident in the life of a follower of Christ: giving and contentment. How we give tells a great deal about where we find our joy. If our money is about our happiness, our children’s happiness, or how people perceive us we have traded joy in Christ for joy in possessions. I am not saying that having nice things proves that your joy is not in Christ. I am saying that if your money goes to things and rarely goes to your church, missions, or ministries there may be a disconnect between what you are claiming you believe and how you live. The Philippians went to great lengths to support Paul. When was the last time you gave at the cost of your comfort?
Paul then goes after contentment, something that is greatly lacking in the America as a whole. We are rarely content with what we have been given. We are trained from childhood to never be satisfied with where we are. We are coached to go for the next best thing. We are in a constant state of discontentment. If our joy is in Christ alone, we are content with whatever He has given us. Again, this is not a condemnation for those who have been given much. This is an exhortation to examine the roots of your joy. If you lost all that you had materially, would you still have joy?
“The Lord is at hand.” (v.5) At the heart of Paul’s conclusion lies the understanding that our time is short. Even if we live to see death, our life is a vapor, a breath. If we can remember that, we tend to not get focused on accumulating stuff here. We tend to see our preferences as secondary or less. If we can keep this in perspective, we can focus on what really matters without the distractions of pride and ignorance. Our faith and joy are in Him, not in our ability to protect or perfect. We would do well to remember that we will stand before Him soon. Much sooner than any of us would like to admit. I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace,