We move along now to some principles that we as believers should be living by. We saw last study that we must seek for unity and to continue to do the work of the Lord in every area of our life. That really started with coming together for the common goal of spreading the message of the Gospel as we looked at in our last study. In this study and the next one we will come upon some very familiar verses that we have a kind of pre-conceived idea of what these verses mean to us but we will unfold these in the very context of what Paul is speaking on. As we approach this passage of Scripture we need to remind ourselves that Paul is in his last section of this letter in which he is encouraging and exhorting these Philippian believers. He desires for these believers to grow spiritually as we have seen throughout this letter and here he starts with the encouragement to stand firm in the Lord Jesus as he says in Philippians 4:1.
This act of standing firm must be found in our ability to have unity between ourselves for the common goal of serving the Lord Jesus. That is what he dealt with last study and now he will move into a couple of other principles that we must live by to help us in standing firm for the Lord. This brings us to our first point.
1.Rejoicing always in the Lord.
Look with me at Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. This is really an easy concept to think about in terms of how we should be living seeing that we have been given salvation but this concept is not as easy to practice at times. It is hard to rejoice at times of distress and heartache or at times when the weight of life is weighing down on us. We find it difficult to have joy when others have hurt us in so many ways and we find it difficult even in ministry to always find joy because people seem to somehow drag you down with either their problems or some other conflict in the church. Even with all of this we are told here to rejoice in the Lord always. If anyone knew heartache and pain in life and in ministry it would be Paul. Just look at his hardships he listed in 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28 with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
He speaks about these hardships in numerous passages of Scripture throughout his letters and often in 2 Corinthians and we still want to know, how is it that Paul would say rejoice in the Lord always? Paul knew that anything that he went through was for a purpose that was beyond himself. Often we get stressed and upset about things because things aren’t going the way we think they should be. This type of self-centeredness causes us to lose sight of the fact that we should be joyful because of what God has done in us through the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says this at the beginning of 2 Corinthians about why he faces affliction and hardships the way he does. Look what he says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
The reason why he can rejoice at all times is because he knows that God is going to comfort him so that he can be a comfort to others. He continues on in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
The bottom line is that God allows us to go through the tough times not to tear us down but to help us in knowing that we need to trust in God more through whatever it is that we are faced with. One final thought in this point as we look again at what his attitude was in the face of affliction in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
I know this seems like an overview of 2 Corinthians but I really wanted to show that Paul knew that joy, which has really been the major theme of this letter, is what will keep us firm as we live for the Lord. I love that Paul says to Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. The fact that he stresses to rejoice twice here really shows that this needs to be our attitude in every situation simply because of what God has done in given to us salvation. Let’s now move on to our next point.
2.Be gentle towards others.
Look with me at Philippians 4:5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. Another fairly short verse with great content within. The word reasonableness is the Greek word epieikes (ep-ee-i-kace’) which means mild or gentle. This an attribute that we should always have towards others. In fact as we relate this to what Paul is speaking of, we know that we can’t have unity if we treat people with harshness and we will never reach people for the Lord if our attitude comes off as hard and rude. Our attitude should be seen as gentle and mild. I want to point out that this same word is used in other places when referring to the qualification of an overseer/pastor in 1 Timothy 3:3. The Bible says there in those qualification that an overseer, along with many other things, should be not violent but gentle.
This I believe gives us an even better look at what this word means. The overseer should not be violent or as the original definition would say, should not be a hot-tempered person or one that is prone to outburst of anger. We can look at another example of this in 1 Peter 2:18 where it says Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. Again if we look at the opposite attitude listed for these masters we see that instead of the good masters that are good and gentle, the bad masters are unjust.
The word gentle in this verse is the same Greek word we see in our Philippians 4:5 verse for reasonableness. What I want us to notice about the 1 Peter verse is the word unjust, this is the Greek word skolios (skol-ee-os’). This word means crooked, morally twisted or perverse. In fact this word is translated as unreasonableness in the NASB version of the Bible. This word describes someone that is evil and does things with a bent to harm instead of good. I think with both of these looks into what the opposition to this word epieikés is that we can determine that this reasonableness that we are to have towards all people is found in our good and gentle attitude. I think that we can sum up what this is by what Paul tells Titus in Titus 3:1-2 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
This even reminds me of what our Lord Jesus said when talking about how to deal with others in Luke 6:27-36 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
This really says it all, we are to not be people that seek revenge or retaliates but are to deal with others in an attitude of love and kindness that is seen clearly by other people. This is the attitude of a true follower of the Lord Jesus. This leads us to a final point in this study that we will briefly look at now.
3.The Lord is near.
Look with me at Philippians 4:5 again with our focus on the second part: Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. As we look at the last part of this verse I know this seems like it is out of place here. But this was really a common way that many other writers spoke when encouraging their audience to live firmly in trusting God. 1 Peter 4:7 says The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
I know Peter says the end of all things is at hand instead of the Lord is at hand like we see in Philippians 4:5 but the concept is the same. James says this too in James 5:8-9 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
The idea is not that the coming of Christ is necessarily about to happen but that we need to think about how we are living because our Lord is near to us everyday. He is with us now and will be with us forever. The Lord is here and near and we should be recognizing that His return will be soon or that one day we will take our last breath. But as we look at this in the context of our Scripture we need to understand that God is near to us, He is watching us and He wants to use us and to recognize that He is near will help you in treating others like we should and stand firm in the Lord. With this thought we will really see in our next study how this knowledge of our Lord being near to us will guide us to be firm in our trust towards our Lord.