Philippians 4

The first verse of this chapter is lovely. Paul address his readers as brothers and sisters whom he loves and longs for, then calling them dear friends. He tells them to stay firm in the Lord.

Theres also mention of Euodia and Syntyche, two women in the church who Paul addresses.

Then Paul reminds us again to rejoice. In face he says it twice. He tells us how to do it, pray with thanksgiving and not to be anxious about anything. He also tells us to be gentle to everyone. It’s interesting what Paul equates with rejoicing and what he doesn’t. Not being gentle and being anxious will rob you of joy. Praying, asking and thanking, brings reasons to rejoice. Then we will have peace which is incomprehensible in the situations we face. It’s also interesting that this peace guards and protects us.

Paul also tells us where to concentrate our thoughts. We are to think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.

Now in the previous post, I seem to have a bit of a rant about “positive psychology”. This is the idea that thinking about good things creates good things. But here it is, in the Bible. Paul thought about it first! It’s in fact proven that gratitude (or thankfulness) keeps you happier. And here Paul is saying it 2000 years ago.

However, given the context it and the words it uses, it’s pretty much telling us to place our thoughts on God, Jesus and all the good things they’ve given us. We are to think of all good things, and remember all good things come from God. Then, when we have remembered this, we can rejoice with thanksgiving.

Paul then tells us that he has learned to be content whatever the circumstances. And it’s no wonder. Paul has trained himself to do these things:

  • rejoice always;
  • be thankful;
  • be kind to one another;
  • look to God for solutions;
  • think about good things;
  • not to be anxious.

If we follow these steps, then I’m sure we can learn to be content in whatever circumstances too.

Philippians 3

In this chapter, Paul reminds us of the following things:

  • rejoice;
  • do not put confidence in ourselves;
  • be wary of those who try to ask us to put confidence in ourselves;
  • to press on to take hold of what God has promised;
  • don’t set your eyes on earthly things;
  • our citizenship is in heaven.

This chapter is equally encouraging and equally concerning. This is mainly because of the messages the world gives us is all about putting faith in ourselves. It tells us to believe in ourself and to be confident in our own abilities. We should believe in our own abilities then everything else is going to work out.

Unfortunately, this is not simply true, so is only setting yourself up for disappointment. In fact, it puts unfair pressure on people and if you don’t succeed and everything doesn’t work out, well you only have yourself to blame, don’t you. Simply, the world doesn’t run on positive thinking and self-esteem. Unexpected tragedies happen, people get sick, people fail. So, put your value and self-esteem in something that actually delivers what it promises: Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.

Seeing as we have this promise, we can stop chasing towards worldly things and worldly success and glory. Paul makes a list of everything that would have given him respect and esteem in his culture: followed traditions, a good family heritage, great academic achievements in learning the law, outwardly respectable, a good job. He did everything his society deemed a success story. I wonder what that list would be in our day and age? First-class honours degree? Becoming a doctor? Well paid job? Nice house in a nice neighbourhood? Fashionable?

However, he knows that these are worthless trash compared to knowing Christ. Degrees, money, jobs, homes, clothes, cars, anything we deem of any worth are worthless compared to knowing Christ. In fact, Paul considers them a loss. I’m not sure what he means, but perhaps he laments of the time spent chasing these things instead of seeking Jesus. So instead, we can choose to chase Jesus and the promises he gives us.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

verse 14

Obviously, pursuing Christ instead of worldly things will make us weird, even strangers in this world. But we remember that we don’t actually belong here.

But our citizenship is in heaven.

First part of verse 20

What a glorious reminded, especially for someone like me who lives overseas. (If you’ve arrived here by chance, I have another blog which discusses my life in Cambodia). I’m lucky that I love the UK, where I’m from, and I love Cambodia where I now live. However, there are moments where I realise I’m a stranger in both these places. In Cambodia, it’s more obvious. I look different, I talk differently, my lifestyle is different. But having lived abroad for a number of years really makes you feel different in your passport country too. So while I try and think about it as having “two homes”, there’s a realisation that neither one is really my home. My home is in heaven with Jesus. Yes, he’s called me to be here in Cambodia and he has fortunately given me a huge love for this country. But, I don’t really belong here. That’s okay, but I long for the day where I do belong because I’m with Jesus.

Philippians 2

This chapter begins with how we should respond to being united in Christ: with humility, by being like-minded, putting others before yourselves. We are to consider Christ and his mindset, which Paul tells us in what is perhaps one of the earliest hymns in the church’s history.

who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

verses 6-8

The hymn goes on to tell us how God raised Christ, and how every knee will bow and every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

The next passage is interesting in terms of the idea of salvation. We are clearly saved by faith and grace and not by works. However, verse 12 tells us to “continue to work our your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.” This still puts the authority at God’s feet, but it’s not passive and we’re not to just kick our feet up and relax. We are to be willing and active participants in the work the God is doing and we should be actively obedient to his will and purpose.

Paul tells the Philippians the way they can be blameless and pure, and it probably surprising what he write. He tells them to not grumble or bicker. I know I’m definitely guilty of grumbling, and if I don’t actually bicker, I know I want to!

The last part of the passage is about Timothy and Epaphroditus. Both are willing, faithful and sacrificial servants to God and both submit themselves to Paul. The testimony here of their faith is an encouragement to us, especially when hearing about their struggles. You get the sense that they are joyful and committed despite everything that happened to them. It definitely reminds us to persevere in unity and love for one another despite what happens.

Philippians 1

First, does anyone else have trouble spelling Philippians? Is it two ls, two ps? Oh, you do? Great.

Philippians is a letter to former Roman soldiers who are now believers in the city of Philippi. They have been very supportive of Paul during his time in prison, which perhaps is why he writes so warmly towards them. I love how Paul says “I thank my God every time I remember you” and that when he prays for the he “always prays with joy”. What a lovely thing to say.

Paul also talks about God’s transforming work in believers:

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

verse 6

Paul again speaks of how we are currently redeemed and transformed, and will continue to be transformed until we are with Jesus in heaven. It’s such a hope-filled statement and reassuring to us as we struggle with our sinful natures.

Again, Paul writes a beautiful prayer for his readers:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.

verses 9-11

I pray this prayer for myself as well, and hope that it becomes a reality in my life.

After this, Paul encourages those in Philippi by telling how his hardships have served to advance the gospel. It seems passive at first, that it just sort of happened that way, but it was an intentional choice of Paul. It challenges us today to use our struggles and difficulties to advance the gospel and to proclaim Christ. It’s often the case that during struggles and hardships we become inclined to be self-serving, introspective and somewhat self-absorbed. However, during Paul’s time of immense difficulty, he still considered how this could be used to see Jesus proclaimed.

Such was his desire to see Christ proclaimed, he didn’t care that people were doing it to cause him trouble. He only cared that Christ was being glorified. Often, we question the motives of pastors or preachers. However, rather than focusing on that, perhaps we should pray that Christ is seen regardless.

Paul does not care whether he live or die. In fact, he would rather die because it would mean being with Christ. However, he feels that Christ still has a job for him to do here so that Christ’s glory may be further known. Paul wants to remain so “that through my being with you again your boasting Christ Jesus will abound on account of me” (verse 26). Isn’t it amazing that this is Paul’s first and foremost concern: Christ’s glory.

Because Paul is passionate about this, he extols his readers to live in a way that brings honour to Christ:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…

Verse 27

The “whatever happens” is a bit of challenge. On my bad days, on the days where the whatevers are unpleasant or exhausting or frustrating, I’m not sure my conduct is always worthy of the gospel of Christ. In fact, I’m sure the opposite is true. So, again, I pray that whatever happens, I live a pure and blameless life worth of the gospel of Christ.