Philippians 4:1-4, “Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, 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!”
As we mentioned last Sunday one of the themes Paul segues to as he works his way to the close of his letter is the basis for Christian unity. Not only should the reality of God’s grace, the indwelling of His Spirit, and our “laying hold of Jesus” fill a person with a supernatural joy, but these things should also foster an unbreakable common bond among the brethren.
The simple fact we all presently possess a “citizenship in heaven” should be more than enough to cause each of us to “stand fast in the Lord” with one another!
Sadly, it appears such a reality had been totally lost on two ladies within this Philippian church who were at odds. Though Paul is vague on the specific source of their contention, in “imploring Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind” he is affirming a problem existed.
It’s clear Paul was grieved by this situation because both “Euodia and Syntyche” had “labored with him in the gospel.” Whether it had been the time Paul originally spent in Philippi (Acts 16) or even possibly his ministry in Thessalonica or Corinth, these two women had “labored” alongside him (strived together with Paul) for the sake of the Gospel!
Aside from this Paul also affirms their “names” were contained “in the Book of Life.” While this is the first mention of this “Book” in Scripture, it will again be mentioned seven times in the book of Revelation. Most notably we’re told in Revelation 20:15 that “anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” It’s a book you want your name in!
Understand… Paul was upset to hear “Euodia and Syntyche” had a falling out because they were both Godly women who loved Jesus, were his dear friends, had been co-laborers with him, and from what we can determine were influential members of this Philippian church! This situation was so critical to Paul that he decides to make his appeal to them public.
Before we continue I do want to point out that it seems whatever the issue these two women were fighting about didn’t present an obvious right or wrong. I think it’s safe to assume if the contention had been a blatant slight or indiscretion Paul would have been more specific. Since he isn’t - the matter was probably one of personal preference.
I think it’s also important to note that Paul refuses to take sides. In light of all of the things he’s been discussing in this letter, Paul simply “implores them to be of the same mind.” After discussing their heavenly calling Paul pleads with these ladies to lay aside whatever temporal disagreement they were dealing with in order to “stand fast in the Lord.”
As opposed to taking the bait and appearing to side with one lady or the other, Paul wisely chooses to instead point them both back to their commonality in Jesus! (Note: He goes out of the way to “implore” each woman.) Was the issue really that big that they’d break fellowship with one another and in the process foster disunity within the church community?
Whatever the disagreement, the one good thing about this situation was that neither of these ladies broke fellowship with the larger church community. Because this was the case Paul encourages this unnamed “true companion” along with this man named “Clement” (which we assume were both leaders) to “help these women” come to a point of reconciliation.
Understand, when the issue of contention is a matter of right and wrong the church and her leadership do possess a Biblical responsibility to stand for what is true. The Scriptures are clear to this fact. And yet, when the issue is nothing more than matters involving personalities and preferences there is much we can learn about Paul’s example.
(1) Resist the urge or natural compulsion to take a side. (2) Knowing what’s at stake be willing to “help” in the process of reconciliation. And (3) Move beyond the specific issue fostering division by pointing both parties to the common ground they share in Jesus. Not only does Paul refuse to mention the specifics, he doesn’t even try to solve the problem.
And if you are a “Euodia” or a “Syntyche” and you’re having a fight or disagreement with a brother or sister in the church, please take a step back from the source of contention and ask yourself the simple question… Is the matter worth loosing the relationship over? You can work to resolve the situation now - even allowing the church to help mediate or you can run from it and let Jesus address it once you both get to heaven. The choice is yours.
Once again Paul wraps up this section by encouraging everyone involved to “rejoice in the Lord always.” And then to add emphasis he writes, “Again I will say, rejoice!” Famed British preacher Charles Spurgeon correctly said, “Joy in the Lord is the cure for all arguments.” It’s sad when we allow petty disagreements to rob us of a lasting relationship with one another.
After discussing joy and its relation to our unity, Paul turns the page to one final component of what joy (based in God’s grace and the indwelling of the Spirit) should yield in our lives.
Friend, grace yielding joy will always yield an inner peace. In Galatians 5:22 Paul writes, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.” Peace with God offered through the grace of God will naturally produce the peace of God - in addition to this supernatural joy!
Because joy and peace are the twin children of God’s love as demonstrated through His grace, the two (joy and peace) are specifically intertwined. When there is joy there is peace and when there is peace there resides joy. And it’s because this is the case, it’s also true that when our joy comes under assault our peace is naturally effected and when we struggle with peace our ability to experience joy is subsequently undermined as well.
This is why Paul spends the final pen strokes of this letter exhorting us to five specific attributes knowing they will safeguard our peace and therefore our joy in the Lord! First…
Philippians 4:5, “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.”
For starters, this word “gentleness” is misleading. As a matter of fact, the KJV translates this word as “moderation”, but in Titus 3:2 the same word is written as “peaceable.” In Greek the word means “equitable or fair”. The idea may be better explained by the attitudes it contrasts.
Instead of striving with man, possessing a prickly demeanor, being difficult to get along with or off-putting, or having an argumentative or quarrelsome spirit, Paul is encouraging believers to possess a yielded-ness - a willingness to relent, submit, and simply get along.
In light of fact “the Lord is at hand” or probably better translated as “the Lord has everything in His hands”, Paul is encouraging you to go with the flow. As opposed to being the type of person always pushing the envelop, swimming against the tide, or cutting against the grain, if the matter doesn’t challenge one’s ethics, morals, or offend one’s conscience… Paul is encouraging you to just toll with it! Always know greater peace and deeper joy is found when you’re willing to adopt a blessed flexibility. Secondly…
Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.”
Aside from this blessed flexibility (“gentleness”) being essential to safeguarding your peace and joy, Paul also commands that you “be anxious for nothing!” In the Greek this word we have translated as “anxious” means “to be troubled with cares.” The word describes a person crippled by worry! Literally, Paul is ordering you to stop worrying!
Knowing the difficult nature of this particular directive, Paul continues by adding, “But (or in the place of your worry) in everything… let your requests be made known to God.”
Keep in mind… Paul isn’t saying worry in and of itself is a bad thing or a sign of some type of spiritual problem or lack of faith. Instead, it’s what you do with worry that will ultimately enable peace and joy or yield fear and greater anxiety. Paul says the practical remedy to these cares is to take them to the Lord “by prayer and supplications, with thanksgiving.”
First, Paul’s intention here isn’t to be formulaic. He’s not presenting three individual things (“prayers, supplications” and “thanksgiving”) aimed at addressing three different concerns. Rather, Paul is encouraging you and I to simply communicate our worries to God.
What’s being describe is something organic. And note: There is no limitation to the things you can take to the Lord. “In everything by prayer!” The subject of prayer is everything! In 1 Peter 5:7 the aged Apostle says, “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
“Well Pastor Zach, I don’t understand how prayer is going to lessen my stress or how taking these things to the Lord is going to relieve my genuine anxiety. I’m honestly worried about my finances, retirement, the stock market, my job security, moronic children, the future, this mole on my back, the tension in the Middle East, the upcoming mid-terms, etc.”
Aside from the fact Paul is saying the Lord actually wants you to bring such cares to Him… I could also say it’s true that bringing such matters to the Lord will remind you of Jesus’ love and that He’s in control of your life. Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Additionally, I could say such a discipline will help you keep in the forefront of your mind the amazing reality that God has promised to take care of all of your needs… In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on… If God so clothes the grass of the field… will He not much more clothe you… For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.”
And yet, while I could point to prayer as being a way to remind yourself that God loves you, is in control, and promises to take care of your needs, the interesting reality is that Paul doesn’t say any of this! You see the amazing nature of this passage is that it describes a result Paul promises will occur if you’ll take your worries to the Lord in prayer.
Look again… Paul writes, “Let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
What Paul is saying is that, in the presence of worry and anxiety, if you choose to take these cares to the Lord in prayer, God promises to do something radicle. He will take your anxiety and replace it with “the peace of God!” And note: This is not peace with God or for that matter some type of peace from God, but “the peace of God.” It’s the peace God has!
And while this supernatural peace is foreign and otherworldly as it will “surpass” or rise above even your cognitive ability to “understand” it, most notably this peace will also “guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” In the original language this word “guard” was primarily a military term. The implications of what Paul’s saying is that God’s peace will prevent a hostile invasion of greater worry, anxiety, or doubt creeping in to rob you of joy!
Know greater peace and deeper joy is found when you’re (first) willing to adopt a blessed flexibility, and secondly when you take your anxieties to the Lord in prayer. Thirdly…
Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Once again in seeking to address attributes we need to adopt in order to safeguard our peace and therefore our joy, Paul now speaks to the substance of our thoughts. Now while it’s obviously true you don’t have any control over things that pop into your head, you absolutely do have the ability to dictate what thoughts you choose to “meditate on!”
In order to safeguard this peace and joy God has afforded through His grace, it’s important you spend your time thinking about “things that are true” as opposed to marinating on falsehoods, “things that are noble” (literally honorable) as opposed to things that are crass, “things that are just” (or righteous) as opposed to things that are wicked…
“Things that are pure” as opposed to what is impure, “things that are lovely” (acceptable) as opposed to things that are filthy, “things that are of a good report” (reputable) as opposed to things that are salacious. Ultimately, Paul sums it up that the things you should “meditate on” must possess “virtue” (moral goodness) and are “praiseworthy” (uplifting).
Always know greater peace and deeper joy is found when you’re (first) willing to adopt a blessed flexibility, (secondly) willing to take your anxieties to the Lord in prayer, and thirdly spend your time meditating on things that are good and Godly. Fourth…
Philippians 4:10-19, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.
Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
As Paul approaches the end of the letter he accomplishes several things. In a practical sense the verses we just read come across like a “Thank You” note for the financial support he’d received from this Philippian church during his Roman imprisonment.
He writes, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.” And again Paul reiterates, “You have done well that you shared in my distress… Indeed I have all and abound!” Before finally writing, “I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”
Aside from this present gift Paul also commends them for their contestant and continual generosity. He writes, “You Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.”
And while there is no doubt Paul is wanting to articulate his deep thankfulness for their financial aid, it’s also evident he desired to use this opportunity to emphasize two more critical attributes necessary to safeguarding peace and joy - contentment and generosity.
Let’s first look at contentment… Paul writes, “I have learned (to learn by use and practice) in whatever state I am, to be content (at peace with what one has). I know how to be abased (to possess nothing), and I know how to abound (to possess much). Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
It really is amazing that Paul opens this section by writing “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Even for the Apostle Paul, contentment, regardless of his present circumstance, was something the Holy Spirit had to teach him. Contentment wasn’t natural. It was learned. It wasn’t theoretical. Paul lived it! From personal experience Paul had to learn how “to be content” when he had little as well as when he possessed much. How true that contentment is a basic struggle when you haven nothing or you have a lot.
Friend, don’t detach Paul from his humanity. Learning anything always involves a process of moving from a lack of understanding to one of knowledge and experience. To this point… There is no question Philippians 4:13 is one of the more famous verses in all of Scripture; and yet, sadly, it’s so often taken completely out of the context for which it was written.
When Paul declares, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” the “all things” references back to this process of learning “to be content” when he had nothing or when he was experiencing a surplus. Jesus may not give you the strength to lift a car or accomplish some incredible feat, but Paul attests Jesus will give you the strength to be content!
Paul is telling us the strength to be content “in whatever state” you find yourself is only made possible via a specific working of Jesus through the individual. In context the verse should read, “In Jesus’ strength I can be content in whatever state I presently find myself!"
Always know greater peace and deeper joy is found when you’re (first) willing to adopt a blessed flexibility, (second) you’re willing to take your anxieties to the Lord in prayer, (third) you spend your time meditating on things that are good and Godly, (four) learn to be content in all things, and finally demonstrate a spirit of generosity.
Keep in mind… Paul goes above and beyond to articulate to these Philippians that his thankfulness was not based in the fact his needs had been met through their financial gift, but rather his joy was found in how their generosity would be a blessing to them.
Paul makes several interesting statements in these verses… He writes, “You have done well that you shared in my distress… Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account… God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Jesus.”
Not only is Paul clear their generosity meant the work God was doing through Paul’s ministry would also be attributed to their account - which most interestingly emphasizes the eternal value of your present generosity (you can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead)…
But Paul was confident their “acceptable sacrifice” which was “well pleasing to God” would be met with the Lord’s continued provision concerning their needs. You see the Philippians weren’t giving out of their abundance, they were giving in spite of their needs.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 Paul writes, “We make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”
And yet, though the Philippians were giving from a place of personal want themselves, Paul was confident God had it all covered. He declares, “God shall supply all your needs” and notice from what source - “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus!” Though we may give from our poverty, God’s blessings come from a much deeper well. He is able!
Beyond the fact these Philippians demonstrate that generosity is an attitude independent of resources, here’s a few lessons you should take away from this… While Godly giving does aim to meet a need the receiver possesses, the truth is that is does way more for the giver!
Yes, the church has bills that need to be met, but you shouldn’t give for this reason… You should give because God has called you to be a giver! To a large extent the issue is one of motivation, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also say it was also one of obedience.
Friend, you do not need to give because you have to give. There is no law. Nor are you to give because you want something from God. That’s actually a really warped way of thinking. Consider…You’ve already been the recipient of the money (it was God’s blessing) meaning giving to get more from God or giving with an agenda can actually be classified as greed.
You see God’s grace changes the way you should see everything - and giving is a prime example. You should give because you want too not because you have too or want something in return from God. Since you’ve already been the recipient of a blessing given by God, Godliness should then yield a natural desire to do what God did - give! You don’t give to receive more. You received so that you can now give just like Jesus gave!
Understand, such a mentality radically altars the calculous. Instead of the debate being how much of your paycheck you should give away, the onus is now placed on how much you need to keep for yourself. This is why in contrast to the law which mandated a tithe of 10%, the New Testament places zero numerical limitations to your giving.
In 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 Paul wrote, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
Can we be honest for a moment and admit that issues related to money end up being one of the largest deterrents to your joy and peace. For just an example… Did you know that 57% of divorced couples cite money problems as the primary reason the marriage fell apart?
And yet, this is what generosity intends to place into check. In taking your paycheck and giving a percentage to your church this is what you’re doing… You’re acknowledging the entire paycheck was given to you by a God who loves you, you’re giving a percentage away because that’s actually Christlike and the logical reaction to His grace, you’re actively trusting that “God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Jesus”, and you’re telling your money it doesn’t have power or authority over you. It’s not your master!
Friend, seeing your money as a tool to support the ministry of the Gospel and further the Kingdom redefines its purpose and the act of giving it away reconstitutes your authority over it. The easiest way to remove moneys power over your life is to adopt a generous spirit.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Philippians 4:20-23, “Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
Always know greater peace and deeper joy is found when you’re (first) willing to adopt a blessed flexibility, (second) you’re willing to take your anxieties to the Lord in prayer, (third) you spend your time meditating on things that are good and Godly, (four) you learn to be content in all things, and finally you make a decision to demonstrate a spirit of generosity.
In closing, Paul ends with the very concept he began with… The amazing grace of God. As I mentioned in our intro study, Paul writes because he wants these believers to know that because their joy was based in the amazing grace of God and not their present circumstances, they could truly rejoice in whatever situations they found themselves facing.
The vertical peace discovered when one bases their spiritual life on God’s grace enables that person unspeakable joy regardless of their horizontal environment.
I’ve been recently asked, “Zach for the last few years everything you teach always comes back to grace. Do you have anything else?” Well, I must say if the Christian life begins and ends with the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” and that it’s only because of this grace that we experience the love of God, are filled with an unspeakable joy, and are imparted with a peace that would surpass even our own understanding… What other message is there?
As we’ve seen in this letter to the Philippians - Paul, writing from a Roman cell unsure if he’d live or face a brutal execution, was at peace because he was presently enjoying grace!
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