This morning we looked back at all we have learned from studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians, a series we started in April during lockdown. This short letter has so much to teach us, especially about rejoicing when circumstances seem far from ideal, but it’s not enough simply to hear sermons or read the Bible: we need to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest, until truth becomes assimilated into our lives, capturing our attention, captivating our hearts and changing our behaviour.
In this chapter, we learned that God is in control, no matter what the circumstances, and can use everything for good. We also learned about praying for others with depth – so that faith, hope and love are developed in each one of us. Key verses here remind us that God starts what He begins (Phil 1:6) and that we live ultimately in a win-win situation: ‘for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ (Phil 1:21)
Here, we learn to follow the example of Jesus, who showed us that ‘down is the new up!’ – humility coming before exaltation.) If we want to follow Him, it will mean learning to value others above ourselves in humility and looking to the interests of others rather than to our own. (Phil 2:3-4) It’s a challenge for us at present when there’s so much emphasis on isolation and separation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but the Christian life can’t successfully be lived in isolation. We are part of the body of Christ, and God wants us to live out our faith alongside other people. He wants us to learn to serve each other in love and to care for each other, but this happens only as we look to the example of Jesus and learn from Him.
Life ultimately is a partnership with God and ‘Team Church’, where there is a combination of our work and God’s (Phil 2:13-14) and every individual matters.
Here, we learned about rejoicing always and how this comes about as we pursue Jesus, letting go of the past and straining towards the prize to which He has called us. (Phil 3:4-14) Knowing Jesus is at the heart of faith: ‘I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.’ (Phil 3:8) This means taking God as He is, knowing both the suffering and the glory.
Paul goes on to urge the Philippians to ‘join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.’ (Phil 3:17) This is a challenge for us all, but people need role models and God calls us to grow to become more like Him.
This is a chapter like an expanding suitcases full of advice and promises that can change our attitudes completely. We are called to stand firm in Christ (Phil 4:1) and shown how to do this:
Rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4) – because He never changes and is working for good in our lives. Rejoicing is the source of our strength and builds us up spiritually more quickly than anything else.
Know God’s nearness to us always (Phil 4:5) – God’s presence being the anchor for our souls and the source of our spiritual life.
Know freedom from anxiety and fear as we bring everything to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving (Phil 4:6-7)
Know the peace of God which transcends all understanding (Phil 4:7) – guarding our hearts and our minds so that we will not fear as the world fears. Isaiah said, ‘do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.’ (Is 8:12) How much do we as believers need to take that verse and hold on to it by faith! We must not dread coronavirus; we must not live in fear, for Jesus said, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27) God is the only One we have to fear, and if we fear Him, we need not fear anything else.
Get control of your thought life, because if you do that, you will see life from God’s perspective and will never again be adversely influenced by what other people say and do. (Phil 4:8)
Live in contentment, no matter what the external circumstances (Phil 4:12).
Live in Christ’s strength and not your own: ‘I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.’ (Phil 4:13)
Live in the vast, unlimited provision of God: ‘my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.’ (Phil 4:19)