Phil 4:1-9 is rather like a crammed suitcase that overflows when unpacked; it’s full of truths which seem to expand into our lives, leading us to a spacious place (see also Ps 18:19, Ps 31:8, Ps 118:5), a place of freedom and joy.
Paul starts the chapter by urging the Philippians (his ‘dear friends’, his ‘crown and joy‘) to ‘stand firm in the Lord’. This command is found elsewhere in his letters (see 2 Cor 1:21, 24; Eph 6:14, Gal 5:1) and echoes Jesus’s own words (Luke 21:19, Mark 13:13) as well as those of the Old Testament prophets (e.g. Isaiah 7:9, Ex 14:13). In order to stand firm, we need a solid footing and good balance. Jesus told us to build our lives on solid rock rather than on shifting sands. (Matt 7:24-27) We need a solid foundation, a firm place to stand (Ps 40:2), but we also need to learn balance as we navigate the stormy circumstances of life. We need to be like the children’s toy, the Weeble, which wobbles but doesn’t fall down!
One thing which can help us to stand firm is being of one mind in the Lord. Paul has already spoken about the strength of unity when he urged us to be one in spirit and in mind. (Phil 2:2) Now, he speaks specifically to two women, Euodia and Syntyche, ‘to be of the same mind in the Lord.’ (Phil 4:2) Presumably, there were problems between these two women which were spilling over into church life and Paul urges them, and others around them, to work towards reconciliation and mutual love. We always need to bear in mind that our faith has to be lived out in everyday relationships and that we have to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph 4:3)
Paul urges us yet again to rejoice in the Lord always, reiterating that command immediately. (Phil 4:4) This is possible (however impossible we may feel it is at times!) because we know that God is in control and is working for good in every circumstance of life. (Rom 8:28) We can rejoice because, no matter how we may feel, ‘the Lord is near.’ (Phil 4:5) As we realise God’s closeness to us and focus on who He is, never-changing, always there for us, we can rejoice always in Him. The ability to do this is there; it’s up to us to choose to rejoice.