United We Stand Divided We Fall Philippians 4a-1
Stephen Caswell © 2004
Creed Of Olympic Games
These words were spelled out in lights at the 18th Olympics at Tokyo, in 1964. The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part; just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is … to have fought well. This is also true of the Christian life, God wants us to finish our race.
Today we begin the last chapter of Philippians. In chapter 1 Paul spoke of the Single Mind to live for Christ and the Fellowship of the Gospel. In Chapter 2 we saw the Submissive Mind through the Fellowship of the Spirit. In chapter 3 we saw the Spiritual Mind that desires the Fellowship of Christ’s Sufferings. Chapter 4 reveals the Secure Mind through the Fellowship of God’s Supply. Paul gives believers 4 commands for effective ministry; Remain Firm, Be Reconciled, Rejoice Always, Be Reasonable.
Firstly, Remain Firm
Philippians 4:1: Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
Chariots Of Fire
In the movie Chariots of Fire, young Harold Abrahams, a champion sprinter, had just suffered his first-ever defeat. After the race he sat alone, pouting in the grandstand. When his girlfriend tried to encourage him, he bellowed, If I can’t win, I won’t run. To which she wisely replied, If you don’t run, you can’t win. Abrahams went on to win the 1924 Olympic Gold Medal in the hundred-meter run. Christian athletes must finish their race!
What does Paul mean by stand fast? The words stand fast, στήκω mean to persist, persevere, be steadfast, stay put. We must never forget that the word persevere comes from the prefix per, meaning through, coupled with the word severe. It means to keep pressing on, trusting God, looking up, doing our duty - even through severe circumstances. 1 Corinthians 16:13 says: Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. In verse 1 Paul commands us stand fast and then reminds us we need the Lord’s grace to do so. Paul also gives us some good reasons why we should.
a. Our Future
Verse 1 commences with the word therefore ὥστε which makes us look back to the previous verses. Believers are heavenly citizens living as aliens on this earth. We don’t belong here. In fact we are waiting for Jesus Christ to return and take us Home. Our hope, our future is eternal life in heaven. Since we are going to spend eternity together shouldn’t we stand up for Jesus now? There will be no division heaven. Heavenly citizens should stand side by side in the Lord’s work. We all have the same Lord, the same King and the same Savior. The Lord unites us all. He enables us to stand together in unity. We should want to please our King who is coming back to take us to glory. Therefore, Christian Citizens should stand up for Christ’s kingdom.
b. Our Family
Paul calls the Philippians brethren because they are all part of the same family. Believers are brothers and sisters who have the same Father. The Philippians were dear to Paul because they were part of God’s family. His point here is that families should be united not divided. Psalm 133:1: Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Paul asked the Corinthian’s who were fighting each other, Is Christ divided? The obvious answer is no, the body of Christ is not divided. Paul also called them beloved because they were dear to him. Love is a key ingredient for healthy families. Paul longed to see them. He had many precious memories of them and longed for their fellowship again. Paul won many of them to Christ and had seen them grow.
He had worked alongside them and witnessed first hand their Christian service. The Philippians brought continual joy to Paul as he shared in chapter 1 verse 4. Paul’s love for the Philippians had grown over the years as they worked together. John 13:35: By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. Paul rejoiced now and would do so again when Jesus Christ comes back. The word crown στεφανoς refers to the laurel wreath received by an athlete for winning a contest or by a person honored by his peers at a banquet as a symbol of success or a fruitful life. The Philippian believers were proof that Paul’s efforts were successful. Christian brethren must love each other to make an impact on the world.
c. Our Foe
The words stand fast were normally used to describe a soldier standing at his post; here it is a military command. Paul’s first command is to remain alert like soldiers on duty. We have an Adversary the Devil who is always looking for an opportunity to attack. Tragically some Christians have given up the fight. For one reason or another they have stopped serving the Lord. They have gone AWOL absent without leave. Ephesians 6:13 says: Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. If believers want to defeat the Devil they must keep on standing. (present continuous tense) It’s always too soon to quit. Christian soldiers must not fight each other but the enemy. The old saying united we stand divided we fall is certainly true in Christian warfare. Christian Soldiers must fight together to be victorious. It’s much easier for the enemy to break when there are gaps in the ranks.
Holding The Fort
This is a true incident from the American Civil War. At Altoma Pass the fort being held by General Corse was besieged by the enemy under General Hood, who summoned it to surrender. Corse refused to surrender. Many were the casualties, but in spite of the hopeless situation the defenders remained faithful. Then a white signal flag appeared across the valley, some twenty miles away. They waved the message, Hold the fort, for I am coming. General Sherman was marching to relieve the beleaguered and faithful defenders. The hymn with the chorus, Hold the fort, for I am coming was written in remembrance of this story! Believers should stand fast, because Christ is coming soon!
Are you working alongside your brethren? Are we standing fast in our faith? Are you keeping watch like a good soldier? Are you persevering in your Christian service, or have you quit? Are you looking for the, Well done good and faithful servant? Many believers start their race well, few finish well. Will you finish well? Will I?
Secondly, Be Reconciled
Phil 4:2: I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.
There were 2 ladies in the Philippian Church that weren’t getting along. Although we don’t know the exact details, we do know that it was hindering the Gospel ministry there. Paul gives them some good reasons why they should settle their differences.
a. The Appeal
Paul doesn’t command these ladies or rebuke them but in love appeals for reconciliation. They are both at fault since Paul appeals to them both. It seems that they were both committed to the Lord’s work since Paul says that they labored with him in the Gospel. The word labor συναθλέω means to struggle alongside, to contend. One commentator puts verse 3 like this they fought at my side in spreading the gospel. Yet now, they were fighting each other instead. The name Euodia Εὐοδία means fragrant, whilst Syntyche means fortunate, pleasant acquaintance. Euodia had become odious and Syntyche had become so touchy. Because these ladies weren’t living up to their good names, Paul appeals to them to be reconciled. How could reconciliation take place when they both wanted it their way? By having the right attitude. By having the same mind in the Lord.
b. The Attitude
Paul implored them both to be of the same mind. They were to have a change of attitude. The mark of community -- true biblical unity -- is not the absence of conflict but the presence of a reconciling spirit. -- Bill Hybels Instead of wanting things done their own way they would seek Christ’s mind in the matter. Jesus Christ came to serve mankind. He put aside His rights and His will to obey God’s will. Believers can have the same mind if we choose to have the mind of Christ. Humble servants can usually get on together just fine. It’s our pride and our egos that breed strife. The Christian mind set has been a major theme in Philippians. Let’s recap for a minute.
- 1:27: says to stand fast with one mind for the faith of the Gospel
- 2:2: says to be like minded, having the same love being of one mind
- 2:3: in lowliness of mind esteeming others better than ourselves
- 2:4: looking out for the interests of others
- 2:5: says we are to have the mind of Christ Jesus
- 2:7-8: He humbled Himself, became a servant, obedient unto death on the cross
- 2:20: Says that Timothy is like minded caring for others
- 3:15: Says mature believers know they aren’t perfect but press on towards it
- 3:16: Says believers should live by the same rules and have the same mind
c. The Arbiter
Philippians 4:3: 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.
Paul’s third way of helping was to call an arbiter to help them settle their differences. The words true companion describe a sincere believer in the Church who could help them settle their differences. Many commentators believe Suzugos was a person’s proper name. Suzugos σύζυγος means true comrade, genuine fellow worker, yoke fellow. He was a committed disciple that Paul believed could help these ladies to be reconciled. He could bring them together like a mediator reconciles 2 people in conflict. The word help συλλαμβάνω means to hold together, to assist, to come to the aid of. Paul asked true yoke fellow to help these ladies get back on track. Luke 5:7 uses this same word: So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. Paul encouraged them to work together for the Gospel. True companion and Clement may have been Church elders.
d. The Aquaintances
In verse 3 Paul says that believer’s names are written in the Book of Life. It is the citizens roll of heaven. In eternity past, God registered all the names of His elect in that book which identifies those inheritors of eternal life. Revelation 13:8: All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Every child of God is important to God. Many people worked together with Paul spreading the Gospel. Paul reminds believers that they are all part of a great team working together for the Lord. The words fellow workers and women who labored with me in the Gospel reveal that ministry is team work.
No Solos in the Book of Revelation -- Graham Kendrick.
Interestingly, of all the songs in the Book of Revelation, not one is a solo. The twenty-four elders sing and cast their crowns before His feet, the united voices of countless angels resound, every living creature in heaven and earth and under the earth and all that is in them are joined in one song. Those who are victorious over the beast are given harps and a song to sing. In every case multitudes of people or angels unite in the same song with absolute unity.
God wants us to work together in harmony for the kingdom. We will only enjoy unity as we submit to God’s will. Are you fighting the good fight alongside your brethren? Or are you fighting against them? Every Christian is needed in God’s work. The Lord has a job for us all to do. How will you answer the Lord when He asks what you have done with the spiritual gifts time and talents He gave you? Will you have something to show Christ when He evaluates your life on earth at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
Thirdly, Rejoice Always
Philippians 4:4: Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
In verse 4 Paul commands believers to rejoice. Can you command joy? Yes you can. When it is focused on the Lord you can. Paul commanded them to rejoice in the Lord always. In fact he repeated the same command again because it's so important. We rejoice in the perfection of who God is and what He has done. We can rejoice in God’s Greatness, God’s Graciousness, God’s Goodness, God’s Generosity. The Lord is the Almighty God. He is sovereign over all. The Lord is unchanging, ever faithful. He is patient, kind, merciful and loving. The Lord saved us and brought us into His family. The Lord gives us blessing upon blessing. God never changes therefore we can rejoice always even in the deepest trials. Paul commands Christians to rejoice in the Lord because it is the right thing to do.
Psalm 147:1 says: Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is fitting.
Prayer Meeting of 53 Hours
5 men were entrapped in a deserted zinc mine in Salem, Kentucky, by falling rocks. They had nothing to eat. They were in utter darkness. One of the men could have saved himself had he not run back to warn the others. When the entombed men discovered that they could not escape, they began to pray and sing. Their prayer and praise service lasted for 53 hours! Then they were rescued. Later one of them testified, We lay there from Friday morning till Sunday morning. We prayed without ceasing. When the rescuers reached us, we were still praying! When the men were brought up out of the mine, on the caps of each one were scrawled these words: If we are dead when you find us, we are all saved!
As we read the Psalms we see how the psalmist does this very thing time and again. The Lord is holy and worthy to receive our praise. He rules righteously with wisdom power and love. Shouldn't we praise Him for Who He is? Our joy is not conditioned upon circumstances like happiness. Real joy comes from our relationship with God. It is based upon the sure foundation of our salvation, what God has done for us. We have eternal life in Him and nothing can change that. God has adopted us into His family and given us a wonderful inheritance. God has bestowed His grace upon us in full measure. We have the presence of His Spirit and the promises of His word. We are kept securely in the palm of His hands.
If these things are true shouldn't we continually rejoice in the Lord for His goodness to us? We can never lose the things that really matter. If you can't rejoice in the Lord always perhaps you hold earthly things more dearly than eternal things. Paul wrote this joyful epistle from prison. If anyone had a right to feel discouraged it was Paul. The Churches at Rome and Philippi had problems with disunity, and he was in prison and could do nothing about it. To make things worse he could soon lose his life. Yet in all of this Paul rejoiced. How? Because he rejoiced in the Lord!
Romans 8:31-39: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I have A God Who Shakes The World
During an earthquake some years ago, the inhabitants of a small village were generally very much alarmed, but they were at the same time surprised at the calmness and apparent joy of an old woman whom they all knew. At length one of them, addressing the old woman, said, Mother, are you not afraid? No, said the woman. I rejoice to know that I have a God who can shake the world.
Do you rejoice in the Lord always? Do I? God asks us to praise Him no matter what. How can we? By remembering that God is sovereign. He is in control of our lives. Nothing can change the really important things in life. Christians cannot lose their salvation. Our future in heaven is secure. God is always with us. He will help us whenever we call on Him in faith! His grace is available whenever we need it. Do you praise God for Who He is and what He’s done? Is God the center of your life, your joy?
Fourthly, Be Reasonable
Philippians 4:5: Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Paul's fourth command was to reveal gentleness to all men. The word gentleness ἐπιεικής means mild, kind, yielding, moderate, patient. One commentator put it this way, Let your sweet reasonableness be known to all men. Gentleness describes someone who suffers long. They don't explode in rage when provoked. A gentle person is very reasonable and patient with all people. But how can you be patient with all men? Some people are intolerable! By realizing that the Lord is nearby. He can strengthen you and enable you to be patient with the most trying people. If Christians strive with others what sort of witness do they give? How has God's grace changed their life? God desires that His people be known for their gentleness and patience.
Of the 5 verses we looked at this morning the Lord is mentioned in 4 of them. He is the one who enables us to stand fast, have one mind and rejoice always. He also enables us to be gentle and kind.
Converted By Livingstone’s Life
Henry M. Stanley found David Livingstone in Africa and lived with him for some time. Here is his testimony: I went to Africa as prejudiced as the biggest atheist in London. But there came for me a long time for reflection. I saw this solitary old man there and asked myself, How on earth does he stop here - is he cracked, or what? What is it that inspires him? For months after we met I found myself wondering at the old man carrying out all that was said in the Bible - Leave all things and follow Me. But little by little his sympathy for others became contagious; my sympathy was aroused; seeing his piety, his gentleness, his zeal, his earnestness, and how he went about his business, I was converted by him, although he had not tried to do it.
Romans 12:17-21: Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. Therefore If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
John Chrysostom said, that a patient man is one who, having the resources and opportunity to avenge himself, chooses to refrain from the exercise of these.
Are you known for your gentleness and patience? Do you always seek to be reasonable? Do you respond graciously when people provoke you or behave badly? Do you draw on God's strength in trials? He is near and able to help you!
Today we saw 4 commands that can restore and maintain the unity in the Church. They are, Remain Firm, Be Reconciled, Rejoice Always, Be Reasonable. Real unity in the Church results from working together for Christ. It requires a joyful, joint effort.
2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.