ES/PHIL/27 Philippians 4:2–7 Pt2
2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 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. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Last week we had a look at the two women who seemed to be at loggerheads with each other but despite differences they were both in the book of life.
I say this as a reminder because the very next verse says: Rejoice in the Lord always. This reminds me immediately of something that happened in the Gospels@
1 After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.
17 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Here we find that we should be continually rejoicing for our names are in the book of life, written in Heaven.
Mind you I don’t think that Paul had to have much excuse for rejoicing – he simply did because he knew that His Saviour had saved him.
But oh to also rejoice because we see that Satan is subject to Jesus and to us. Jesus defeated them at the cross just when they thought they had gained the victory and Paul elaborates further in:
15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
We have much cause to rejoice knowing that sin, death, hell, and Satan have been defeated, that we have been saved from a fate worse than death. So, again Paul says rejoice! Heaven is where we are headed to be with our Lord forever.
I’ve said before that some habits are hard to break – if we’re used to moaning about anything and everything it is a radical change to then start rejoicing instead. For we are called to break this kind of habit and change for the good one of rejoicing. Instead of moaning about the day, rejoice in it for it is one the Lord has made. Soon enough this day will be over and a new one will start. And we cannot get back what has already gone. I often say at funerals that we only have about 30,000 days if we live an average lifetime. So let us make the most of it for the Lord, each and every day. Of course it does follow that if we are rejoicing we are not complaining!
What follows after the initial three verses seem to be a series of ad-hoc statements and commands but were they written as something separate or as a result of the two women in disunity?
We do not know for sure but verses 4 and 5 may be connected for if we are all rejoicing in the Lord then we are not concentrating on our division and then in verse 5 we see that gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit is extolled as something that should be practised by everyone to everyone. I’m sure we have all failed on this point, I certainly have as no doubt Irena can testify. We are commended to treat others with the same kind of respect we want from others; it is about tolerance and patience with each other.
The Lord is at hand. Again reminding us that there is a day when Jesus will return and that there is no room for complacency in the Christian life. We are called to work whilst it is still day. There is a day coming when time will simply run out. It maybe that those 30,000 days will be cut short by His returning. And it is to be remembered that an account has to be given to God about how we have lived, how we have spoken and whether we have heard the Word of God and responded.
6-7 What follows this is about our trust issues. How much do we trust God? Well, we know by just how much we worry! How big is our God? Is He not One who is in control of all things and therefore we can either rely upon Him or we can try to rely upon ourselves to sort out everyday issues. Note that it says: Be anxious for nothing. This is an imperative, a command. Do not worry about a thing. We have a God who loves us dearly and preciously and gave us His Son. He will surely help us in our time of need. All we need to do is ask. Ask for ourselves, ask for others.
All this is to be done in faith and therefore we can thank God that He will answer us in His way and in His time. The result of such prayer is that we are given His peace. Worry is out the window. Peace that is indescribable descends upon us, our hearts and our minds guarding and protecting us in the One who gave Himself for us and who works out everything according to His great purpose.
So, let us look a little closer at the verses 6 and 7.
Thanksgiving with prayer takes away anxiety and leads to peace with God and of God. It seems to be a simple formula. If only we actually did it. It seems to me that people including Christians trust in anything but God. They trust that money will solve problems. But money does not solve all problems such as when facing death of either their own or those they know. Those who have are consistently trusting in what they have and expect that there will be no change tomorrow. But actually those who have worry that someday they will not have. Nowhere is this more evident than in the stock market where a simple rumour is enough to make grown men jittery and for the value to dive. No more so in this Brexit alarmist era. So, people who have do have something to be concerned about – for it does not take much to overturn the stock market or the currency market and then what is left is worthless paper and money has been devalued as we can see in South America this day in Venezuela and Argentina. This has happened more than once in British history already and as we know history has a habit of repeating itself. Paul advises Timothy in:
17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
Who do we think are the rich in this passage? It is anyone who does not have to rely upon others to live. So, are we included? I think so. Clearly a warning has to go out – do not trust in riches for one day you have and the next day through circumstances outside of your control you may no longer have. And the point is made very well in this verse: they are uncertain riches. Who knows what tomorrow will bring – perhaps Russia will invade, perhaps a nuclear bomb will go off, maybe there will be a run on the banks and all mortgages will be voided because they will all need to be paid immediately – and if you do not have the money to pay then the house belongs to the bank and the government. For people all over the world these things become reality more than we would like. When a Country is on the verge of bankruptcy it causes serious money problems for everyone and what is in your bank account is confiscated to aid the Country and the government. Are we that protected here? Everything goes out the window if a State of Emergency is declared. All those promises of safeguarding our monies will no longer count. Of course I am limited by my imagination about what could happen – any one of the things mentioned can easily happen in our lifetimes. But we are called on not to worry. Why? Because we can bank on Someone more reliable than money or government; Our God. If money went extinct tomorrow then we will survive because God will care for us.
Remember what happened to Elijah when he declared a famine was coming on the land:
1 And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” 2 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 3 “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 4 And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.
One day, Scripture says, we will not be able to buy or sell without the mark of the beast. What will we do then? We are heading that way so fast. Most pets are now microchipped so that they can be found if lost and to record its health issues – some businesses are already doing this to their employees, though presently voluntarily. The technology is already there for such a mark – God who has forewarned us already about all this will surely know how to look after us no matter the situation that arises. Will there be a time that we cannot shop unless we sign up to approve of homosexuality as more and more companies become part of Pride marches such as Argos, the AA and Sainsbury’s, who incidentally was the first to flout Sunday Trading laws in this Country. See how things have changed already.
I read in a lot of biographies of hospitable Christians who invited people to a meal when they knew that they would otherwise eat nothing – and what did they get? A watered down stew that was more like a weak soup. Why? Because that is all they had too. Some here know what that is like. There is no room for complaining.
Remember also how God provided for the Israelites in the desert –
3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.
Of course, when they complained God was not best pleased – which is part of the reason they many died out in the desert of unnatural causes.
Why is it that it says ‘be anxious for nothing’? Because His promises are sure – but they are conditional – He has to come first. And we have to ask.
James 4:2b–3 Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Though often He’ll come through for us without asking there is a sense of co-operating with our God in asking Him for He knows what we need before we ask, but He still expects us to show that we are not relying upon ourselves but upon Him. In the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to pray: Give us this day our daily bread. We should still pray this for we are acknowledging that He provides it all. If we have money we worry that we will lose it. If we do not have money we worry about getting it. But money is not what we need but trust in our Father.
Of course we are not just worried about money but a whole raft of things that can affect us: depression is one of the greatest consequences of this – of course, I am not talking about those who have a chemical imbalance but are depressed because of their circumstances. Worrying about health, retirement, family, work, friends, enemies, reputation and so on and so on. The list is endless about things we can be concerned about. But let us not forget where Paul was when he wrote these words – he was in prison with an uncertain future, in pain, in need but still he writes ‘be anxious for nothing’. The outside circumstances may not change but instead there is an internal change in us when we pray, when we make supplication, when we make request of our God: we are given peace that affects our hearts and minds.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
This command to be anxious for nothing is circular: don’t worry, pray, be thankful, then you’ll have peace. As a result you will not worry but pray, be thankful, have peace, and continue not to worry. The circle is only broken when we cease to pray and be thankful. So, let us be those who will rejoice in the Lord, trust Him instead of worrying. Worry leads to depression and despair but thankfulness and prayer leads to God’s peace and this will guard our hearts and minds against worry. The choice is ours. Trust in God or trust in ourselves.
We come today to the table to celebrate what Jesus has done for us. It is called communion because it is about our fellowship with God and therefore we have to make sure first and foremost that things are right between God and us. If there are is sin then we need to sort it with Him. God is a forgiving God as evidenced by His sending Jesus to be a sacrifice for us. Put your sin behind you and intend not to sin again. We have the word of caution by Jesus Himself to one who wanted to follow Jesus:
62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Jesus laid down His life for us, having put His hand to the plough, and after suffering in such an agonising way bleeding out to save us from our sin and give us eternal life. If not the fear of God keep us from sin, then the love of God. It is trust in God rather than ourselves, of course, that results in us being given salvation in His name and being brought into communion with God now and forever.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.