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Strength to Carry On

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Putting the strength of Christ, as mentioned by Paul, in context for practical application.

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Philippians 4:4–7 (NASB95)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Introduction: An Overview of Paul’s Letter to the Church in Philippi
About Philippi: it was a Roman colony, populated by retired soldiers; *not surprisingly, this community was known for its patriotism.* In this case, it meant viewing Caesar as king and even savior; *so you can understand why Paul would face resistance presenting Jesus Christ as the true King & savior. *Despite this opposition, with the Lord’s empowerment Paul was able to establish a vibrant Christian community- *one that continued to face the same opposition.*
The church sent a member to provide financial support to Paul during his imprisonment; *this letter was written to express his gratitude*…but not willing to waste this opportunity, Paul sends them a brief but rich Word of encouragement.* Unlike many of his other letters, this letter does not have a consistent theme;* instead, it seems to be anchored by this poem in Philippians 2:6-11, *which briefly retells the life, death & exaltation of Christ. *The “Messiah Poem” is a great place to start when sharing the gospel with an interested audience. *As it is only 5 verses, please allow me to read it in it’s entirety:*
“...although He {Christ Jesus} existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,* but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. *Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.* For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, *so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,* and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” *- Phil 2:6-11
Paul’s audience would’ve know that he summarily refers to Adam (Genesis 1-3) and the “suffering servant” mentioned in Isaiah 40-55. *This beautiful poem is unapologetically framed in the doctrine of the Trinity, as we see Jesus sharing the glory and place of prominence which is reserved for God alone.* Paul is also reinforcing the deity of Christ by using the same also used by Isaiah, specifically Isaiah 45:23. *I find it fascinating that Paul gives little attention to the passion of Jesus in this poem.* In my assessment, it seems to say, “Yes, the Lord paid the ultimate price, but look at what He has won for us in return! *’Remember His pain, but NEVER forget His gain!’” *The concept reflected here, of accepting sacrifice as part of Christ’s life (and ours), is prominent throughout this brief letter.* When addressing their concern for him, Paul points out that his imprisonment has been beneficial for the Gospel.* Those who imprisoned him knew he was serious about His claims,* and seeing his resolve also emboldened the other Christians there.* For Paul, the possibility of death only meant that he could be with Christ. *The true sacrifice was not dying, but LIVING for Christ. *It is the type of thinking that modern Christians should embrace.*
Paul’s Challenge: Live without Compromise*
In the earlier chapters, Paul lifts up 3 examples of Christ-like living:* Timothy (the young Pastor whom he considered a son in The Faith),* Epaphroditus (who visited & served him in prison, to the point of even becoming sick),* and finally, he uses himself as an example. *In short, he encourages them to live daily for the glory of Christ- *which means, to simply ask ourselves in all of our interactions with believers, non-believers, family, strangers, *“how can my living- my thoughts & deeds- bring glory to my Lord Jesus?” *
The Conclusion of the Matter
As we near the end of Paul’s letter, we finally come to our subject. *As we briefly examine verses 4-7, note the multiple absolute words & phrases in our selected text:*
V4- Rejoice ALWAYS- *leave no room for complaints. Refuse to compromise in your thoughts.* The joy of the Lord is your strength* (Nehemiah 8:10)- and constant joy in all seasons means consistent strength in all seasons!*
V5- Let your gentle spirit be known to ALL men-* endeavor to treat everyone the same without exception. *This takes practice...and you will sometimes fail.* But never fail to keep trying!*
V6- Be anxious for NOTHING*but in EVERYTHING by prayer and earnest petitions with thanksgiving *let your requests be made known…*- in this verse, Paul shows the church how to conquer fear.* It is not enough to refuse to give fear a place in your heart and mind.* You must replace fear with faith- in EVERY situation. * You’ve heard is said that nature hates a void;* well that is also true for the spirit of man.* In Luke 11:25, Jesus teaches from the parable of the “strong man”.* At the end of it, Jesus shows its meaning, by referring to man who has an unclean spirit removed from him. *In short, the man is freed, but leave the space the spirit occupied empty- *and the spirit returns with 7 more spirits that are even stronger.* I say again- replace fear with faith.*
V7- God’s peace surpasses ALL comprehension- *there is no area of your life where God cannot give you peace, if you allow Him.* Again fill your thoughts with the things that matter-* V8 whatever is true*…honorable*…right*…pure*...lovely*…reputable*…excellent & praise worthy*…think on these things.*
And one more bonus verse- the one most of us usually turn to:*
V13- I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me-* I left this verse out of the reading deliberately, so we can focus on the mindset needed to grasp the strength God wants to give to us.* No obstacle to God’s will exists that He cannot empower you to overcome*- but we must accept that there are some things that from which God will remove us*- but in most cases there will be situations that God will take us through instead!* Remember. the man who is boldly telling the church “I can do anything through Christ!” is writing from a prison cell!* He does not know whether or not he will be freed or killed- and he’s okay with that! *If you recall, he started out this letter saying in Chapter 1:21: “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” *
The statements in these verses contain 4 absolutes: always, all, nothing and everything.* Paul’s use of these words lead me to this conclusion: *
Don’t be sure- be absolutely sure that the Lord is with you. *
I conclude with the thought I shared at the beginning:* Dying is NOT the true sacrifice; LIVING for Christ is! *Receive the strength to carry on!*
Please bow your heads, and let us go to the Lord in prayer: *
“Lord Jesus, please strengthen your people. *Let us pray and not worry; help us to replace fear with faith. *Give us joy in the midst of sorrow, and peace even in chaos*. Let us remember this simple truth: *in good times, and in bad, you are still God- and you are with us.* Let you people find comfort in this unshakable truth. *In Jesus’ Name, amen!*
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