Philippians week 11: A User’s Guide to Joy and Peace

Read Philippians 4:1-9

v. 1: Therefore, my brothers and my sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. The “Therefore”, points back to all the “imperatives” (commands) that Paul has given us to stand firm and be of one mind. But I want you to notice something here. All of Paul’s imperatives are based on Biblical “indicatives” (reality, truths).

For example: the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ  (3:7-17), the tragic destiny of the enemies of the cross (3:18-19), the present reality of our heavenly citizenship, and the expectation of Christ’s return to restore all things (3:20-21) are all the indicatives (realities, truths) that Paul uses to motivate or compel us to stand firm and to be of the same mind (4:1-3).

Paul’s commands are not random statements of his personal authority. He always bases his imperatives on the solid ground of the indicatives of what Christ has done and will do. Grace always precedes, surrounds, and empowers the life of obedience. I pursued my wife before I asked her to spend the rest of her life with me and to love and be with me. You tracking? God redeems, and asks us to obey in light of our redemption.

v. 1: Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown… Okay, it doesn’t get much more personal and endearing than this in Scripture, other than from the mouth of Jesus or the pen of the Psalmists. Paul loves the Philippians. They are his joy and crown.

As your pastor, I really want you to feel this passage and get the heart of Paul in this. This is my heart for you today. “I love you and long for you all to live in harmony with Jesus. I am jealous for your affections to be for Jesus and not things that perish and destroy. I love being your pastor and laboring along side you for Jesus’ sake!

v. 1b: my joy and my crown: Paul has the theme of joy threaded throughout this whole letter. The Philippians are Paul’s joy because the are family (adopted by God into the same family; brothers and sisters) and share in the community and fellowship of the gospel. This is a relational joy that came from sharing life together, not a situational joy that is contingent upon performance (blood brothers, parent to child, brother to sister).

Paul says in my own words, “Because of you O Philippians, I joyfully celebrate a great victory: you are my crown.” This indicates that Paul envisions a great celebration, much like a celebration that one would see at the end of the Olympic games, where the champions are given their wreaths on their heads and there is a great celebration!

“Since Paul refers to his friends in Thessalonica as “the crown in which we will glory in the presence of the Lord Jesus when he comes” (1 Thess 2:19), he may have the time of the Lord’s return in mind when he refers to his Philippian friends as his joy and crown. He told them earlier to hold firmly to the word of life so that he would be able to boast on the day of Christ (2:16). And his announcement of the Lord’s imminent appearance from heaven to transform our lowly bodies (3:20-21) sets the immediate context for this reference to his friends as his joy and crown.” 1 Kineo, you are my joy and my crown!
After Paul addresses the entire community in love, he turns to address two women who are in conflict:

2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Surprise, surprise! Women in conflict? (Come on, laugh with me!) These are two women who are leaders within the community are divided and have taken separate stands and different members of the community have been asked to stand with them in support of their argument. Paul avoids favoritism by appealing to both women with a plea (he entreats both of them separately).

This also shows that their conflict was not one of doctrine or one that at least distorted the gospel. So why would Paul call these women out? Why would Paul speak to these two women so urgently if their conflict did not have any impact on the church? “

“If their conflict seriously threatened the unity of the church, then his reference to them by name in a letter to be read to the whole church appropriately and understandably identifies a major cause of the problem of disunity addressed in numerous ways throughout the entire letter. Paul’s call for these two women to be of the same mind in the Lord repeats his major challenge to the entire community to be like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind (2:2).” 2

To be of the same mind means to have the same attitude or goal. What attitude or goal is Paul referring to? Well, we can go back in the letter and see where he gives an example of an attitude to model and a goal to press in after:

2:2-5: 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind (attitude), having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind (attitude) among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,

3:14-15: 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (boasting in and attaining the Kingdom of God). 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Paul’s asking them to humble themselves, think of the others’ needs before their own because they are family. Press to know God’s kingdom and advance it, not your own.
“When their common bond in the Lord becomes central, their attitude toward each other will be the same as Christ Jesus expressed on the way to the cross: they will not claim their rights for their own advantage; they will take the form of a servant; they will humble themselves (2:5-8).” 3 And when treated like a servant, they will not shriek in anger or cry injustice. Rather, they who are mature will see the bigger picture and seek peace.

Paul is concerned with this conflict to the point of not only calling out both women to be of the same attitude, but he also brings in a third party, a moderator which is a great idea when two believers are at an impasse. “Help these women”, Paul says, “as they are believers who are a part of God’s family. Entreat them to live like they are.”

Now Paul turns again to fire off imperative after imperative (command after command):

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice: This command extends the theme of joy that Paul is after in this letter. This Imperative (command) serves to set the tone for all that follows in this passage. Paul is writing this letter from prison to Christians who are suffering for aligning themselves with Jesus and His kingdom more than Caesar and his kingdom.

This command calls for an attitude that is cheerful in every circumstance as being the dominant theme in the life of a Christian. All other satisfaction is birthed out of rejoicing in the Lord (being satisfied in/with HIm). Ultimately, the source of our joy “comes from what the Lord has done in the past, from what He is doing now, and from the hope of what He will do.” 4

Until the return of Jesus we are all going to endure loss, pain, disappointment, stress, sickness, humiliation, and even our own death. The only joy that lasts is joy found in God. Satisfaction in Him. Remembering our conversion like King David did: 1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. (Ps. 40:1-3a)

5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; “In light of your rejoicing” (or “As you rejoice”), be reasonable with it. The Gk. word here is “epieikḗs” which means gentleness, compassion, or sympathy. So we can say “let your softness” be known to everyone. The KJV gives us the word moderation. Don’t be a Joseph who rejoiced with his brothers when they didn’t even get it. Be gentle with those who aren’t rejoicing or don’t get why you should be rejoicing in all things. Jesus was gentle and lowly in heart, so should we be (Matt. 11:29). He is with us, and He is coming back!

So we get the kind of rejoicing that Paul is after in v. 4 is gentle, humble, caring for others kind of rejoicing, that is patient with others, not in a self-righteous kind of way.
6a do not be anxious about anything: Don’t worry, be happy now… This wasn’t some happy go lucky comment that is detached from reality kind of statement. He was in prison, tomorrow was uncertain, suffering was his reality at that moment. Danger was everywhere. Same with the Philippians. They were in danger of poverty, hunger, isolation, heretics that sought to destroy them, and a government that wanted them dead in Rome.

This sounds much like the words that Jesus rendered to his listeners at the sermon on the mount: 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?… 28b Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you… 31 Therefore do not be anxious… 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matt. 6:25, 26-27, 28b-31a, 33

6b but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God: Don’t worry, but wait and pray with a thankful heart! Pray with a thankful heart. Prayers that are devoid of thanksgiving are prayers that come from those who are devoid of grace (or at least being able to see evidences of God’s grace). Grace produces thankfulness. Pray with a thankful heart for who Jesus says you are, and what He has promised for you today and in the future.

7 And (here is the implication of obedience to the imperatives)…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. What a trade off! “Seek me first with rejoicing and thankfulness, and I will give you peace.” “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:26

This peace transcends all rational thinking or any reality that you are facing today. This peace is, as Paul says in Ephesians 3:20 is “far more” than we could ever ask or even think of. Peace in our souls is what is at stake here. Peace that guards (garrisons) our hearts and our mind through the good news of Jesus! Peace will overwhelm-ingly flow to those who with thanksgiving, make their requests known to God!

This is how you get to what Paul closes with. Rejoicing in the Lord and conversing with Him with a thankful heart allows us to think in the way that he closes with only because God’s peace that is more than we could ever imagine has garrisoned our whole selves:

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

In other words, think about and preach the gospel to yourselves. Talk about how God, by the power of the gospel, has transformed your life, restored relationships, brought you out of despair, gave you hope, etc… Whatever is “good”, think and talk about that. There is enough bad gossip that we like to run to naturally because of our love for sin, so fight it by talking about the gospel! ) Give brief reference of Adam and Eve in Gen. 3 vs. Joseph in Gen. 39. Adam and Eve focused on the forbidden fruit and never looked up at the thousands of trees that were provided. Joseph looked away from the forbidden fruit at all the Potiphar had entrusted to him. Think about all that God has given and stop desiring that which is forbidden.

9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. This is a “work out what God has worked in” statement. Indicative: All that Christ has done for you. Imperative: Now practice, or put to use what you have already been given by Christ. Then peace… No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace!

Let’s Pray!

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