Exhortations for Christian living

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Philippians 4:1-9

Introduction

Today we are going to look at a quite well known passage.
Here we see eight things we should be doing.

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1) Stand firm

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (Philippians4:1)

“Therefore” – whenever you see a “therefore” in the Bible ask yourself: “What is it there for?” It will always be following on from the previous section.

In Philippians, chapter 3, Paul has been speaking of the Heavenly Hope, the Return of the Lord Jesus, and the Resurrection Body.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
(Philippians 3:20-21)

 

“Therefore, stand firm” – through all the trials of this life we are able to stand firm because our spiritual eyes are fixed on the goal – the Celestial City, gleaming in the distance.

 

 

 

Paul refers to the Philippians as his beloved brothers and sisters, his joy and crown. He had led them to the Lord: now he wants them to stand firm in the Faith.

Let us also then stand firm. As we face the trials and struggles of life, let us fix our eyes on the heavenly reward. It is the knowledge that this life is but the preparation for the next that gives us the strength to go on.

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2) Agree with one another

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
(Philippians 4:2-3)

These two ladies were both Christians who had worked alongside Paul in spreading the Gospel. Now they have fallen out about something. Paul pleads with them to be reconciled – to forgive one another. However difficult it may be, it is always better to patch up an argument. Indeed it may only be patching up at first, but even that is better than the festering sore of resentment. “Forgive one another”, Paul is saying, “set aside your pride for the greater good of the cause”. Agree to differ, perhaps. For there is nothing more harmful to the spread of the Gospel than enmity between believers.

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3) Help and encourage

Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women … (Philippians 4:3)

The “true companion” or “yoke fellow” referred to might be none other than Luke the Physician, who wrote the Book of Acts as well as Luke’s Gospel. Paul says to him, “Help these women to make up their quarrel.”

Now there’s a lot we all can do to help and encourage our fellow believers. Not only to help them make up their differences, but to help them in other ways as well. Is there a brother or sister who is discouraged, or sad, or lonely, or sick? See what you can do to help them. Sometimes a smile or a kind word is all it takes. Help and encourage.

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4) Rejoice in God

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!
(Philippians 4:4)

Christian joy is a deep-seated state of the soul. It is not always linked with outward emotions. But it is always there, deep in the heart, even when the surface of our minds may be stirred with sorrow or grief.

The joy is still there because it is founded on God, and on our relationship with him. He is the Eternal and Unchanging One, and so our joy in him does not change.

We notice that Paul does not just say “rejoice” – he says “rejoice in the Lord”. And that’s the important thing – it’s in our relationship with God that we rejoice.

And so we all need to learn how to rejoice in the Lord, even when bad things happen to us in life. Whatever happens to me in life it does not change the fact of my relationship with God in Christ.

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5) Gentleness

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
(Philippians 4:5)

Christian love shows itself in gentleness or meekness. Note that this is not the same as weakness. You are weak when you have no power to resist someone or something. You are meek or gentle when you have the power but you choose not to use it. Jesus was gentle in that sense in all his dealings with those who were in need. Yes, he was very stern with the arrogant Pharisees and with the Priests who were turning God’s temple into a den of thieves, but he was always gentle with those who were broken and poor.

Here is a good guideline – always be gentle to those who are weaker than yourself. A Christian does not lord it over others. A Christian should be compassionate, loving and gentle, and thus be a true follower of the Lord Jesus.

“The Lord is near”, Paul says. It is true that he was expecting the return of the Lord Jesus at any moment. But it could be that he is referring here to the presence of the Lord through the Spirit. “The Lord is near at all times – so show his gentleness in your lives,” is what Paul seems to be saying.

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6) Trust

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
(Philippians 4:6)

Anxiety doesn’t cure anything – it only makes things worse. It just worries away at the problem like an old dog gnawing a bone. Sometimes we need to break out of the cycle of worry. I know it’s easier to say this than it is to do it: but if we can just trust God, that will do the trick. So let us open our hearts to God.

Paul says to pray about everything, no matter how trivial it might seem to be. God is concerned about every part of our lives, so bring it all before the Lord. And do so in a thankful spirit. That is: don’t just ask things from God, but trust God for the answer and have the faith to thank him before he has even answered. Anyway, a thankful attitude will help us to trust God and not to be so anxious.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:7)

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7) Accentuate the positive

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8)

Fill your mind with good thoughts, helpful thought, pure thoughts, noble thoughts. Not with all that is evil and mean, wicked, harmful and unclean. Many people spend a lot of time on social media, and it can be very harmful. There is no doubt a lot of wickedness out there in the Internet. But it’s not all harmful, there’s also a lot of good. So when you’re online, look for the good. If I see something positive or encouraging on Facebook I will share it with my friends.

The other day I read the story of a 91 year old man who is terminally ill and in hospital. All he can do is sit up in his bed all day long. But he has got hold of one of those knitting looms, and all day long he knits hats for homeless people. He has now knitted more than – would you believe it – 8000 hats! What an inspiring story this is. This man hasn’t got long to live and he could just lie in his bed in despair, but he is chosen to do what he can to help others for the remainder of his life. That’s what I mean by a noble and inspiring story, and the world is full of such things. Think on the good and the positive things.

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8) Follow the example of dedicated leaders

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:9)

Paul was totally dedicated to the cause of Christ, and he urges his listeners to be similarly committed – to put into practice what they have learned from him. Today we can learn from the teaching and example of many inspiring Christian leaders. Some of them of our own day and others of the past. There can be a great inspiration in reading Christian biographies. We can read the writings of great Christians of the past. We can follow the teaching of dedicated Christian leaders. And we can seek to put into practice their teachings and example in our Christian lives.

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Conclusion

“And the God of peace will be with you.”

Put these eight points into practice and the God of peace will be with you. Notice, it doesn’t say “the peace of God” will be with you, but the “God of peace”! There is a difference. You see: it’s not just God’s peace with us, it’s God himself with us. The God of peace!

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