Philippians 4.4-7 – Three ‘R’s

Today we see three r’s; rejoice, reasonableness, and requests.

First, Paul returns to the main theme of his writing: joy, rejoicing! Despite the circumstances from which he was writing (cf. 1.12-14), he has spoken of joy and rejoicing many, many times (1.4, 1.18, 1.25, 2.2, 2.16, 2.17, 2.18, 2.28, 3.1, 3.3, and 4.1). The cure for the fighting of vv.2-3? Rejoice in the Lord always!

The prevention of future fights is Paul’s next r; reasonableness. He is communicating that the saints at Philippi – and you and me by extension – are to live our lives with meekness, self-control, gentleness, an aversion to arguments, and patience. What a way to future-proof yourself from fighting – show reasonableness!

So we are rejoicing, we are showing our reasonableness, and our next r is a command: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (v.6). We rejoice, we are reasonable, and we request.

In prayer and supplication, in communication with God and by asking of God, with thanksgiving we make our requests. We tell God what we feel we need. We ask God to help, to show Himself glorious in our lives, we tell our heavenly Father about everything we are doing and how we need help. 

The result of living these three r’s is found in v.7, and comes in the form of the peace of God guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. This peace is so unexplainably good that you have to experience it to believe it, and even then it still surpasses all understanding. 

So, rejoice, show reasonableness, make requests, and experience peace. How different to the fights of vv.2-3, a life filled with the peace of God!

Philippians 4.2-3 – Problems and Prizes

How would somebody sum up your life in just a few words? How would you sum up your life just a few words? In 4.2-3 Paul mentions four people very briefly and it makes you think: if someone were to mention me in just a few words, what would they say?

We see that Euodia and Syntyche are mentioned and they have been in some sort of disagreement (v.2). The next brief mention is this person referenced as true companion. He is to help these women, and remind them that whatever they are arguing about, the have a shared history of serving the Lord together with Paul (v.3), along with Clement and the rest of [his] fellow workers. Four named, a few more unnamed. All very brief.

Paul is trying to communicate to them that the prize is bigger than the problem. He writes that all of these people – named or not – have their names in the book of life (cf. Revelation 20.15). The prize is so much bigger than whatever their problem might be. There is far more that unites Euodia and Syntyche than divides them. They will share an eternal destination, no matter if they are fighting here in their earthly station. 

The same is true for you, too. Whatever you are working through now, whoever you are working through it with, the prize is far bigger than the problem. The fact that, if you have put hope, faith, and trust in Jesus to clear the consequences that your sin has, and is, and will accumulate, your name is written in the book of life, and that is far more important, honestly, than anything you might be tediously tiring yourself out with today. 

Take a deep breath, take a step back, and remember this – the prize is far bigger than the problem. 

Philippians 3.17-4.1 – Citizenship

Today Paul draws a strong contrast between the lives lived by those who are imitating him (v.17), and those not.

He writes that, sadly (…with tears…) there are many who are walking as essentially enemies of the cross (v.18) due to their rampant self-indulgence and the glory taken in their lifestyle choices (v.19). Living what Solomon would call a life under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1-2), they make clear through their conduct they are in and of the world. 

But, Paul says, the believer must see themselves as one whose true and ultimate citizenship is in heaven. This is a strong word for the Philippians, who despite being geographically distant from Rome, were actually Roman citizens. As a Roman, Caesar was seen as Saviour, and Lord, and would be much-anticipated and waited-for on official visits. Paul says that as citizens of heaven, Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Saviour, and it is for Him that we wait (v.20). He promises far better than any earthly ruler ever could (v.21), and it is for this reason we are to stand firm in the Lord (4.1).

The contrast is stark, the difference is clear. We can choose to live under the sun and as enemies of the cross of Christ, or, we can choose to view ourselves as citizens of heaven, and act accordingly.

No doubt that your wardrobe, social activities, language, customs, culture, and attitudes all reflect a little of where you are from. The big question for us today, then, is do they also reflect where we are going (v.20), and how we are getting there (v.21)? 

Philippians 3.17 – Imitate

Paul has already told the Philippians of his intention to live more like Jesus (vv.8-14), and once again warns the believers to be wary of those in their midst that would seek to throw them off the narrow path (cf. v.2).

This time he throws in an example or two to follow. He writes in 3.17, 

Brothers, join in imitating me, 

and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Rather then try to turn the church at Philippi into Paul-copy-pastes, he is saying they should imitate him in his ‘relentless pursuit’ of becoming more and more like Christ, as Robert Lightner put it. The writer/speaker to the Hebrews urges the same in 13.7 when he says we ought to imitate [your leaders’] faith. 

From this we see that whilst we have one ultimate goal and target (cf. Philippians 3.8), along the way it’s ok to have multiple mini-targets, many men and women from whom we want to take their exemplary character and conduct, brothers and sisters whom we want to imitate. 

Just think – in your church family is there someone so unflappably cool, calm, and collected that you look at them and think, wow, I wish I was as steady as him/her? Is there someone that you talk to and think, wow, he/she really knows Scripture, I wish I knew the Word like they do?

The good news as you pursue the Good News is that we are encouraged to imitate those around us, to take their best and add it to our lives. Here Paul is encouraging the Philippians to imitate his relentless pursuit of becoming more like Jesus, and perhaps that is a good point to pause today – identify someone in your church family with a relentless desire to become more and more like Christ, talk to them, pray with them, get to know them, and, if the Lord leads you to, then imitate them!

Philippians 3.12-16 – Pressing On

Fresh from encouraging the Philippians to pursue relationship with Jesus, and, ultimately, the resurrection from the dead, Paul now brings things firmly back to earth. He writes that he has not already obtained this, nor is he already perfect, but he is working as hard as he possibly can to make his relationship with Jesus, and therefore his resurrection from the dead, his own (v.12). 

To reinforce his humanity Paul reiterates and says that he has not already achieved this (v.13a), but he is looking ever-forward and running towards relationship and the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (v.14, cf. Luke 9.62). 

The takeaway for us has to be Paul’s attitude.

He goes to great lengths – and uses strong vocabulary – to tell the saints at Philippi that he knows he has not already arrived in his life of faith, and that if they are mature, they ought to think this way too (v.15). The feeling of arrival, of settling for how things are, of not having the desire to forget what was and always be moving towards what will be, is honestly, a plague on your faith life. How do you avoid it? Well, the same way that you train and workout your physical self to stay physically healthy, you need to train and workout your spiritual self to stay spiritually healthy. Consider these questions today;

  1. Do I have a daily time of Christ-centred Bible reading?
  2. Do I have a daily time of prayer, either personally or with others, preferably both?
  3. What is the master passion of my life, what am I really pursuing?
  4. Am I too comfortable with how things are? – v.13a
  5. Am I straining towards what will be? – v.13b
  6. Do I have interaction, accountability, and unity with other believers in my life? – v.16