Over the last month or so we’ve been considering the very important spiritual and mental health passage that Paul wrote to the church in Philippi while he was imprisoned in Rome for being faithful to the gospel and while the church in Philippi was going through some conflict in their midst. We’ll conclude our study in verse nine today but before we do that let us review the whole passage and see what we’ve been considering – “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me – put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you,” (Phil.4:4-9 NIV).
As we begin to wrap up this passage Paul is relying on his model and example that he set before the Philippian church. The words “learned or received” in verse nine in the Greek were used regularly for receiving truth from a teacher. The idea of putting this right thinking into practice as he mentioned means that right thinking is something that should become habitual in our daily lives. We also considered the importance of bringing all of our anxieties and worries of the Lord Jesus Christ for He cares for us. It is not enough to read or hear the Word of God or even to know it well. It is to be put into practice on a daily basis. It is so easy to listen to a sermon and forget what the preacher said. James also gives us warning in this area when he wrote, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like,” (James 1:22 – 24 NIV). Christianity is not to be turned into a creed isolated from daily, godly living. It is not to be simple facts in our heads and then we go about living our lives independent of what the Word of God says in its application to our lives. We must practice all Paul has been explaining by both his teaching and how he lived his life.
In Paul’s ministry, he not only taught the Word of God but also lived it out so believers could see the truth in his life. Remember the church of Philippi was founded in Acts 16 when Paul and Silas were unjustly imprisoned and scourged and yet in the middle of the night they were singing praises to God, which led to an earthquake and ultimately the salvation of the Philippian jailer and his whole household. His example before them, without doubt, led these folks to become part of the founding of the church in Philippi. Today right thinking and godly living mean having a different focus and priority in our lives. Paul desires that his experience be our experience when we’re going through difficult times. This is the third time Paul explicitly reminded his readers to follow his example. This is not a matter of pride or self-centered absorption, but rather of right thinking and right living that flow together in our daily connection to the Word of God. What would be the anxiety level and fear level of Christians if we had the same thought process in place as Paul has demonstrated for us in this profound passage? Remember where Paul was when he was writing these things. With the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us, should we not be developing right thought processes on a spiritual basis, even in the midst of the most difficult problems?
There are all kinds of Christian organizations and groups that are offering counsel and guidance on how to reopen the church and how we should be responding to the crisis before us. But none of them have ever experienced a pandemic like we’re currently experiencing. There is no manual, “For dummies on how to survive a pandemic”. Every church situation will be different and as church leaders, we need to act in wisdom and guidance, but this Philippians passage is a pretty good place for us to be grounded in the face of the uncertainty that we currently experiencing. That’s why I’ve taken the time I have over the last month or so to expound upon this passage because it’s extremely important for us to be grounded in right-thinking and not the function out of all the bad news we are daily bombarded with or to proceed in a spirit of fearfulness and timidity. Paul certainly was one who could have been fearful after all the things that he had experienced and yet towards the end of his ministry, he writes these words to, “Rejoice always in the Lord, and again I say, Rejoice!”.
As we ground ourselves in the Word of God let us seek to experience the peace of God that Paul describes to us. This peace is found through the process of applying biblical truths to our current situation. God has truly set an amazing door of opportunity before us, let us not miss this opportunity by functioning out of fear and anxiety. As we move closer to reopening NDC I hope that you will be applying these truths to your life on a daily basis. The basis of right living starts in the process of right-thinking and committing all of our burdens and all of our cares to the Lord Jesus Christ, who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
All for God’s Glory,
Pastor Rich Sivo