Pauls letter to the Philippians is his most personal and intimate letter. Several times he mentions his fondness for them and his desire to see them and to be with them. Joy in the Lord and in each other is the main theme. The word joy is used 16 times. But Paul also mentions their struggle to stay faithful to Christ and refers to the enemies of Christ who would persecute them or lead them astray. Several times Paul encourages them to stand firm in the Lord. Lets not forget that Paul wrote this from a prison cell in Rome.
This seems like a timely message for our church today. Across America church membership seems to be declining. Our influence as believers on our culture seems to be decreasing. Many Christians seem disillusioned by the change in direction our country is experiencing. Yet in the midst of struggle, Paul encourages us to stand firm in the Lord.
After reading this passage, the term that came to mind was Living Large in the Lord. We have nothing to be ashamed of in regard to our faith in God and our relationship with Jesus. We have a clear mission in this world as disciples of Jesus Christ. We have biblical values by which to live, to prosper and to be fruitful. We have other believers to encourage us and to stimulate our faith and good deeds. Living large in the Lord means nobody can stop us from being faithful to Jesus and fulfilling the purpose for which we have been called. Living large in the Lord begins with a commitment to stand firm in our faith.
Living large begins with standing firm in the Lord, 4:1
1) Living large in the Lord is a worldview.
A worldview that is focused on eternal values not temporal.
A worldview that says I want the blessing of God more than I want anything this world has to offer.
2) Living large in the Lord is a commitment.
Paul says, To live is Christ to die is gain (Php 1:21).
A consistent choice to live for Christ.
3) In this way... refers to what Paul has said both in the previous passage as well as throughout the letter.
Previous passage, 3:17-21:
Follow my example
Follow the example of those who follow us
Some who claim to follow Christ are really enemies of the cross: their end is destruction, setting their minds on earthly things
But we belong to the kingdom of Heaven eagerly waiting the Lords return
He will bring all things under His authority.
Whole letter, selection of well known passages:
1:6 He who began a good work in you will perfect it
to live is Christ to die is gain
work out your salvation in fear and trembling
forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward what lies ahead
in this way
then refers to a willing surrender to the authority of Jesus, a joyful embrace of the Lordship of Jesus and of our citizenship in His kingdom.
Paul concludes Philippians with five exhortations that give practical application to living large in the Lord (Php 4:2-9)
1) Live in Harmony, vs 2, 3 (lit. be of the same mind).
The problems: methodology, gifting, passion, spiritual ambition
Several exhortations: 1:27; 2:1-4; Be of the same mind
Help them: responsibility of the body to help people get along
2) Live Graciously (vs 4, 5):
Rejoice (v 4): transition reminder to stay focused on the Lord
Gentle spirit (lit. forbearance)
Reputation as a people who love each other and who get along
How you talk about someone to others
How you treat others outside the church
Lord is near:
Urgency to being gracious
How would your talk of others change if Jesus showed up?
3) Live in Peace (vs 6, 7):
Be anxious for nothing
Release the worry and burden by talking with Jesus: Prayer is not a religious activity but a real-time conversation with a living being.
The peace of God beyond our understanding:
We cant get it through our own reasoning
When we get the peace of God, it doesnt make sense.
Guard your hearts
military term that refers to a fortified encampment as opposed to a single sentry.
4) Live in Excellence (v 8):
This list of positive virtues is self evident, no hidden meanings.
Dwell on these things: consider or take into account, i.e. learn to think on the positive things, as from Gods perspective.
5) Live Consistently (v 9):
Paul says, If there is any doubt in how to live, remember my example when I lived with you.
Practice these things: i.e. do them repeatedly so as to form a habit.
1) Keep short accounts and walk in the light with each other.
Forgiveness is the key issue to restore harmony.
Dont be afraid to ask for help in resolving a conflict.
2) Be kind and gentle with one another
Treat others as you like to be treated.
Extend grace and choose not to be offended.
3) Stop trying to figure things out by your own reasoning: release it to God and receive peace. Steps:
Pray (talk with the Lord)
Release (recognize what you are holding on to and let it go)
Receive (go soft inside)
4) Dwell on what is positive and good
Refuse negative, critical, cynical, etc.
Romans 12:1 no longer conform to the patterns of this world, but by the renewing of your mind
5) Develop godly habits
Find godly people to hang out with.
Seek friendships that are replenishing to your soul and that build faith
1) How have you experienced Living Large in the Lord? How did you need to stand firm in your faith during that season of time?
2) Share a time when you experienced the peace of God in troubled times. How did you receive it?
3) What is the most difficult part of resolving conflict with others for you? What helps you overcome this difficulty so that resolution can take place?
4) In what ways do you rejoice in the Lord always during difficult times?