Hope and Humility at All Times

Days fly by and time disappears in a dizzying spiral. You’re either in or out of the money, as they say. You’re happy one moment, devastated the next. What does your hope rest upon? What hope do you have that goes beyond the temporal and temporary of this world? On the sunny days or in the times of storm, James directs us to stand humbly and firmly upon Christ. (Jas. 1:9-11)

Part 4 of a whole book study series called “True Faith: A Study Through James”

Find the whole series in James here.

But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

flower in grassYou may wonder, why does James seem to “jump” from talking about enduring trials and asking God for wisdom with confident faith to talking about our perspective as rich or poor people? Our very circumstances may in many cases be a trial or test and require wisdom to navigate. To a person who has little, they are tested to endure with little. To a person with much, they are tested to see what is truly of value. I do not believe that one or the other is more “blessed” in the sense that the world sees blessing.  We are too quick to attribute a person’s material prosperity as being “blessed” by God. Continue reading

Every Need Met

When we offer what we have and who we are from a heart changed by Christ, it is an act of service to others and an act of worship to God our Creator and Provider. Paul concludes his letter to the Philippians with encouragement, praise, and thanks, pointing to Christ as the giver of grace and the source of all spiritual riches. (Phil. 4:15-23)

Part 20 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

The Fruit of Faith

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.

It is evident that although for a time they may have been unable to give, the church at Philippi was faithful in their support of Paul. They were the means by which God provided for his needs on multiple occasions. I don’t take these verses as an accusation or a complaint by Paul; rather, he is commending and showing appreciation to them for their consistency (related: 2 Cor. 8:1-9; 9:1-12). Continue reading

Be Content Always

Because our lives constantly change, we cannot rely on our circumstances to define our attitude. Instead we need to be defined by who Christ is and who we are in Him. Paul presents an authentic picture of contentment in Phil. 4:10-14 and exhorts us to rejoice and rest in God no matter what’s going on in your life.

Part 19 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

Paul begins a small section spanning verses 10 through 19 with a twofold purpose: 1) to rejoice in God for His material provision through the believers at Philippi, and 2) to confirm his contentment despite fluctuating and difficult circumstances. The concept of rejoicing in the Lord and contentment at all times is connected with his exhortations of not being anxious and of having a godly thought life.

Love Expressed

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.

Paul said earlier, during his writing about Epaphroditus, that the Philippian believers had not had the chance to serve Paul through financial support. He renews the feeling of that here, affirming to these brothers and sisters in Christ that he is aware of their love for him. His confidence in that love was present with or without their support, but they did express it that way. He was particularly glad of it because he knew their motivation sprang from their relationship in Christ. It was not simply that they felt they had some obligation to “do good” or “give money” (related: 2 Cor. 9:5-7). Continue reading

A Godly Thought Life

A countless number of thoughts pass through our minds each day — and yet how many are of eternal value? In Phil. 4:8-9, Paul presents facets of godly thinking and motivates us to consider carefully what we think, say, and do in light of who we are in Christ.

Part 18 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

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.

Even as believers in Christ, we can sometimes have the human tendency to allow our natural thinking to overcome biblical thinking. In the previous two verses, Paul  explained how God would guard our hearts and minds with peace as we brought all things to Him.

He now gives eight different aspects of godly and Christ-like thinking (I’ll give more attention to some more than others and certainly not in any wholly comprehensive way given the limitations of the post!). I think you’ll find that this is not simply a laundry list of words, but an intertwined set of characteristics to be seen in a believer. Continue reading

The Answer to Anxiety

In a way, our battle with anxiety comes down to a few simple questions: do we believe God or not? Do we believe He is sovereign over our lives or not? In Phil. 4:4-7, we find Paul exhorting us to bring all things to the Lord in prayer at all times because He is a God we can trust absolutely.

Part 17 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Remember — Paul was a prisoner awaiting trial that could potentially have led him to his death as he wrote this letter. And yet he still implores the Philippian believers to rejoice, despite his own personal circumstances; from a worldly standpoint, he had little cause for rejoicing!

In a certain sense, this exhortation to rejoice connects with Paul’s exhortation to rejoice in Philippians 3:1. And at the same time, it is part of his closing words and continues the thematic imperative to joy threaded throughout the letter.

It’s significant to reflect on the word always here. Consider: how difficult is it to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of a loss, grief, sickness, or other life chaos? Tough, right? We tend to let our emotions and feelings rule us in those times. It’s not that we shouldn’t have emotions and feelings; we were created with them. But we need the ability — based on our knowledge of God’s word — to be able to tell ourselves the biblical truth in spite of what we may feel at the time. We need constant reminders of what it is we have that goes beyond these temporal struggles and looks past these earthly pains. Continue reading

Love Other Believers

Do you know, believer, that you are God’s beloved? Do you see that those around you in Christ are also His beloved and worthy of love, service, and unity in truth? Things to reflect on about your relationships to other believers in Phil. 4:1-3.

Part 16 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

After a lengthy section of exhortations to single-minded focus on Christ, His cross, and the coming resurrection glory, Paul transitions to a collection of short exhortations and commands about unity, joy, prayer, and right and godly thinking. I’ll get to a few of them today and more next time.

Love For Believers

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

It’s interesting to see the ways in which Paul expresses his feelings for the Philippian believers: whom I love and long for…beloved. Paul assembles a few Greek words (agapētoi and epipothētoi) to convey his deep affection in the Lord for them (related: Phil. 1:8).

The word for “beloved” (agapētoi) actually appears twice in the Greek. This isn’t a word we use that often and there’s a rich beauty under its surface. He’s conveying the idea of these believers being dear to him, as being “divinely loved ones,” as Kenneth Wuest puts it. We are Christ’s beloved — His treasured ones, His precious possessions, His  children that He holds and cares for tenderly. Paul longs to see these people who dwell so profoundly in his heart again in person; it is not enough that they have sent gifts or sent a messenger. Continue reading

Enemies of the Cross

To live for the things of this earth and for the desires of our flesh — no matter what name we claim — is to live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Paul continues to offer guidance on godly role models with a sobering contrast of those who call themselves Christians, but whose lives tell otherwise. (Phil. 3:17-21)

What does this have to do with joy in Christ? There is joy in seeing a real diamond among a handful of cubic zirconia. There is joy in identifying the truth in a world of lies. And there is joy in having a right and godly perspective for today and the future.

Part 15 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

Be Careful Who You Follow

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Here Paul tells the Philippian believers, be imitators of what you see in me of Christ and what has been taught to you of His ways. It is not that Paul sees himself as sanctimonious, high and mighty, or having arrived at perfection. We saw in the last study that he clearly sees himself as still running the race. He is also not in any way trying to gather followers for himself in the place of followers of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 3:4-5, he disparaged the notion of following a man and clearly stated he was a servant through whom you have believed. Continue reading