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

Keep Pressing Forward

Our past sins and regrets can often paralyze us, steal our joy, and have us looking back so much we forget what lies ahead. Paul encourages us in Phil. 3:12-16 to walk with the expectation and hope of our future resurrection glory, allowing that to motivate us to greater holiness by God’s enabling grace!

Part 14 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

We saw in the last study that Paul rejected the idea of his human accomplishments making him righteous before God, that he held solely to faith in Christ for his salvation. He moves on in these next verses to explain the diligence with which he pursues conformity to Christ on a daily basis, with a view toward glory.

Already But Not Yet

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.

When Paul says in verse 12, he has not already obtained this or is already perfect, he is referring back to verse 11 about resurrection. His sanctification is not complete; he has not been resurrected or glorified. But he does know this much: he belongs to Christ. He has been adopted into the family of God through faith — God’s gift to him — and because of this, he longs for ongoing progress in his sanctification. Continue reading

Losing It All To Be Found In Christ

What is worth holding on to in the face of death? Your house, car, iPhone? Your job and education? Awards and recognition? To Paul, following Christ was more important than anything he had done or been in his life. In Phil. 3:7-11, he covers the deep significance in gaining Christ through faith.

Part 13 of a whole book study series called “Joy in Christ: A Study Through Philippians.”

Find the whole series in Philippians here.

Forsaking All to Gain Christ

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

In the last study, Paul gave us a laundry list of why he looked righteous by worldly standards, but was clear that none of his reasons measured up. After he’s given us that list, he makes a sharp delineation here: these man-centered reasons are not just without value, but more emphatically, they are a loss, damaging, detrimental. However significant his background and training looked like it had value, when it came to comparing it to the value of Christ, it was a complete wash. When he trusted Christ, he turned his back on all that the world considered in him to be success and accomplishment.

Have you lost anything as a result of following Christ? Friends, work opportunities, the approval of others? Have you let go of dreams or plans that you thought were best for you in favor of pursuing things of eternal value? The next verse should be encouraging to you in that knowing Christ is worth more than anything you may have lost or given up. Continue reading