New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
4:2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.
4:3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
4:5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
4:8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
4:9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
- This letter to the Philippians is first and foremost a thank you letter—to the church that partnered with him in a number of ways. It is also a letter of encouragement to pursue the Christian life with joy. Joy is at the heart of this letter. So much so that the word appears 16 times in the four short chapters that make up the book.
- Over the last couple of weeks, we have talked about some of the ways Paul has offered that we can and should have joy including having the mind and attitude of Jesus, always striving to be like him authentically – imitating and not impersonating him; and subordinating everything to our relationship with Jesus. Joy can be a defining characteristic of our Christian experience if we let it be.
- Experience joy: by standing firm in the Lord, knowing that our home is ultimately not here but in heaven and that Jesus has the power to bring everything under his control. When he will do that is not as much the concern as THAT he will do it.
- Experience joy: by working together towards common goals. “Rejoice” in the Lord always, is translated in the plural form. Our joy is increased when we come together and build each other up in our families, in our community, and especially in the church. Paul lifted up two women who were threatening the mission of the church by being at odds with each other. Drama! This kind of discord can lead to gossip, factions, fracturing of the community and then you don’t have a church on fire for the Lord, it’s just a church on fire! Abraham Lincoln quoted Mark 3:25 when he said a house divided cannot stand. If people were asked to summarize your life in one sentence, what would it be? Would people remember you as a unifier or disrupter? As someone who’s life is characterized by peace, joy, and love? The main thing we know of the two women mentioned here is that they were causing discord and disrupting the work of the church.
- Experience joy: through redefining our circumstances to find God in the midst of whatever is going on. The joy experienced in this way is a sign of Christ working in you and among us. This is not dependent on any particular set of circumstances or things going “right.” Rather, it is a result of our disciplining our minds to see God at work, perhaps even in less than obvious places. For example: Paul was proclaiming his joy from a prison cell and sharing about how some rivals of his were able to get more traction preaching because he was side-lined in jail. Instead of being angry and consumed with rage, he said he was glad and filled with joy over the fact that the name of Jesus still went forth—he remained focused on the goal. I imagine any of the modern-day activists and advocates for civil rights, those on the front lines of the cause of justice, are not happy about being taunted, arrested, and subject to ridicule, but as their causes advance, they can be joyful.
- How do we do this:
- Prayer is critical part of the process. Bring everything and anything to God, especially the things that worry us. (vs. 6) Also bring those things before God with praise! Thank God through all circumstances. “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5: 16-18). “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1) Our Friday morning prayer team does this really well. As does the Wednesday prayer ministry. Depth of gratitude to God is a major characteristic of joyful people.
- Once you start praying, leave worry behind. Hard task but not impossible. Why? “Because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (4:13)
- Stay connected to other believers. Isolating is dangerous for those trying to pursue a life of faith.
- “Do not be conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may discern what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2. This can come through following Paul’s admonition in vs. 8: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Meditate on things that will reinforce and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control. (Galatians 5: 22-23)
- Having done all this, as individuals, families, churches, we will be able to not only experience joy but also the peace of God v.6, which passes all understanding, in the midst of life’s most challenging and anxiety provoking situations because God, himself will be with you. V.9