As I prepare to teach Philippians 4 tonight, I am excited about all that God is going to teach us. God has done some awesome things over the past 10 weeks and I am excited to see what He is going to continue doing. The previous lesson dealt with pressing on to the goal of knowing Christ intimately. It was neat to be challenged in our relationship with Christ. This week, we are going to take a look at the overview of Philippians 4.
In order to understand the chapter, we need to get some context. The theme of the epistle is found in Philippians 4:4. Philippians teaches us how to rejoice in every circumstance of life. In chapter 1, we rejoice by preaching the Gospel in every circumstance of life. In chapter 2, we rejoice by having the attitude of Christ in every circumstance of life. In chapter 3, we rejoice by knowing Jesus Christ intimately. Now, in chapter 4, we rejoice by doing all things through Christ who enables us.
What are the circumstances in which we need to do all things through Christ? Let’s take a look at chapter 4 and find out.
I. Resolve conflict through Christ
If you have been alive more than 5 minutes, then I am sure that you are either in a conflict, coming out of a conflict, or heading in to a conflict. Conflicts are a part of life because we are sinful, selfish people by nature. In the midst of conflict, there is not much joy. In fact, conflicts usually lead to anxiety, or, conflicts could come as a result of high anxiety. Once you are in Christ, conflicts do not go away. The only thing that changes is the fact that when you follow Christ, you learn how to resolve conflicts God’s way. Conflicts will arise in the church because the church is formed of saints who still have a sin nature. In order to have joy and continually rejoice, you have to resolve the conflict. Ignoring it will not make it go away. It must be confronted and that confrontation must be done in love and with a view of reconciliation. Once the reconciliation takes place, we begin to serve each other and serve with one another again. This causes joy in both of our lives. If we do not resolve the conflict then we cannot rejoice and we do not want to serve one another. Paul is not speaking theory only here. He has gone through the difficulties of resolving conflict. There was a misunderstanding between Paul and the Corinthians. The Corinthians jumped the gun and assumed things about Paul. The conflict escalated quickly. When Paul learned of the situation, he immediately wrote II Corinthians to try and resolve the conflict. He confronted the conflict and he did it with love with the view of reconciliation. Paul is almost depressed when he writes II Corinthians, because of the conflict. God worked and the conflict was resolved. Paul and the Corinthians were reconciled. He wanted to continue serving them and they wanted to serve him. Are you dealing with the conflicts in your life? Are you resolving them God’s way or your own way? Have you seen reconciliation take place? Are you helping others resolve conflict God’s way?
II. Deal with anxiety through Christ
If you have not resolved the conflicts in your life, then you have or are currently experiencing anxiety. Our society is frozen in the fear of anxiety and in the grip of anxiety. The natural solution is “take a pill to make it go away”. The problem is, the pill usually makes you fell better for a while but then you end up right back where you started. God, on the other hand, has a different solution. If conflict has led to anxiety, then, resolve the conflict God’s way. If something else is causing anxiety, here is what you need to do.
- Run to the Lord and stand firm with Him
- Rely on Christ in the midst of a difficult situation
- Do not be overcome with anxious feelings – Anxious feelings simply want to distract you and divide you from Christ, keeping you focused on fear and away from God. Do not let this overcome you. Choose to turn to Christ.
- Instead of being anxious, run to the Lord in prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and make your requests known to God.
When you take the above mentioned steps, verse 7 promises us that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds, especially in the midst of very difficult circumstances. There is an example of this seen in the life of king Jehoshaphat in II Chronicles 20. If you have read it, here is what you learned:
- It is a situation of high anxiety
- Knee jerk reaction is fear
- the king is not distracted by the fear
- he runs to the Lord
- he fasts and prays corporately
- his prayer is a prayer of worship
- he worships God for who He is
- he pleads with God based on the glory of the Lord
- the Lord responds
- do not fear
- obey My voice
- allow Me to fight for you
- the king ends in prayer
- he worships and glorifies God once again
Once Christ gives me His peace, how do I then maintain that peace. I know that it is a battle of the mind, so what do I do?
III. Keep the mind under control through Christ
The battlefield always has been and always will be, the mind. How do I keep from slipping back into the trap of anxiety? Christ rescues me but my sin nature wants to slip back in to the mire of anxiety. How do I keep my mind under control? Get into the Word of God. Stay in the Word of God and apply what the Word of God teaches me. Verse 8 in Philippians 4 teaches us to dwell on what the Word of God teaches us. This idea is exemplified in II Timothy 3:16. As we dwell in the Word of God, His Word begins to teach us. How does He teach us? He shows us where we are wrong. Then, He helps us get back right. Once we have been made right, He trains us to remain on the right path. Paul explains it another way in II Corinthians 10:5, if we allow anxiety to creep in, then it can set up a strong hold. When it becomes a stronghold, it will oppress us, distract us. We have to allow the Word of God to destroy the strongholds and then take every thought captive, allowing the godly ones to remain and kicking out the ungodly ones. How are you doing with your mind? Are there any strongholds set up there? Are you allowing the Word to destroy those strongholds? Are you filtering the thoughts that come into your mind? If you are anxious and your mind is out of control, there is no way to be content. What do I need to do in order to be content in every circumstance of life?
IV. Learn to be content through Christ
Before I learn to be content, I first need to understand that my contentedness does not depend on my circumstances. When we live controlled by our sin nature, our contentedness does depend on our circumstances. If we are having a bad hair day, we usually end up having a bad day. When the sun is out, our mood is great. When it rains, we are gloomy. When all is well, we are well. When everything is falling apart, we end up falling apart. Once we come to Christ, circumstances still tend to change like the weather. We now have a different perspective on our circumstances. We see every circumstance as a chance to depend upon the Lord. In fact, difficult circumstances are a gift from the Lord because they, like nothing else, drive us to our knees and force us to depend upon God even more. We learn to be content in the Lord and not circumstances. When our #1 priority in life is to walk with the Lord, everything else will fall into its proper place. This is exemplified by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:19-34. We cannot serve 2 masters. If we serve the Lord, circumstances are not important. If our contentedness, on the other hand, depends on circumstances, then we are not serving the Lord and He is not our master. We either serve one or the other.
V. Give through Christ
If we are walking with the Lord, if we are standing firm in the Lord, resolving conflict God’s way, dealing with anxiety God’s way, controlling our minds, and finding our contentedness in Christ then this will be manifested by our giving nature. God is a Giver. His nature is to give. Once He indwells us, we become like Him, wanting to give and give and give. If you want to be able to rejoice then you need to be a giver as well. Christ said that it is better to give than to receive. Why? Because it shows that we are God’s. We do not “have” to give. We “get” to give. To demonstrate this, in the Old Testament, the Hebrews were not indwelt with the Holy Spirit and because of their sin nature, they had to be commanded to give. In the New Testament, we are not commanded to give. If we have the nature of God living in us, we do not have to be commanded to give. In fact, the only command is to stop giving. In the Philippian church, as soon as they had the opportunity, they gave. It is a privileged to be used by God and one of the ways that He uses us is by giving. We give to support the furtherance of the Gospel. Are you a giving person? Do you see giving as something that you “have” to do or do you see giving as a privilege?
May the Lord help us follow His plan to be able to have joy in every circumstance of life and teach these truths to others.