Lasting Lessons from Philippians 4
This brief series on Philippians arose from a Bible Study at my home church on Wednesday evenings. For four weeks we studied this short epistle, and each week I have tried to summarize a few of my takeaways. Why bother? Because Paul was gripped with the Gospel! He was consumed with a passion to spread the Good News. That message so gripped him that he gave up everything he had to live for the sake of others. And it cost him his life. This is, of course, the way I am to live, and the way you are to live if you are a follower of Jesus.
What, then, are some lasting lessons from the closing chapter of Philippians? There are at least five.
1) Women are invaluable in the kingdom (4:2-3). There are two themes in 4:2-3. The first is that the church must never allow itself to be polarized around personalities. Nothing must trump the Gospel -- a truth so important that Paul actually names names. The second theme is more subtle but no less important. Paul has a great deal to say about the value of women in Christian ministry. Euodia and Syntyche had "worked very hard with me to spread the Gospel." What an amazing compliment! I have written about this elsewhere (see Partners in the Gospel). In a day of overzealous patriarchy it is good to remember that Christian women no less than men can set the world on fire for Christ.
2) Stop worrying (4:6)! Well did Spurgeon say that a fish might fret about enough water in the sea before a Christian need be bothered over the sufficiency of God's grace. Our Father knows our every need. And if we approach Him with a thankful heart we will never need to grovel in despair over our needs.
3) Our true strength comes from Christ alone (4:13). Nothing under the sun can be as pitiful as "church work" without the Spirit. No wonder we grow weary in well doing. Without the power of the indwelling Christ we are nothing but shorn Samsons in a treadmill. Do not seek to do His will in your own strength but move on to the blessedness of His all-sufficient grace.
4) It is truly a blessing to give to others (4:18). Our generosity is "like a sweet-smelling offering to God, a sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to Him." There is no place in the will of God for a stingy heart. We are to be generous if we are Christians. In Christ, God is always giving, and since we have freely received we freely give of self and time and possessions. This is no day for a church to be centered on itself.
5) God loves up-and-outers too (4:22)! Those who belonged to the Emperor's household had come to faith in Christ as a result of Paul's preaching in prison. Jesus preached to the throngs but He also spoke to Nicodemus. Paul witnessed to kings and magistrates. The truth is, all men and women need the Gospel, regardless of their station in life. You are passing by VIPs every day. You meet principals and physicians. It ought to make a difference when you pass by. The only Christ that most professionals will ever see is the Christ who lives in you. Before you start out for the day, pray that everyone you contact may perceive that you are a man or woman of God.
September 2, 2011
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.