When in seminary, over three decades ago, I took a course on the book of Philippians. One of the requirements of the course is we had to memorize the whole book. That was quite a task, but by reading the four-chapter book at least three times a day and listening to it being read on a cassette tape at least twice a day, I was able to commit it to memory. While I had the book in my mind, I have prayed through the years the many profound truths found within Paul’s marvelous epistle would become internalized. It is a book we should turn to time and time again when faced with issues, circumstances and obstacles that seek to defeat us, drag us down or destroy us. Found within the pages of Philippians, the Apostle seeks to combine the practical with the theological.
As much of America is under “stay at home” orders, Philippians becomes a book that contains many relevant truths which are worth revisiting. Being confined at home, many are searching for ways to cope. Well, Paul being confined in a Roman prison he was definitely under “stay at home” orders. What is so amazing, one of the key words in Philippians is the word “joy,” found some seventeen times. What truths can we glean from Paul’s marvelous epistle that will help us to have joy even in the midst of our confinement?
First, Rely on Prayer to the Lord. One truth which is paramount throughout Philippians is Paul’s emphasis on prayer, constant communication with the Lord. Prayer is talking to God, being on unbroken speaking terms with Him. Prayer recognizes our dependence on the Lord in every situation life brings our way. Paul exhorts us to pray about everything, good or bad (4:7). Philippians encourages us to pray with thanksgiving for others (1:3-11), to be like Christ (2:1-8), for the sick (2:26-30), for spread of the Gospel (3:1-14), for those who labor in the Gospel fields (4:3), and in all things (4:6). One truth I have learned over the years, you cannot carry on a conversation with the Lord and have a “woe is me” attitude very long. When we talk with the Lord the focus is off of ourselves unto the One who is our help in strength in times of “confinement.”
Second, Rest in the Peace of the Lord. Paul writes, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:7). Paul writes this after talking about praying about all things. Peace flows from prayer. What a truth to rest in when fear and confusion seek to “break out” within us, divine peace stands guard over our hearts and minds to keep the “break out” from overtaking us. The word translated “keep” is the Greek word φρουρησει (phroureo froo-reh’-o), a military term picturing soldiers standing on guard duty, the word also referred to the guarding of the city gate from within as a control on all who went out. His peace “passes all understanding.” The word “passes” refers “to that which is superior, surpasses and rises above” fear and confusion. The peace that is superior to fear and confusion is not found within ourselves but found by resting in Jesus Christ.
Third, Rejoice in our Position in the Lord. One of Paul’s favorite phrase found in all his epistles, and found multiple times in Philippians, is “in Christ” (εν χριστω, en Christo) (1:13, 26; 2:1, 5; 3:1; 4:4. 4:21). The little Greek word εν (en) is a primary preposition denoting a fixed position in place and time. What did Paul mean by “in Christ” or “in the Lord”? Being “in Christ” means we have an abiding relationship (a fixed position) with Christ that is not subject to time, place or circumstances. Paul says rejoice in that eternal truth (4:4). No matter what we are going through or what circumstances seem to confine us, our relationship with Christ is a fixed position not affected by time, place or circumstances. Our relationship in Christ transcends any earthly relationship or any adversity that may come our way. What a glorious truth to know and rejoice in!
Fourth, Realize the Power of the Lord. Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (4:13). The Greek word translated “strengthen” (ενδυναμουντι -endunamounti) means “to empower, to give strength to, to infuse strength into someone.” The power which enabled Paul to face “all things” was not strength found in himself, but it was found outside himself, infused in him by Jesus Christ. The Greek literally reads, “I have the strength to prevail over all things because of the power that has been infused into me which comes from Christ.” We, as well, need to realize whatever we face in life, we possess a strength to triumph because of a power that has been infused into us by Jesus Christ. What a wondrous truth!!
Fifth, Recognize our Plenty in the Lord. Paul writes, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (4:19). This verse speaks of the plenteous supply found in Christ to meet our needs. “Shall supply… according to His riches in glory” (4:19). The word “supply” is the Greek word pleroo, which means to fulfill or to make full. If we have any legitimate need in our lives, God has promised to supply that need. How does He supply it? By His riches in glory. The word “riches” is the Greek word ploutos, which describes immense wealth or riches beyond imagination. It is from where we get our word plutocrat, which describes a person who possesses riches so vast that they are immeasurable. God knows no lack and has a plenteous supply to meet our every need. What a glorious truth to recognize when we lift our petitions to the Lord.
Sixth, Recall the Promise of the Lord. One hope the Christian has is the promise of His return. In 1:10 Paul speaks of the “day of the Lord” and in 4:5 he says “the Lord is at hand (near).” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see we are living in perilous times, the kind of times the Bible teaches will be manifested in the days before Christ’s return. Paul calls this hope, this promise, “our blessed hope and His glorious appearing” (Titus 2:13). It is this “blessed hope” that bolsters our spirits and instills within us an eternal hope when evil, the oppression of that which is righteous and good, and times of confusion and chaos unfold around us. During such times, let us not resign to dejection, but recall the promise of Christ that such times only indicate that His coming again is near. Hallelujah, what hope we possess!
As can be seen, Philippians is a most relevant book for our current hour which is filled with timeless truths for turbulent times….truths not only relevant through this pandemic, but in all of life’s situations and circumstances. Knowing Christ infuses us with a joy that is not dependent upon right circumstance, but is anchored in the One who defeated death, hell and the devil, and who triumphantly says to us, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And in Him we will, too!
O, what a Savior!