Devotional # 139. 6/2/15. Philippians 4:9-13.
Intro. Over the last couple of weeks Paul has been giving us some information that makes sense individually, as we often hear these famous verses, such as “rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice” and “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication” and “the peace of God, which passes all understanding…” But they are even more powerful if we look at them as they were intended to be read, all together. So I encourage you to read from verse 1 of this chapter to get the full understanding of what God means here.
Last week we studied the different “things” that Paul told us to “meditate on.” Let’s look at those things in the light of verse 9 and following.
v. 9. In this verse Paul says to do the things that he has done. It’s a safe bet that he wants us to do all of the things that he has taught, all of which can be grouped into the “buckets” he just laid out (i.e. “true” or “noble” or “just”, etc.)*. So Paul gives us four things that he gave to others. Are we giving those to other Christians?
The first one is what has been “learned“. What have we “learned” from Paul? Obviously this must mean that he has taught it, so what are Paul’s major topics over the course of his letters? Paul’s five main themes are: The Lordship of Jesus, Resurrection, Justification, Grace and Faith (see Source 1 for more). So these are the main things that Paul taught on but have you actually “learned” them? Often it takes us experiencing stuff to actually learn but once we have seen that the Bible is true in something, hopefully that gives us the trust to not continue to make mistakes when we could just learn from Paul.
The second is what has been “received“. So if Paul has taught something have we “received” it? To “receive” something is to willingly take it. In fact often in the New Testament this word is translated “take” and Paul used it in 1 Corinthians 11:23 when he said, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…” (Source 2). These may be gifts that have been given by Paul whether money, food or spiritual encouragement and instruction.
Third, Paul has spoken so what have they “heard“? This is important because these are the things that they haven’t completely “received” yet (Source 3). This may mean a promise that hasn’t been fulfilled just yet. Or another way to look at it is that Paul was consistent because “what they saw in him was the same thing with what they heard from him” (Source 4). When other Christians “learn” from us do our actions match our words?
Lastly what did they “see in him“? I’ve always thought Paul was a brave man to say “imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). What were the things Paul did when he visited them that they should model? What did they see him doing that they never officially “learned” or “heard” from him, but that they should model anyway? In our own lives we must always remember that if we put our faith in men we will be let down, however we must have a couple of mentors in the faith that we look up to. What do these more mature Christians say and do that we see coming straight from Scripture?
If we do these things then there is a promise that “the God of peace will be with us“. I love that Paul uses the title for the Lord as “the God of peace” because he just talked about “the peace of God” (v. 7)!!! So Paul has tied the fact that when we let go of our “anxiety” we will have “THE peace” because we have “received” the things that Paul and other have done and said. In the next verse Paul will also continue the idea of “rejoicing”…
*“All” things fit into these “buckets”: Initially I thought there might be two ways to take this verse: 1. If we’re reading this in context with verse 8, as it is coupled in my Bible, then he could be meaning for us to do the things that he just mentioned such as “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble”, etc. which we’ve also seen him do. Or 2. He could mean that although he does those things he just mentioned he also wants us to do all of the things that he has done. It starts to seem to be semantics because all of the things that he has taught us would fall into those categories (i.e. “true” or “noble” or “just”, etc.).
vv. 10-12. Paul gives us a couple of things to learn from in these verses. The gist of what he says is that it’s good that the Philippians were able to give Paul gifts. Not that he couldn’t get by without the gifts, because he had learned to be content in any situation, but it was a blessing for him and for them (as we’ll see in verse 17). Let’s look a little closer.
Paul has just told Christians to “rejoice in the Lord always” and then he gives us a practical example of how he has done just that. He says, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly” because the Philippians “care for him had flourished again.” It wasn’t that they had forgotten to help Paul or had ignored him; in fact they had been the most faithful church in the years of Paul’s ministry. Instead they had “lacked opportunity”. So the Philippian Christians were unable to get gifts to Paul. It is commonly thought that this was because they couldn’t find him since he traveled so much. But it didn’t really matter since he didn’t really require the gift, instead as the saying goes, “it’s the thought that counts.” But Paul mentioning this here goes beyond it just making him feel good.
As I just mentioned Paul didn’t really need the gifts, so why even bring it up? First, because they were truly helpful to him. An example would be if Paul was in prison during winter without a blanket, sure maybe he could stay alive but a blanket would help him stop shivering enough at night to get a little sleep. The western church knows nothing of hardship and although it’s a blessing it’s also a curse because our faith is shallow and when the pain comes, and it will, we’ll be so shocked that we may just run away. I’ve heard of some preachers who require specific things in their dressing rooms like rock stars. It’s pathetic to think that on top of pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars to make an appearance that a person who claims to be ordained by God would throw a temper tantrum over having purple skittles in the green room. But such is the age of “false teachers” (Matthew 7:15-20, Romans 16:17, 2 Peter 2:1-3, 2 Timothy 4:3, etc.) that we live in. So how do we apply this to our lives? Well, since Paul had learned how to live in contentment with nothing, or everything, then we can start practicing the same. Actively pursue little things like not turning on the radio in the car (not even sermons!) and use the time to pray. As you start to understand what it means to sacrifice in little things move to fasting from food in order to seek God. Or feeding the homeless in a place where you can share Jesus. As time goes by and you start to see that the benefits far outweigh the costs you will begin to think like Paul: “I can be content with nothing or everything.”
The second reason Paul mentions these gifts is because it both blesses him and it blesses the congregation that gave. It didn’t just bless Paul because he was able to help a needy family with some extra cash or was a little more comfortable, but he knew the value of giving “to the Lord.” The only time God asks us to test Him is in Malachi 3:10. He says that if we tithe to Him and His ministries then He will open the “windows of heaven” and load us up with so much that we won’t be able to hold all of the blessings! When our priorities line up with God’s priorities then we see the blessings here on earth and in the future, in heaven load up.
v. 13. This famous verse needs to be taken in context with what Paul has just said: he had learned to be content with nothing or everything. Note that Paul had to learn it, it wasn’t like he magically was fine with going for a day without food or that one day he suddenly was fine with being imprisoned or fighting the constant spiritual battle of guiding others. But where does the “strength” come from? Paul “can do all things”…not just “some things” but “all things”… “through Christ” because it is Christ who “strengthens [him].” This is the “strength” of a Savior who humbled Himself to die on the cross (even though He had the ability to bring Himself off the cross or call thousands of angels to rescue Him) and rose from the dead. This is the “strength” of a Man who knows exactly what we have gone through, and was tempted in every way as we are but didn’t sin (Hebrews 4:15). This is the “strength” of a Warrior who just promised to “guard our hearts and minds” (v. 7). This is the “strength” that is available to us every single day but are you willing to receive it?
Source 2: paralambano (G#3880), http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3880&t=KJV
Source 3: Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/Phl/Phl_004.cfm?a=1107001
Source 4: Matthew Henry, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Phl/Phl_004.cfm?a=1107001