Philippians 4: The Secure Mind

Christ – The Power of My Life

Our great prospect of perfection and deliverance through our heavenly Sovereign has been established in chapter 3. Based on this reality, Paul now appeals to the saints to stand firm, secured by the noble principles derived from Christ as Lord of our lives. Consciousness of His presence will lead to subjection to His control in resolving issues with other believers (vv 1-5). Surrendering our worries to His care will give us the blessed exchange of His peace, and subjecting all our thoughts and behavior to His supervision will fit us to enjoy companionship with the God of peace (vv 6-9). Submission to His sovereign control and care of the circumstances of our lives enables us to experience the blessing of contentment and His supporting strength through every circumstance and challenge (vv 10-23).

4:1-5 His Presence: Antidote to Anxiety about People

Two great realities undergird the challenge to help believers in conflict: “He is able” (3:21), and “He is near”(4:5). Confidence in Him, and consciousness of Him, give strength and stability to relate helpfully to other believers. Genuine affection is another vital element: can we honestly say, “my brethren, beloved and longed for” (v 1)? In the measure we care for another, we will share in his joy and progress now, and in the Lord’s reward in the future. How humbling to be publicly identified as the source and center of assembly discord (v 2)! Yet the gentle appeal for unity reveals another key element in overcoming strife. A life surrendered to His Lordship enjoys inner harmony, leading to unity among believers. The further appeal to a “true yokefellow” (possibly Epaphroditus?) reveals the frequent need for a new perspective from someone outside of the problem. The humiliating exposure is immediately balanced by commendation of past faithfulness of these sisters in the gospel (v 3).

“Rejoice in the Lord alway … rejoice” (v 4)! Be preoccupied with praise to the Lord, not with problems. This is not an escape from reality, but overcoming controversy or personal insult by focusing on Him: there is always a valid reason to joy in Him. “Your moderation” implies gentle forbearance and reasonableness, derived from the consciousness of His nearness (v 5).

4:6-9 His Peace: Antidote to Anxiety about Problems

Anxiety is the absence of peace, tranquility, quietness. Physically, our brain’s natural tranquilizers are intended to balance our stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline), which gear us up to face an emergency, or meet a challenge: we experience temporary excitement and energy. But overextended or continual demand of these through prolonged worry overwhelms our natural tranquilizers, leaving us exhausted, miserable, and anxious. How can we be rescued from pervading anxious care? The formula focuses upon relationship with God, and relating everything to Him:

1) Recognize Him: “by prayer … ” means approaching God. Take time to become conscious of Him. Contemplate His glory, power, goodness. If necessary, read and meditate first, till God eclipses your problem!

2) Relate everything to Him: “supplication” is petition for specific need – every concern, fear.

3) Remember, and Rejoice in Him: “with thanksgiving.” Appreciate past and present help, blessings; anticipate His goodness for the future.

4) Relinquish your burden into His care: “let your requests be made known unto God” (v 6).

5) Relax: rest quietly in confidence upon His willingness to bless, protect, care for you.

6) Result: His peace will protect your emotions and thoughts (v 7). Peace that defies analysis or explanation by natural causes will envelop you; you will be tranquil under pressure, stress.

“Finally, brethren … ” (vv 8-9) conveys the climax and summary of his exhortations to the assembly. What do we feed on? The screen test for true positive thinking is what God is, and focusing on what God wants, and faith in what He is able to do. By implication, it is a challenge not to feed on what is false, dishonorable, or impure.In context of assembly strife, it is a significant exercise to balance our disappointment in others, by focusing on what is of Christ in their lives. Christ is the ultimate truth, entirely noble, just, and pure; He will impart His virtues to the soul that gazes upon His glory (v 8). Paul is able to look back on his entire ministry and example in Christ, as consistent with God’s character, and fitting them for companionship with “the God of peace” (v 9). Am I practicing the truths of God in my daily experience? Am I fit company for the meek, lowly, just (and thus peaceful) One?

4:10-23 His Provision: Antidote to Anxiety about Possessions

The closing section of the epistle is very personal, relating his own past and present circumstances in the delicate context of the assembly’s care toward him. He keeps balancing his comments (vv 11, 14, 17) to remove any possible mistaken impressions. He is transparent in his praise and appreciation for the assembly fellowship received (vv 10, 18), crediting them with always caring, though unable to convey it for a time. Through his experiences of privation, as well as abundance, he has learned the secret of contentment in the prevailing circumstances of life (vv 11-12). Christ has been his unfailing source of inner strength to endure and overcome every challenge (v 13). Yet he deeply appreciates their help in his present affliction (v 14). He remembers their faithful care in the beginning, when he left Philippi to further the gospel in new areas such as Thessalonica, revealing the sensitive reality that they were the only assembly to help him at that time (vv 15-16). His transparent motivation in praising their generosity is greater spiritual fruit that God will reward, first as a fragrant sacrifice unto God, then partnership in His service (vv 17-18). This leads to an enthusiastic personal endorsement of God’s faithfulness to supply all the needs of His people (v 19), and grateful worship (v 20). His closing greetings include those “of Caesar’s household” (v 22), as a token of the gospel’s triumph under persecution!