Philippians: A Call To Dependency: Focusing Correctly

I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Php 4:13).[1] What an amazing text! God’s desire in our lives is for us to lean more and more on Him; and to become more and more dependent on Christ, we need minds that are properly focused. Four helpful practices in the process of focusing correctly can be seen in Philippians chapter four. Let’s consider them together.

First, Paul addressed the importance of working out our differences (4:2-3). These two women in the church at Philippi are usually remembered because of their disagreement, which is sad. Syntyche and Euodia were an integral part of God’s work in Philippi, and whatever the issue between them was, it threatened their growth, the unity in the church, and the forward movement of the gospel.

The words of Paul in verse three are significant, “Help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers.” He doesn’t say they labored behind him, or even under him, but side by side with him; they partnered with him. This is one thing the gospel does: it lifts the significance, the value, the worth and the dignity of womanhood. In the eyes of God and of Paul, these two women were very important to the local church and to the outreach of the gospel. It was critical that their differences be settled.

Second, Paul instructs us to keep on praying (4:6-7). These verses are the key to victory over worry, and it all starts with prayer. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (v6). The original word for “anxious” means to have a divided mind. It is the word Jesus used when He said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luk 10:41). He was saying that her mind was divided and distracted by the seemingly unfair circumstances … by the hurtful, wrong actions of your sister … by the lie that God doesn’t know or care about what is happening to me. Her mind was in turmoil and unrest.

There are three terms in this verse that describe our communication with God. “Prayer” is the first, and it’s a general term for coming into the presence of the Lord. “Supplication” refers to an earnest sharing of our burdens, needs and problems. “Request” is a detailed prayer about specific issues. The result of true, thankful prayer is peace. The divided mind of worry is replaced by the confident calmness of Christ. Isaiah said, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isa 26:3).

Third, Paul talked about the need to channel your thought life. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Php 4:8-9). Do we have control over our thoughts? Do we have the power to choose our thoughts? While there may be exceptions, the answer to these questions is yes – but how?

Our thoughts need to be under the control of the Holy Spirit, and it is a matter of consistent training. We know how to train our bodies and the value of having a daily routine to do so, whether it’s walking, jogging or weightlifting. It’s going to take time. It’s not a day, or a week, or a month; it’s a life change. It is the principle of continually replacing the bad thoughts with good ones. This is why Romans 12:2 is so important: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” In Philippians 4:8, there are eight words to help us in our thought life: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praise-worthy. If we practiced these thought patterns on a regular, consistent basis, we would have the mind of Christ.

Finally, he teaches us the value of learning to be content (4:10-20). According to Thayer’s Word Studies, contentment means “to be sufficient for one’s self, independent of external circumstances, contented with one’s lot.” To be content is to be satisfied with my present situation.

Contentment is learned on the rough terrain of life. But there is a necessary focus, which is the main topic of this letter – a Christ-focused life. If your focus is pleasure, you will never be content. If your focus is wealth, you will never be content. If your focus is popularity, you will never be content. The amount of things you have will have no bearing on whether you are content or not. It is an inward state of mind; it is having a proper perspective. So if you are in prison (like Paul), and you believe this is God’s will, you will be content. If you are in a palace, and you believe this is God’s desire, then you will be content.

Contentment is not a natural trait. It is learned as we allow the Spirit of God to transform our hearts. This cannot be done by human effort or will; it requires God to work. This is why Paul says, “I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.” His contentment was gained by the strength of Christ.

As we seek to work out our differences, continue in prayer, channel our thoughts, and live a contented life, may our dependence be fully upon our God.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV.