"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be obvious to everyone. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things. Whatever you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, put these things into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
Philippians 4:4-9Paul, The Apostle of Grace
In Philippians 4:4, Paul encourages the Philippian believers to rejoice in the Lord. He uses the word rejoice or joy over sixteen times in his letter. It seems, with such repetition of the words joy and rejoice, Paul is trying to lift them up to a higher mental and emotional level by focusing them on spiritual truths.
It is possible that Epaphroditus, who was sent by the Philippians to care for Paul while he was in prison, told Paul the people were having problems with worry, stress, and anxiety. Therefore, Paul made it a priority to emphasize the words joy and rejoice in his letter.
As we have learned in these teachings through Philippians, Paul had been imprisoned in Rome. Prior to his imprisonment, he went through many difficult situations in order to deliver the good news of grace to people (2 Corinthians 4:7-16, 6:3-10, 11:26-27). Upon delivering this good news, he was often opposed by many, and slandered and threatened by others. Once, he was stoned nearly to death (Romans 3:8; 1 Corinthians 16:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; Acts 14:1-7, 19-20; 16:22-24, 20:23-24). Yet, even though he had been through so much, he found reasons to rejoice and was now encouraging the Philippians to rejoice too.
We know the source of Paul’s joy was the Lord. Three times he tells the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord.” Paul took joy in all that Jesus had done for him on the cross. Paul found joy in the fact that he was completely forgiven by God and righteous before God by grace through faith. He took joy in knowing the Lord was close to him in all that he went through to get grace to others.
I am sure Paul had his difficult days and difficult moments, just like we all do. However, I believe Paul made a choice to live out the words he was writing to the Philippians (Philippians 4:4-9). I believe Paul made it through the miserable experiences he encountered by rejoicing in the Lord, talking to God, thanking God, and thinking positively.
As a result, he experienced contentment and peace in the middle of his problems. He was now teaching the Philippians to follow his pattern of rejoicing, praying, thanking, and thinking. He taught them the God of peace was with them. He taught them to rejoice in the Lord and all he had done for them through the cross. He taught them that Jesus was close to them in their difficulties. He taught them not to worry, but to pray. He taught them to have a thankful heart and to have thoughts that were positive. By following Paul’s instructions and example, they would experience peace and contentment. Their gentleness, or their calmness (lack of worry, stress, and anxiety, and presence of peace and contentment), would be evident to all.
All of us can relate to the Philippian people. Even though we are separated from them by a time span of nearly 2000 years, we find they are no different from us and we are no different from them. We are all people living in a fallen world, with real problems, real pain, real hurts, and real heartaches. We battle worry, stress, and anxiety as they did. During these times, we need to know the God of peace is with us. We need to know the Lord is close to us and he cares for us. We have a God we can talk with about life...openly, honestly, and transparently. We have a God who wants us to bring our concerns and requests to him. As we bring these concerns and requests to him, we leave them with him, while thanking him for the good things in our lives. This keeps us emotionally healthy...content and at peace.
During the difficulties of life, it is easy to dwell on all that is wrong in life and in the world. But rather than dwelling on all that is wrong, dwell on the good things. Like Paul wrote to the Philippians “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.” Let’s follow Paul’s instructions to the Philippians: “Whatever you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, put these things into practice.”
As we put into practice the words of Paul to the Philippians of knowing the Lord is close to us and rejoicing in the Lord, knowing the God of peace is with us and talking with him openly, honestly, and transparently, taking our concerns and requests to God, and thinking good thoughts, we will experience peace in our hearts and minds.
To read Brad's other teachings on Philippians, click below.