Growing Godly in Difficult Times (Philippians 4:1-9)

Sunday, April 30th, 2017
Sermon Series: Philippians

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The Blessings of Standing Firm

Philippians 4:1-9

Brothers and sisters, if you desire to become a godly man or godly woman, you must grow internally. You must deal with the battle within. You must seek to stand firm. We covered these verses in eight weeks, since mid-February and it’s been life changing. Now we will look at the entire passage to review what we learned, to fill in where you missed, and to drive these life-changing verses home.

Growing mature, becoming a godly man or woman, requires stability. Paul calls the Philippians to grow up, mature, deepen by standing firm. As he wraps up his powerful letter to this sweet church, he saysn this in 4:1, “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.”

Stand Firm, Christian!

Why do the Philippians need to grow stable? Because they were being persecuted by Romans, pressured by unsaved Judaizers, pressed by unsaved, Gentile grace-abusers, partitioned by division, Paul says stand firm against these painful trials. So Paul reminds you, the Holy Spirit in you wants you to grow stable.

The New Testament warns us to expect trials and internal battles, but in Christ, even though there are enemies without and enemies within, you can stand firm and not be shaken. And the New Testament teaches us, stability comes from growing dee[ in God’s Word.

Paul lovingly calls the pastor-teachers to equip the saints in God’s Word–why? So Christians in the Church, Ephesians 4:14, “are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” Peter reminds believers to grow up and grow stable.

First Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” You must block out time daily to be in God’s Word. You can’t be filled with the Spirit, you can’t mature, you can’t live in God’s will without functioning daily by God’s Word. So look carefully at verse 1, “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.”

Paul starts with therefore to remind believers, if you are a heavenly citizen who is pursuing Christ from chapter 3, then you will learn to stand firm. Why? Pick apart what Paul says in verse 1. You are family as “beloved brethren”. You are loved–Paul reminds them, “whom I long to see.” And you will be rewarded–the Philippians are Paul’s “joy and crown.”

This means that all who stand firm will be rewarded in the future. The only judgment a genuine Christian faces in the future is reward. All the judgment for your sins fell on Christ on the cross and Christ said the punishment for your sin—is finished. But in the future you will answer for your life in terms of reward. Second Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Those things done for your glory and in your strength will be burned up and not last. Those things done for God’s glory in the power of the Spirit will be eternally rewarded. Because of this reality, Paul commands in verse 1, “Stand firm.” Say yes to the Word of God and so no to anything which disagrees with the Word of God.

Like Martin Luther said concerning the Word of God, when you are told to lie, tempted to cheat, prone to doubt, overcome by emotion, say, “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.” Luther said his conscience was captive to the Word of God. He’d choose God’s Word over death.

To stand firm, learn the Word of God, understand sound doctrine, know the God of the Word. As you are growing in the Wor, in order to stand firm, there are some other commands, key commitments, mature habits which must be pursued. They’re found in verses 2 to 9 in the form of seven unique commands–what are they?

#1  Pursuing Relational Harmony  Verses 2 to 3

Philippians 4:2, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

The Philippians were experiencing some contentious problems. There are the two women who are in relational, probably ministerial, conflict. We know these fighting females were women of influence, prominent church members–two high-powered, Roman tiger women for Jesus since they had worked with Paul in the cause of the Gospel.

So Paul urges each of these disagreeing darlings to get on the same page. Submissively live in harmony in the Lord–live in harmony is literally in Master. Christ is the Master–He’s the one in charge. He’s the Lord over this conflict. Submit to Christ as the Master.

Paul says when you’re in conflict with another believer, the reality is this–Christ is the one you’re in conflict with. It is Christ you’re offending, not each other. You want to be on the same page with Him. This conflict is not about you, it’s about Him. Do you get it? Jesus is the Master and He doesn’t want you fighting–so think the same.

He is the Master–you are to do what Christ says. So submit to your Master and stop fighting. Focus on Christ as the Master in charge, not the persons nor the conflict. You are to take sides in a conflict, but it is the Lord’s side you’re to take.

Conflict with another Christian in the Church is a serious issue, so Paul uses some strong language here and commands suzugos–that’s who Paul meant when he said true companion. Suzugos and the other leaders of the church in Philippi are to literally grab these battling bettys as if they were arresting them in order to restore church unity.

The Greek word help in verse 3, “I ask you also to help these women,” is a strong word used to arrest and bind someone. Paul is commanding the leaders to bring about a resolution to the conflict–why? Because disunity is distracting, Satan-pleasing, mission-confusing behavior. Stay on target, Christian. Stop battling the members of your own army and fight the enemy. Stop complaining about the players on your team and win against the other team.

Paul says these women have shared my struggle in the cause of the Gospel. The off-center issue is temporal disagreements with believers. The focus you must pursue is the eternal issues, so Paul reminds the Philippians and you at the end of verse 3–are your names in the book of life? Christ and His work are bigger issues than your petty disagreements.

Christ and His mission are bigger than your problems. This life will end in a second–it’s a blip on the radar, but eternity is forever. Petty problems on planet Earth do not matter. Only those issues which will affect Heaven and Hell really desperately matter.

You are talking to a solid believer who doesn’t believe in a 1,000-year earthy reign of Christ–affirm biblical truth, but don’t run them over with your lawn mower. But talking to someone who says Catholics are the same as Christians–that’s a false gospel. People who believe Catholic doctrine are headed to eternal Hell. You’d better lovingly but firmly, dogmatically proclaim the truth of salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone, and through faith alone.

The mature have figured out God is big and they are small. Your desires are small, your hurts are small, God’s person and plan are big. Our lives are to be all about Christ–to live is Christ. And God’s eternal plan is bigger than any plans or desires we have.

And Paul teaches in order to stand firm, you must deal with relational tension with other believers, because it will distract you from your mission. Resolve the issues you have with other Christians, as far as it depends on you. Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” As you do, you will be . . .

#2  Demonstrating a heart of REJOICING  Verse 4

Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”

Paul commands the Philippians twice here to rejoice. Let the joy God placed in you at salvation out in the form of rejoicing. Salvation results in joy and reflecting on salvation results in rejoicing. Psalm 13:5b, “My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” And 21:1, “O Lord, in Your strength the king will be glad, and in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice!” Then 35:9, “And my soul shall rejoice in the Lord; It shall exult in His salvation.” Also 70:4, “Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God be magnified.’”

The more you think about your salvation, the more you will rejoice. Paul says in verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord.” As a believer, you’re in Christ. Literally, in the Lord–the supreme Lord above all lords, the name above every name. If God is for you, who is against you? No one–you’re on the winning team. The one who saved you will bring you home to Heaven.

The Savior who died for you is also the Lord of Heaven and Earth and you will rule with Him forever. So you can rejoice–to stand firm you rejoice. To mature means to rejoice. The older, godly man and woman are those who are known for rejoicing. Mature Christians are not joy-killers, but joy-expressers. Students who want to grow up are those who rejoice when they’re hit with a trial. Seniors who are truly mature in Christ rejoice when life falls apart. Families who are growing steady in Christ rejoice through life’s difficulties.

Paul says, “Rejoice, rejoice.” That’s not Little Caesar’s, “Pizza pizza.” It’s a command to rejoice in the midst of their persecution and doctrinal pressure, now and in the future. Paul literally commands rejoice now, then Paul repeats the command, telling believers no matter what happens in the future tense, rejoice then too. Rejoice now and rejoice no matter what comes your way in the future. You stand firm by manifesting genuine joy in Christ. And you stand firm by . . .

#3  Shocking lost and saved with a gracious HUMILITY  Verse 5

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” Gentle spirit is a very difficult word to translate from Greek to English. After intensive study, I believe what Paul is saying here is radical and direct. React to persecution, trial, injustice, unfairness, a teacher who yells, a boss who is unfair, a husband who is insensitive, a Christian who was unkind . . . with the shocking graciousness of an untamed humility.

React the way Jesus responded to injustice in 1 Peter 2:21 to 23, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

That’s epieikes—or epi a case, a gracious, giving, patient, humbleness. The shocking graciousness of an untamed humility. An intense combination of humility, graciousness, selflessness and mission which will help you live stable in spite of unjust circumstances and to be influential for Christ in the worst situations.

This type of reaction to injustice has the ability to shock people to think of Christ. In verse 5, Paul says God wants your reaction to be known to all men. God desires for you to respond in humility to injustice in order for the Gospel to be made known to both Christian and non-Christian–the saved and the lost.

When they expect you to complain, you compliment. When the expect you to be angry, you demonstrate peace. When they expect you to fold up in fear, you smile and express faith. When normal people spit back, you serve those who have just been unjust to you. To stand firm, let everyone see this response–why? Because of who God is.

Verse 5 tells us, “The Lord is near.” God is omnipresent. God is everywhere. So when those students are mean, the boss is unjust, the salesman verbally attacks–God is present, God is close, God is watching, God is indwelling and God is in control, orchestrating all their injustice, unfairness and attack to accomplish His purposes for His glory and your good. The Lord is near.

In Hebrews 13:5 Jesus said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” That’s why you can put Christ on display in a shockingly humble manner. And why you can be . . .

#4  Trusting in God’s Word instead of WORRYING  Verse 6a

Verse 6 starts with, “Be anxious for nothing.” The starting place for those who worry is to make certain they daily recall exactly who God is. Living worry free starts with a right view of God. Worry is the thoughts which tear, wear, rip and hurt us with a lack of trust. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount, we should never worry because God is our loving Father, and as a perfect Father to His children, you and I can trust God to provide all we need.

Matthew 6:25 to 26, “Do not be anxious for your life . . . 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” Trust your Father because He is running your life. He is in control.

He initiates or allows every detail of your life–every second, every minute, every hour, every relationship, every trial, every hardship, every injustice, every hurt, every joy, every blessing, everything. Matthew 6:27, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span?”

Jesus affirms God is in complete control. God does as He pleases, only as he pleases and always as He pleases and all He does is for His glory and our good. Romans 8:28, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.” God knows all the possibilities and controls them all so they work out for His glory and your good, if you’re His child. Living anxious-free comes when you remember your creator is in intimate control.

So you can trust God to meet all your needs. Matthew 6:31 and 32, “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ 32 For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

Jesus says don’t worry–when God is your Father He will give you what you need. If you own something in your heart, then you’ll fear losing it. You’ll worry. But if God owns it and you merely manage it for Him, then you can be worry free because the One who can provide all you need is the owner and controller of all.

Worry is pride, because worry doubts God and questions His care and His ability. If you are going to grow up in the faith, you need to trust God. He keeps His Word, He cares for you and is able to take care of anything that might worry you. So instead of worry, verse 6, you should be . . .

#5  Practicing relational PRAYER  Verses 6b to 7

Verses 6 and 7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul tells the Philippians, instead of worry determine to pray.

Relational prayer with God will cause you to stand firm. Stable believers do not keep anxious thoughts bottled up inside of them. Mature believers do not try to figure out all the solutions on their own. Stable saints go to God in prayer. What do they pray about? Verse 6 says, “But in everything by prayer and supplication.” Pray about everything!

Pour out your heart to Christ in every detail. Tell God every motive. Confess every uncertainty. Discuss every hurt. Prayer is honest, genuine talk about everything. We know that because of the context. Pray about anything and everything you’re tempted to worry about. There is nothing too great for God’s power and nothing too small for God’s fatherly care. Paul says pray about everything you might worry about.

In verse 6, Paul says pray with thanksgiving, because thanksgiving is expressing gratitude and implies humility before an all-powerful God. You can always pray with thanks because Christ is the one who brought you peace with God. So Paul commands in verse 6, “Let your requests be made known to God.”

Paul literally says, let the askings of you be known to God. The verb be known tells us God wants you to persist in prayer and God desires intimacy in your prayer. Part of the reason you were saved by Christ is to be personal with Christ. Stop worrying and start praying to the God who knows you and desires to be intimate—face-to-face, person-to-person, saint-to-Savior with you.

As you do, something amazing will happen–verse 7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Peace is the smile of God reflected in the soul of every true believer. Peace is the heart’s calm after Calvary’s storm. God made peace with you in salvation and God can give peace to you in sanctification.

Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” God does not remove trials, God does not spare your spouse pain, God does not stop all harm to come to your children, but God can give you peace through it all.

A peace so strong it will, verse 7, “guard your heart” during the most difficult time. But only for the Christian. The non-Christian should worry and be terrorized, because they are not forgiven, not ready for Heaven, but only headed to Hell. But for the believer, God’s peace can guard your heart, as long as you commit to . . .

#6  Filtering your THINKING  Verse 8

Verse 8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Christians will become independent, divisive, complain, defend their rights, be anxious, not pray and lack peace if they do not work at thinking biblically–thinking THRPLGEP. The Greek word whatever is literally as much as is–making it clear you are to search out the good truths in the midst of error, the just thoughts in the midst of injustice, and the lovely truths in the midst of an ugly world.

Find the good in the midst of selfishness and the joy in the midst of the sorrow. To think biblically, Paul tells you to hunt down the correct categories of thought—THRPLGEP, and the most important filter is truth. The truth of God’s Word and the truth of God’s person. Paul commands you in verse 8 to dwell on God’s Word and God’s character–concentrate on truth. Dwell on these things, think about these things, meditate on these things.

In order to stand firm as a Christian, Christians must and Christians can concentrate their thinking on THRPLGEP. Spiritual maturity is not won by conforming externally. The battle for spiritual maturity is won internally. Christian, to stand firm you can choose not to fear and not to worry. Concentrate on truth. Focus on THRPLGEP. Concentrate on THRPLGEP and not on finances, fears, or failures.

The command dwell means to reason, think through, ponder, and reflect on. The word is logizomai, where we get the English word logic. In business, the word was used to describe deliberation or to calculate. God commands you to work at your thinking. And finally, to be . . .

#7  Developing OBEDIENT Habits  Verse 9

Verse 9, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” With this command to practice these truths, Paul adds two vital keys to growing–two crucial steps you must not ignore, yet most do. Two requirements to maturing and growing stable so you can stand firm in the midst of any trial or attack.

First  Pursuing a mature MODEL

Someone you can model as they pursue a life of obedient habits. Not someone who talks Jesus, expresses affection for Christ, knows a lot of Scripture–but someone who obeys God’s Word. They know it and seek to live it. They are a hearer and a doer of God’s Word. Practice is an ongoing command. The Philippians had Paul for their obedience model–and for you to stand firm you need to have models of obedience in the context of the church.

Second  Pursuing a lifestyle of OBEDIENCE

Paul commands the Philippians to practice, literally build, a habit of obedience. Cut out optional things in order to live the obedient things. Cut out good things in order to follow God’s best things. Rearrange your life in order to obey God’s Word. Make commitments to service, fellowship and giving in order to build habits of obedience. And God’s promise is this in verse 9, “the God of peace will be with you.” God’s presence will be with you through any hardship.

TAKE HOME

1  Standing firm requires a COMMUNITY

These commands are plural. We all pursue these steps together as a church family. You were never meant to just show up and only listen. You were meant to be involved in each other’s lives in order to help each other stand firm and grow mature.

2  Standing firm requires DEPENDENCE

You can’t obey these commands in your own strength. You can’t obey these commands at all unless you are saturated in the Word and dependent upon the Holy Spirit moment-by-moment, confessing all known sin, seeking to serve in the church and share Christ in the world. You can’t do it–the Spirit must live through you to make this happen.

3  Standing firm requires EXAMINATION

Paul commands the Corinthians to examine themselves, 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”

For the BELIEVER, two questions . . .

1  Have you been here to hear God’s Word? Are you here often enough to actually see God’s Word transform you?

2  Have you been hearing the Word only, or are you actually doing the Word? You don’t want these truths to be familiar but not practiced in your life.

For the MAKE BELIEVER . . .

The test of 2 Corinthians 13:5 is this . . .

Is Christ in you . . . real, genuine, alive relationship, where you know His peace and joy and experience His peace and rejoicing?

Is Christ in you, where He is transforming you according to His Word to help you stand firm?

Is Christ in you, where He shows through you to others in gracious, kind, giving, sacrificial, loving relationships?

If not, cry out, “Lord, draw me, Lord–make me willing to follow you. I am lost, I am condemned. Lord, save me, or I will perish!” Let’s pray.

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church – Murrieta.

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