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Standing Firm–Part 1, Philippians 4:1
How many of you have ever felt unstable? When your friends make fun of you at school, then your car breaks down–right after you get a speeding ticket, which results in your parents yelling at you, along with taking away the very thing that actually might refresh your heart when you get home. You might become unstable.
You have aches that never go away, exercise seems to make the aches worse, your joints are not working right, then you stand up too fast–you might become unstable. You hardly slept because of the baby, your 3-year-old threw up in bed and the potty-trained 5-year-old decided to become untrained, while the 7-year-old poured cereal all over the living room carpet to eat it like your dog. You might become unstable.
You only listen to emotionally-motivated preaching, have no regular time in the Word, your marriage is crumbling, you’re about to be fired, your kids rebel against Christ and your blood pressure requires a new intense medication. You might become unstable. You hear only solid expositional preaching, you study the Word and pray, you have solid discipleship relationships, you want to please God in all you do and you know your Savior wants you to grow deep, more intimate, more mature and more stable.
But how do we grow stable? Turn in your Bibles to Philippians 4:1 and follow along with your outline as God begins to tell us how to stand firm. Look 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.” Can you stand firm?
We live in a day where friends have walked away from the faith, others have wimped out into a convenient, pseudo-Christianity, which is no faith at all. Pastors have disqualified themselves. Christian marriages end in divorce. Seemingly solid children have denied Christ, and even spouses claiming salvation on their wedding day have demonstrated they never knew Christ.
It can be tough, even in a comfortable society. There are pastors in persecuted countries who pray for you. They think it is more difficult for Christians to live in a free society than for believers to live in a persecuted society. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
And regardless of what tribulation you face from the world, each Christian will face attacks from within. Your flesh, your desires, your emotions, your temptations, your battles with remaining sin, your sinful bent, your unwillingness to trust God–all combine to make war against your heart for Christ.
Some of you might say, “Chris, I’m not having much trouble in this world. I surf, skateboard, video game, hang out with friends, have a loving spouse and great kids, nice house and car”—for now. But in this world, you will have tribulation. There are trials, doctrinal attacks, relationship difficulties on their way.
In the midst of all this, the New Testament wants you to stand firm. The Holy Spirit in you wants you to grow steadfast. There are constant warnings throughout the New Testament to expect trials and internal battles so you will not be shaken, but stand firm. To promote stability, in Matthew 10 Jesus warned his men in advance they will be like sheep in the midst of wolves, delivered into courts of law, dragged before authorities, hated by all for Christ’s name’s sake.
Peter warns the churches to follow sound doctrine so they will never stumble and remain on guard. Paul lovingly calls the pastor-teachers to equip the saints–why? So that Christians in the Church, Ephesians 4:14, “We 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.” Equip with the Word, so the Church will not be unstable.
James describes the spiritually unstable as doubleminded, because the unstable vacillate between doubt and faith. Every Christian experiences some level of instability–the more mature you are, the more stable you are. But in the midst of trials and pressures of everyday life, how do you stand firm? Philippians 4:1 to 9 holds the keys, and we’re going to study each one in depth.
These verses contain the process of standing firm. 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.” Stand firm is the main verb in the first nine verses of Philippians 4, giving us the keys to standing firm. What are they? In verses 2 to 8, standing firm comes from . . .
2 – 3 Addressing RELATIONAL tension
4 Manifesting genuine JOY
5 Embracing honest HUMILITY
6 Resting in dependent FAITH
7 Responding in THANKFUL PRAYER
8 Disciplining your THINKING
9 Modeling biblical OBEDIENCE
These are the people who stand firm. Those are the stable Christians. You may ask, “Chris, why would I want to stand firm?”
#1 The REASONS necessary for STANDING FIRM
Don’t miss the very first word in Philippians 4:1, “Therefore”–always ask, “Wherefore is that therefore there for?” There are four reasons.
One “Therefore” is referring back to our heavenly citizenship.
Paul pleads for the Philippians to stand firm, because he says, “You are citizens of Heaven–you are secure, and the ultimate future awaits you.” So right now, have courage here on Earth. Therefore, stand firm.
Two “Therefore” is referring back to the message of chapter 3, which is to pursue Christ.
Chapter 3 is a command for Christians to press on in their relationship to Christ. Christianity is not a decision, but a direction. It is not a religion, but a relationship. Your faith isn’t a moment, but a daily lifestyle. Your salvation isn’t praying a prayer once, but living 24/7 dependently on the Spirit of God, through the Word of God.
It is keeping Christ as your first love and making certain knowing Him is your highest goal. It is pressing forward in pursuing Christ now, being careful not to get off track doctrinally nor attitudinally, using godly models to motivate you and keeping your heart hungering for Christ’s return and Heaven as your home. Therefore, stand firm.
Three “Therefore” reviews the entire letter.
Paul gave the Philippians many key exhortations to mature in Christ–do you remember them? Turn to Philippians 1:27, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, … standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Then to 2:3 and 4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Then later in the same chapter, verse 12, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” and then verse 14, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” And finally chapter 3, verse 2, “Beware of the dogs,” and then verse 17, “join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” Therefore, stand firm.
Four “Therefore” recalls the pressures the Philippian church is currently experiencing.
As Paul writes them in this letter, the Philippians were being persecuted by Romans. Turn to chapter 1 verse 29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” The church in Philippi was being persecuted by their Roman leaders for following Jesus as Lord and not Caesar as lord. They were speaking out and suffering for it.
The Philippians were being pressured by unsaved Judaizers. Turn to 3:2, “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision.” This church family was being pressured by Jewish legalists, these heretics who taught them that to be saved or be spiritual you needed to become Jews who kept the law and get circumcised first.
The Philippians were being pushed by unsaved Gentile grace-abusers. Turn to 3:18 and 19, “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” The Philippian church battled with some who believed the other extreme–libertines who taught God’s grace in salvation meant they could live anyway they liked and it would not cause them to lose their assurance of salvation.
The Philippians were being partitioned by division in their church. Look at 1:27, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
Turn to 2:2, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Philippians were struggling over unity. Why do they need to stand firm? Because the Philippians were suffering for Christ’s sake, they were battling dissension and struggling to maintain unity, and there were false teacher dogs and abusers of God’s grace.
But those are not the reasons you need to stand firm. Yours might be in a difficult marriage, battling with harsh parents or a rebellious child, working through what to do with hostile relatives, an unfair boss, a hard teacher, financial debt, or a particular sin or a sinful bent that continues to badger you. As His child, your heart will cry out for stability. You will want to stand firm.
And even though this is the most difficult for all of us to fully understand, you can’t stand firm in the truest sense unless you are part of a church committed to standing firm. This command is to a church family to stand firm. Standing firm is something we are to work on together and practice towards each other.
You will never be able to conform to Christ’s image by isolating yourself from Christ’s body. God designed for us to stand firm together, not separately. If your church is designed merely to make you feel good, then you’ll not be able to stand firm. Standing firm has a lot to do with doctrine, living like Christ, maturing and is a commitment we can only keep as God’s family together. In fact, this is what Paul says next in verse 1 and point #2 . . .
#2 The REASSURANCES of Paul to motivate Standing FIRM
I love that Paul repeats much of the affection he expressed in chapter 1 here. Look at chapter 4 verse 1, “My beloved brethren…whom I long to see…my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” Do you see the three reassurances of Paul–three motivators–three encouragements. His words here are not manipulative, but genuine expressions of His heart. Paul was so close to the Philippians, he can’t help but share his affections which ultimately point to Christ’s affections for you. What does he say?
First You are intimate FAMILY
Paul calls them “my beloved brethren”. Paul had a deep affection for the Philippian church–they’re family, brethren. Paul was the one who led them to Christ. Paul was the one who established the church. They are deeper than family–Paul says they’re literally, “loved brothers of me.” Under the inspiration of the Spirit, who doesn’t lie, Paul told them in Philippians 1:8, “For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
Paul reminds Philippi and you of the affection of Christ for you. Pursuing Christ is not an indifferent command–standing firm is a loving encouragement. You’ve all received an errant charge on a bill from an impersonal company. You all have horror stories–you feel manipulated or taken advantage of. All of us remember receiving a harsh or unjust command by a parent.
Young Christians can look at the commands of the Bible in the same manner. So Paul reminds us–Christ has deep affection for you. Your salvation makes you family–you’re intimately related to the most incredible person in the universe–a person who did more for you than any mother, father, sibling, family member, or friend. Christ has done more for you than anyone.
So Paul says, “My beloved brethren”–Christ made you Philippians family. Why should they pursue the Christ of chapter 3? Why stand firm in the Christ of chapter 4? In Christ you are family, and . . .
Second You are affectionately LOVED
Paul says in verse 1, “whom I long to see”—which means greatly desired, a super strong, very dear, yearned over and earnest desire. In fact, the Greek text is desired ones, plus “long to see” is a hopoxlogomina, found only here in the New Testament and refers to the deep pain of separation from loved ones.
Paul was a brilliant mind and a deep theologian, but he was also blessed with an incredible capacity to love people. Paul informs us in 1 Thessalonians 3:6 that an affectionate, longing heart can be demonstrated by everyday Christians, plus be shown by an entire church, not merely Paul. “Timothy … has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, [you all] longing to see us, just as we also long to see you.”
This longing is true of you and Christ. Paul just reminded the Philippians in 3:20 that all genuine believers are eagerly awaiting Christ’s return. Just like Paul longed to see the Philippians, we long to see Christ. “Whom I long to see” is Paul expressing his love for the Philippians, but as he does he’s reminding you of God’s love for you, because this kind of love only has its source in God Himself.
Romans 5:5 says of every Christian, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (ESV). This kind of longing care can only be created in a heart by Christ. This kind of heart is only something Christ can give you. Because you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, you have the resources to love, to long to see, to grow in genuine affection for others.
And most importantly, because Christ loves you first, you are motivated to stand firm. One of the reasons why I didn’t cheat at school was cause I had parents who loved me and would have been crushed by that choice. One of the reasons why I didn’t cheat on my wife was cause I have a wife who loves me and that choice would have destroyed her and my children. Why stand firm? You have a God who loves you and did everything to free you from sin. Then Paul adds one more.
Third You are eternally REWARDED
Paul says in verse 1, “my joy and crown.” This is awesome. Paul calls the Philippians his joy—“my joy.” Obviously Paul didn’t derive his joy from his circumstances. After all, as he writes this letter, Paul is under house arrest in Rome awaiting trial, resulting in death or release. Paul actually tells you, his joy came from fellow believers–you guys are my joy.
Paul described this joy to the Thessalonians this way. First Thessalonians 2:19, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?” John described this joy to his readers this way in 3 John 4, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”
Paul rejoiced in the church’s salvation, spiritual growth (walking in truth) and their eventual perfection in Heaven. He says, “You are my joy.” When I invest in others and they shine brightly for Christ, God gets all the glory–but let there be no doubt, they are my joy!
But Paul also called the Philippians his crown. Paul is speaking about them as a future reward. Crown is not talking about the majestic gold ring, loaded with jewels, which sits upon a king’s head. No, crown here refers directly to a laurel wreath, something an athlete received in biblical times for winning a contest.
It is described in 1 Corinthians 9:24 and 25, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
The Philippians are Paul’s imperishable wreath. Paul was used to lead them to Christ. Paul was used to mature them in the faith. So as they continue to follow Christ on earth, they represent/guarantee Paul’s future eternal reward. They are Paul’s crown. And Paul reminds his readers, they too will face Christ in a future judgment.
Christian, you will be judged. You will answer for your life–not over sin and not to be condemned, but to be rewarded. “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” (2 Corinthians 5:10). 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.
These Philippians are Paul’s joy and crown, his eternal smile and trophy. And by implication, if the Philippians are faithful to stand firm, they too will receive God’s eternal rewards. So what does it mean to stand firm?
#3 The REQUIREMENTS of God to Stand FIRM
The end of verse 1, “in this way, stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” Verses 1 to 9 are filled with commands, but the main command in these first 9 verses is to “stand firm”. It is not an unusual command–it’s found all over the New Testament.
Galatians 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
1 Thessalonians 3:8, “For now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.”
2 Thessalonians 2:15, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”
1 Corinthians 15:58, “My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
2 Peter 3:17, “Be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.”
The Greek word for “stand firm” is to hold one’s ground, maintain a position, be steadfast and be upright. It is an imperative, a command with almost a military ring to it. Of course our Lord Jesus is the perfect example of standing firm. He faced persecution, but never compromised. He was tempted in all things, but didn’t sin. He faced the worst trial to ever occur, yet honored God through it all.
Like soldiers on the front line, believers are commanded to hold their position while under attack. Philippians you are not to collapse under persecution by Romans, pressures by unsaved Judaizers, pushing by unsaved Gentile grace-abusers, partitioned by division in their midst, or anything else that hits us today.
In this letter, Paul has already used the imagery of running, of pursuing and of walking—and now he adds the picture of standing firm. Attack is much easier than defense. It is difficult to stand still and be shot at. Paul is saying stand as soldiers of Christ. When others run away (as some have done in Philippi and some have done here), it’s hard to stand firm and hold one’s ground.
But God calls you, students and seniors, parents and singles, marrieds and widows—to stand firm. Don’t bend, hold the line, and remain solid on Christ and His Word. Keep your eyes on Christ, pursue Christ, grow mature in Christ and never budge from Christ. God is specific about standing firm in this context.
First STAND FIRM by honoring your status
As citizens of Heaven, Paul just told you in 3:20 to 21, you are currently a citizen of Heaven. Standing firm means you act like it. You live like you belong in Heaven and not on Earth. You are not in love with this world, but you are in love with the next world. You are not enamored with things here, you’re focusing on things to come. You’re not working for this planet, but for the world to come.
Standing firm means your loyalties are clear. You stand for Christ and eternity, not the devil and a fallen planet.
Second STAND FIRM by being unbending on God’s WORD
Paul warned the Philippians at the beginning of chapter 3 about doctrinal error (dogs) and he just warned them again about the error of legalism and libertinism at the end of chapter 3. After his warnings, Paul now says stand firm–don’t bend, don’t compromise, don’t surrender under pressure, and don’t embrace the error.
FBC, the pressure will increase for you to compromise on inerrancy, cessationism, a normal, literal hermeneutic, biblical preaching seeking only the author’s intended message, and much more. God says stand firm. And Paul adds . . .
Third STAND FIRM in the LORD
Look at the end of verse 1, “in this way, stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” In the Lord is used 114 times in the Bible. In Acts, it is almost exclusively describing believing or believers in the Lord. In the New Testament, it is convinced in the Lord, beloved in the Lord, worked hard in the Lord, boast in the Lord, called in the Lord, marry only in the Lord, faith in the Lord, hope in the Lord, trust in the Lord, harmony in the Lord, rejoice in the Lord, exhort you in the Lord, as fitting in the Lord, die in the Lord, and firm in the Lord.
The actual phrase, “stand firm in the Lord,” is literally “stand in Master”–and the preposition en for in means in the sphere of the Lord, being in Christ, depending on Christ through His Spirit and by His Word. Paul is commanding the Philippians and you to rely on the Lord, to stand firm. Exercise your will, whether you feel like it or not, to step out in obedience to your Master, according to the Word of God, the Bible, in dependence upon the Spirit of God, so Christ can work through you to stand firm.
You’re tempted to compromise or you’re struggling with trusting Christ or you’re concerned about a different theological position–what do you do? You choose to obey God’s Word as written—you stand on the truth, depending on the Holy Spirit to empower you, trusting Christ to make things clear in time. Standing firm is about Christ, being firm for Christ, and standing through Christ. But standing firm is never alone!
Fourth STAND FIRM TOGETHER as a loving family
Now the end of verse 1, “in this way, stand firm in the Lord, my beloved”–Paul throws one final relational term into this highly personal verse. He says, “my beloved.” At the beginning of verse one, Paul calls the Philippians “my beloved brethren”. And at the end of verse one, Paul calls the Philippians literally loved ones.
Not only are they a source of great intimacy and affection for Paul, but Paul is reminding them standing firm is what the Church does together. These are plural terms. The group is the focus here, not the individual. You belong to a unique family, and together you help each other stand firm. You ask questions of spiritual leaders about doctrinal error.
You depend on each other when working through a crisis. You care for one other when they’re hurt and rejoice with others who’re blessed. You carry your own load, but you bear one another’s burdens. And most importantly you fire each other up to pursue Christ, stay on track, and endure to the end. Think about this, beloved . . .
Standing Firm is SURRENDER
Standing firm is someone who has surrendered to Christ. You can’t be firm for Christ, until you are firmly in Christ. The most unhappy person in this room is the one who is trying to live for Christ without Christ. Turn from your sin in repentance and depend on Christ alone by faith.
Standing Firm is TOUGHING UP
FBC–it is time to hit the spiritual gym again and make this year a season where you grow deep in God’s Word, get discipled, read some solid books, and study Gods Word.
Standing Firm is MATURITY
Instead of being like most churchgoers today, who are Ephesians 4:14, “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.” Stop being children.
When 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak,
be patient with everyone”–don’t be the unruly, the fainthearted, or the weak. Be those who stand firm, who’re stable, who are unbending, who know the truth and will not compromise it doctrinally nor practically.
Standing Firm is HABITS
Those who stand firm have awesome habits they practice. These habits are the manifestation of maturity, and a secret to a godly life. What are they? To learn that, come back next week. Let’s pray.