By Ellen Ceely
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:4-7
Paul’s closing remarks to the Philippians are found in this final chapter. What’s striking is what he finds important. He doesn’t encourage them to face each day ready to fight whatever lies might come their way. He doesn’t tell the Philippians to defend their faith at all costs. By today’s general definition of the word, Paul doesn’t call the Philippians to do anything “radical.” Instead, he calls them to a peaceful life of joyful, gentle faith.
The Philippians lived in a turbulent time, one that wasn’t favorable toward Christians. They faced potential and ongoing persecution for their faith. As a colony of the Roman Empire that was largely inhabited by rich people, social and political ostracization and ruin were also a potential consequence for turning away from idols as they chose to believe in Christ.
No matter what the Philippians faced as Christians, Paul wanted them to remember to always find their joy in the Lord. Paul reminded the Philippians to be known by everyone for their gentleness because gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). According to Paul, gentleness is an important mark of what it means to be a Christian. In a colony of rich and powerful people, Paul wanted Philippian Christians to stand out among the crowd with unending gentleness toward others. He wanted them to leave aside any harsh business or political tactics as they lived out their faith rejoicing in their Savior.
With the reminder of the nearness of God, Paul further reminds them to not worry but to give everything over to the Lord. His promise to them when they do this is that God will guard their hearts and minds in a peace that passes all understanding. Even if they face ruin, ostracization, and constant persecution, they will feel a peace that doesn’t make sense as they trust in God to provide for them.
What does it look like for you to rejoice in the Lord today? How can you make known your gentleness? Is gentleness something you struggle with? Meditate on what it means to be gentle and ask God to help you implement this fruit of the Spirit in your life. What things weigh on your heart? Take these requests to God in faith that he is near and that he will answer you and bring peace to your heart and mind. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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