Here is an abridged version of our discussion on Philippians 4:2-9. I wish I could include all the wonderful insights and comments from our group gatherings!
It seems the church in Philippi had an issue that Paul needed to address. Two women, Euodia and Syntyche, were in conflict over something — we don’t know what — but Paul had to nip it in the bud, so he called them out on the division they were creating in the church. I wonder how these two ladies felt when they heard their names being read in public. I imagine they might have sunk down in their pews a little bit. It probably wasn’t a doctrinal issue, or Paul would have addressed it sooner. Most likely it was a silly argument that was getting blown up, but was having a negative influence on the church.
Paul didn’t say, “Agree with each other.” He said, “Agree with each other in the Lord.” There’s a difference there. Bringing the Lord into the problem puts things in perspective. He also asked a mediator to step in and help them resolve the issue. Then he complimented these ladies for being hard workers for the gospel. This shows that women in the early church were an essential part of ministry. Just the fact that Paul used their names shows how prominent they were at Philippi.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: 74% of people who leave the church, leave because of disagreements with other church members. A divided congregation is a poor witness to the world and can’t expect growth or God’s blessing.
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” St. Augustine
Is it really possible to “rejoice in the Lord always”?
Again, Paul didn’t say, “Rejoice always.” He said, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” There’s a difference there, too. Even in the midst of conflict or chaos or trauma, we can rejoice that God is with us, that He hears us, that He loves us. This was so important to Paul that he repeated the command — “I’ll say it again — Rejoice!” Remember, he is sitting in a jail, waiting to hear if he’s going to the gallows.
In our study groups, we talked about how important it is to have some truths so ingrained in our souls that when the crisis hits, we don’t collapse, but have a firm foundation to stand on. That can be as easy as making a list of things that are true about God and pulling it out when we need to “preach the gospel to ourselves”.
Is it really possible to “be anxious for nothing”?
We live in a very anxious time. Anxiety is a huge problem in our culture. Paul offers a way to handle stress — “Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers.” (Message)
We can’t stop anxious thoughts from going through our minds, but we can choose whether or not to let them stay there. Martin Luther said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” Most of the things that cause us to worry are the “what if’s”. But when we give ourselves over to worry, we are forgetting that “God is near” (v. 5). Continually stressed out believers actually make our God look bad and demonstrate lack of trust.
There are times when we need to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5) Sisters, we have the right to use the authority of the name of Jesus to tell a negative thought to leave. We need to use that weapon!
If we know how to worry, then we know how to meditate. Worry is just meditation on the negative. If every worry drove us to prayer, a supernatural peace that stands guard over our feelings and perceptions is promised by God. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?
The battlefield is the mind, so Paul tells us what we need to be focusing our thoughts on: whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. The world gives us a steady stream of the opposite: lies, corruption, immorality, obscenity, unpleasantness, mediocrity, dishonor. It will take intentional effort to swim against that stream. It does explain the lack of peace in this world, though, doesn’t it?
Anxiety is defined like this: being pulled apart in all directions.
Peace is defined as: getting put back together into wholeness.
Paul asked the Philippians to practice these things, to make them habits. So there’s our challenge. Can we learn to do things God’s way and handle what life gives us so that we can show the world what His “peace that passes understanding” looks like? It’s easy to talk about — not so easy to implement — but it must be possible if it’s in God’s Word.