The Lord is Near!

Philippians 4:1-9

v 1 Paul, stating his love and joy in the Philippian believers tells them to stand firm in the Lord.  

You might recall in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter six, he writes about spiritual warfare and the armor we should put on.  In verse 13 he writes, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything to stand firm.”   The word translated “withstand” implies being able to resist and oppose the evil winds and forces that oppose us.  

Life is not easy.  There is much good in the world, to be sure, but we are naive and foolish when we fail to see the evil in our world as well.  Paul, in his letter to the Philippians believers is positive and filled with joy.  As believers we can echo his hope and assurance.  Yet, he is also realistic and tells us to stand firm in our faith in Jesus.  There are forces at work that would draw us away from Him and whittle away our trust and confidence; weaken our resolve to serve Him.  

v 2-3 He goes right into one of the major areas that affect us—disagreements in the body of Christ.  In so many words he tells us to “get along,” we are on the same team.  We are co-workers with our names written together in the book of life.  

v 4 Then he goes right into the a series of commands, enjoiners telling how we should order our thoughts.  Rejoice in the Lord—not in circumstances, not only when everything is going our way, not in life when it is good—but in the Lord.  

Bad things happen to good people.  Not everything that happens can be explained away as being God’s will.  God does not will or cause evil.  God is not the author of death, but life.  God did not bring sin into our world.  We did.  So, not everything that happens is what God intended to happen.  Evil breaks His heart.  Disease and death break God’s heart.  Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus.  The death of God’s children is sacred and special.  God created us for life.  Jesus suffered, died and rose again to restore us to that life.  And when Jesus comes again He will usher in that eternal kingdom promised in Scripture.  In the interim we suffer.  Paul did.  He wrote these words from prison, and if we understand his circumstances correctly he never was released from prison.  Yet he says rejoice.  In the Lord.  Because God is still in control.  

v 5a Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  The word translated “gentleness” can also be translated forbearance, patience, considerate.    

Another way of stating what Paul is saying might be, don’t react with anger to those around you.  Don’t be argumentative.  Don’t belittle or begrudge those you deal with.  Get along.  Be Christlike.  Be patient.  Be gentle.  We sure could use some of that attitude in our world.  Rather than wishing others would be like Jesus, Paul says, YOU BE LIKE HIM!  You be the standard bearer.  

The wedding feast parable in our Gospel reading shares a parallel thought.  You and I have been invited to a wedding party.  We understand this parable to be picture the “wedding feast of the Lamb.”—Jesus is the groom.  We are the bride.  We’ve been invited to the party.  And yet so many of us have too many others things going on in life.  Too many things to bother with this Christianity stuff, this holy living stuff, this churchy stuff.  

God’s invitation is to life and celebration of His presence and abundant giving.  It is an invitation to enjoy God’s presence, protection and provision no matter what and where we are.  We come clothed in Christ.  That means being filled with God’s Spirit, and doing the work of loving and caring for others Jesus’ style—the same way Jesus loves and cares for us.  

Note this, God loves us as we are and brings us into the kingdom as His guests with everything prepared for us.  But God loves us too much to let us continue unchanged.  Learn to grow in Christ.  Learn to emulate His attitude and way of caring for others.  Learn to put others before you.  Learn to turn away from greed, selfishness, self-centeredness, laziness, lustful thinking, etc. etc.  

v 5b The motivation?  The Lord is near.  His Second Coming, His return is imminent.  Live as if His Second Coming were this afternoon, or tonight or tomorrow.  If you knew you only had one more day of life how would you respond to the irritants that set you off balance?  Would you still be given to greed or complaining?  How would you be different.  Paul says let Jesus’ return modify your attitude, words, and actions.  

v 6-7 Paul continues:  Don’t worry!  Remember the song, “don’t worry, be happy!”  Paul is not simplistic here, but he does give us a formula, a strategy for not worrying.  Instead of worrying he says—P R A Y.  Talk to God.  Give God your concerns, but do it in such a way that you are thankful and grateful no matter the outcome.  That can only happen when our trust overrides our fears and worries.  God knows you and me.  God knows our needs better than we do.  Can you entrust yourself to God no matter what?  If so, “the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  

The word “guard” is a military term from the Greek language.  It implies a sentry at the gate or doorway of our heart and mind.  The word picture is peace will protect and keep away those pesky worries and thoughts that assault us.  

v 8-9 Finally, says the Apostle.  Finally practice a little self talk.  Practice a little mental focus.  Be deliberate about what you focus on.  Intentionality ought to be part and parcel of our Christian faith.  You can control where your mind goes.  When it wonders into “enemy territory” such as worry, greed, etc.  lasso it back and focus on the good, noble, honorable, pure, commendable and excellent things.  You might have to pray for help.  But hey, that is okay.  You might have to admit failure and confess, but hey, that is okay.  Don’t quit redirecting your thoughts.  Don’t give in.  Fight the good fight and let God’s peace be with you and fill you.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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