Thursday, January 29, 2004

Philippians--Joy in Service

This is lesson 13 in a study of Philippians. To start at the beginning, click here.

The next bit that Paul writes is well known:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 

Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

This is good stand alone advice, but I think that it is given special emphasis placed, as it is, in the context of what Paul has written to the Philippians.

  • Consider others as more important than yourselves. Look out for the interest of others. -- Be anxious for nothing ... make your interests known to God.
  • Share in the sufferings of Christ. -- Be anxious for nothing ... you can have the peace of God.
  • Do not grumble or dispute. -- Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.

The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds. Here is the power of God that makes us Christians overcomers. No matter what we face, we can bring the very matter to God, and expect His peace to come. You can see this dynamic in Hannah's bitter family situation as record in 1 Samuel 1. Note the transition in Hannah's heart in this passage:

Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 

She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. She made a vow and said, "O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head." 

Now it came about, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli was watching her mouth. As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. 

Then Eli said to her, "How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you." 

But Hannah replied, "No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord. Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation." 

Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him." 

She said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." 

So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. (1 Samuel 1:9-18)

Hannah did not know that she would conceive at the time she "went her way and ate" with a sad face no longer. Her situation was the same, but the connection with God filled her with peace.

You can see this in the flow of many Psalms, where a great outpouring of concern is followed by a calm affirmation of faith. Here is Psalm 13 as an example:

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? 

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, And my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. 

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:1-6)

As you make your requests and supplications to God, remember these things:

  • He is sovereign and all powerful. If He wants to change the situation, he will. If He does not change the situation, you are where He wants you to be. I do not want this to lead you to a fatalistic view of life. For one thing, if there is something that you can do to improve, change, exit, or whatever to make things better, that you should do.
  • He has shown you favor and lovingkindness through the gospel and your salvation. He is on your side and is working for your good in the context of His kingdom. For this you include thanksgiving to Him for all things.
  • He wants to fill you with strength and peace and He has promised and demonstrated over again that He will do this. This peace is a genuine and miraculous gift and one that will make the world pay attention. This peace is not Christianity the crutch not needed by stronger people. No it is that extra strength that lets us endure more for the sake of others and for the Kingdom. 

Paul's words remind of Peter's:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

God's hand is mighty. He can change the situation, when and if He deems it right. In light of this, humble yourself. Acknowledge that He is wiser than you. Give Him thanks. Cast your anxiety on Him. He cares for you.

May God especially make this truth a part of your daily walk.

Friday: had any good thoughts lately?

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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