Godly Living in a World of Sorrow (Philippians 4:4-9)
Rejoice Always (verse 4)
In this Epistle, Paul exhorts the Philippians to rejoice a total four times. To rejoice is to make your heart glad in the Lord—in His goodness and His accomplishments for us in Christ. By “in the Lord,” the Apostle Paul has specifically in mind rejoicing that is “in Christ.” In other words, we are to rejoice because of our unbreakable union with Jesus Christ. Outside of Christ, there is no joy. Any pursuit of a life of rejoicing outside of Christ is like trying to get water out of a broken cistern. True rejoicing is only possible when we go to the “fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13). Only in Christ it is possible to “rejoice always,” even when we are in difficult circumstances and our hearts are experiencing genuine pain and grief (1 Peter 1:7-8).
Exercise Gentleness (verse 5)
The word translated “gentleness” refers to someone that is able to respond with kindness and consideration rather than reacting with violence and rage. Since the Philippians were experience persecution for the name of Christ, this kind of gentle self-control would have been necessary in order for them to deal with reasonableness toward their opponents. We are to exercise this gentleness in light of the fact that “the Lord is near.” The Lord is not far off, so you can entrust your cause to Him, rather than sinfully taking it into your own hands. This is the exact behavior that we see in our Lord, who, “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).
Pray in Everything (verses 6-7)
Anxiety is sin—a direct assault on the character of God. When we are sinfully anxious, we are making the assertion that God is not able to be trusted fully. In contrast to anxiety, we are promised that the peace of God can guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. This peace of God is the very peace that God possesses—and therefore, a peace that surpasses all comprehension. This peace was purchased for us through the death of Christ (Romans 5:1), and is now communicated to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. God gives us this peace as we come to him continually through prayer in order to make our requests known to Him. Our prayers should be thankful prayers, even when we are in frightening or sorrowful situations, because He is a God who hears us through His Son.
Think and Practice what is Right (verses 8-9)
Not only are we promised the “peace of God” in verse 7, but in verse 9 we are promised the “God of peace.” The reason we experience His peace is because God Himself—the God of peace—dwells near to us in the person of His Spirit. And this experience of the God of peace is directly connected to our habits of thinking and practicing what is right. We are saved by grace alone, through faith, and yet the life we are called to in Christ is a life of effort in striving after thoughts and actions that are conformed to His truth. No truth we hear or learn should be left unapplied in our thinking or in our doing.
- Is your heart currently glad in the Lord? What is it that makes you glad? If you are struggling to rejoice, consider the biblical reasons to stir your heart up to find joy again in the Lord.
- In what situations is it difficult for you to exercise gentleness in your interactions with others? How should the reality of the Lord’s nearness help you?
- What are you tempted to be anxious about? Have you continued to take it to the Lord with thankful prayers?
- How would you describe to an unbeliever the peace that we have in Christ, and the basis for that peace?