To Know Him is to have His Strength and Peace for all circumstances.
In Acts 16 we get a clearer understanding of how the Philippian church came into being and what the challenges facing this church were. Paul went to this city as a result of a vision, and the first meeting he attended was group of women who met for prayer near a river. There did not seem to be a synagogue or any significant Jewish presence. Lydia, a rich and influential woman responded to Paul’s message and let him stay at her house.
One Sabbath, as they were going back to the place of prayer, a slave-girl with a spirit harassed Paul by announcing who he was. Paul cast out the spirit and as a consequence her masters could not use her to make money. Paul and Timothy were arrested, beaten and thrown in jail. Despite the hardships, they sang songs in prison and when an earthquake came, were able to lead a jailer and later his family to the Lord. He cared for them until the court hearing when they were released. But, Paul refused to go quietly, demanding that the authorities give them treatment befitting a Roman citizen. The authorities were apologetic and tried to move Paul and Timothy on quickly. Paul was not going to be intimidated. He went back to Lydia’s house, and gave some final words of encouragement before leaving
In Chapter 4, Paul was able to tell them to stand firm, and to remain faithful to the Lord in whatever circumstances they were each facing, because that’s what he did. As they read his words, they would have remembered his courage and faith under very difficult circumstances. He encouraged them to live in harmony with each other and to support and encourage one another to be faithful no matter what.
1. Philippians 4:1-3 Stand firm in the Lord and live in harmony as His people.
To stand firm is to live for Christ, to be like Christ and to live in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. They understood the cost and the benefits of following Christ from the beginning – Paul was living what he was preaching.
2. Philippians 4:4-9 Peace can be ours if we will trust God with our needs, and set our minds and hearts on the things that please Him.
Anxiety and fear are characteristics of the old life, and totally understandable in a world like ours. But, as Christians, we are called to live a different life – a life of faith. Paul exhorts us to practice rejoicing, prayer and thanksgiving, and contentment in ALL circumstances as expressions of the life of faith. It requires us to set our minds on Christ, rather than earthly things. Transformation is a learning process that can only happen in the circumstances.
3. Philippians 4:10-18 Contentment means learning to see our circumstances as opportunities to rely on God and to serve Him where we are.
Paul learned to be content in all types of circumstances. He had to learn to reinterpret his life through the eyes of faith. He saw opportunities where others saw setbacks and obstacles. In the Acts passage, he ended up in Philippi because of external obstacles, and his beating and arrest lead to the salvation of a jailer and his family. When we become soldiers of Christ, our commander in chief may need to put us in dangerous circumstances to achieve His purposes – He expects no less of us than any army who signs us up.
4. Philippians 4:19-23 God will supply sufficient grace for each days challenges.
It is the responsibility of the commander-in-chief to prepare and supply his soldiers with everything they need to complete the tasks assigned to them. But, we have to report for duty, and apply the training and use the things supplied. I soldier who left his sword or gun behind when sent on a mission would be deemed negligent.
Paul said, “...practice these things, and the God of peace shall be with you.” 4:9
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” 4:13
1. What hinders us from being, joyful and content in difficult circumstances?
2. What is Paul's advice for dealing with the stresses and uncertainties of difficult times? How are you going in your own life?
3. Success in God’s economy does not look the same as the world sees it. Discuss.
4. Read 2 Tim 2:1-6. What does it mean to be a faithful disciple (or soldier) of Christ?