Philippians 4:4-9 | "4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,"
Today we will be considering Philippians chapter 4, verses 4 through 9: Prayer, Practice, and Peace. Hear the word of God, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned, received, and heard and see in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Many times in our lives and probably everyday we ask or should be asking what should I do or what should I be doing as a Christian? And at least initially I’d like to boil that down to a couple of points, and these are devotion to the Lord and doing righteousness. But before we get there, I want to assume what the apostle Paul assumes in his letters and sometimes he writes down explicitly. And that as believers in Jesus we are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit of the living and the true God. God is with us. He energizes us. He enables us to understand the scriptures and to do what is right. He convicts us when we do things that are wrong and He encourages us along the path of righteousness. That has to be understood, because living the Christian life is utterly impossible without the indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit.
So the first point, when we ask the question: What should we be doing as Christians? Let’s boil it down. The first is this: Devotion to the Lord must be our continual experience. Verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Rejoice in the Lord. Experience joy in who God is. The joy of the Lord is our strength and there’s so much for us to rejoice about. If you think about who God is and all that he has done for you, that He’s your creator, that He has reconciled you to Himself in Jesus, that He’s come to live within you, that He will never leave you nor forsake you. He’s not going ever, ever to abandon you. Some humans probably have abandoned you. They’ve abandoned some of us in some way or another. God will never do that. Think about all that Jesus has done. He lived a perfect life. He died in order to pay for our sins. Was buried and rose again. And all of these things produce joy in the Christian when we thank God for what he has done for us in Jesus. And what we need to do is pour out our hearts in thanksgiving, in prayer, for who He is and what He has done because that really is your strength. It’s my strength as we live day-to-day. And I want to encourage you form the outset to pursue the Lord. There is no other way really to grow in your Christian faith. Seek Him and serve Him. So devotion to the Lord has to be first. Notice how Paul says rejoice twice. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Not just rejoice in the Lord sometime. Rejoice in the Lord most of the time. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Be consumed with Him. Be absorbed with the things of God. And then he repeats it. “I will say again, rejoice.”
Okay, secondly, as we’re rejoicing, we’re also doing the righteousness of God all of the time. Look at verse 9, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things. And the God of peace will be with you.” Practicing righteousness. Doing the righteousness of God all of the time and this means as we rejoice in the Lord and learn about His truth and what He has done for us, what He’s called us to do, but what He’s enabled us to do. We live in light of this. The things you think about are very important. The things you read and watch and listen to, and the way you speak to your spouse, to your friend, to your children, to your co-workers and even to your enemy. All of these are very, very important. And there’s nothing that’s off limits when it comes to doing the righteousness of God. Paul isn’t talking about a one day a week righteousness, Sunday morning from 11 o’clock to 12 o’clock. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re devoted to the Lord. We’re doing righteousness. And as you and I grow as believers, we will be able to better devote ourselves to the Lord and we will do righteousness by the grace of God and by His spirit dwelling within us. We will do the righteousness of God more effectively and more thoroughly in our lives. And part of doing that righteousness is watching the things that we say. Build one another up with your speech. It’s easy for us to be negative towards others and we should have a critical mind without having a critical spirit but watch it. Watch it because if you find yourself putting others down frequently it’s often times, in your own mind, to try to build yourself up., but that’s not God’s way to do it, so be careful. Also, we can meet material needs and physical and emotional and relational needs of other people. We’re not going to be able to do this with everybody, but we should be involved in people’s lives so that we have ample and regular opportunities to do what is right in God’s sight.
Okay. Well, how do we experience God’s peace? He talks about peace a lot in this passage. The first thing I want to draw your attention to is that Jesus Christ affects our peace with God. We have peace with God because of Jesus’s cross, His death, and His shed blood. We were at enmity or at war with God and God was at war with us. Think of it this way, relationally. God’s back was turned toward us. If somebody turns their back towards you, that means they’re blowing you off, they don’t want to have anything to do with you, and it’s an insult. Well, God’s back was toward us. When Jesus died on Calvary’s cross and paid for our sins by that death, what He did was to satisfy God’s wrath that was upon us because of sin, and because of what Jesus has done, He is our peace. And now God turns, and His face is toward us because of what Jesus has done and He’s smiling upon us. It is a wonderful image that you have to keep in your mind in order to see just how Jesus has affected your peace and mine, with God. And that’s foundational, because Jesus affects this relational peace with God and judicially now we have peace with God.
Well, how do we experience peace in our daily lives? The first is prayer. Prayer results in our experience of peace with God. Verse 6, “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the God of peace, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The God of peace. The peace of God as we pray. And I know this is true in my life and though I can say to you that my prayer life isn’t as developed as it needs to be, but, none the less, as I pray or when I pray to God and I try to practice the presence of God throughout the day and pray to Him regularly, almost continually. As I do that, I experience His peace more. This is the scripture, what God tells us is true. He’s faithful. He’s reliable. He’s trustworthy. He says, you pursue Him in prayer and entrust yourself to Him when you don’t understand your situation and your circumstances, He is going to come to you and minister to you with His peace. And He does that. He really does. So He grants us peace as we pray to Him, but also, it’s practice.
Living out our faith leads to experiencing God’s peace. And I read it earlier but listen again in verse 9, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things. And the God of peace will be with you.” Well, God’s always with us, but there is a special way in which God comes to us and assures us of His presence and assures us of His peace as we carry out His will in the world, whether it’s through prayer or whether it’s through practice, and these things lead to peace. And I want you to think about the order here. Christ is our relational peace with God. He has born in His body the wrath of God, so we are relationally now at peace with God in Jesus. As we pray, God assures us of His peace; at times, He overwhelms us. We feel that He holds us in His loving arms. He has us in His hand and no one can snatch us out. It’s marvelous. It’s wonderful. As we pray to God, what are we doing? We’re pursuing this relationship with Him. And as we pursue human relationships, we feel closer and more intimate with those we are relating to. Well, the same is true with God. So as we communicate with Him, of course, we’re going to feel His peace and sense the depth of His presence, more so when we pray regularly. Okay. And then, practice. Practice. We live the Christian life and, of course, the peace that we have that results from Christ, practice and prayer. So think about those things. Those are great pegs on which to hang the details of your life. All of the particulars can be hung on those separate pegs of Christ, the peace He affects, practicing the things of God, and praying to God.
Now, we must focus on living a life of thanksgiving. Notice verse 6, I didn’t want to leave this out, it says, “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” What does thanksgiving help us to do? When you and I give thanks, we are acknowledging that everything that we have is a gift form God to us. Sometimes if we pray and all we do is supplicate God, we’re just asking for things for other people, maybe really good things, but if we don’t have this critical ingredient of thanksgiving, then we don’t realize as much that everything we have is a gift. When you give thanks to God for something, you’re reminded again that this is a gift. So my home, my family, my faith, everything I have, all that I am, He knitted me together in my mother’s womb. He chose me in Christ from before the foundation of the world. It’s amazing. It’s thrilling. It makes our heart beat faster and this blood course through our veins. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? Absolutely it is. Give thanks. When we give thanks, we realize everything is a gift. And what does gratitude do? When we are thankful to God, gratitude begets or leads to generosity because we realize that everything is a gift and if we have received freely all of these spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Jesus Christ with real earthly consequences in the here and now, we’re going to want to give to others. We want to bless others even as we have been blessed. So as we give thanks we become more generous. Conversely, if we’re not very generous people, it’s probably because we’re not giving thanks to God in Jesus. So see how these things are working out in your life presently and remember that thankfulness reminds us that everything is a gift and gratitude begets or leads to generosity. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank you that everything that we have is a gift, a gift of God to us in and through Jesus Christ. We thank you, Lord, as well that gratitude leads to begets generosity. Father, help us to be people that give thanks to you for everything and who are generous to others. In Jesus’s name, amen.