Paul says to live in harmony with other people, and to pray anxiety away. He says to train yourself to think good thoughts. He shares that God will provide. [UPDATED]
VERSE 1. Therefore, my brothers, beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
VERSE 2. I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to think the same way in the Lord.
VERSE 3. Yes, I beg you also, true partner, help these women, for they labored with me in the Good News with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice! Thanks to Jesus Christ, our lives can become a festival of rejoicing. Rejoicing and making merry are emblematic of our being believers in the One God of Israel.
- The theme of joy is frequent in this letter.
- We are not called to be happy, but to be joyful. There may be many circumstances under which we cannot feel happy, yet we can always rejoice in Christ and delight in him.
Always. There are ample references to Paul being joyful even under suffering, persecution, imprisonment, the threat of death.
For thought: Is it possible to be unhappy, yet also joyful?
gentleness. That is, kindness, considerateness, forbearance, fairness, a Christ-like consideration for others, a non-retaliatory spirit
Known to all. That is, “evident” to all (NIV translation).
The Lord is near. This might be a reference to the Lord’s perpetual presence in our lives, or it could be a reference to the his return in glory at the End of Time.
VERSE 6. In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
In nothing be anxious. If you’re prone to fall into anxiety, there’s a God-given way to deal with that. You can overcome it by the God-given tools of prayer and petition and thanksgiving.
anxious. That is, self-centered worrying, as compared with concern for the legitimate cares and concerns of life.
In everything, by prayer. Anxiety and prayer are two opposing forces in the Christian life.
let your requests be made known. In prayer, we’re not to hold anything back. Pray whatever is on your mind. Pray whatever it is that you’re feeling.
Even if its something you feel embarrassed about, pray it out. We can’t hide things from God anyway, so pray it out!
VERSE 7. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
the peace of God. God wishes for you to feel peace! The God-given tools of prayer and petition and thanksgiving are meant to avail you of the peace of God, which is far beyond all human understanding.
This is not so much a psychological state of mind, but rather an inner tranquility based on peace with God.
surpasses all understanding. The full dimensions of God’s love and care are beyond our human comprehension.
guard. This is a military term that depicts a sentry standing guard. God’s “protective custody” of those in Jesus Christ extends to the core of their being and to their deepest intentions.
God’s favor surrounds us like an invisible energy shield.
your hearts. Your feelings are important to God. He is willing to help keep watch over your feelings, if you wish him to.
and your thoughts. Your thoughts are important to God. He is willing to help keep watch over your though-life, if you wish it.
in Christ Jesus. All these things stem from our love-relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul is describing the benefits normally available to us ordinary Christian believers.
For thought: How can you reduce your anxiety level?
VERSE 8. Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report: if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think about these things.
The Living Bible (1971): Finally, my brothers, as I bring this letter to a close, let me say one more thing. Fix your thoughts on what is good and true and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for, and be glad about it.
Fix your thoughts. Saint Paul sees the influence of one’s thoughts on one’s life. Whatever occupies a person’s mind will sooner or later govern their life. The goal is to have wholesome thought-patterns. That, in turn, is likely to yield a life of moral and spiritual excellence.
Sometimes our way thinking needs of repair. St. Paul says we are to “fix” out thoughts. We’re to teach ourselves to think thoughts that are good and true and right.
But many people have not yet taught themselves to think good thoughts. Instead, they think whatever comes to mind. Sometimes they think about things that are not good, things that are untrue or not right.
Here’s an example. Some people think untrue thoughts about themselves. They go around thinking, “I’m ugly. I can’t do anything right. I’m such a loser. Nobody loves me. I can’t do it. God doesn’t have time for me.”
Of course, even if it feels like those things are true, they’re not. No, we are to “fix” out thoughts. We’re to train ourselves to think thoughts that are good and true and right.
Think about things that are pure and lovely. There are so many uplifting things to dwell on. The Christian life is in many ways a call to excellence, a call to the very best life we can live.
But many people fixate on thoughts that are not wholesome. Their thinking becomes unhealthy. Just as unhealthy food can make our body ill, unhealthy thoughts can harm us spiritually.
Sometimes people might harbor thoughts like these: bitterness, a sour attitude, condemnation, worry, fear or inferiority.
Perhaps someone said some harsh things to them, and without planning to do it, they end up playing those harsh words over and over in their mind, like a recording. That sort of thinking gradually poisons their future.
No, we are to train our thinking. We’re to redirect unwholesome thinking toward wholesome thinking. We’re to train ourselves to reject unhealthy thoughts for healthy ones.
pure. What is wholesome, not mixed with moral impurity.
lovely. What is positive and constructive, rather than what is negative and destructive.
Think about the fine, good things in others. Once again St. Paul uses a verb. He’s speaking of a deliberate thing. We are to deliberately follow a certain train of thought. We are to change our focus to the fine, good things in others.
But some people focus on the faults and failings of others. They ruminate over how people have hurt their feelings. They gossip and complain about how so-and-so is less than perfect.
That train of thought will lead to a derailment. That train of thought will lead to a train wreck. That way of looking at others will lead to division. It certainly won’t build unity. It won’t lead to peace.
Think about all you can praise God for, and be glad about it. When we give ourselves to the praise of God, our problems can seem to melt away. When we lift our focus from ourselves to God, things change.
But some people are always dwelling on the negative. “Did you hear about that one thing that just happened? It sure is terrible, isn’t it?” “Did you hear what Suzie did? Wasn’t that awful?” “The economy is so bad, I just know I’m going to loose my job.”
Of course, we don’t want to ignore reality. But to dwell on negativity can only make us negative.
This verse suggests that we not only ask God to guard our thoughts and feelings, but we endeavor to control them ourselves.
Paul tells us to focus our thinking on the very best of things.
Yet in our day, many believers are almost swimming in an ocean of negativity, often without realizing it. Here are some very common sources of negativity in our day . . .
Your news sources. Do they put down people who see things differently than they do? In these days, news networks have really amped up their rhetoric of intolerance and even hatred, and those who imbibe such content often have no idea how toxic it really is. We doubt Paul would applaud a Christian believer for drinking in such a potent source of negativity and spiritual poison.
Your local church. Is it based on negativity? How much of the preaching puts down people who see things differently? Is it building bridges of unity, or tearing them down? We doubt Paul would applaud a congregation based on putting others down.
As lovers and disciples of the LORD God, we are called to develop wholesome thinking patterns. We are to renew our mind. Read more »
VERSE 9. The things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me: do these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
The things which you learned. Part of Paul’s discipleship training for the believers in Philippi was doctrine. He taught them the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible. For them, he was a Bible teacher.
received. Another part of Paul’s discipleship training for the believers was conduct. That is, he trained them in living the Christian life and ministering as believers.
Paul taught them these things. He was personally involved in their lives.
He did this in many contexts, as we know from his other writings, such as individual one-on-one time, Small Group Ministry, and the local church assembly as a whole.
heard. The believers in Philippi had heard a lot from Paul. He preached and taught, discipled and evangelized. He was a friend and mentor.
what you saw. Not only did the believers hear Paul speak. But they also saw him in action.
Seeing someone else do something is a potent way of receiving training. It is a key part of training in Christian discipleship and evangelism and other ministries.
Here’s an example of how that might work. The discipler and the disciple meet. The two of them go do some ministry task. The discipler is the doer; the disciple watches and learns. Soon the student can imitate the teacher.
Much of discipleship training and ministry training goes like that.
Christians should live their lives in such a way as to become inspiring role models for others to imitate.
in me. Some Christians say we are not followers of Jesus Christ, but followers of Paul. But Paul himself debunks this idea.
We Christians are followers of Jesus Christ, not Paul, not Apollos, not Peter or anybody else. There is no human intermediary between us and our Lord Jesus Christ.
do these things. Put them into practice. The Christian faith isn’t just a set of intellectual propositions to investigate. Rather, its also something to be lived.
Let’s say we discover some new idea about the faith. Until we apply it to our lives, and change the way we live according to it, we really haven’t grasped the idea itself.
The Christian life involves not only proper thinking but also proper action. Belief must lead to action. Orthodoxy must lead to orthopraxy.
the God of peace will be with you. These phrases suggest a chain of events. They’re based on growth.
To the extent that we are discovering fresh insights into the faith, and then putting them into practice and changing our lives accordingly, that’s the extent to which we will feel fresh incursions of peacefulness from God.
It isn’t that we “earn” that peace or “manufacture” it ourselves. Rather, God’s pouring it out seems partly triggered from our own spiritual growth.
VERSE 10. But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length you have revived your thought for me; in which you did indeed take thought, but you lacked opportunity.
VERSE 11. Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it.
VERSE 12. I know how to be humbled, and I also know how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need.
I know how to be humbled. In his own life, Paul had lived in some very humble circumstances:
- Sometimes he stayed in other people’s houses.
- After his boat sank, he spent a day and a night in the sea.
- Once an angry mob stoned him to death (they thought).
- Sometimes he had to flee from a city for his life.
- His own welfare was sometimes dependent upon the freewill contributions of others, and sometimes, they were unreliable or unpredictable in providing those donations, causing him to go without.
Paul talks about some of these “humble” points in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10.
I know also how to abound. Paul’s life as an apostle was not all doom-and-gloom. There were wonderful aspects to it as well.
At times, he had been quite well-off. Even his ministry was not devoid of wonder and success. Paul talks about some of these “abundance” points in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10.
I have learned the secret. Paul had been through a process, a learning-curve that taught him to be content in every circumstance.
We imagine that process was not always wonderful. Yet it forged Paul into an authentic Man of God, one able to be content in every situation. In our own lives, many of us complain about the slightest of setbacks.
to be hungry. That is, actual hunger. In his living for Jesus Christ, there had been times when Paul went without. He did not see godliness as a means of comfort and abundant provision.
to be in need. There were times when Paul was in considerable need. Yet he kept moving on.
Actually, what he did in those desperate situations was to keep on advancing. One time an angry mob dragged him outside their city and stoned him to death. Later, he somehow came to. He was probably in extensive trauma.
We can’t imagine the extent of his injuries.
In our day, he would have been taken by helicopter ambulance to a trauma center. But somehow, Paul stood up. He started walking, with nothing more than the clothes on his back.
Paul walked to a new city, and immediately began announcing Jesus Christ to everyone.
I can do all things. This is a powerful statement, especially for those whom life has beaten down.
In Jesus Christ, we can do all things.
God is filling us with his can-do power. Even if we don’t feel that limitless power yet, one day we will!
Sirach 13:2. Take not up a burden above your strength; And have no fellowship with one that is mightier and richer than yourself. What fellowship shall the earthen pot have with the kettle? This will strike, and that will be dashed in pieces.
1 Corinthians 10:13. No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
VERSE 14. However you did well that you shared in my affliction.
VERSE 15. You yourselves also know, you Philippians, that in the beginning of the Good News, when I departed from Macedonia, no assembly shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you only.
no assembly … giving and receiving but you only. Most of Paul’s own disciples did not give him money. They were mostly unobservant of his needs.
VERSE 16. For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again to my need.
VERSE 17. Not that I seek for the gift, but I seek for the fruit that increases to your account.
VERSE 18. But I have all things and abound. I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, a sweet-smelling fragrance, an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God.
My God. Paul is speaking from experience. These are not theories. Paul had the actual experience of God taking care of him.
Paul knew God’s provision in all sorts of circumstances. He experienced it when he was in humble circumstances, and he experienced it when he had great abundance.
Paul knew God’s provision when he went hungry and when he was well fed. Paul’s needs were met.
every need of yours. What do we need? What are our needs? Are they different that our wants?
Sirach 29:21. The chief thing for life is water, and bread, And a garment, and a house to cover shame.
Philippians 4:19. My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 13:5. Be free from the love of money, content with such things as you have, for he has said, “I will in no way leave you, neither will I in any way forsake you.”
In our day, we doubt that the prosperity ministers would continue their ministries if it only provided them with food and clothing. But Paul would, as would any authentic apostle.
You can have food and clothing, yet miss out out a whole lot of other things. The expression “food and clothing” does not necessarily include a place to live, a car, the latest electronic gadgets, clothing that’s the latest trend.
in Christ Jesus. We can be confident that God will provide for us.
But our confidence is not based on ourselves. It is based on Jesus Christ. God will work behind the scenes on our behalf. God will provide. You are his child, and he cares for you. He desires to take care of you.
the glory forever. This is the crux of the matter. Paul’s desire is that God be glorified.
Whether Paul finds himself rich, or whether he’s homeless and hungry, Paul prays that his life bring glory to God.
The abundance of our material possessions have nothing to do with whether or not we bring glory to God. To God be the glory!
VERSE 21. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you.
VERSE 22. All the saints greet you, especially those who are of Caesar’s household.
VERSE 23. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.