The Letter To The Philippians, Part 14

Philippians 4:4-5
Let’s begin with intentional reading.
Read Philippians 4:4-7 and consider the following:

  1. Did you notice anything in this set of scripture you have never noticed in the Bible before?
  2. Did you read any familiar verses? Which ones?
  3. Were any of the verses you read meaningful to you today? Why?

Philippians is a book of Paul’s rejoicing, and here at the beginning of chapter 4, he once again reminds the Philippian church to rejoice. In fact, Philippians 4:4 is such a familiar verse that many believers have it committed to memory – and for good reason. Joy is essential for believers if we are to live abundantly in a fallen world. The reminder to rejoice is necessary because true Biblical JOY isn’t a feeling. Biblical JOY isn’t optimism or happiness or a positive attitude.  Biblical JOY is a decision to respond in faith to uncertain or difficult circumstances.  Biblical JOY is a bone deep and unshakable conviction that regardless of the circumstances we face during our time on earth, God is good and God in in control.  Biblical JOY is tied directly to our confidence that we are inseparably connected to the God of the universe and saved through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  No earthly circumstance we face – regardless of how uncertain or tragic – can change the power of God or the sacrifice of Jesus.  Joy anchors itself in that confidence.

In the Greek, there is a connection between the words joy and grace.  Both have the same beginning root: “char.” In fact, the two words are so closely connected that Biblical JOY could be defined as “the awareness of God’s grace.” As believers, when our faith is fully confident that God is in control, that Jesus is the source of irrevocable salvation, and that we live in God’s grace, then we can actively choose joy regardless of what circumstances we face.  Unfortunately, simply believing these things doesn’t make choosing joy easy. It does, however, make choosing joy necessary.

For today’s reflection, consider the following with the idea of Biblical JOY in mind:

  1. Reread Philippians 1-3 then consider the placement of Philippians 4:4. Why would a reminder to choose joy be useful here?  How easy is it to rejoice in times of conflict? How could connecting Biblical joy to the idea of “an awareness of God’s grace” be helpful in times of conflict with another person? 
  2. In verse 4, where does Paul tell the Philippian church to find their joy? Now reread verse 2.  Where does Paul encourage Euodia and Syntyche to find agreement?  How does choosing Biblical joy give believers a Godly perspective of circumstances that can cause division?
  3. If Biblical joy is responding in faith to uncertain or difficult circumstances, what are some things believers allow to steal their joy?  If joy is rooted in faith, how can prayer increase joy?

Paul writes in verse 5 to let our gentleness be made known to all.  He goes on to say that the Lord is near.  The Greek word for gentleness here could literally be translated “abounding in mercy.”

  1. When we connect the idea that Biblical joy is in part “an awareness of God’s grace” to gentleness meaning “abounding in mercy,” how can choosing Biblical joy help us display biblical gentleness?
  2. Read proverbs 15:1. Why would Paul encourage gentleness here and how does Provebs 15 apply?  Think especially of the situation between Euodia and Syntyche and the “loyal yoke fellow” Paul is asking to help in this situation.  What lesson can we learn for how to handle modern day disagreements from:
    1. Paul’s concern for the disagreement?
    2. His asking another church member to help the situation?
    3. His focus on Biblical joy and gentleness in response to this situation.

Paul concludes verse 5 by stating that the Lord is near.  The word near in Greek can mean in his return – which is the way we most often think of it – but it also means in proximity.  Paul wanted them to choose joy and be gentle because Jesus was in their midst.

  1. How does knowing the Lord in near in both proximity and in his returning help you find joy?
  2. How does knowing the Lord is near in both proximity and in his returning help you handle conflict?

Let’s finish today by considering part of this verse that is easy to read and talk about, but hard to actually embrace.  The 5th word in Philippians 4:4 is the word “always.”  Paul makes this statement rather emphatically, too: “Rejoice in the Lord always.”  Paul gives no conditions or parameters to our rejoicing.  He simply says to “Rejoice in the Lord always.”   Notice, however, that Paul does not say to rejoice in our circumstances.  Neither does Paul say to rejoice in the pain or the heartache or the tragic.  Paul says to rejoice in the LORD always.  God is always present and is always available.  Therefore, we can always rejoice in Him.  It is possible for disciples to suffer and rejoice at the same time because joy is an attitude and a decision that transcends our feelings.  This is difficult because the Enemy will lie to us and say that if we don’t feel happy, we can’t have joy.  Reject that lie and decide to live in Biblical joy.

  1. Read 2 Corinthians 11:22-29.  Did Paul experience suffering?  How did his decision to chose joy always help him during these tough times?
  2. How can believers deciding to chose joy help when uncertain or tragic circumstances arise?  Does it help you embrace Biblical joy knowing you can feel your feelings about events and circumstances and still have Biblical joy?  How can choosing Biblical joy help us manage our feelings during uncertain circumstances?

Be blessed.  Be a blessing.

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