Background Scripture Philippians 4:2-14. Devotional Reading: Psalms 85:4-13.
There is a sudden break in mood when Paul moves from, “Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long
to “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to
agree in the Lord.”
Is this the problem of which Paul hinted? We do not know; nor do we know anything more about these two women, the “true yokefellow,” or Clement (4:1-3).
What we do know is that this is a disagreement in the church between two prominent women who had colabored with Paul. It is sad that the only thing for which these two are remembered is their fall-out in the church! But that’s not entirely rare in church life today. Of course, when this happens today, we usually justify our falling-out. We have to keep ourselves free from heresy and false teachings, don’t we? But Paul does not get into which of the two was in the right. Instead, they shall “agree in the Lord.”
What this means is: don’t let your disagreements disturb the unity of The Body of Christ. That Body is of far more importance than your disagreements. His earliest followers disagreed among themselves, but that did not give them license to divide the Gospel. For 2000 years wherever two or three Christians were gathered together there have often been four opinions, at least two of them hostile. “PLAYING” OR “BEING”?
There’s a difference between playing church and being the Church. “Playing church” is the practice of transposing the outside world’s prejudices and animosities into the life of the church. Followers of Jesus Christ must be able to resolve their disagreements in a way that reflects the Good News of Christ instead of the world’s bad news.
I’ll make you a promise: if you write or print-out Philippians 4:8 and make it part of your daily prayer, devotions, or thoughts upon arising, you will have a more joyous and peaceful life than before you began! Why? Because Paul’s words are a formula for changing the way you act and feel. Every day we are confronted with realities – some of them good, some of them bad. (The media concentrates on the negative because “sin,” “conflict,” and “tragedy” sell. But you don’t have to buy!) Measure those realities against what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and worthy of praise.
All of life involves a selection of what you will give and focus attention. Since to focus on everything will keep you from doing anything, you will consciously or unconsciously choose this or that perspective. When your choice of perspective is unconscious, it is essentially a habit. But if you make your perspectives conscious, you can change them. This what Paul is saying to us: Yes, there are a lot of evil and painful things in this world, but choose the things that build, rather than destroy. JOY IS LEARNED
Some feel that they have rarely, if ever, experienced joy. But joy is not so much something that happens to us, but the result of the attitudes we have chosen or accepted for ourselves. Thankfulness opens us to experiencing and realizing the joys God give us. Paul is in jail with an unknown, ominous future, but still he speaks of “my joy”
(4:1), “rejoice in the Lord always; again I say
(4:4) and again “I rejoice in the Lord greatly”(
4:10). Paul willfully chooses to focus on his joys. We can, too, if we want to.
This enables Paul to testify: “Not that I complain of
want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be
content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to
abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the
secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and
(4:11-12). Many of us have only learned to “abound.” That’s the easy one – although some do not do well even when they are experiencing plenty.
Paul, however, can find joy “in any and all circumstances.”
So what is his secret and is it something available to us? Paul’s “secret” is something never intended to be secret, for it is at the heart of the Good News of Jesus Christ: “I can do all things in him who strengthens
(4:13). By myself “in any and all circumstances,” I am not able, but if I trust in Jesus Christ, he will bring me through to the other side – in all things.