The last chapter of the Bible’s book of Philippians helps point the way toward peace with God, peace with others and peace with ourselves.
“And now I want to plead with those two dear women, Euodias and Syntyche. Please, please, with the Lord’s help, quarrel no more– be friends again” (Philippians 4:2).
This verse has so many important things to say that it deserved a study of it’s own. For more on this, just take a look over here.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).
Fear, worry and anxiety are things that lots of people struggle with. While it can be perfectly OK to feel concern over a problem or issue, it’s never healthy to be filled with anxiety and fear over these things. So what’s the best way to handle feelings of worry, fear or anxiety when they occur? Well, the verse quoted above tells us that the best response is to speak to God in prayer about anything that might cause you to feel worried or anxious, large or small. It then goes on to talk about three ingredients that should characterize our communication with God whenever we speak to Him.
The first, most basic element of our communication with God is prayer which is a general term that refers to the act of sharing your thoughts and feelings with God. The next is petition (or supplication in some translations) which means to specifically ask for something from God. This is followed by thanksgiving, which reminds us that we should treat God with respect and appreciation for His willingness to listen and act on those things that we’ve asked of Him.
The Living Bible version of Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.” If you do this, the result will be that “…the peace of God, which transcends (or ‘goes beyond’) all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV). So bring your concerns to God in prayer and remember to thank Him for hearing and answering you. If you do that, then the Bible says that God’s peace will protect your thoughts and emotions.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me– put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV).
Once you speak to God about the concerns in your life, the next step is to make a practice of focusing your thoughts on those things that honor God. Philippians 4:8-9 gives you some tips to help do that by listing a number of qualities that mark a God-honoring thought life. For instance, the verses quoted above encourage you to think about those things that are…
– meaning things that aren’t false or phony.
– this refers to anything that is honorable.
– or those things that are faultless or guiltless.
– those things that are clean and modest.
– this word refers to something that is acceptable or pleasing.
– things that are well spoken of.
– in other words, things that are full of virtue or morally good.
-anything that is admirable or worthy of commendation.
Instead of being negative or overly critical, try to find something good in your situation and focus on that. Now this may not always be easy, but the verses quoted above promise that the God of peace Himself will be with you if you do it.
” …I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it be a full stomach or hunger, plenty or want; for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power” (Philippians 4:11b-13).
In this verse you can find one of the secrets to real happiness in life: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NIV). You see, Jesus is the One who can give you the ability to handle any situation that may come along in life.
But before we move on, let’s talk about exactly what Philippians 4:13 means when it says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Other translations of this verse tell us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (NKJ) and “…I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need” (NLT).
So does this mean that you can shoot laser beams out of your eyes or flap your arms and fly to Mexico through Christ who strengthens you?
Well, not exactly. Actually, this gives us a good opportunity to talk about something that’s really important when it comes to reading the Bible. That “something” is the word context and without it, it’s possible to make the Bible say some very unbiblical things.
The word context means “the part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.” (1) In other words, the surrounding chapters and verses of the Bible help determine what each individual Bible verse really means. So with this information, let’s now take this idea of context and apply it to the verse that we just read above.
When taken in context, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” means that you can do anything that God wants you to do regardless of the situation. While it might be nice to have superhuman powers (like the ability to fire laser beams from your eyeballs), (2) you don’t get to have them just because Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything…” In it’s proper context, this verse is simply saying that God will give you the power and ability to do whatever He calls you to do.
“Even when I was over in Thessalonica you sent help twice. But though I appreciate your gifts, what makes me happiest is the well-earned reward you will have because of your kindness. At the moment I have all I need– more than I need! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me when Epaphroditus came. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that pleases God well. And it is he who will supply all your needs from his riches in glory because of what Christ Jesus has done for us” (Philippians 4:16-19).
After Paul left the town of Philippi during his second missionary trip, the next place he went to was the town of Thessalonica. While he was there, the church at Philippi sent contributions to help him out. The Philippians also helped Paul when he was speaking in the town of Corinth (see 2 Corinthians 11:9). So when Paul says, “…my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NIV) the idea is, “I can’t repay you for all your help- but God can and will. Since you haven’t forgotten my needs as I’ve been working for God, God will not forget your needs as you’ve helped me.”
You see, the Philippians did what they could to help Paul do what he could. This brings to mind something that Jesus spoke of in Luke 6:38 that is also true for people today…
“If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving -large or small- it will be used to measure what is given back to you” (NLT).
(1) The American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language © 1992 Houghton Mifflin Company
(2) Or superhuman strength, invisibility, kinetic energy transference, enhanced perception, teleportation abilities, bracelets that repel bullets, superior mind powers, or the ability to fly, stick to walls, run really fast and so forth.