Today’s Reading: Philippians
If yesterday’s letter was deep and beautiful in its scope of who Christ truly is, and what He has done for us, today’s book of Philippians has the beauty of seeing Paul in a very individualistic way in his motivation for life and his heartfelt prayer for his brothers and sisters in Phillipi. His connection with these brothers and sisters began some time ago with some women in a riverside prayer meeting and in a jail cell where the head jailer was shaken into his salvation by the Holy Spirit (and an earthquake that opened all the cell doors and also his closed heart!) Is it any wonder that Paul’s deep love and concern for them comes to the surface time and time again in this letter!
One of the bonds is that they were from the first of their salvation joined with him in the work of spreading the good news and Paul hurries on to assure them that even the bad news of his imprisonment is not bad news because the gospel has spread even more because of it! I think quietly of how he has come to the realization that time is short and that has made Christ the center of his life! I am deeply challenged by his statements, “For me to live is Christ.,.” and later on the exhortation, “To walk in a worthy manner of the gospel!” So what is the motivation of my life? What can I put in the blank “For me to live IS __________” and do I really walk worthily…?”
Strangely the letter drifts more than once into the issue of relationships – dealing with tenderness and compassion…like-mindedness, having the same love for one another and being one in spirit and purpose. And then comes the famous passage about Jesus Christ and His obedience and servant-hood – and I am challenged by the phrase, “Have this attitude (mind-set) (NLT) in you that was in Christ Jesus! So do I?! I feel the deep need to re-read again the passage slowly! – What mind-set?
It is meaningful to me that Paul too had to forget certain things in his past (murder, persecution to the church!) and although I don’t have that burden, but there are certain things I need to quietly leave in the past! And what has always been a comfort to me, is the need to be CONTENT with the growth God has enabled me make to become the person He wants me to be at the moment! – “Only (most importantly), let live up to what we have already attained.”
And Paul again comes back to loving one another by pleading with Euodia and Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord! Is it any wonder that I, too, must beware of strife? And Paul begs those around these two to help them to resolve their two different ways of thinking!
The last chapter comes with two commands – I remember well being astonished by the first command when I first read it – “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS” – not much room for getting out of obeying this command! But if that is surprising, what about the second command – “Do not be anxious about ANYTHING!” Interesting that the first command is connected with gentleness! And the second command is connected with presenting requests to God with prayer, petition with thanksgiving (?) IN EVERYTHING. And our loving Father commits Himself under such circumstances to guard our HEARTS and MINDS in Christ Jesus! But I guess the challenge for me is to continue “to take my thoughts captive to Christ!” And so comes the characteristics of the things I should be thinking of! Otherwise I often find my mind reverting to the worries and fears again! But if I can think about the right things, not only does the peace of God guard my heart and thinking, but He promises to personally be with me!
Is that why in finishing off his letter, he finally gets to the fact that he HAS LEARNED (doesn’t come naturally!) to be CONTENT in the circumstances he is in (and that is PRISON, when he has been told to preach the gospel to the world)! I am smiling and feeling comforted that Paul in this context says, “That he can do ALL THINGS through Him Who gives Him strength – strength for what things? – TO BE CONTENT! And so his ending words of blessing, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”!