“I have learned how to be content…“ This is a parenthetic statement given in the midst of a gratuitous statement of deeply felt thanks to the Philippian church for their financial provision to Paul. Paul’s joy (expressed so often and so well in this letter) informed his sense of contentment.
Joy is detached from circumstances. It comes from a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. So contentment is detached from other inner desires for more and for abundance. It comes from the One who alone gives us strength and courage every day. Therein lies the secret of joy and contentment. Fully rely on God for EVERY need. Lord, fill me with your joy and contentment today.
I learned this lesson long ago from, Beggar At The Banquet, the story of Hong, Woo Joon. He, his parents, brothers and sisters were severely and unspeakably persecuted Korean Christians as communism took over Korea in the 1920s-40s. Hong’s story is told by Donald B Sheley.
The book opens with this quote from Hong. “Life is like a banquet in a strange land. Great expectation preceeds some of the [banquet] dishes while caution hinders the complete enjoyment of others. As the guest, one is expected to taste and experience each course. Some of the courses are delightful, and others are not, but all are given by a concerned host [the Lord] and must be received and appreciated. That is my philosophy of life, a philosophy which I have been practicing at life’s banquet for 52 years. Some of the courses have been wonderful, others have been bitter.”
Having noted several divisions and disagreements in the church at Philippi, Paul moves to some more practical instruction. “Joy“ being a major focus of this letter, Paul begins there. “Always be full of joy in the Lord; again – rejoice!”
“Joy” is not happiness with no gloom. It is the victory of faith, the confident assurance of the soul secure in Christ Jesus. It is often related to and/or out of times of affliction.
Joy “In the Lord“ – God himself is the ground and object of the believer’s joy (Neh 8:10). This joy is like a storm cellar in the midst of a storm; safe, secure, from the tempest outside. Lord, be my joy, my source of strength in turbulent times; at all times.
Paul turns his attention to two women in the church at Philippi, Euodia and Syntyche. Their harsh disagreement comes as a bitter pill for Paul to swallow. First, because of his love for this church and second, because of their previous effective hard work sharing the good news with Paul and others.
Perhaps Paul recalls his own falling out with John Mark and Barnabas (Acts 13:13; 15:37-39). When it comes to the Christian life before a watching world, it is time to mend fences and resolve to be at peace with all men (Rom 12:18; Heb 12:14,15). Lord, lead me to correct any unresolved conflicts in my life.
We have the written word of God to guide us. But faith is more than a book of code to follow. How that “Code“ is followed, lived out, is also important. Therefore, we have examples to follow. Paul says, “Follow my example” (follow me as I follow Christ – 1Cor 11:1). Paul says we may also follow the example of others (like Timothy and Epaphroditus).
I have had a lifetime of examples to follow – parents, teachers, pastors, mentors, associates, friends – many godly examples of the “Code,” the word of God. I in turn am an example to others of that “Code.” I have witnessed the “Code” at work In others. Lord, may I honor and live out the sentry’s “Code” for others to see.
Paul is here warning the believers in Philippi to put no confidence in the works of the flesh for salvation. Whereas, devout Jews considered Gentiles as “dogs,“ he flipped the table on these so-called Judaizers. He calls them, “dogs.” They taught that for a gentle to become a true believer one must be circumcised. NOT SO! It could not be said any stronger.
These Judaizers were nothing short of evil to perpetrate such a lie. The only effect of circumcision on salvation is a “mutilation of the flesh.“ True believers put no faith in such works of the flesh. True believers rely only on what Christ did at the cross for salvation. Lord, keep this old sentry alert to anything that would lead him away from the truth of salvation by grace alone.
Paul rounds out his charge to the Philippines for wholehearted unity, love for one another and working together with one purpose. One word, “humility.” That’s how you do it. He gives the quintessential definition of humility: just put others first.
Set aside selfishness, looking out for my own interests. Set aside pretension and rejoice to magnify others as more than or just as deserving of praise. Show an interest in the good of others. In other words, “put others first.“ This is humility according to Paul and to Christ (see Luke 14:8-11). Lord, may I strive to always put others first, ahead of my own interests.
Not much will make the heart of the leader know more true satisfaction than for co-laborers in Christ to be “wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.”
The leader who can realize that, has found a path for personal engagement in the lives of others that most never seem to have time for. It’s not the easiest or most direct route, but it is the most satisfying. Lord, may I be a leader like that in my family, my church and my community.
Paul knows his release from prison is possible, but not a “slam dunk” (v27a). So he encourages the Philippian church to make their conduct becoming, as they are citizens of Heaven. They represent the Gospel of Christ. No matter the circumstances, they should stand united in faith. They should not be intimidated by those who deride them and the entire cause of Christ.
Your life and witness is a challenge to the pagan culture around you. It serves to reveal that the enemies of the cross will be destroyed and believers will be vindicated, both by God himself. You can take that to the bank! So stand firm as Kingdom citizens. Lord, may This old sentry stand faithful and be found worthy of the Kingdom in the face of persecution and difficult times.
What kind of person would be motivated to preach the Gospel to make someone else miserable? Who would be so malevolent as to use preaching as a cudgel to hurt someone else? Who would guess that ministers/preachers would be so jealous, so envious of another as to use their ministry to somehow cause harm to another minister and his/her ministry?Paul here identifies some as just that.
These jealous, envious preachers were standing in judgment of the apostle; using Paul’s imprisonment to cause him pain (we’re not told how) and advance their own ministry. Ecclesiastes 4:4,5 says the envy of others will only lead to ruin. In Philippians 2:3,4 Paul will exhort to do nothing out of envy. In the meantime Paul is content to lean on the prayers of others and the careful guidance of God.
Someone has said, you won’t make your candle shine brighter by blowing out somebody else’s candle. Father, give this old sentry a heart of genuine love.
We could spend all our time bemoaning our circumstances, thinking, we are better than this or that; thinking we deserve more, better. We sometimes compare ourselves to others. We ask God why “those people“ have all the good fortune.
Paul, writing from prison no less, for simply preaching the Good News, doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He doesn’t spend his time criticizing and judging “those people.“ Those preachers, whose egos are bigger than life, who are free to go where and when they want. No. Paul sees the bigger picture. He trusts God completely to care for, guide and use him. Lord, I surrender my circumstances to you. May I not complain, but stand in faith and rejoice in knowing that you are always at work for my good and your glory.
What is the prayer, that “holy hug,” that Paul expresses for his beloved friends in Philippi? He prays that the love of Christ might pour out in abundance from them to others. He prays that they will continue to grow in their knowledge of Christ, that they might live moral upright lives. He prays that they will be filled with the fruit of salvation (the righteous character of Christ). The ultimate goal of all of this is that they will bring much glory, praise, to God.
So, following Paul’s example, I pray for my family, friends and nation that Christ love might abound in them, knowledge of Christ will continue to grow, that Christ-likeness will be revealed in them and that ultimately, God will be glorified in their lives. And Lord, may my love, Christian character and witness also bring glory to the father.
The message here is to represent well the exalted Christ. Let your teaching, counsel [all your conversation] be ordered by the wisdom Christ gives. Let your worship and singing reflect a heart of thanksgiving to God for all he has done. In all you do (everything) honor the name of Christ. Lord, may I always bring honor to your name.
TRIBUTE: I used to tell my children, there were two rules in our house. One, you’re a Hollar you belong to me. Two, you’re a Christian, you belong to Christ. Honor both names wherever you go and in whatever you do. They are now grown, married and have three children each of their own. As far as I know they have always honored the Hollar name and the name of Christ. They still do.
Now, having put on this new life in Christ, some things will change. You will notice that with a renewed heart will come a radical change in attitudes and conversations (Note Mat 15:18; Luk 6:45; Eph 4:29). As one grows in Christ, attitudes leading to ugly words will fall away: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying are examples. These are shed like an old dirty smelly coat.
The new nature is put on like a new suit of clothes. You will find yourself growing accustomed to the new suit more and more every day. Soon old attitudes and words towards others will become Christ’s attitudes and words in us. Lord, may my attitudes and words never dishonor your Spirit that lives in me, and in my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Someone has said, “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said ‘nuff.”
Here, Paul moves from the ideal of “death to self“ (v3) to the practical working out of that principle in reality, in the believer’s daily life. Every day this body of flesh will challenge the right of God to be in control. This is nowhere seen more clearly than in sexual sin, immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. All of these sins of the flesh say, “SATISFY ME!”
Self is obsessed with itself, the adoration and worship of itself. This is what brings God’s displeasure. These sins will not only be judged in eternity, they will also incur their own judgment here and now. Who has not felt that condemnation? Father, I rely upon your strength to turn from sin to you. I reserve the “right to refuse” service to self.
Paul shifts his thoughts in Colossians from what we know and understand about Jesus (correcting false teaching) to how we are to live for Jesus. So we, having “died” to our old sinful nature, transformed by the cross of Christ, are united with him in spirit and in life. Our perspective now is to “set our sights on Christ and the realities of heaven.”
This has to do with our gaining a totally new perspective on life; a “quantum foot view,”. The shift is from a previously base, banausic, and materialistic point of view of life to an honest, uncorrupted, exceptional and eternal perspective. Christ has given us a vastly expanded view of the scope, purpose and understanding of life. Lord, allow me to respond to the daily events of life always with your point of view in mind.
When Paul declares that Jesus was/is the supreme, preeminent one in life and in the universe (v15) he meant clearly that Jesus was the head, the first. He existed ahead of the beginning (v15). So everything begins with Jesus (v18), and it ends with Jesus – he is the author and finisher of our faith.
God himself became the God-man. “He was pleased in all his glory to live as a human in Christ Jesus” (v19). By this glorious manifestation he was able to reconcile men, make them right with him. What God chooses to do that? None. Only Jehovah God. My God. Lord, I exalt you as my Supreme and preeminent Leader in life. I owe all to my redeemer God.
When Paul prays for the strength of the Colossians, coming from God’s power to them, he expects to see three results:
1) Their PATIENCE – the persistence to pursue the goal of following Christ in spite of any difficulty;
2) Their ENDURANCE – the virtue of quiet determination in the face of vitriol. It will not retaliate, but shows mercy and forgiveness;
3) Their JOYFULNESS – joy fuels patience and endurance. Joy is often seen In contrast to afflictions. It is the confident assurance of the soul, a state of mind, that rests fully in Christ. Even in the worst of circumstances.
Lord, the duty sentry depends fully on you to deliver unto him/her the patience, endurance and joy I need for every circumstance of life.
God is not a compliant enabling father. He knows just when and how to discipline. He knows the limits of our ability to withstand testing and trials (1Co 10:13). Discipline is always an option (Heb 12:10,11). It is clear that God is always prepared to discipline his people to purge them from sin (though not every trial is for sin-Jas 1:12; 2Co 12:17; Rom 5:3–6).
In the end, like a loving father, God will come to his own and comfort them. You can count on that. The end result of God‘s discipline is to return to him, to love and worship him. Lord I have known your loving discipline and your comforting embrace. I look to you for the correction and reproof that I need.
Here the Lord when he says, “Be quiet and rest, silent and still, listen and reflect.“ But his people would not. Elsewhere it says, “[God] will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on him” (Isa 26:3). “Ask for the ancient way and walk in it. Travel that path and find rest for your soul. But his people would not” (Jer 6:16). “Come to me and I will give you rest“ (Mat 11:28). But God‘s people, we, who always have something to say, fill the silence, his quiet rest, with our own babbling.
Someone once said, “Blessed are those who have nothing to say and cannot be persuaded to say it.“*
God’s people disregarded God’s Word as trivial, nonessential and elementary. They boasted the great plans made of men. They, so liberated and free, will find God‘s Word to be the stone upon which they will stumble, fall and be broken in pieces. It will be the snare that traps them. Oh Lord, like Job, I have nothing to say. I have everything to gain by closing my mouth and waiting on you to speak (Job 42:1-6).
*Dobie, J. Frank, Cow People, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas, (1964, 1984 – pg. 85)
At times the people of God do not want to hear from the “intolerable moralist“ among them. They have become overconfident in their religiousity. They mock the man or woman of God and so, the message of God is also made a mockery. Such was the reaction of Israel and Judah towards the prophet Isaiah
How does that feel? I once told a brother that his lack of spiritual concern about some circumstances would lead to a bad outcome. I was told that my comments were simply an overreaction. They were not welcomed. Sadly, it turned out I was right. It took several years for that brother to recover.
To the religious know-it-all, God’s correction is all just baby talk to them – they do not wish to hear such repetitious and condescending gibberish. So God will oblige them. He will speak to them in another language. The language of an oppressor; the language of judgment. Perhaps then they will listen. Lord, may I always have an open and willing heart toward you.
Whatever the judgments of God on a people, there will always be a remnant. They often go unseen and unnoticed during times of spiritual squalor. While kings and priests and prophets and judges are lost in their filthy lifestyles, reel and stagger in their vision of self aggrandizement and judgments, the remnant of God stand watch.
While the nation falters, God’s remnant goes to battle in prayer and righteous living. The Lord is their pride and joy. He is their justice and their mighty courage. They are to God a “highway of holiness” a flowing “stream in the desert.” For God’s remnant, sorrow shall forever flee (Isa 35:1–10). Oh Lord, you give this old sentry hope in the worst of times.
Isaiah laments the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. The pride of her capital Samaria has shaken off the reins of a loving but holy God. Now she faces only sorrow and heartache. Her end will come at the hands of a mighty army. It will come suddenly as a “mighty hail storm and torrential rain.“ It will “burst upon [them] like a surging flood and smash it to the ground.“ It will be “trampled under the enemies’ feet.”
Let the southern kingdom of Judah be warned. Because of Israel’s pride, her once great beauty will fade into oblivion. She has arrogantly shaken her fist in the face of God. She unwittingly brings God’s wrath upon her. Lord, how sin does pervert the human heart. How the sin of pride dismantles good sense. Lord, may my oft wayward heart find its way quickly back to you.
When a nation flaunts its sin, judgement is not far behind. May the wayward heart of America, my beloved country, humble itself, repent and turn quickly back to God.
The nation of Israel had fallen to Assyria. A captive priest of Jehovah God was sent to teach the new settlers how to worship God in the land. But they did not worship Jehovah God alone. They continued to worship their own gods as well. Israel had done the same and left many pagan shrines in the land that the new settlers used to worship their pagan deities. Makes me wonder about the heart of the priest who was sent to teach them of Jehovah God.
Today I am mindful of the Country & Western music I hear. Country & Western singers have no problem mixing Jesus, barstools and neon lights, like they all just go together. Get drunk on Saturday night, repent on Sunday morning. To call the name of Jesus is not the same as believing in Jesus (Mat 7:22). Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of true Jesus followers in country music. But Lord, this ol’ sentry don’t want no “country song Jesus” to command his life. Give me the real McCoy.
Because of the nation of Israel‘s persistence in worshiping other gods, following the way of pagan nations and stubbornly refusing to listen to God‘s warnings of disaster, God “swept them away from his presence” (vv18,22). Assyria resettled the people of Israel by removing them from their land as captives. The Assyrians then re-populated the land of Israel by moving their own godless people into that territory.
But because these pagans did not worship the God of this land, the Lord [Lion of Judah] sent lions among them. Many were killed. The message was, they gained the land of God by his hand, they will live in the land of God by his hand. The desecration of what belongs to God will be met with disastrous consequences. Our provision and possessions gained by God’s hand are a sacred trust to respect. Father, I give you thanks and glory for all I have from your hand.
ANOTHER WORD: I just met a young warrior, Wesley, who will enter the United States Navy in about 6 weeks. I will be standing watch for him, his safety and the careful maintenance of his relationship with God. Bless you bro.
A time was set for Paul to explain this “movement“ of Christ followers to Jewish leaders in Rome. A large number of them showed up at Paul’s lodging place. Paul spoke to them from the Old Testament Scriptures explaining the gospel, that the expected Messiah, Jesus, had come. He spoke from morning until evening. Many argued and reasoned among themselves regarding all that Paul said. Some were persuaded, but others not.
Many there are who will hear the gospel and not believe. They may reason within themselves, or among themselves, over one point or another. They want to reason their way out of believing. Until, at last, they can reason no more. It is the Spirit upon whom we must rely to bring people to faith in Christ. Reason alone will not convince. Lord, use this aged sentry in taking every opportunity to share a careful and thoughtful witness of how Jesus has changed my life.