Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
A recent conversation with a friend struggling to stand strong in her faith in a time of hardship, prompted me to consider what does in fact help us stand firm in the Lord. What are the means that encourage us to stay close to Christ and secure in His Sovereign love when the storms of life rage and roar around us? What keeps us from falling away?
1 Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
Only the foolish person, full of over-inflated self-confidence, thinks that they are immune to falling away. Christians would do well to take heed or pay attention to the means of encouragement that Paul teaches in Philippians 4:1-23. These are the instructions given to us who need to take extra precaution so that we might stand fast in the Lord when trials arise.
Philippians 4:3 And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.
Philippians 4 opens with a call to unity and genuine affection for one another. Christians understand that no man is an island doing the journey with Christ on their own. We need to encourage one another and all the more as the time draws closer to Jesus’ return. In a spirit of true Christian fellowship, we build each other up in faith, by reminding one other to stay focused on the truths of the gospel and the love of Jesus, and thus giving us the courage and confidence to stand strong in the midst of trials.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, Rejoice.
Paul writes these words in prison, not from a chalet in the south of France! He knows the intensity of suffering and yet he exhorts the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord, not in their circumstances. If our joy results primarily in our circumstances, when they become unfavorable, we will be miserable. Our delight must be in the Lord Himself, not in what we see. When we shift our focus to Jesus, joy fills our heart. Christ enables the Christian to live with joy above their circumstances. Satan would have us live in despair and worry under the weight of our difficulties, but Christ invites us to live above them, by focusing on Him, and thus experiencing joy with Him. The believer who practices rejoicing in the Lord will stand strong in God’s presence no matter what they are going through.
Philippians 4:5 Let your reasonableness be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
The Greek word ‘reasonableness’ denotes a generous spirit that rises above offenses, and a forbearing spirit which keeps on going, despite suffering, adversity and hardship. Jesus is our supreme example. Such a person of reasonableness does not insist on his own rights but has a generosity of spirit that puts others before themselves. Their gentleness and selflessness are ‘known unto all men.’ The Lord’s nearness is our incentive for this behavior. He is near to each of us, so we ought to behave in a way that glorifies Him. To stand strong in faith, we ensure that we’re doing and saying what is Christ-honoring, because not only is the Lord near, but His return is imminent.
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Through constant prayer we are refreshed in the assurance of God’s sovereignty and wise goodness. The way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything. Those who enjoy a deep and full prayer life will never be chronic worriers. When we choose not to be anxious about anything, but seek God in prayer, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. His peace will be the sentry that repels the worry and despair that can so easily overpower us when we do not cast our concerns upon Him. Prayer doesn’t necessarily remove our troubles, but our heart and mind will be a garrison of peace in the midst of them. This is a peace that ‘transcends understanding’ because it humanly doesn’t make sense. God’s peace stabilizes us, guards us, suffusing us with the joy of the Lord. Prayer strengthens our spiritual stamina, enabling us to stand firm in trials.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of a good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Reform in our life begins with our thinking, “for as a man thinks, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7). One of the best remedies for times when our faith waivers through hardship and trials, is to spend prayerful, meditative time in Scripture. We need to replace the negative, unhelpful and despairing thoughts with an entirely different way of thinking. God’s Word is the best place to discover what is good, true and lovely. The way we avoid being conformed to this world, the way we are transformed into conformity with Christ, is by renewing our mind with God’s truth (Romans 12:2). Only as we read God’s life-giving words to us, over and over again, will we be able to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
The secret of contentment is to surrender all to Him, so that God’s strength will fill us with a deep trust in Him, regardless of our situation. Contentment, like rejoicing, is utterly independent of circumstances. Contentment, like joy, is found in Christ alone. When we cast our circumstances upon Jesus, we can actually become unconcerned by the trials that we go through. Christ is with us, He will hold us, and nothing will happen to us that is not for our good. So, in this state, we can be content. It takes the strength and resolution and perspective that only God can give to live contentedly above changing, difficult circumstances. But to live above our circumstances, utterly content in Jesus, is to ensure we will never give up, but rather, stand firm.
Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
When we live in the confidence that our loving Heavenly Father will supply all our needs, we are free to take the focus off ourselves and live as a means through which Christ can use us to meet the needs of others. In our times of trial, we stand strong by looking out for others, rather than brooding over our unfavorable conditions. Let’s be quick to meet need and quick to declare gratitude for the way Christ meets ours. Generosity is who we are in Christ. Christian courtesy strengthens and unites believers and invites them to turn their thoughts towards God. What part can we play in meeting the needs of the saints, especially when we are experiencing trials of various kinds?
The virtues discussed above are by no means exhaustive. We could each think of other means by which we are able to stand strong in Christ. However, these are the ones Paul felt to identify in regard to encouraging the believers in Philippi. May we embrace them earnestly and wholly, so that Christ dwells in us fully and our lives continue to bring all praise and glory to Him.