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Download audio Read Philippians 4:1 - 4:9

In our latest in the series 'Letters from Lockdown', Tom takes us through Philippians 4:1-9. In this passage Paul urges his readers to meditate on the truth of the gospel through their current situation.

Today we are going to focus on verses 8 and 9 of Philippians chapter 4.

The message in these verses follows on naturally from what we were considering last week on the topic of anxiety.

In 2004, a film producer called Morgan Spurlock made a film called ‘Supersize Me’, which charted his self-imposed challenge of eating nothing but McDonalds meals, three times a day, for 30 days and never refusing the ‘supersize’ version if it was offered. The damaging effects of this process quickly showed themselves, and on day 21 Spurlock was advised by his doctor to stop. But he was determined to keep going for the full 30 days. As a result, he not only gained 24 pounds in weight, but he suffered mentally and physically for a prolonged period afterwards.

This experience gives truth to the old proverb which states ‘You are what you eat’. He had literally, in 30 days, turned himself into a ‘Big Mac’, by choosing to adopt this foolish and damaging lifestyle.

Obviously, it is important to look after our bodies, but it is equally true that the way we fill our mind will shape the kind of life we lead, and this is particularly true for the Christian. This is why Paul says in verse 8:

“ 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.”

So, it is important for us to ask ourselves what are we choosing to put in our minds and how is that affecting us?

We are reminded of Paul’s loving commands in last week’s sermon, where we were told to stand firm and rejoice, to be gentle, and to pray to our Father, and thereby to know his peace. The verses we are looking at today encourage us to add two more commands to that list. These are: Think! and Practise! V8 and 9

To experience the Lord and his peace we need a casting and a filling. We first of all take our concerns to the Lord and then we fill our minds with his truth. Both are critical in dealing with the struggles we have

1. Think about such things. [verse 8]

The word ‘logic’ comes from the word ‘think’ in this verse. To experience peace involves knowing what is true, but, also bringing these truths to bear on our thought-life. We are not to pray and then just sit and mindlessly wait for peace to somehow drop out of the sky into our life. We need to pray and fill our minds with what we know to be true, to shape our mental journey.

Imagine that you are involved in the kind of disagreement with a fellow believer, similar to that of Euodia and Syntyche. You have several options as to how you might deal with it.

Option 1 might be to consider how wrong the other person is and how right you are; and then to plan some sort of revenge to see them humiliated in some way.

Option 2, however, might take the list of qualities in verse 8 and attempt to reason a solution through. You might recognise the truth that you are a sinner and may have been in the wrong. You would be reminded that Christ died for the other person, which is a praiseworthy thing. Christ became a servant for them out of love for them, which is a noble thing.

In the case of Euodia and Syntyche, Paul reminds them that they once stood together for the gospel, which is an excellent thing

If you suffer from an anxious mind, you probably don’t know which way to go. Every option looks scary. Decisions in the past have been a mistake. Walls are closing in around you. Every option might cause you uncertainty and anxiety. How do you deal with this?

In your anxiety everything on the worry list must go onto the prayer list. By praying we lay hold of the truths that we know in scripture. In Matthew 6:26 we are reminded to: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

We are to see these truths and reason a conclusion in our minds that will give us hope and security and peace. We must say to ourselves: ‘However scary my future on earth might seem, ultimately I’m secure.’

Remember, we have a saviour who died for you and for me to secure our future.

There is no substitute for this way of thinking. There is no silver bullet to take away all the anxieties in our life. We must present our anxieties to him and work hard to reason out the gospel truth in our mind.

Fight as hard as you can to step outside yourself to think about these things.

Pray it. Speak it. Reason it out.

Try writing things down. In a disagreement situation write down the praiseworthy things. If you’re anxious, consider the reasons you already have to walk by faith into the future.

Think on Jesus. Pray to Him. He is your pure and perfect Saviour, your loving general.

2. Practise these things. V9

In sports, such as running, if an athlete is aiming to set a new record, he will have a pacer with him. A pacer is an experienced runner who takes part in a race to help another runner. He will stick to a certain speed for most of the race to allow the other runner to know just how fast they are going. But then he will drop away and allow the other runner to increase his pace to the winning line.

Paul says, in the spiritual race he and the apostles are the pacers. Philippians Ch 3:17:

“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do”

Paul is not saying he is the perfect example. No. That is Jesus Christ. But he is saying: Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.

In verse 9 we are encouraged to learn, to receive, to hear and to see.

All actions must point away from ourselves. We can’t set our own standard. We need to look outside ourselves.

The apostles did this with Jesus. They observed and learnt from him.

And we are to observe and learn from what we have seen in the lives of the apostles. These examples set the pace for us. So we are to take to heart what Paul says in verse 9:

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.”

Scripture is a record of people who lived with, and observed Jesus Christ. But in addition to these apostolic examples we also need to follow the modern examples in our own church.

We need to hear scripture-truth preached but we also need to see this truth lived out in people around us. So, we need to look to the examples in our own church.

Not only do anxious people need the message of verse 6:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

But they also need to see the reality of people walking by faith in their struggles. They need the examples of people who are allowing the excellent truths in scripture to fill out their faith as they live their lives

The Lord, in his common grace, has provided society with all kinds of services to help us physically and mentally, but there is nothing more helpful than that the truth in the Bible is taught and lived-out in our churches. Many people in Cornerstone, though not perfect, have learned, by faith, to walk in faith. They have not been formally trained but they know the word of God and have learned to live out the truth.

Most of the things we battle with in life, have been experienced by others in the church and these are the counsellors we need. We need the help of praying people who fill their minds with these truths and practise them in their lives.

When Paul says these words:

“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.”

he isn’t saying ‘If you do this … then God will be with you’. It isn’t a conditional promise.….

He’s saying: this is what life is like when the God of peace is with you. We don’t just get peace, but we get the God of peace; not just the gift, but also the giver.

Morgan Spurlock had a long painful process of recovery, which took over a year. For us, if we have had a damaging mental diet of fast food, the recovery process does not need take so long.

By God’s grace we can turn to the Lord and bring our cares to him. We can ask for the sort of self- control which will enable us to think in the way Paul describes in verse 8

“ 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.”

And if we think like this, we will experience the fruit that comes from it in our lives.

Philippians 4:1 - 4:9

4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (ESV)