Don’t Worry, Be Happy
[Philippians chapter four]
Last week when we concluded our in-depth analysis of the third chapter of the book of Philippians, we obtained comprehension about rejoicing in the Lord, as well as comparing our walk with Christ to running in a marathon race of endurance in order to win first prize. We don’t do so like a sprint or a 100-yard dash, but rather as a marathon race where all participants must be in that race for the long haul. The principal difference between running this particular marathon, a race that comprises entire lifetimes, is that everybody who finishes wins. Contrast that with sporting or Olympic events, where there is one winner and one loser, or where only first, second and third prizes are offered. But when we run towards a personal, 1-on-1 relationship with Jesus Christ, instead of medals made of gold, silver or bronze, we receive the ultimate prize of eternal life with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Rather than being here on earth, our trophies are in heaven, in New Jerusalem (see Revelation chapters 21 and 22 for details). Regarding the act and the lifestyle of rejoicing in the Lord no matter what our circumstances, the apostle Paul continues and enlarges on this topic, beginning in chapter four and verse one.
“Therefore, my brothers, you whom I long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, my friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Synteche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yoke-fellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the Gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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. 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.” (Phil. 4, verses 1-9, NIV)
Paul was pleading with two women church members who apparently had an argument or strong disagreement of an unknown nature. The names and the argument are unimportant. What matters the most here is that Paul wants them to rally around Christ and himself (in that order) for the sake of the Church and the Gospel. Instead of arguments and contention among themselves, Paul wrote, they should be contending together for the cause of Jesus Christ. In order to do this, Paul wrote, we can all start by rejoicing in the Lord. I can easily put this into perspective. If Jesus walked into the room or into your church right in the middle of worship, what would you do? Would you sit in your chair with your arms folded? Of course not! You would be jumping up and down like children on Christmas morning! You would be running up to Him in order to thank him for saving your soul and your life, or trying to touch him for his healing, or falling down on your knees and crying out to him in worship as the Son of God. Everyone would be quite emotional, to say the least, and I dare say that would include myself as well. Rejoicing in the Lord and praising him should come as naturally to us as breathing or walking. Well guess what? Jesus is already there with us all, not just at church on Sunday (or Saturday, depending on your beliefs and your faith) but at every waking moment of our lives, even when we are fast asleep. Jesus never leaves us, as he said: “Never will I leave you or forsake you”.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” “The Lord is near”, Paul wrote, and it’s ever so true. Therefore, whatever is lovely, admirable, kind, generous, truthful, loyal, patient, kind, excellent or praiseworthy, let’s all make these things the focus of our lives as we re-double our efforts to become all of the above to the best of our abilities. I said this before and I’ll include it in this lesson once again – Jesus is with us all the time. He is watching what we do and He’s listening to everything we say. Act as if Jesus is right beside you, because he is. Practice all these things, Paul wrote, and the “peace of God” that is beyond all human comprehension or understanding will be with us wherever we go. So now let’s conclude our study of the book of Philippians starting at verse 10.
“I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the Gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what can be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. (Philippians 4, verses 10-23, NIV)
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Let’s pause right here and ask ourselves these key questions: Are we content no matter what? Do we let bad situations and bad people ruin our day? If we’re broke and hungry, unemployed, or distraught, do we handle these types of circumstances well? Conversely, if we’re rolling in money and good fortune, or if we get a job promotion or a pay raise, or a better job, do we gloat about it in the presence of others who are less fortunate than we are? Do we “cop an attitude” and let our good fortune go to our heads? If so, any person who does these things is simply not walking in the Spirit of Christ. Those people can tell me all day long about their alleged Christianity and it won’t matter because they’re lying to me and to themselves. “I can do all things”, Paul wrote, “through Jesus Christ who strengthens me”. Christ is the focal point, not ourselves. As Christian author Max Lucado wrote, “It’s not about me. It’s all about Him.” This is something that I must work at every day, and so it is with all of us. Depending on Jesus when we were formerly accustomed to being self-sufficient, self-reliant and independent individuals does not come easily to anyone. I grew up in foster care, with no real family of my own, so I became a fiercely independent person by the time I was a teenager. From that standpoint alone, depending on Christ and waiting on him was difficult for me, and some days it still is. But I focus on doing better one day at a time, because it’s easier that way and it allows me to have a closer walk with Christ. And I pray that you all have an equally closer walk with Him who strengthens you as well. I will close this study by quoting the apostle Paul – “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever…. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”