Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Lord is At Hand

Philippians 4:1-7

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

2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.

3 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.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

One thing that memorizing the entire book of Philippians (or any large passage of scripture) really helps with is doing away with the artificial divisions of the verse and chapter breaks. It is amazing how the Word comes alive as I ponder whole passages and hear the actual flow of the context. What I mean is, sometimes when we take a verse and memorize it as a stand alone we forget the context that surrounds it which helps us to understand the full meaning of the verse.

I think sometimes we approach scripture as a Facebook status. You know, we want a pithy, short little encouragement. Or maybe we treat it like a blog post - how they say that the ‘good’ blog posts are supposed to be short and quick to the point because readers have short attention spans. So we take a verse and memorize it, and that’s good, I’m not saying it isn’t, but we often fail to read beyond the verse a lot of times to really digest the richness and depth of what is actually being taught.

See, Paul probably wouldn’t have been a great blogger if the bloggity wisdom that tells us to write short posts were to be applied to him. I mean look at how he says, “Finally, my brothers,” in 3:1 and then goes on for two more chapters. It takes time to develop a point, and it’s good to revisit those favorite, comforting verses in their original context. I would argue that in doing so, we can find even more encouragement from them.

I’ve actually blogged on this passage before, but in working to memorize chapter 4:1-7 this week I was struck by something else again. There are many things I could say about these verses, but I want to focus in on verses 6-7 for the sake of this post.

Many of us are familiar with Philippians 4:6-7, or at least verse 6. I’m sure lots of us pull it out when feeling anxious, and that is not a bad thing. However, as I’ve been pondering this passage this week, it was eye-opening for me that the words right before that very familiar exhortation to not be anxious in anything are these: “The Lord is at hand;”.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking: So many times when I’ve felt anxious and pulled out verse 6, I kind of get into this way of thinking that I have to just work up a less anxious way of thinking sort of by force of will or something. Well, it’s commanding us not to be anxious, I am feeling anxious, come on let’s stop being anxious, already. The thing is, this passage doesn’t encourage believers to not be anxious in a vacuum. The words right before this are key....the Lord is at hand! In light of all that has been said up to chapter 4 we are to be less anxious.

Think about all the truth that is presented in chapters 1-3 before this exhortation, and which I’ve had the joy of thinking over and rehearsing for the past 13 1/2 weeks now as we’ve partnered to remember Philippians.

Here are just some of the truths I’ve been pondering from Philippians that I’ll try to draw out for the sake of this thought: We who believe in Christ Jesus are saints in Christ Jesus who partner together for the sake of the gospel. He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus. We pray for love that abounds more and more in discernment and knowledge so that we may approve what is excellent and be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. When Christ is proclaimed, we can rejoice, even when it means hardship or suffering for us personally because it is a joy to see His gospel advanced. God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. It is God who works in us to will and to work for His good pleasure, and because this is true, we can work out our own salvation with fear and trembling in the light of His working in us. And because of all of that, we can walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, we can walk blameless and innocent as children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation and shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life. We can count any gain as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord, we can be found in Him having the righteousness from God that depends on faith in Christ! Not a righteousness of our own that cannot measure up, but the righteousness from God! We can press on and make it our own because Christ Jesus has made us His own! Pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Can you really think on these things and not put an exclamation point? It is THIS Lord Jesus, at whose name every knee will bow and tongue confess that He is Lord, that is at hand.

And in light of ALL of that, we can rejoice! In light of ALL of that, we can not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let our requests be made known to God, trusting that the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. We can train our minds to the truth of God’s word and trust Him to reveal to us where our thinking is not mature and to turn our hearts and minds to Him in all things.

Yes, and amen!

1 comment:

Kay said...

Sometimes I have a hard time reading "familiar" passages because I know I just read over most of what's in it and fail to see the depth of what God is saying. So thankful to know that the Lord is at hand! What a word to hold on to when it feels like I'm losing my grip. Have faith child, the Lord is at hand! Amen! :)