Warm Up Before the Hike
Share with your friend(s) an area where you struggle to find contentment or an area where you’ve learned to live in contentment.
It’s hard to believe we are on the last legs of our hike through Philippians. I enjoyed an amazing hike near Basalt, CO with my sister Lynnette a few weeks ago. As you can see, the sign showed “2 miles to Fryingpan Overlook” when we launched out and as it turns out, it was actually 2.5 miles. Now a half mile may not seem like a lot, but as you may know, trekking up a mountain is not for the faint hearted! When we realized the hike was longer and harder, we were tempted to turn around before reaching the top. What an amazing view we would have missed if we gave in to fatigue.
I think about how chapter 4 brings Paul’s letter to an end as we receive an amazing view of how to apply God’s Word. Stay with us through the next week of the study even if it feels hard and your schedules are filling up. You will not want to miss the beauty of the final words of this moving letter written by an imprisoned Paul. Nancy encouraged us last week about embracing God’s peace. The benefit of doing so means our hearts are guarded (4:6). I love her insight, “Guard is a military term and indicates God is defending us and shielding us from the disability that worry and anxiety can bring.” This week we look at how to direct our thoughts and where to find our satisfaction.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:8-13
Observation – what does the passage say?
“Finally” gives indication that Paul is wrapping up his thoughts (vs. 8)
Comparison – adjectives about what things to think about: true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtue, praiseworthy (vs. 8)
Cause and Effect – internalizing and doing the things Paul modeled as a follower of Christ will cause God’s peace to dwell within a person (vs. 9)
Contrast – the Philippians didn’t have opportunity to show their support of Paul due to distance compared to now when they were able to give to his needs through Epaphroditus’ visit (vs. 10)
Cause and Effect – their generosity for kingdom purposes brings Paul joy (vs. 10)
Contrast – Paul doesn’t speak out of a place of need, instead he’s learned to find contentment no matter what situation he is in; abased vs. abound, full vs. hungry, abound vs. suffer need (vss. 11-12)
Cause and Effect – Paul is able to be sustained and live above his circumstances because Jesus gives him strength (vs. 13)
Interpretation – what does the passage mean?
Paul highlights what to think about so that God’s peace and unity prevail. He knows there is a human tendency to focus on what’s not going right, ruminate on the “why” of a situation, and grumble about people. To make his point, he elaborates on 6 different adjectives. Below are the definitions from Sonic Light which lend more insight:
True – Valid, honest, and reliable
Noble – Worthy of respect
Just – What is just and upright
Pure – Cleanness and denotes moral purity
Lovely – Amiable, agreeable, or pleasing
Good Report – Admirable, what is praiseworthy because it measures up to the highest standard
Dr. Constable in Sonic Light continues to share a powerful quote about the battle for one’s thoughts:
“On the authority of the Word of God, I submit to you that the greatest conflict being waged is not international, not political, not economic, and not social. The greatest conflict taking place in the world today is the battle for control of our minds.”
Paul then reminds the believers that he wants them to follow the things he taught them and lived before them. He is not saying that he is without fault or weakness, he is reminding them that the things God asks of believers are not too difficult if he can depend on Him to be Christ-like in actions and attitudes. We all need people and mentors to learn from and model for us what it means to live out the Christian faith daily.
Finally, Paul expresses his gratitude for the Philippians financial gift. He is not primarily concerned about his needs since he has had many years to see God come through for him while living in undesirable and desirable situations. This is not the first occasion Paul has seen the walls of a prison, having been treated harshly numerous times for his faith. He learned contentment over time which tells us that contentment is something we all can make progress toward in any situation because we have access to the strength of Jesus within us.
Sonic Light sums up Paul’s thoughts:
“Paul did not want the Philippians to misunderstand him. He was not rejoicing primarily because their gift had met his need, but because their gift expressed their love and concern for him. Paul had “learned to be content,” and to rejoice regardless of his physical “circumstances.” Such contentment is not a natural gift.”
Application – how does the meaning of the passage apply to me?
How many of your thoughts center around worry, complaining, comparing, and thinking about what’s wrong with a situation or person? While there’s room for evaluation and processing disappointment, we can only control so much. Consider how your thoughts can be directed toward the things Paul urges believers to “major on.”
Whom are your models for living the Christian faith? This may be a person(s) you know firsthand or someone who speaks to you via their heart and teaching through studies, online, podcasts, etc. It’s important to seek out mentors who are a few steps ahead in their spiritual life including someone we feel comfortable asking our questions. It is also vital to become a mentor to others. By the way, we often think of a mentor as someone older, but this is not always the case.
Think about what you shared during the warm up. What area are you wanting God to fill you with contentment? What is the next thing you can do as you learn to be content?
Homework and Scripture Memory
Work through the process of observation, interpretation, and application for the remainder of Philippians, 4:14-23, this week. The final post for this study will be next week. I’m sad it’s ending! Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-13. I personally have gotten behind BUT I am taking Nancy’s encouragement to heart, and not just giving up this week as it will be profitable as I hang in there. Keep working at memorizing, meditating on, and applying God’s Word.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below about how our hike through Philippians is encouraging you as we think about ways to help each other live our stories in light of God’s Word. YOU are loved sister~ Laura