Philippians 4:1, 4-9 Common English Bible (CEB)
Therefore, my brothers and sisters whom I love and miss, who are my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. 9 Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.
What does it look like when life is aligned with Christ? As I pondered this I couldn’t help but think of one of my fast food favorites, Chick-Fil-A. It was founded in 1946, originally as the Dwarf Grill (later renamed the Dwarf House) by C. Truett Cathy and his brother. From the very beginning Cathy saw the restaurant as an extension of his love for God and for people. He maintained a balance of faith, family, friends, business. He was always closed on Sundays, realizing that his employees deserved a day of rest. It gave them the opportunity to be involved in church. He himself was a Sunday School teacher in his church. There is an interesting story that comes from this involvement. John Starr was a young man who begn coming to his 8th grade Sunday School Class. Cathy began to ask questions of him after learning that he lived with his parents and seven more in a three-bedroom house with one bathroom. After gaining some insight into the family, he asked to meet his father and mother. Being involved in real estate, Cathy owned several homes the area. What he told the family changed their lives forever. He had a seven-bedroom home on 4 acres of land, and he swapped houses with them. His statement was, “yours for mine, even trade.” The house was fully paid for! He cared about people. Died at age 95, having been married for 65 years. His was an aligned life.
Last week I talked about being aligned as in fitting with the upward call of God. By setting aside our best assets, relying completely on God, I shared one of my favorite scripture prayers. “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) For Paul it was the surpassing value of being found in Christ Jesus.
Partnerships. Truett Cathy knew that his partners were God, his family, and his customers. Who your partner is makes the difference! “As any businessperson will tell you that starting a business takes a huge financial and personal commitment. As a sole proprietor, you alone are responsible for the success or failure of the business. In a partnership, you are dependent on the contributions of other partners, and if they are unable or unwilling to make the same level of personal or financial sacrifices, it will likely result in resentment and conflict.”
We are given the opportunity to be partners with God – aligned with God and God’s ways. Philippians 4:9 ends with, “The God of peace will be with you.” Notice that this isn’t a “will be” statement. God IS with us. In Psalm 106:1 the Psalmist proclaims, “Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love endures forever.” We are partners with the One whose faithful love endures forever. Our “partner in life” is rock solid! Beyond that, we are also partnering in the Body of Christ, one with another with our amazing God as the unifying force amongst us.
So, the Results of alignment present themselves in both personal ways and in our mission and ministry for God. Philippians 4 highlights several results of alignment. Our attitudes and responses to life’s situations find stability in alignment. Things like: Joy, Safety (of heart and mind), Gentleness, and Peace are the results of alignment with God in Christ Jesus.
These results are set against a dissention between leaders in the Philippian church. Once again, it is always important to take note when verses are left out. This morning I left out verses 2-3 from our reading this morning. In part it was to bless our lay readers. In it are names like Euodia and Syntyche (U-O’-di-ă and “Sin’-Tĭ-Kay”). You’re welcome! All it adds to the reading is this allusion to a difference between two of the leaders, two of the partners in the Gospel in Philippi.
So, against this backdrop, Paul begins with Joy! “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice!” In the Common English Bible, it uses the word “Glad”. Always! What an amazing statement! This isn’t just a “be happy” statement because it is paired with, “Don’t be anxious about anything.” (vs. 6). It is a call not to be victimized by circumstances, those problems within ourselves or that come from outside. God is still God. What I have noticed is that a person aligned with Jesus “feels” that joy, that gladness. Even in the midst of troubles we know that God is there with us, and we can rejoice in that knowledge.
Closely linked to this knowledge, that allows us to rejoice always, is God’s promise of safety for our hearts and minds (vs. 7). “Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.” Note, this promise of guarding, protecting is focused on our heart and mind. We will face difficulties, and our bodies will at times be attacked by illness or infirmity, but God in on guard. The text says he will keep us safe in heart and mind. We may not understand how, but that’s OK. God’s protection will pass all our understanding. God’s safety will be real!
Then, Paul moves on to gentleness. There is a gentleness about the life that is aligned with Christ. I’m not saying it will be a life without taking a stand, even in the face of danger. Even Jesus, when confronted by the money changers and sellers in the Temple Courts took a strong stand. But the stand was against practices. It was a table that took the brunt of his wrath, not a person. Gentleness was a characteristic of Jesus. Gentleness will be in our witness and our interactions within the body of Christ. I remember well an interaction I had while I was a pastor in Wray, Colorado. I was at a Ministerial Association meeting when the subject of “dancing” came up. I don’t remember the setting, but I do remember the sting of judgement. One of my well-meaning colleagues said to me, “When you more mature in the faith, you’ll understand that dancing is a sin.” Oh, and by the way, I must not be “mature” enough yet – I still don’t see dancing as a sin. I have noticed the gentleness here in our body of Christ. In our congregation, even if there is disagreement on a decision, there is a sense of moving forward together. Once a decision is made you all just pull together. Points of view not harbored and held against one another. I don’t sense that there are ever “winners” and “losers.” Gentleness abounds.
This leads us to peace. Peace is twice mentioned in this short passage. The first time is in verse 7 – “Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.” And the second is in verse 9 – “The God of peace will be with you.” In our witness, personal peace shines – it is invitational. Have you ever been around someone who just embodied peace? I have known many. Since coming to Thermopolis I have met many. One was Betty Matthews. I visited her in her hospital room one day, thinking I would go and offer a word of comfort as she neared the end of her life. What I discovered was that I left feeling better and more filled with comfort! Her peace was contagious! A part of what I experienced with her could be attributed to where her focus was. Observe verses 8-9 in Philippians 4. “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. 9 Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.” These verses speak of a focusing of life. Paul is asking us, in essence, ‘What do you feed yourself on?’ When our focus is on God and what is good, the bad recedes into the background. It doesn’t disappear, though sometimes there are miraculous cures of the body and turn-arounds in situations. Often the troubles are still very real, very present, yet they don’t conquer us, and they don’t define our lives. We have a peace that passes all understanding. This points us back to our partner in life (vs. 9) “The God of peace will be with you.” In the aligned life there is assurance and confidence. God’s got this!
One of my favorite doxologies or statements of faith is found in Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Strive to align life with the author of life and the results will be amazing.
Pastor Paul Grossman