By Mike Dawson
Pastor Emeritus, First Baptist Church, Columbia
Joy in prayer. Joy of adversity. Joy through humility. Joy in knowing Jesus. Those are our first four lessons from the Bible’s “Joy Book,” Philippians. When the Apostle Paul wrote this joy-filled letter to his friends in Philippi, he was imprisoned in Rome for preaching the Gospel.
Even though he was under house-arrest, he saw himself a free man in Christ, and he wrote out of a free and joyful mind and spirit. An evidence of God working in that Roman jail: any letter showing such a positive outlook, being sent from a government-run place of confinement — in that day or this — would probably have been censored or heavily redacted! Yet this letter was apparently sent out just as Paul dictated it.
So now we come to the fifth lesson: Joy through PEACE, from Philippians 4:1-9.
Frankly, trying to shed light on such glorious verses is like trying to make some of God’s most colorful flowers more beautiful by spray-painting them; we really just need to step aside and point out their beauty!
I entitle verses 1-5 ‘The Sin of Squabbling.’ A divisive, squabbling spirit is a sin against loving leaders, verse 1. It’s a sin against each other, verse 2. It’s also a sin against the church, verse 3. And it’s a sin against the Lord, verse 4. Christians cannot rejoice in the Lord and fight with each other at the same time! Finally, verse 5, it’s a sin against everyone everywhere, especially with Jesus’ imminent return in view! People out there in the world can be won to Christ and therefore be ready for His Second Coming if they see His love in us.
Verses 6-7 could be labeled ‘The Peace of God.’ Paul reminds us in verse 6 that having God’s peace involves doing three things: (1) Worrying about nothing (“be anxious for nothing”). (2) Praying about everything (“in everything by prayer”). (3) Being thankful for anything (with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God). In the first part of verse 7, ‘praying Paul’ speaks of the promise of peace; in the second part of that verse he describes the Person of peace, Christ Jesus. True peace comes through Jesus who died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and is coming again. Do you have Him — the Prince of Peace — living in you?
We might call verse 8 ‘The Glory of Godly Thinking.’ An acrostic jumps out at me from this verse, giving the eight characteristics of Godly thinking. Such “THINKING” involves True things. Honorable things. Innocent things. Noble things. Kind-hearted things. Inspiring things. Notable things. And Glorious things. Remember the wise statement of Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
In other words, we become what we THINK about all day long. NFL player Bill Glass said years ago, “if that phrase were totally true, when I was in high school, I’d have become a girl.” But seriously, we do act out our thoughts.
In verse 9, Paul moves from “the peace of God” to “the God of Peace.” We know that Pauline thinking, Godly thinking, will lead to the God of Peace being with us. “Emmanuel, God with us!” B&R — Dawson is pastor emeritus at First Baptist Church, Columbia, and also serves as transitional interim around the state.