No one wants to be a failure in life. We long to be successful in achieving our goals. Christian believers have the same desire, to be successful in living lives that reflect their commitment to Christ. We see in this chapter that success comes from having the right focus in life at all times. To have the right focus in life can bring mental peace and moral and spiritual victory. Having a wrong focus can bring mental chaos and moral and spiritual defeat. Paul here writes about the right focus that is needed in every area of life.
1). FOCUSSING ON THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE. 8-10
i. Focussing on good things. (8) Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things. It’s so easy to get depressed by avidly reading the newspapers and magazines and watching negative stuff on TV and then sharing it with others. Bad news sells. That’s why papers are full of it. Rubbish doesn’t edify or build people up. We need to take our focus off those things and concentrate on the good things in life, on God Who is truth, on Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life, on the Holy Spirit who enlightens us to be able to understand the truth and on the Bible which is the revealed truth of God. When we do so we are living in the realm of reality and not fantasy or falsehood which is characteristic of so much in our media and culture.
ii. Focussing on Good people. You can get disappointed or frustrated in life when you can’t find any role models to follow. Many are crying out, “Oh for reality!” Those frustrated by the failures of those in politics long to find some politician who tells the truth rather than lies. They are looking for real people and not just those who twist truth to their own advantage.
A focus on Paul himself. Paul saw himself as a role model in the sense that his life was patterned on Jesus. (9) Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. Paul had previously written in 1Cor 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. He believed he was a person of integrity because he followed the example of Christ. In this letter in Php 3:17 he encouraged his readers to follow his example and also the examples of all those who like him, kept their eyes on Jesus. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
A focus on the Philippians. Paul recognised that the Philippians had once been very supportive of his ministry. Later they had fallen behind in their support. However they had now renewed their concern for him. (10) I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last you have renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me, but lacked the opportunity to show it. Paul forgave their neglect of him in the past. He now focused on the good they were doing to him.
The challenge to us. Do we do the same in focussing on the good that people are doing for us or do we focus on their failures? The former brings gratitude to God and to the people concerned. The latter focus brings disillusionment and discontent.
2). FOCUSSING ON GOD’S PROVISION IN EVERY SITUATION. 11- 13
i. Paul was focussed on the Lord for His provision. Because of that he had learned a valuable lesson. The secret of contentment – to trust God in every situation in life. (11) I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. (12) I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.
Paul was able to be content in changing circumstances because he saw that there was something stable behind everything that was happening. That stability came from an unchanging God who says of Himself , “I the Lord, do not change.” Mal 3:6.
ii. Paul was focussed on the Lord for strength to live as he should. (13) I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. The emphasis here is not on Paul who could do all things through Christ. Rather it was on the Christ who gave him the strength to do the things God wanted Him to do. Paul warned the Corinthians about trusting in their own strength, 1Cor 10:12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. The strong person is the person like Paul who realised that he had to look to God in every situation for the strength to live as he should.
3). FOCUSSING ON THE HUMAN INSTRUMENTS OF GOD’S PROVISION. 14-18
Paul remembered how the Lord had provided for him in prison. But he also took time to remember the human instruments that God had used to bring that provision. (14) Still, you did well by sharing with me in my hardship.15) And you, Philippians, know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone.16) For even in Thessalonica you sent gifts for my need several times. 17) Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that is increasing to your account. 18) But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided–a fragrant offering, a welcome sacrifice, pleasing to God.
These words provide a challenge for us. Do we remember with gratitude the human instruments God has used in bringing blessing and support to us throughout our lives?
In honouring them we are honouring what God Himself did through them. To ignore what they have done is to take God’s grace for granted. It ignores what God was doing through those human instruments.
Incidentally this also explains why sometimes church growth is not as rapid as we might think it should be. A new minister comes into a parish or ministry and wants to make his own mark in ministry. Nothing wrong with that. One wants to do what one can do in extending the kingdom of God through one’s ministry. However there is a temptation to ignore what has been happening in ministry in that parish or ministry situation and to begin afresh. Sometimes it even happens that the previous ministry is denigrated or undervalued by the “new kid on the block”. However if it is true as I believe that ministry is what God does through His available people then to denigrate a previous ministry is to denigrate what God has done. If we fail to honour what God has done, it may be that God will fail to honour our ministry because we are looking at how our ministry is superior to the previous one. But as Jesus told His followers, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” We all need a big dose of humility in ministry in recognising that God works through the humble and the available, not the arrogant who make themselves unavailable to Him. How do they do that? By focussing on what they are doing in ministry rather than on the Lord who needs to to be allowed to give the direction and the consequent empowering to any ministry.
4). FOCUSSING ON THE FUTURE WITH CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S PROVISION. 19- 23
Paul saw that all needs can be met from God’s unsearchable riches. (19) And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Paul uses the term “riches of glory” several times in his writings, Rom 9:23, Eph 3:16, here in Php 4:19 and in Col 1:27. However he describes them in Eph 2:7 as being “immeasurable riches of his grace” and in Eph 3:8 as the “unsearchable riches” of Christ.
Paul’s firm conviction was that no matter what the need of a believer may be, God’s grace is more than sufficient to meet that need. What God had done for Paul even in prison He would do for the Philippians. That was Paul’s strong belief based on the promises of God and on his own experience of God’s grace.
Blog. No.068. Jim Holbeck. Posted on (Good) Friday 6th April 2012