The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
March 25, 2012


1) Philippians 4:9-13 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Philippians 4:9-13
by Tom Edwards

In our previous lesson, we considered a list of good things that Paul had exhorted the Philippians to meditate upon in Philippians 4:8.  He then goes on to show that we are not only to be mindful of these things, but to also live lives that are characterized by them.  He states, "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you" (v. 9).  

In this command, Paul is not instructing them to do anything that he did not do himself.  For he truly did conduct his life in harmony with the gospel.  And because of that, he could encouragingly say, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).  

Paul shows that by practicing these things, it is not only the peace of God that we will have; but, rather "the God of peace" Himself (Phil. 4:9; see also Heb. 13:20 and 1 Thess. 5:23) -- and how much greater that is!  For Paul had just referred to the "peace of God" as being that which "surpasses all comprehension" (v. 7), which is truly great in itself; but now he is showing just how much more the doer of God's word will also have.  For to abide in the Lord by practicing His word is to have God with us and all the wonderful benefits that go along with that as well  (cf. Jn. 14:23,24; 2 Jn. 1:9).  So it does make a great deal of difference as to what we practice (cf. Gal. 5:19-21; Matt. 7:21; Jms. 1:22-25; 2:24). 
The connection E. M. Zerr sees between verses 8 and 9 of Philippians 4 is that the things we are to meditate upon in the former verse are not merely things of our own judgments; but rather those things that are based on God's word, which Paul had taught and demonstrated in his own life.   

Paul then goes on to say in verse 10, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity."  In this verse, Paul is referring to the financial support the brethren had sent to him through Epaphroditus, which was a fellowship Paul had with them for quite some time (cf. Phil. 4:15,16,18).  For the church at Philippi was established about A.D. 50, and Paul is now writing to them about 12 years later.

What Paul is alluding to by the phrase "you lacked opportunity" is not expressed in the Scriptures.  It has been suggested that there was no messenger available at the time, or that they did not have the funds at that time to send; but whatever it was, that had now been taken care of.  

Paul then gives a key for a happier life in Philippians 4:11-13: "Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Paul mentions three pairs of contrasts in this passage, which he personally experienced.  First, he speaks of "humble means" and "prosperity."  The former phrase is from a Greek word ("tapeinoo") that means "to make low" or "bring low" and can be used metaphorically to express being brought "into a humble condition," to be reduced "to meaner [or inferior] circumstances" (Thayer).  To the contrast, Paul then uses the Greek word "perisseuo," which James Strong defines as "to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous..." to have more "abundance."

Paul secondly mentions "being filled" and "going hungry."  The Greek word for "filled" (chortazo) not only means "to fill," but also to "satisfy," such as "with food" or to "satisfy the desire of" (Thayer).  It is the same word that is used in the accounts of the feeding of the 5,000 (Matt. 14:20) and the feeding of the 4,000 (Matt. 15:37).  Both passages say, "and they all ate, and were satisfied...."  (Some other versions also render this as "filled" instead of "satisfied," but I have long thought of "satisfied" as connoting more.  For instance, you might be filled from having eaten all of your least liked food, but were you satisfied with it as much as you would have been with your most favorite?)

The third pair of contrasts Paul uses is "having abundance" and "suffering need."  Here, the word "abundance" comes from the same Greek word as we saw earlier for "prosperity," the Greek word "perisseuo," meaning "to superabound."  And "suffering need," from "hustere," which James Strong shows can mean "be destitute" or "be in want."

Regardless of these different situations in life, Paul could still maintain the right attitude; but that outlook or ability wasn't something he had always had.  For he declares in verse 11, "for I have learned to be content...."  So Paul acquired it.  The Greek word for "content" ("autarkes") is defined as "1) sufficient for one's self, strong enough or processing enough to need no aid or support  2) independent of external circumstances  3) contented with one's lot, with one's means, though the slenderest" (Thayer).  

To face each day with faith in God, a love for Him, and a faithful commitment toward doing His will can help see us through any circumstance -- and help us to learn to be content.  For true contentment comes not through materialism; but, rather, through spirituality.  Consider, for instance, what Paul shows about this to Timothy: "But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.  For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.  And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.  But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Tim. 6:6-12).  Material things can wear away with time, breakdown, or be stolen; but this can never happen to spiritual treasures in heaven.  The Lord, therefore, instructs His people to "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21).

As we give thought to these things, notice the contrasts Solomon speaks of: "All the days of the afflicted are bad, But a cheerful heart has a continual feast.  Better is a little with the fear of the LORD, Than great treasure and turmoil with it.  Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, Than a fattened ox and hatred with it" (Prov. 15:15-17).  Similarly, David writes, "Better is the little of the righteous Than the abundance of many wicked" (Psa. 37:16).   

Paul had learned to be content in any circumstance, and that would be a most good thing for each one of us to also fully know.  He declares that he had "learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need..." (Phil. 4:12).  The Bible shows of some of the circumstances Paul endured: hunger, thirst, being poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless, reviled, persecuted, slandered, "we have become the scum of the world, the dregs of all things" (1 Cor. 4:9-13); "in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger" (2 Cor. 6:3,4).  When defending his apostleship, Paul cited some unusual "credentials" to verify that: "in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.  I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness" (2 Cor. 11:23-30).  

I once read a humorous ad of a fellow who was trying to find his missing dog. He said that it was blind in one eye, was missing a leg, had a broken tail, its left ear was torn, and answered to the name "Lucky."  We might find that humorous, but think about Paul's life.  When Paul was unjustly suffering, or experiencing hunger, undergoing dangers, or whatever the adversity for the Lord's cause, rather than complain about it, Paul would be one who would acknowledge that he is blessed by the Lord -- and he was.  For even in spite of adverse circumstances, Paul still had all spiritual blessings that were made available to him through Jesus Christ.  Think, for instance, of the forgiveness of sins.  Is it not, by far, the most important blessing one can have -- even more so than money to pay our bills, good health for a sick body, and even physical life itself?  In Romans 8:16-18, Paul declares: "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."  And look what Paul goes on to say, just several verses later, in Roman 8:28: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  This is why Paul, as well as any Christian, can have a very positive outlook when undergoing even what would appear to be very negative circumstances, such as tribulations.  Paul then follows through with the glorious triumph God's people have over all the adversities of life: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?  Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Just as it is written, 'FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.'  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (vv. 31-39).   

So Paul not only could be content in whatever circumstance he was in, but he also knew that even the worst of difficulties could be used for his good: "And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me--to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.'  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:7-10).  

When Paul says in Philippians 4:13 that he "can do all things through Him who strengthens me," he is not really talking about anything in general; but, rather, whatever life would throw at him, as he had been mentioning -- whether when abounding or going without.  With God's strength, Paul knew he could face any circumstance -- and no matter how widely differing.  For Paul truly did have the faith that his Lord would help him through any situation -- even the most trying.  And we who are Christians, like little children, should also have that kind of faith toward our Father in heaven, realizing that He loves us and wants to do good for us, more than we can fully realize.  If, though, we ever doubt that, let us remind ourselves of Calvary and the reason why God sent His Son Jesus to this earth.  For in view of that, could the Lord ever express more love and concern for humanity than in what He has already done?  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:6-10).  

What are the things we have learned from the apostle Paul and have seen demonstrated in his life?  May we each be encouraged by his life to do likewise in our service to God, those things that are a part of the gospel; and that we will then, too, continually have the God of peace with us for doing so; and through that spirituality be able to be content, as Paul was, in every circumstance and realize that we also can "do all things through Him who strengthens" us (Phil. 4:9-13).    


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:

* Gyndell Henry (Lea Hall's grandmother) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

* Mike Dubose who has been told that he must receive cancer treatment for the rest of his life.  Right now he has it every other week and has continued with his preaching.

* The following is an update on R. J. Stevens (from Rebecca Stevens Helvey, his granddaughter, 4/3/12, via Steve Wolfgang's facebook wall), who recently had by-pass surgery for his heart, which was followed by a mini stroke:

"Just spoke with my dad who spent 5 hours today at the rehabilitation center with my Papa J. Some progress is being made and we are encouraged. Still a long way to go. My dad sent me a picture text with Papa J. sitting upright in a wheel chair with brighter eyes and the slight hint of a smile (what a drastic turnabout from his time in ICU). All of your prayers have saved his life to this day. Please keep praying that he may be able to get back on the road and do what he loves -- singing, preaching and praising God with his brethren."

* Let us also continue praying for my landlord's two-year old grandson, Joseph John Koczrowski IV.  His upcoming surgery will probably be in the next several weeks, which will then be followed by a second surgery a couple months later.  And, actually, even in the first surgery, different surgeons will be performing two different procedures.           

* Here's the last update (3/29/12) I have on Roy Fenner (from his wife Michelle): "Roy went to the eye doctor this week, there is damage to his MACULAR. Good news is that the shots are working and some of the swelling to the Retina has gone down. Down side besides the damage to the macular is that he must continue to get shots in his eye indefinitely but not every month. His eye with the damaged macular, will ALWAYS be distorted. He says he is unable to read words no matter how big they are even though it is clear. Remember I described before it is like looking through a fish bowl that is bowed out and then in.

"Roy's neck has healed where they cut out the cancer, but has a small legion next to the scar (unsure if this is more cancer starting up, but it is not going away) and we still need to get a plastic surgeon to remove the Basal Cell wound behind his ear that has been there for over 2 years now. He is not looking forward to it and of course makes lots of excuses why he can't get it done....  Please continue to keep Roy in your prayers. I will send updates as we get them. Love to all!"

*  Members who have been sick, with poor health, and/or physically weak: Geneva Wilson, Jean CallowayShirley Young, and Cheryl Crews.

* Also, Mozelle Robertson (Ken's mother) who at 91 years of age is still healing from wrist surgery; and Clifton Trimble whose health has been poor.

*  Let us also pray that Anthony Webb and Andrew Robertson will be able to find new employment. 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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