In this sermon, Khaleef Crumbley teaches from Philippians 4:1-9 how a Christian stands firm in the Lord. Khaleef Crumbley explains six principles from the text:
1) Live in harmony with other believers in the Lord
2) Always be joyful
3) Cultivate a gentle spirit
4) Do not be anxious for anything
5) Pray transparently to God in all matters
6) Meditate on God and the things of God
Good morning Calvary. It seems a little different to be not able to see your faces and hear you. I was looking at the livestream earlier and just appreciate all those who have been praying, praying for me, praying for us as we try to bring this to you, just praying that God’s will will be done. We appreciate all of you.
You heard our Scripture, Philippians 4:1-9. I actually had something else in mind to preach about, felt it was important for us to see what the Lord has to say about our current situation. Greg has given us some great things to think about how to respond to this as Christians. So we are going to continue to look at some of those things.
So this passage is probably most famous for verse 6:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
But the key to understanding this actually lies in verse one. In verse one, we receive a command to stand firm in the Lord. The picture of standing firm is really what Paul expands on throughout the rest of this chapter, but particularly the first 9 verses. What does that look like for a Christian to stand firm? We get this picture and actually in Psalm chapter 1, we’re going to look at it a couple times today. Psalm 1:3 lets us know that the righteous:
will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither;
So we have this picture of the righteous one being like a tree that can’t be moved. It’s firmly planted. There’s that word again. We’re to stand firm. Not only is it firmly planted just to some random place, but it’s by streams of water. So it’s getting nourishment. That nourishment allows it to yield fruit in its season. The things that are supposed to be developed in this tree are developed at the time that is supposed to be developed. This is really important for us as believers to look at. So with this image in mind, we need to go to the Lord in prayer and we going to look at what it looks like to be a Christian that stands firm, that is spiritually mature, spiritually stable, that is immovable no matter what’s going on around him.
So first, let’s approach the throne. Our Father God, we just want to thank You for Your Word, that it can give us hope, that it brings life and encouragement. We pray, God, that You would move our hearts that we can obey the commands that are found here. We pray that not only would we be able to obey them, but that we would be able to encourage others to do the same. So we pray that You’d use us for Your glory. And I pray right now that You would speak to us, Lord. Give us what we need in this hour. We ask this in Christ’s name and for His sake. Amen.
So Paul lists five, some will say six ways that we can stand firm. Starting in verses 2 and 3, the first thing he says is to live in harmony with other believers.
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
So the first thing he says is: if you’re going to stand firm as a believer no matter what’s going on around you, the first thing you have to do is live in harmony with other believers. Now he says that these two women share his struggle in the cause of the gospel. Then he said them and others find their names in the book of life. He’s talking about believers. He’s talking about strong believers who worked alongside of him in the struggle to bring the gospel to many, and then probably even to minister to those who came to faith in Christ. But there is a problem. Something happened and they’re not getting along. The issue is so big. The issue was so dramatic that it got back to Paul. These believers who fought alongside Paul for the sake of the gospel now aren’t getting along, so much so that it gets back to Paul who’s in another country right now. He calls them each separately and says: I urge you and I urge you to come together. Then he calls his true companion, who most think is one of the elders in the church, and says: you need to step in and make sure that they restore fellowship.
So we see how important it is to Paul that before we talk about anything else about standing firm, you need to have a right relationship with each other. It is so opposite of what the world’s reaction is, especially at a time like this. Usually the world reacts to uncertainty with angry attacks or blaming others or trying to take advantage of others. Even at this time now with the Coronavirus spreading and all of the things happening that we have to do to prevent the spread, we see these things. We see people are throwing angry attacks at each other. We see if you go on Facebook and the other social media, every other post is some sarcastic meme about people who are trying to be prepared and how they’re overreacting. Or they’re being hypocrites because they’re not worried about the flu. Or they’ve taken toilet tissue, even though the the symptoms don’t involve anything with a gastric system. We see all these things coming out of it and that’s not what should be true of us. As believers, we should not be having angry attacks toward people, no matter what they’re thinking. Even if they did something to us, and we’ll look at that in a minute, but Paul says no matter what the issue is, you need to live in harmony with each other.
Notice what he says: live in harmony in the Lord. That’s very important. This love and harmony must come from my heart. This isn’t just: I’m going to avoid that person but you know what, we don’t work well together. So I just will never work with them. That’s not what the Bible is calling for. That’s not what Paul is saying that a Christian should do when they want to be mature. I want to stand firm. He said this needs to come from your heart. This needs to be in the Lord. It’s not just saying: I’ll keep my comments to myself, or I’ll share them with other people that I know won’t get back to them. This is actually our hearts resolving ourselves to going after this person in love. We have the love of God inside of us that we can love each other. Jesus said that’s the way people will know My disciples – by your love for each other.
So the first thing is to live in harmony with other believers and to pursue this. The second thing he says is to always be joyful. Always be joyful. Verse 4 says:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
He says again as if that’s the first time he said it, as if he said it there in verse four and said: okay I’m going to repeat myself here. But if you go back to chapter 3 verse 1, he says it there. In chapter 3 verse 1, he says: I don’t mind repeating myself. Back in chapter 3, He says: I don’t care about repeating myself to tell you to have joy. That’s not a big deal for me, and it’s a safeguard for you. So he comes again in chapter 4 and says: I want you to stand firm. What do I have to do this? How do I stand firm, Paul? You don’t know what’s all going on around me. The first thing is you get along with each other, and you pursue that. You pursue living in harmony, being able to work together, to think together.
Then you’re always joyful. This rejoicing is a command. What do we call it when we have a command and we don’t follow that command? I can’t see you but hopefully everybody’s typing in the word “sin”. So if you are not rejoicing, you are in sin. Now, joy has many meanings even in the Word of God. So we need to make a distinction here. There is a feeling of joy which is not what’s being commanded. Feelings or emotions are usually a reaction. You don’t go to someone in mourning and say: you should be showing joy. You should be feeling joy that your loved one has passed away. You should be feeling joy that this dreadful thing has happened. That’s not what the Bible is saying. Actually in the book of Ecclesiastes, it says that the time of morning is better than a time of celebration. So it’s not talking about this feeling of joy, but is talking about an action. Rejoicing – we’re commanded to rejoice. No matter what the feeling is, we are commanded to rejoice.
How can we rejoice? Well, look at what it says. What are we rejoicing in? We rejoice in the Lord. Not rejoice in your circumstances, rejoice in your bank account, or rejoice in the fact that you can work from home for the next couple weeks. You’re rejoicing in the Lord. Notice how I didn’t mention anything about kids being home, because I don’t think any parents are rejoicing about that right now. But the Bible calls us to rejoice in the Lord, and and that’s what’s key. We’re not rejoicing in the situation. We’re rejoicing in spite of it because we have a God that’s bigger than the situation.
We kind of see this play out in Matthew chapter 5, in the section that’s normally called the Beatitudes. Verses 11 and 12, Jesus says:
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
He calls them blessed, but what does he tell them to do in verse 12?
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great;
He says when you are insulted and persecuted and people will say evil false things about you, you in your response should be to rejoice. Just like back in our text in Ephesians 4, we are to rejoice no matter what’s going on around us because we are rejoicing in the Lord.
My wife the other day shared with me that some clever Christians have decided to take you know, Coronavirus is being called COVID-19. They decided to take that to mean “Christ Over Viruses and Infectious Diseases”. So I guess we should make some t-shirt or something like that about Covid and how kind of like Y2K was “Yield to the King” and do something like that.
But this is the attitude that we have to have, while being wise and taking precaution. We have to remember who’s on the throne. And we rejoice because we are in the Lord. This isn’t for everybody. If anybody is listening to this and watching this and you don’t know the Lord, you don’t know. You don’t rejoice. You have nothing to rejoice in, except maybe the fact that you’re hearing this and you can still come to faith in Christ, and you’ll have time. But those of you who are in the Lord, who are in Christ, not only can we rejoice, but we are commanded to rejoice.
So the first thing you want to do is live in harmony with other believers. The second thing is to always be joyful, always be rejoicing. The third thing, and I’m going through these quickly because I want to focus on the fourth thing, is cultivate a gentle spirit. In Ephesians 4:5, the first part of it says:
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.
Now, the word translated gentle here is “epieikes”. It’s a very difficult one to translate. Now I’m not great at translating Greek, but it’s difficult even for the scholars. So much so, I looked at 5 different Bible translations and got five different words in english for this. One translates it a gentle spirit. Another says reasonableness. Another says moderation. One says graciousness. And another said gracious spirit. But from those five, you kind of get the idea. It’s a few things that are packed into this word. One is the idea of being reasonable when someone is dealing with you or requesting something from you. So this idea that you’re easy to work with. Again, what are we talking about? Being able to stand firm no matter what’s going on around you. And what does Paul say? You have to be easy to work with. It doesn’t seem like it would fit. You would just think he would paint everything as a soldier, like he did in Ephesians chapter 6, when he said put on the armor of God to fight against spiritual attacks. But here, he tells us to cultivate gentle spirit.
So be easy to work with. Be someone that is a pleasure to work with, to request something of. There’s a selflessness that comes from this, that when you ask something of me, my first response isn’t: what do I have to lose? What am I giving up? That’s the attitude. That’s this beauty, the sweetness behind this type of person.
It also counts the idea of being considerate of others, to the point of waving your own rights. In this country, we are very very very high on the idea of rights and exercising our rights. Is there many things that you have the legal right to do, but that are ungodly. There are many things where you may actually be right in a situation, but you should still humble yourself to the point that you accept less than what you think you’re owed or think that you’re due. There are times where you may have a right to claim something, and it could be something small.
I was in the nursery last week. One of the kids kept playing with a toy. Whenever he would play with any type of toy, there was another kid younger that would come and try to take it. And this child was two years old, just kind of sat back and let them. I want to play with this right now and I grabbed it first, so I technically have a right to it. But this person wants it and I’ll just let them have it. Okay, go ahead. Take the toy. You play with it for three seconds, slobber on it, and you’re done. And then I move to a new one and you come and slobber on that one. A two year old gave us a great example of what it means to have this gentle spirit, to consider others more than ourselves, which is also another commandment in Scripture.
There many of us out there who are doing things simply because we have the right to do it, not because they’re the most godly way to handle a situation. We must step back and realize – we’re not doing what God commands. I am not being the type of person who can stand firm when something happened. It’s not just about catastrophes going on around us, but when something comes against us personally, are we going to revert to anger or frustration or discouragement, or are we going to be godly in those time? That’s also what it means to stand firm.
Also, we have to be gracious to those who have wronged us. Even when someone now owes us something because they have wronged us, many times we can look at the grace and mercy of God and we can decide that just because someone deserves something, so to speak, because they did something to us, it doesn’t put us in a place to now exercise that judgment. We are sinners and we sinned against God in ways that we can’t even fathom. We can’t imagine how horrible our sin is to a perfect, holy, good, just, righteous God. And God still gave us mercy. Then we saw Christ come down and bear the penalty, bear the wrath of our sin so that we can be with God now. And now we want to hold petty grudges against other people. So Paul says: don’t be that type of person. Don’t do that. And we have the gentleness of Christ. We have the grace and mercy of God, to look at His example.
So first, we live in harmony with other believers if we want to stand firm. We should always be joyful. Third thing is we should cultivate a gentle spirit. Now fourth: he says don’t be anxious. If you want to be able to stand firm in the Lord, don’t be anxious. Look at the end of verse 5 going into verse 6:
The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
I have to say, I kind of wish that the division of the verses was a little different here, so that “the Lord is near” and “be anxious for nothing” were together. But it was just a choice that someone made. To be honest, it fits in both places by the fact pretty much every command that we have, the Lord is near can be attached to it and it would make sense.
This idea of nearness is talking about the Lord actually physically being near to us. It’s not the Lord is near because He’s coming. This is happening soon. This is the Lord is near to you. In John 15, He says abide in Me as I abide in you. This whole picture of a vine and branches, all over the Bible we get this picture of calm and ease because the Lord is near to us. Just one in Psalm 119:151, it says:
You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth.
Here we see the Lord is near to us. What does it mean? Everything His Word says is true. We know that, right? We say that. We know the Bible is true, right. Great. Thanks. I woke up early, tuned in to hear the Bible is true. But what he is talking about here, what is brought out, is everything about God’s character – His strength, His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His love towards His children, the promises are all true. He is trustworthy, and we should take comfort in that. Why? Because we have a God that not only is powerful enough and is willing, but He’s able. We don’t have a God that just sits there and He doesn’t care what happens on this earth. He cares greatly. He cares about each one of us. And that should give us comfort to know that He cares about us and He’s powerful to step into our situation and gives us grace to handle it. Even if He doesn’t change the situation for us, we get grace to handle it. And we know we can because we are in Christ. Psalm chapter 1 again, verse 2, says that the believer’s delight is in the law of the Lord. And it says:
and in His law he meditates day and night.
So He doesn’t meditate on news. He doesn’t go to CDC’s website ten times a day, trying to get the latest update. He isn’t reading everything he can get his hands on about the coronavirus. It’s good to be wise, but the meditation is on the law of the Lord, because he loves it. And we are to meditate on it day and night. We’ll see that this comes up again a few verses down, this concept of meditating and thinking on the things of God.
So another thing we’re to do here, part of not being anxious, is to pray with transparency. So the first is just to remember that the Lord is near. The second part of not being anxious is to pray with transparency. We are to, in everything, let our requests be made known to God. If you are a part of the top-ranked home group, the Somerset home group, you know that we have been going through prayer. And almost every time we have a discussion about prayer, we talk about transparency and praying everything that’s in your heart to God. Every fear, every anxious thought, every frustration, anything that we have that we feel, every bit of anger that we have, every question, every doubt that we feel, we are to be praying these things to God.
There’s two things that he mentions in prayer. Well three. The first two he says we offer, the Greek definite article is there, so we offered the prayer and the supplication. So the prayer is just a general prayer for blessing. You’re asking God to come into a situation, or you asking for God’s wisdom. The supplication is to ask for deliverance from or to avoid altogether a negative situation. That’s usually what the supplications is for. We can ask for blessing in that as well. But the supplication is more direct. In it though, the word that’s used for supplication actually has the idea of begging in it. It usually has this picture of someone who’s in distress, begging God to come into a situation, thanking God for deliverance or begging God to hold off something from happening.
In Ephesians 6, at the end of this great discourse about spiritual warfare and the armor of God, Paul says in 6:18:
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.
The word there “petition” is the same word that’s used for supplication. It’s this idea of, again, begging. So we see this here, prayer and supplication, prayer and petition.
And in all these prayers, what should they have in it? Thanksgiving. We are to approach God in every prayer with thanksgiving no matter what we are praying about. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, it says:
in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
The promise here is that when we bring everything to the Lord in prayer, we will experience God’s peace. Now this is different than the idea of having peace with God. That really talks about us being God’s enemies and being able to now sit with Him as friends and sons and daughters and have peace with Him. There’s peace between us and God now when there wasn’t before, when we had God’s wrath over us. But here, he’s talking about a peace that fills us. We can experience God’s peace. And what does he say about this peace? He says it surpasses all comprehension. It goes beyond any human logic. You can’t convince someone enough to have this type of peace. I can’t go to you and give you enough data to tell you there’s something great coming. I can’t give you enough data to say you don’t have to worry. This peace comes from God and it surpasses all human logic and understanding. We don’t even know how we can have peace. We look back at situations and say: I don’t know how I made it through that without having a nervous breakdown. I don’t know how I was able to sustain myself. You weren’t. God sustained you with this peace that you can’t even understand. We should be meditating on God’s Word and praying about everything with thanksgiving. And when we do that, our anxiety will be replaced with peace. It’s not peace alongside the anxiety. The anxiety will go because he says this peace will keep watch over our hearts, guard our hearts and minds, so that the fear and anxiety can’t come back. It get kicked out and then God puts guards up in front of our hearts and it can’t return as long as we’re doing these things.
But the moment we start focusing on everything around us and we forget about God, we forget about His promises, we forget about His goodness, then the anxiety returns. And then we have to go through all of this again. Or when sin enters our life and we’re not in fellowship with God, then the anxiety and the fear and the doubt and the mistrust comes back. And then the angry thoughts come back. Then we start questioning ourselves and then we start saying: we can’t cope. We can’t make it. Then we start looking for worldly ways to get around it, and worldly solutions to our spiritual problems.
So in order for us to stand firm, we need to live in harmony with other believers. We need to be rejoicing at all times, no matter what our emotions say. We need to cultivate a gentle spirit. And we need to not be anxious by remembering the Lord is near and by praying to God with transparency. Then the last thing is that we need to meditate on the things of God. Because if we don’t, those feelings will come right back.
So in verse 8, he says:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
I wish I had a whole sermon just to unpack each one of these things, but I don’t. So let’s look through what he wants us to think about. What are the things that we should keep in our minds that will help us to stand firm, to help us to be stable, to help us to be immovable? Whatever is true. In John 17:17, Jesus is praying to the Father and says:
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
Right there, what do I meditate on? You meditate on the Word of God. You think about the Word of God. I wish I had a sermon for this, but when we come to the Word of God, whether it’s hearing it preached, reading it, or in any other form having it explained to us, we are to meditate on that. Don’t hear a sermon from your local church, from your pulpit, and then run and say – now what Greg told you about John macArthur speaking today may be a little different because it’s something very specific- but don’t run and say: now I got to listen to John MacArthur. And then every day this week, I’m going to put on five different podcasts. And let me hear what Al Mohler has to say in his briefing about this. Let me watch Wretched Radio and watch some guy walking around in a furnished room that nobody sits in. Let me do all of these things and absorb this and all the podcasts that I have and then all the blog posts. And we do that and we don’t meditate. No, those things are good resources. They’re nice. But meditate on the Word of God so that it can actually come into our hearts. What does it say in Psalm 119:11:
Your Word have I hid in my heart,
You can’t hide something in your heart if as soon as you hear it, you’re on to the next thing to hear. Hiding it in your heart takes time. And why did he have it hidden in his heart? That he wouldn’t sin against the Lord. So we meditate on the Word of God. We think about it. We wonder. We ask questions about it. We pray about it. We read about it. We talk to people about it until we really understand it to the point that it’s in us, and it’s impacting our desires and even our reactions.
Whatever is honorable – this really means worthy of respect or dignified. So things that are sacred and godly, not things that are base and profane, things that are low as far as their value to us. We should think about what is right, what conforms to God’s standards. Think about those things. I think this brings a lot of wisdom to the idea of consuming sin for entertainment and the question of if I’m not sinning and I’m not being affected by it. Well, the Bible tells us what to meditate on, what to think about constantly, what to have going in our minds if we want to stand firm. And so I’m not saying no one can ever watch whatever. I’m not here to judge all the things you watch and don’t watch or listen to or anything else. But keep this in mind. Is the bulk of your thoughts and your meditation on these types of things, or is it on things that are frivolous and just a waste of time and will just burn away? They’re like chaff that just blow away in the wind.
Whatever is pure – so whatever is not mixed with impurity. Whatever is undefiled. That’s what you should be thinking about if you want to stand firm. Whatever is lovely, whatever it is kind, or whatever promotes peace. Whatever is of good repute. The things that are spoken well of or thought well of. Now we don’t just take the world’s standards. We’re not talking about spiritually righteous things like speaking out against sin and the world thinks that’s evil. But if the world thinks if something is evil, typically we should stay away from it unless it was commanded by Scripture to do it. You know, there’s things that the world says is wrong and Christians want to do. Just like Dave mentioned in his sunday school, in 1 Corinthians 5 when the man was sleeping with his stepmother and they didn’t want to kick them out of the church. And Paul even says: this is something that even the unbelievers won’t speak about, it’s so evil. Those in the church were doing it and were proud of themselves that they were allowing it.
Paul sums up this list with two words – whatever is excellent, whatever is worthy of praise. And that’s what we should be meditating on. That’s what we should be thinking about. Meditating on these will cause us to have a life that pleases God in our thoughts, emotions, reactions, speech, and ultimately our behavior. Then in verse 9, he says, which is kind of a sixth thing which I would just say obedience to God, but I’m not treating it as a sixth thing. You can keep your list of five. I hate lists that have even numbers. It’s just so wrong. So keep it at five, but just remember verse nine:
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.
How do you get the peace of God? It’s not just right thinking. That’s not good enough, but it must lead to right living. We can’t just be hearers of the word, but we have to be doers of the word as well. We can’t just hear what God says. We can’t just know it, but it has to be part of our lives. It has to be what we live out. It has to be the way that we react to things.
The last thing he says here is the God of peace will be with you. Now why is that important? He’s showing us how to drive away and how to keep away anxiety this whole time. Listen to this promise: if we cultivate godly characteristics with the help of the Spirit and the direction of the Word of God, we cultivate godly thinking and godly living, our hearts and minds – this talks about the totality of us, who we are, will be guarded by the peace of God and the God of peace. That sounds really deep. Our hearts and minds will be guarded by the peace of God and the God of peace. Anxiety, fear, doubt, worry can’t stand in a situation like that.
This is how we can have comfort, calm, and confidence no matter what’s going on around us. It’s not by ignoring the things. That’s not by saying it doesn’t matter. It’s not going to happen. Who cares, it’s not a big deal. And it’s not by saying: we’re panicking, worrying, and I have to use earthly measure in order to combat this thing. It’s not that either. But it’s trusting in the Lord and using the means He’s given us around us, being wise, and ultimately seeking to bless others as well with this. My prayer for all of us is that the God of peace will guard our hearts and minds as well. I’ll just show you how important this thought is. Paul closes so many books with that, and we’re actually going to close this with that. Hebrews 13:20 says:
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,
In Romans, he says in 15:33:
Now the God of peace be with you all.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
1 Thessalonians 5:23:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely,
2 Corinthians 13:11:
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Calvary, as we go through this time, as we go through any time in our lives, just remember we have promise that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds and that the God of peace will be with us. And if that doesn’t dispel your anxiety, and I’m being serious, if that doesn’t dispel anxiety, then look into your heart and go to God in prayer. Go through these things and make sure that you’re doing each one. That you’re living in harmony with other believers, that you don’t have any sin between you and someone else is keeping you from the Lord. Always be joyful. Cultivate a gentle spirit. Don’t be anxious. Bring everything to God in prayer, transparent prayer, remembering He is near. And meditate on the things of God. Amen.
Let’s go to the Lord in prayer. Father, we just want to thank You for Your peace. Thank You God, that we can know You as the God of peace. We thank You God, that we can experience peace in our hearts when everyone and everything in the world around us is telling us that there will be calamity, that there will be the stress. I pray, Lord, that You will help us cultivate the attitudes and characteristics, the mindsets that are in your Word so that we can be guarded by Your peace. And I pray that You will bless us all to stay connected to You and connected to each other, even as we’re meeting virtually. And I pray that You will be glorified and in Christ’s name. Amen.