Practice These Things

Sunday, June 14, 2015, 6:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Trust Him.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 4 (Selected vv. ESV).

Be not Anxious (vv. 1, 4-7)

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, not just when things are going well, but when things are going badly, too. This message is for me just as much as it is for anyone else. We should be reasonable (rational), fair and patient in our dealings with others, not harsh or too strict, though we can be firm, where needed, and loving at the same time. Reasonable does not mean weak and yielding (compromising) in areas where we must stand firm in the Lord. Jesus was not weak, though he was reasonable and fair. Yet, we should focus our attention on what is really at stake, i.e. on what really matters in this life, and not nit-pick over non-essentials, or over what doesn’t really matter, especially in light of eternity. Non-essentials might be something like the direction the toilet paper is rolled or who did the dishes last.

Do not be anxious (worried, fearful) about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING we should pray, and with THANKSGIVING we should let our requests (petitions) be known to God. This means we need to trust the Lord in ALL things, believing that he has a plan and a purpose for it all, and that he is going to work it all out for our good. Worrying never changes anything. It only wears us down. When we worry, it means we don’t trust God with the circumstances of our lives. Now, this does not mean we don’t show concern or that we don’t grieve over serious issues of the heart, such as lives which are broken down and trapped by sin, or sinful rebellion in the church, or all the evil that is going on in the world. Not worrying about stuff does not equal complacency and apathy. We don’t stop caring, we just learn to trust God with our cares and to present them to him in prayer, believing and trusting in him to work it all out for our good.

When we fret and worry over our life’s circumstances, and we don’t trust God, and thus we internalize our feelings, this can turn into bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness and hatred, and it will come out when we are put under the fire via trials and tribulations. Then, what is in our hearts will spew forth out of our mouths. Yet, when we choose to not hold on to these things, and we choose to let go and to let God, and to forgive, and to trust God with the people and with the circumstances in our lives, then God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds against such things as suppressed resentment, bitterness, hatred, etc. This, however, does not mean, again, that we become apathetic or uncaring, but that we trust God, and that in that trust we rely upon him to direct our words and our actions for his glory.

Think on These (vv. 8-9)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

As I contemplated in my mind even this first item, I realized that “whatever is true” includes things we should not think about, so we have to look at the greater truth in the situation. What I mean is, when we worry, we may be thinking about the hard realities of our lives, i.e. what is truly going on, so that would be, in fact, truth, and yet the greater truth, which is what we should set our minds on is that God is in control of all things, his plans and purposes will not be thwarted, and that he is going to work out all things for good for those who love him and who are called according to his purposes. He’s got it covered. That is truth. And, that is what we should think about, rather than focus on our difficulties. Yet, in addition to that, we need to combat all of Satan’s lies coming against us with the truth of what God says in his word, and we should set our minds to think on those things.

The additional things on which we are to set our minds have to do with things which are good, just, honorable, praise worthy, pleasing and acceptable to God, though not necessarily to humans. Much of today’s modern church movement is focused on making humans feel happy, seeing that they are pleased, comfortable, non-threatened and non-offended, even if it means to compromise the truths of God’s word and his holiness and righteousness, which he has set forth for his church. They don’t want to say anything negative because it might upset people, and for fear they won’t come back, and they want them to come back. So, this is not about ignoring or compromising truth or pacifying humans or saying only what is pleasing and feel-good and which tickles itching ears. This is about thinking on what is good, pleasing, acceptable and honorable in God’s sight.

Paul didn’t just preach the Word. He lived the Word. He led by example as much as he led by what he taught. I don’t believe he was making claims to sinless perfection here, but I believe he was confident in the Lord that he was living an exemplary life and that he was walking the talk, and not merely talking the talk. So, with confidence in the Lord, in what the Lord Jesus was doing in and through his life, he encouraged the believers to put into practice, not only what he taught them, but what they saw lived out before them by his lifestyle and by his obedience to God and to the truths of God’s word, which he had also taught that they should obey. This reminds me of these words found in 1 Peter 5, which was addressed to the elders:

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (vv. 1-4).

So many leaders in the church today do not teach the truth, and so many do not lead by example in the ways of God, but they may lead by example in the ways of the world. So, we must be careful here that we don’t follow the wrong examples. Just because someone is a preacher of the Word does not mean that person is following Jesus Christ with their lives, or that they are teaching the truths of God’s Word, or that they even know Christ. So, we must test everything we hear, see and read against the Word of God, in the careful study of God’s Word, in comparing scripture with scripture and in interpreting scriptures within their context. The things we should put into practice, thus, are what are taught in scripture (in light of the New Covenant), and are what are holy, pure, honorable, and trustworthy. All the lessons learned in this 4th chapter of 1 Peter we should also put into practice.

To Be Content (vv. 10-13, 19-20, 23)

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

So, what is the lesson to be learned here? Paul is certainly not suggesting that we be satisfied with status quo, or with just coasting through life without a care in the world, or with living in spiritual mediocrity, or in sinful rebellion against Almighty God. He is not teaching apathy here. What he is teaching is that, regardless of our circumstances, primarily those over which we have no control, we place our trust in God and we don’t worry, grumble or complain. In fact, we rejoice in God. We believe God is completely sovereign over all things, and we believe that he will supply all that we need, but not necessarily all that we want or all of what we think we need in order to survive. God knows what we truly need. What we want is not always what is best for us. Sometimes the very things we fight against and we resist are the very things God intends in our lives for our good, that he might mature us, and that he might mold us into the image of Christ.

So many people take this (following) verse out of context and build belief systems around it which were not intended by the original context: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Obviously we must exercise reason and good judgment with this. God does not give us strength to do things which are sinful, which are against his will for our lives, and which are against his Word. Literally this verse should read, “For all things I have strength, in Christ's strengthening me.” Whether he had none or plenty, Christ’s strength was sufficient for him, not whether he was living in sin or whether he was walking in the Spirit, and not whether he was going his own way without regard for God or whether he was following Jesus with his life. Assumed in this passage is that Paul was leading an exemplary life, he was in fellowship with Christ, and he was walking in obedience to God’s Word and to God’s will for his life. Yet, even in his times of physical or emotional weakness, God’s grace was sufficient for him, for God’s/Christ’s power (strength) was perfected IN his weakness.

Trust Him / An Original Work / August 15, 2012
Based off Psalm 27:14

Wait for the Lord; be of courage;
Be strong and take heart today.
Do not fear when foes attack you.
Trust in God always.
He will rescue you in times
Of trouble and distress,
He’ll comfort you in all ways
As you trust Him with your life today.
Trust in Him always.

God is with you; He’ll not leave you.
You can always count on Him.
He will fulfill all He promised
Before you began.
His word teaches you
All that you need for this life.
Let Him lead you. Open your heart;
Let his truth envelope you today.
Listen and obey.

Love your Lord God; follow Jesus.
Repent of your sins today.
Make Him your Lord and your master;
Trust Him and obey.
Follow Him where’er He leads you
In His service; be His witness,
Telling others about Jesus’
Price that He did pay
For your sins always.

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