Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July 17 - Philippians 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is Philippians 4. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • Paul asks two women (whom we know nothing else about) to end their quarrel and mend their relationship, and asks the rest of the church to help these two ladies reconcile.
  • We're told that we can rejoice always, and choose to never be anxious about anything. Why? How? Because the "Lord is near" (verse 5) and invites us to talk to Him about everything (vs. 6).
  • We're encouraged to discipline our minds to focus on positive things (vs 8) rather than the things that make us anxious.
  • Paul declares that he has learned the secret of being able to be content in any and every situation. What is that secret? Well, it probably has to do with knowing the Lord is near and invites us to talk to Him about everything, and focusing on positive things, since these ideas immediately precede Paul's declaration (in verses 11-12). And Paul says the secret is being content "through him who gives me strength" (verse 13). It's not about willing yourself to a new attitude based on your strength. It's about finding strength in Jesus to live God's will.
  • Paul spends most of the conclusion of this letter thanking the Philippians for giving back to God by contributing financially to his ministry (verses 10-20).

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We have the opportunity to live a very different kind of life. One marked by unity instead of division, by joy instead of sadness, by peace instead of anxiety, and contentment instead of dissatisfaction. You can live that life. But the key is not self-help, it's relying on God's help. This life comes not when we dwell on what we don't have, but when we talk to God about what we need, trusting Him, and we're thankful for what we have - mostly a relationship with God Himself, and we focus our thoughts on what is right, pure, etc.
  • When we give back to God financially (by, as the Philippians did) giving to a ministry devoted to God's mission, our offering actually goes up as a sacrifice to God (verse 18), we get "credit" in our account with God (verse 17), and we have the promise that God will meet our needs (verse 19). 

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Is your life characterized more by division, sadness, anxiety and dissatisfaction, or unity, joy, peace, and contentment? Which would you rather? You have a choice. You are not a victim of your circumstances. That life comes when we make the decision and a daily effort to focus on God and what's right, rather than on what's wrong. So make that decision right now. And think about what might help you to live out that decision moment-by-moment the rest of the day and this week.
  • If a "Bible letter" was written to you, would you be commended for generously giving back to God, as the Philippians were? Or are you honestly ignoring God and His Kingdom when it comes to finances, and spending all your money on you? How can you get to a place where you give back to God generously as He repeatedly commands you to? (The Bible actually talks about giving more than any other topic.) How might the idea that God promises to meet all your needs help you?