8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
As Christians, when we begin to live in this joy – because of the nearness of God, and through prayer and thanksgiving; God’s greater plan becomes activated in our lives. Not only do the concerns of our lives no longer become stresses or worries, and not only are we able to deal with those concerns with responsibility, gentleness, flexibility and nobility, this joy overflows to the world around us. This joy – this rejoicing – is not only an inward activity, but it becomes a public declaration.
In rejoicing in the midst of our life concerns, we can become that friend to a brother or sister who is buried under stress. We can be the friend who affirms that God is near, and in doing so we find that we are stepping into God’s greater and grander design. We are stepping into his plans, into His story.
Let’s ask that God’s joy would be put into practice in our lives, and that they would overflow not just so we can navigate the concerns of our life, but that we may be of service to all the people God brings into our lives. May we be as Paul was to the Philippian church.
Let’s worship to the song “Alive In You” (click here) by Jesus Culture and Kim Walker Smith.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul encourages us to pray with thanksgiving when faced with stress. In fact, when we are stressed or worried, it’s a signal. When worries appear, it is God’s formal invitation to pray. God is saying: “You and I need to have a talk right now.” Excuse yourself. Take a walk. It is an opportunity to step into conversation with God.
What is your heart response in the midst of all that is happening in your life?
What are practical ways you can respond to God’s invitation to talk while at work or school?
The blueprint for our conversation is one of gratitude. When we come to God with thanksgiving, in the midst of all the concerns of life, we can realize that we have been invited into the greatest joy we can possibly experience: stepping into relationship with Him.
God’s promise to us is that he will be with us – he will protect us and stand guard over us. God doesn’t say that we won’t have concerns. We will. But the promise is that those concerns won’t have us.
Lord, with thanksgiving, we present our requests to you. We won’t be anxious about anything because you promise to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus with the peace only you can give. Amen
Let’s worship to the song “Trust In You” (click here) by Lauren Daigle.
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
So often we are too busy to notice that God is right here beside us. Imagine how different we would handle the stresses of our lives if we understood this. Paul is reminding us that the Lord is near even when we’re smothered under the weight of too many tasks, too many expectations, too little finances, too much this, or too little that. The problem isn’t that God isn’t near, it’s that we forget that He is.
We’ve got the order backwards. We will often say: “I trust God, but these bills are overdue.” “I trust God, but my schoolwork is overwhelming me.” “I trust God, but my child is…” and so on. Instead, we can say: “My bills are overdue, but the Lord is near.” “My manager is treating me badly, but the Lord is near.”
What are the tendencies you have in dealing with life’s surprises and difficulties?
What are some statements that you can re-order in your life?
When we know that the God of the universe, our God, who is our Father, our Creator, is with us, we gain the perspective and courage we need to take on the issues of our life, all with a character that is noble, flexible, and gentle.
Lord we surrender our own programs and tactics, and instead step into Your desires for us – Your joy that produces peace, calm and courage to take on the concerns of our life. Amen
Let’s worship to the song “Here I Bow” (click here) by Brian & Jenn Johnson.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
When the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church, the church was experiencing severe stress and pressure and needed encouragement to make it through. Paul wrote this from prison, he himself under a tremendous amount of stress. Paul’s first line of advice? He said to “Rejoice! I will say it again: Rejoice!” The first step that Paul advises to overcoming stress is the same words that the prophet Habakkuk spoke. This points to God’s design for us: to worship, to follow, and to be with Him — to find our joy in Him.
Gordon Fee says this:
“Joy,” unmitigated, untrammeled joy, is…the distinctive mark of the believer in Christ Jesus…Christian joy is not the temporal kind, which comes and goes with one’s circumstances; rather, it is predicated altogether on one’s relationship with the Lord, and is thus an abiding, deeply spiritual quality of life. It finds expression in “rejoicing,” which is not a Christian option, but an imperative.
This joy comes from a deep knowledge of how things are ordered –
– How are things ordered in your life? If we are being honest, what is primary? What is secondary?
– This joy is also about a certainty; what was Paul so certain about? Are there certainties in your life?
Lord we declare our desire for You to be primary in our lives – for You to take priority, and for Your design to be the standard of rule. Amen
Let’s worship to the song “Not Afraid” (click here) by Jesus Culture.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
The prophet Habakkuk lived in a time when Israel was rife with violence, idolatry and injustice. Added to that was the looming threat of Babylon. He saw his people affected by so many evils and stresses like slavery, starvation and disease, and it drove him to lament to God with all of these concerns. Yet, in the midst of these excruciatingly stressful moments, he arrives at the conclusion to “rejoice” and be “joyful in God my Savior.”
We too experience intense moments of stress in our lives: whether it comes from work, home, relationships or from within. These concerns have real effect on our mental, physical and emotional well-being.
What is the source of stress and worry in your life?
For Habakkuk, what is the response that turns things around for him? What did that look like?
Lord, may you give us a God-given joy when the stresses of life come. Amen
Let’s worship to the song “Here Again” (click here) by Elevation Worship.