As Paul continues to wind down his letter to the Philippians, he shifts gears. He gives his readers a secret, his secret, to living a contented life. It is a lesson that we should all learn, but most of us struggle with this all of our lives.
Paul begins with the that fact that he was in a position that should have generated concern for himself by the Philippians. 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. Truly the Philipppians’ concern had never waned for Paul. They were among his greatest supporters. There was simply a time where they lacked opportunity to help him. They”revived” their concern for him while he had been imprisoned. They sent Epaphroditus to Paul with help while he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul rejoiced in the Lord due to their love and compassion.
Paul is not dissatisfied with this lot, though. Instead, he had learned to live no matter his circumstance. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Paul is content. Despite the fact that he is currently imprisoned by the Romans, he is content. He has learned how to be content in any circumstance.
Paul has experienced every circumstance imaginable. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; Paul seems to have been prosperous at one time in life, probably before his conversion to Christ. Since then, he has lived without that prosperity. He knows how to get along with both situations. Indeed, it seems that regardless, he will live the same now, whether has or has not.
Paul has learned the secret to living the contented life. in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. No matter the circumstance, whether he is hungry or full, suffering need or rolling in abundance, he knows how to remain content.
Paul has a center to his life that he turns to regardless of the circumstance. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Paul turns to the Lord no matter what his circumstance. If he is hungry, the Lord strengthens Him. If he is filled, the Lord strengthens him. If he has abundance, he turns to the Lord. If he is needy, he seeks the Lord. He faces all of his circumstances by depending on the Lord for strength.
Does that mean that he discounts the good the Philippians want to do for him? Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. No, he considers that to be supplied by the Lord through them. They have shared in both their abundance and their poverty. They have lived out their faith by supplying him and sharing with him.
Paul’s life would be a roller coaster for many. He has been up and down, rich and poor, hungry and filled. Yet, he lived a contented life. How? By seeking the Lord in all situations and circumstances.
Folks, I’m taking the day off. Off from working and off from writing. I love to write, but I haven’t taken a day off from work since our Disney vacation in May. I truly need this weekend. My son will be starting his first varsity football game and I’m going to mow the yard. I’ll see you good folks on Tuesday.
Yesterday I drunk 135 ounces of water. In fact, for the past six weeks, water is about all I’ve had. I gradually weaned myself off Diet Mountain Dews. I wrote the following tweet yesterday as well.
After quitting Diet Mountain Dews and drinking 99% water over the last month, I realize I’ve spent the majority of my life dehydrated.
I wonder how much better my track and cross-country days would have gone if I have been properly hydrated. Back then, we didn’t buy bottled water like we do these days. We didn’t have fancy bottles and jugs that we would purchase to tote our water around with us. In fact, back then, in my family, Coke was the norm and water the exception.
I would drink some water here and there from the water fountain throughout the day. I would be thirsty after a run, but never thought about being dehydrated.
Now I drink a liter before I leave home for work every day. Another bottle follows my run. A few more throughout the day. Another at dinner. Water is one of my drugs of choice now. I wake up craving water.
The woman at the well was dehydrated. She was spiritually dehydrated. Even though she was drawing water at a physical well, the water she most needed was what Jesus offered her. He would give her Living Water so that she would never thirst again.
You and I have been in that shape. We have been spiritually dehydrated. We have walked through a dry, dusty, thirsty world. We were incredibly parched and we didn’t even know it.
We lacked Living Water.
Do you remember what it was like to be spiritually dehydrated?
When we read the Bible, and if we believe it, then Caleb, one of the 12 spies, began fighting giants at the age of 85. In fact, Joshua gave him his choice of land. Caleb chose the mountain country where the giants were hold up. He wanted to take them on to finish out his life. The question we have to ask ourselves is how was he able to do this?
The Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us. We have to make some guesses and use some holy imagination to come up with some answers.
One is that Caleb stayed active his entire life. Due to the disobedience of Israel, Caleb marched around the desert for forty years with the other Israelites. He didn’t stop. He didn’t sit down. He didn’t retire. He was ready for the challenge physically as he headed to the mountains in the Promised Land.
Another possibility is his diet. If you read Exodus and Leviticus, you notice that Israel was restricted on their diet. They didn’t eat pork. Not getting bacon sounds like a sin, but it had to be healthy. There were lots of other restrictions, not to mention the manna and quail the Lord provided.
The final possibility is that it was simply the Lord. An entire generation died and another rose up during the forty years. Joshua and Caleb survived. It may be that Caleb was simply preserved by the Lord for the task that he received.
Caleb went to fight giants at 85. It may have been his activity. It could have been his diet. Either way, the Lord was involved. He was ready and willing to climb the mountains and take on greater challenges that would give the Lord glory, even at 85.
Are you prepared to fight giants in your life?
I wasn’t a Pete Rose fan growing up. In fact, I disliked him as much as any other baseball player I have ever seen.
No matter how I feel about Rose, though, I have to admit that he hustled. In fact, his nickname was “Charlie Hustle.”
We, who blog, hear a lot about hustling these days. I shouldn’t limit it to simply blogging, though. You hear in podcasts and vlogs as well. Hustle is the word. We are encouraged to get up early to hustle. We are pushed to stay up late to hustle. Hustling is talked about almost as much as tribes. It’s on of our buzzwords.
I was thinking about that recently and wondered how that related to our faith. Do we hustle in our relationship with Jesus?
Jesus, Himself, seemed to hustle. That’s not to say that he ever seemed to be in a hurry. He made his way to the teachers in the temple as a boy. He journeyed to his cousin, John, in order to be baptized. He ventured into the wilderness where he fasted for forty days. He even walked across the Sea of Galilee to catch up to his disciples.
Jesus was a hustler. He went where His Father directed Him. He sought to do the will of the Father.
Hustle was a characteristic our Lord and Savior. It ought to be a characteristic that we store in our tool belt as well. We should hustle in our relationships. We should hustle in our jobs and careers. We should hustle in our relationship with Christ.
We should be hustlers.
Are you a hustler?
I had a conversation with someone the other day. I had to wait a few days from the time I planned it until I was actually able to have it. That made an unpleasant task something I dreaded even more than I already had.
It doesn’t matter what the details were. It wasn’t performance based. Those are relatively easy. You break it down and go over it. It doesn’t approach being personal. It just is what it is.
My conversation was more about attitude and the like. These conversations are much more difficult. No one ever think they have a poor attitude. I know I never did. At least, not at first.
No, these conversations are much more personal. Folks take it as a personal attack. What you discuss directly affects the entire team. Not handling these things can make or break the team.
The question is, can a leopard change its stripes?
Trust me. I know I wrote that wrong. I did that on purpose. I wanted to make sure you’re awake.
I had to change my spots or stripes once. More than once. Constantly. How?
I had to realize that they needed to change. I began a slow process of changing them. It finally happened, but I realized that it’s a daily thing. I have to wake up and change my stripes and spots every day. It’s a never-ending process.
It’s similar to what we go through spiritually. We need for our stripes to change. It isn’t until that point that we are actually in position for them to be changed. We are “in Christ.” We become new creatures. More than just our stripes change. We become something new.
Can a leopard change its stripes?
Not on his own. He has to be made into a new creature for that to happen.
Have you been made into a new creature? Have your stripes been changed? Have you been changed?
Paul continues to wrap up his letter to the Philippians. After spending much of the letter discussing the role of the Gospel in their lives, he is giving them practical steps in how to live our their faith.
There are many things that we can think of and dwell on. We have many distractions in our lives. No matter what we encounter, God has things that He wants us to think and meditate on Paul goes through these in Philippians 4:8-9.
Finally, brethren. Paul continues his theme of family. He loves the Philippians like they are his own flesh and blood. He feels connected to them through Christ in a way that goes far beyond mere physical family relations.
whatever is true. Truth is at the heart of our faith. Without truth, there is no foundation for what we believe. Truth is so important that our God is the God of truth. It is so important that it is more than abstract. Truth is a person, how Jesus described Himself.
whatever is honorable. Here Paul describes that which goes far beyond most of the trivial things focus on. Instead, Paul describes that our focus should be on the higher things that derive from the Lord.
whatever is right. The word Paul uses here derives from the word righteousness. Along with what is honorable, our thoughts should be on what lines up with the righteousness of God.
whatever is pure. Purity is what is free from sin, holy, morally, and clean. We should be thinking on what is pure.
whatever is lovely. Paul is describing what is pleasing and attractive to God.
whatever is of good repute. Paul describes here what is highly regarded and well thought of.
if there is any excellence. Paul says that our thoughts should be on what is excellent. All of these things that were previously discussed are excellent.
and if anything worthy of praise. The same goes for praise. These things are meant to be praised.
dwell on these things. Paul finally gets around to saying that these things should be what our thoughts are made of. It goes beyond just merely thinking, though. They should be what we meditate on. These things are a bounty of food and we should partake continuously to nourish ourselves.
The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Paul pursued this type of life. This is what his thinking and meditation were made of. He taught this to the Philippians. They received his teaching. They heard his words. They viewed this in his life. He did more than just give lip service. He lived as an example for those who would follow Christ.
practice these things. After teaching the Philippians how to think and meditate, Paul didn’t leave it there. He encouraged them to live these out in their lives. He wanted them to make these what their lives were made up of.
and the God of peace will be with you. Since these eight things are from God, He will be with us as we think and meditate on these things.
Thinking and meditation is where it starts, but the Lord, though Paul, doesn’t leave us there. He wants us to focus on these things, but He does not want us to simply remain there. He wants these to become evident in our lives by practicing them in everything that we do.