Randall E. Ricker –
The title of today’s study is The Epistle to the Philippians. We will be talking about a New Testament book primarily.
A while back we did a study on the subject of the apostle Paul’s journeys in the Acts of the Apostles. We left him in a house in Rome awaiting trial. Basically he was under house arrest. He stayed in that house, or he may have been transferred to a prison. While he was there he wrote a number of letters. They call them epistles. One of those letters was to a town called Philippi. They call it the epistle to the Philippians. That’s what we are going to study today and see what we can learn from that.
If you would, turn in your Bibles to the epistle to the Philippians, or if you would rather just listen, that’s fine. I understand. It is right after Ephesians in the New Testament. We will start reading in Philippians 1:7. What we are going to do first of all is confirm that Paul was in prison when he wrote this very encouraging book. It is an amazingly encouraging book.
Philippians 1, verse 7: “…just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel [the good news], you all are partakers with me of grace.”
Notice he is talking about being in chains. Go on to verse 13.
Verse 13 of Philippians 1: “…so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord [brethren is just an old fashioned word for brothers], having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
It is talking again about being in prison.
Now we go to the end of the book. That’s not all we are going to study. We are going to study a lot in between here. If we go to the end of the book to Philippians 4:22, it says this: “All the saints greet you…”
The saints are people who are followers of God. It doesn’t mean saints in heaven, like some religions say. They are just followers of God.
Verse 22: “All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household.”
Where is Caesar’s household but in Rome. That is why we understand the Book of Philippians was written from Rome. We believe it to be written in the 60s A.D.
This town Philippi is in an area called Macedonia. It was an independent country back then, although under the Roman Empire, north of Greece. Now the town of Philippi would be located in northeastern Greece.
Let’s look at some highlights in Philippians. If you have a marker of any kind or bookmark, you may want to put it in Philippians because we are going to go back and forth between Philippians and a number of other Scriptures today.
Philippians 1, verse 1: “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons…”
This word “bishop” means supervisor or overseer. As the Church is organized it is actually quite a low rank in the Church, although I know some religions will have a high rank person called a bishop. But we see it as a supervisor, basically. It says with deacons. The deacons were people who were to be handling people’s physical needs, as opposed to their spiritual needs. Maybe they were making sure that widows were getting the help they needed and that sort of thing. The letter is to the members—the saints—and the people who were trying to lead them.
Continuing in verse 2 of Philippians 1: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel [gospel meaning “good news”] for the first day until now…”
When we were studying the Acts of the apostles, we studied the first day that Paul met the people in Philippi. Let’s go back there. Keep something in Philippians. We’ll be back there. Go to The Acts of the Apostles chapter 16 where it is talking about Paul.
Read Acts 16:7-15. In verse 13 we see Paul kept the Sabbath.
Lydia was the first convert in Europe.
CONFIDENT TO SUCCEED
Let’s go back to Philippians. That was Paul’s first experience with the Philippians. Now he gets to write them a letter. Philippians 1, verse 6: “…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…”
Paul wants us to have confidence. There is so much in the Book of Philippians about having confidence and being positive. Once God starts working with us, He will continue to work with us. Keep your place here and go to Hebrews chapter 6.
In the epistle to the Hebrews, also believed to be written by Paul, we read this in Hebrews 6, verse 9: “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you…”
Paul had already given people sort of a warning saying be careful that you don’t fall away. But then in verse 9 he says, “…we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”
To minister to somebody is not mysterious. It means to take care of them and do things for them. It is to serve them. We talk about serving the saints, the church, of course by extension we are to serve everyone we can. Paul writes even here that he is confident that people are going to make it.
Back to Romans 8 which is also written by Paul. There is no doubt about that. Romans chapter 8, we read verse 31: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
That is a very simple statement. Go on to verse 35.
Romans 8, verse 35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation [trials or trouble in our lives], or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It says nothing can separate us. It mentions angels. Why would an angel want to separate us, except realizing that there are angels who gave up their position. We call them demons now. We are warned in another epistle that we wrestle against principalities and against powers. It is talking about the demons who influence this world.
We wonder why there is so much evil in the world. Then we realize that people are influenced and driven to do things by the demons who are around us. They are not to be around us forever, but they are now. That is the present evil world we live in. We have to realize that it’s not necessarily the people who are to blame. They are often very much under the influence.
Let’s go back to Philippians chapter 1. Paul is encouraging people in so many places. Nothing can separate us. Only we can separate ourselves from God. Let’s go on in Philippians 1. I am going to be skipping a lot in Philippians because we want to get through this in one study, so I am just trying to pick out the highlights.
BE WITH CHRIST—WHERE?
Philippians 1, verse 22: “But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”
Paul was awaiting trial, and he figured he was going to be martyred. It turned out he wasn’t during this time he was in prison. It came later. He said wouldn’t it be better to die and be with Christ? People think that means he thought maybe he was going to go to heaven and be with Christ. We can’t jump to that conclusion. In I Thessalonians chapter 4 we read what is going to happen.
I Thessalonians 4, verse 14: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus [in other words, people who have died]. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
Notice it says that at the resurrection when Christ returns, the people will thus always be with the Lord. Where is He going to be? The answer is in the Book of Acts. In Acts chapter 1 it is referring to the time after Jesus Christ was resurrected and talking to His disciples. He was just about to go to heaven. Acts 1, verse 9: “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet [also called the Mount of Olives], which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.”
Christ went up to heaven from the Mount of Olives, and they say He is going to come back the same way. But He is going to come back down, so He will be on earth. If we are going to be with Christ, we are going to be on earth!
Go back to Philippians where Paul said he wanted to die and be with Christ. We can think of it this way. For someone who died 2,000 years ago, if they are resurrected, it is going to be as if it is the next waking moment. Then he will be with Christ.
Let’s go on to chapter 2 of Philippians. We have some instructions on how we are to be treating people. Philippians 2, verse 1: “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy…”
It is talking about affection. We should have affection for people and mercy on them. We try to cut people some slack. People are going to make mistakes, and we just need to get over it.
It says in verse 2: “…fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
We are to be in agreement as much as possible. We should have this love—out-going concern. We think of love as a conscious choice to do good for people. It has the affection and emotion there, too.
Continuing in Philippians 2, verse 3: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
So often we hear of churches where someone tries to get promoted to some high rank in the church. Maybe it will happen in business where someone tries to get promoted to some higher rank by stepping on everybody else. That is not the way to be. We are not to be selfishly ambitious and conceited, but we should have lowliness of mind. We are supposed to have a certain humility and esteem others better than ourselves. We are told in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament to love our neighbor as ourselves. Here it is like saying, love our neighbor more than ourselves.
Years ago we tried to choose some memory verses. We thought these verses are very good to remember for various reasons, whether it is how to live or doctrinal or whatever. Here is one in Philippians 2, verse 4 that I like: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
We hear of special interests where everybody has their own special interest group. They are all trying to get something done. As individuals, we are to look out for the interest of other people. What does the other person need? What are their needs or interests? What are their preferences? We do the best we can with that.
Philippians 2, verse 12: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”
He says in his presence or in his absence, or in other words, people don’t need to only be doing the right thing when the minister is watching. You think of the TV shows where the minister is coming over for Sunday chicken. Let’s be on our best behavior! No. We should be on our best behavior all the time. If we go back to Philippians 1:27 we see something like that, too.
Philippians 1, verse 27: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel [the good news]…”
Again he is saying whether I am there or not, I would like to hear that you are doing the right things.
MORE THAN ONE TIME FOR SALVATION
Back to Philippians 2:12 it says, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
There is the word “salvation.” We believe we are just biochemical beings with a limited life. In the Bible it even says, “the wages of sin is death,” so we realize we are going to have an end to our lives. The alternative is what’s called salvation where we are saved from that death. It is really that simple.
We might worry about people who have no relationship with God or people who have no interest. We might wonder what is going to happen to them? Do they have a chance for eternal life? We have studied this, and we see that it is not just people who are called now who have that opportunity. There are other opportunities as well. You will see this in a minute.
Let’s turn to Revelation, which is the last book in the Bible. We will read in Revelation chapter 4. This is after the return of Jesus Christ. Or for some who believe the Messiah has not come yet, it would be after the Messiah has come. Revelation 20, verse 4: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
This is talking about people who lost their lives because of their relationship with God. These are people described in the Hebrew Bible who were killed for various reasons in serving God, and the Christians who were, in this case, beheaded. It includes more than that. When a person chooses to have a relationship with God, they are giving their life to God, so this is people who have given their lives to God. It says “they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Going on to verse 5: “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.”
Notice if there is a first resurrection, there must be others! Let’s see what it says about another one. Let’s go on in Revelation 20 to verse 11 where we see another resurrection. Verse 11: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”
This cannot be the same people who were in that first resurrection, because it says they had already risen and that they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This must be the rest of the people.
It says “books were opened.” That same word “books” could be used for the Bible. In one place which I won’t go to right now, Paul even tells somebody to, “bring the books.” What books could they be but the Bible?
The Bible is opened to people who have never had the knowledge of or relationship with God. It is opened to them. Then they are judged by what they do with it over some period of time. They have an opportunity for eternal life just like people who are called now. We might worry about the billions of people who have no relationship with the God of the Bible. We may worry about our relatives and friends. We don’t have to worry about them. We know they will come up to that physical resurrection. It is a resurrection where they will have bodies again. They will live some amount of time, have the Bible opened to them, and then they will be judged on that. I think most of them will understand at that point
LIGHTS TO THE WORLD
Back to Philippians chapter 2, verse 14: “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have run in vain or labored in vain.”
We are to be lights. We are to be the light of the world that is in the midst of a generation that is heavily influenced by Satan and the demons. They are doing things and believing things they shouldn’t. Yet we are to be lights. We are supposed to be something different—something people can see.
Matthew chapter 5 also tells us we are to be lights. Christ is speaking to His students. Matthew chapter 5, verse 14: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
What is this light? We can guess, but let’s see what the Bible says. Turn back to Proverbs chapter 6. In Proverbs chapter 6, we will start reading in verse 20: “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck. When you roam, they will lead you; when you sleep, they will keep you; and when you awake, they will speak with you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life…”
It says the law is a light. God’s law is a light. It is a light to our paths. It shows us how we are to live. We are to be reflecting that light. Elsewhere in the Bible in various places, it says that Christ is represented by the sun. If Christ is the sun, we want to reflect His light, just like the moon reflects the light of the physical sun. We think of the Church being represented by the moon. As the moon reflects the light of the sun, we want to reflect the light of Christ by keeping the law—keeping the commandments. That is the light we are to be. We are to be keeping the commandments in all their intent.
Back to Philippians 2:17. In Philippians 2, we will continue to read in verse 17: “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”
He is talking about being poured out as a drink offering. In other words, he thought he was going to be martyred at this time. It turned out to be much later. But it says, “on the sacrifice and service of your faith.” It is as if the people he is speaking to are sacrifices. In a sense, we are. We are to be living sacrifices. I will explain that a little bit.
I Peter chapter 2 is the letter written by Peter. I Peter 2, verse 4: “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
It is saying that we are in a sense priests offering up spiritual sacrifices.
Go on to I Peter 2, verse 9: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…”
We are called into God’s light.
Continuing in verse 10: “…who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
The people who are Christians did not have a nation of their own. It isn’t like the nation of Israel who was a nation when God called them and used them. We have all these other people. There are all these Gentiles who are also being called. They were not a nation, but they offer spiritual sacrifices. You would have to think about how one would offer a spiritual sacrifice. Think of what the priests used to do. We know the priests used to teach. They taught in the temple, but there is something else they did, too. Go back to the Book of Joel. The books go Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, etc.
In Joel chapter 2, we will start reading in verse 12: “‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments…”
There was a tradition many centuries ago when people who got upset showed it by tearing their clothing. It is in the Bible. I don’t know why they did it, and I am glad we don’t. It is like an outward show to rend your heart. In other words, tear your heart, almost as if you are heartbroken over what you are doing wrong.
Continuing in verse 13: “…return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar; let them say, ‘Spare Your people, O Lord, and do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?” Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, and pity His people.’”
It talks about repentance first of all and to stop doing the things people should not be doing. It also talks about the priests weeping between the porch and the altar. They are asking God to spare people. They are interceding for people. That’s what we need to do. We need to pray to God that people who are the followers of God will develop God’s holy righteous character and learn to live more and more like God. We talk about character. That is understanding right from wrong and choosing the right and doing it every time. We also pray for those who don’t have a relationship with God yet, that God will basically hold things together.
We think of all the things going on in the world. So many things could escalate out of control where a lot of people would get hurt. All kinds of horrible things could happen. Yet we can pray as we intercede for the world that God holds things together and takes care of things. We know He has a plan to make everyone part of His family. That happens over time.
We know that from the time of Adam and Eve, people had a choice. They could have chosen the tree of life or the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They chose the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in other words, rejected God. Ever since then, God is only intervening when necessary as part of His overall plan. He lets a lot of things go by that we are very disturbed about, yet He does. He knows what He is doing. But we can still ask Him to intervene, and we should. Sometimes He does intervene.
THE COMMANDMENTS ARE RIGHTEOUSNESS
Back to Philippians chapter 3, verse 9, skipping ahead just a little bit. “…and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith…”
What is this righteousness? It is not from the law. In other words, it is not from the ritual law and not by keeping rituals. Soon after this the temple was destroyed. They could not have performed the rituals if they had wanted to. We should define righteousness. Keep your place here. I have another memory verse for you. This one is in Psalms 119.
Psalms 119, verse 172: “My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness.”
There is a Bible definition of righteousness. Instead of trying to define it ourselves, here it is for us. It is God’s commandments. In other words, keeping God’s commandments is righteousness. By having our faith, our faith enables us to develop the character to keep the commandments.
SALVATION IS A PROCESS
Back to Philippians chapter 3. We are going to go on to verse 12. Philippians 3, verse 12: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected [Paul knew he wasn’t perfect]; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren [in other words, brothers], I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul is saying he has not attained or laid hold of his reward or salvation. He is not perfected. He knows this is all in a process. Salvation that I talked about is a process. We can say we are saved in a sense. We can say we are being saved. If we go to Matthew chapter 10, we see that we shall be saved. Go to Matthew 10 for a moment.
Matthew 10, verse 22: “And you shall be hated by all for My name’s sake. [This is the part I was after here.] But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
We have to endure to the end of our lives. Then we can be saved. Back to Philippians.
In Philippians he said, forgetting those things which are behind. It is like, drop the excess baggage. We all have baggage. We have had various things happen to us through our lives. We don’t have to go into all of that, but things have happened to us that we just sometimes can’t let go. It may require forgiveness, or maybe they are bad habits. Whatever it is, we are being told to drop that stuff. Put it aside if it is hindering us and press on.
It talks about the upward call in verse 14 of Philippians 3. It is not saying we are being called to heaven. It does not say heaven. I am reading from what is called the New King James Version of the Bible. The Old King James calls it a high calling. There is something called the Interlinear Greek Bible. This is where you have all the Greek written out and right below it is written the English. It is “the calling on high.” Again, it is not saying we are going to go to heaven.
Let’s keep reading a little further in Philippians 3, verse 20: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”
I think of this as a definition of salvation. Jesus Christ has a glorious body. He went to heaven as a spirit being. He is going to live forever. It says, we will be conformed to His glorious body, which means our bodies are going to be like His. We are going to be like that, so this is a definition of salvation. It is being saved from some physical existence that is going to eventually die to a being that will never die. Eternal life is promised in the Bible.
Here is another definition in Revelation 21, which is the last book of the Bible. I would like to read Revelation 21, verse 7: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”
It talks about overcoming. We overcome ourselves. We talked about the excess baggage we have. We have to overcome Satan. We have talked about the influence of Satan and the demons. We have to overcome that. We have to overcome the world around us. There are people who are influenced by Satan and the demons who would drag us down. We have to overcome all these things. It says, I will be his God and he shall be my son.
It says, inherit all things. We should talk about that first. Where it says, “to inherit all things,” some translations say, “inherit the universe.” There is a huge universe out there with hundreds of billions of stars and hundreds of billions of galaxies. That universe was created by God. It is for us humans to inherit. It says, he shall be my son. We are to be sons, and by extension daughters of God. If we are a son of God and God is immortal, we will be immortal, too. It is just another way of stating what we see our reward to be. It is what our potential is.
Let’s go back to Philippians chapter 4, verse 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!”
Paul could even say this from prison! Rejoice and be happy! There are things to be happy about.
Continuing in verse 6: “Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.”
We are not to be anxious and not to be worrying. If we have a need, pray for it.
It says the peace of God will guard our hearts. In John chapter 14 is what I call the Bible definition of peace. I am talking about peace of mind here. We want peace between nations, but let’s talk about peace of mind. John 14, verse 27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Here Jesus Christ is talking about peace. He says, let not your heart be troubled and don’t be afraid. There is the definition of peace. It is not being troubled and not being afraid. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
Back to Philippians chapter 4, there is another memory verse if you like memory verses. Philippians 4, verse 8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble [another word for noble is honorable, in another translation], whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely…”
I don’t just think of a lovely person like a lovely wife, but it also means whatever things are acceptable.
Continuing in verse 8: “…whatever things are of good report [well spoken of], if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
Paul is telling us where our minds need to be. It is so easy to be negative and to be thinking about bad things that happen to us, or bad things that might happen to us, or the bad things in the world around us. Don’t dwell on that. Dwell on these things. He says, meditate on these things. These are the things we need to have our minds on. People can be much more positive, thinking about positive things and be a much more positive person to be with.
Go on to verse 11 of Philippians 4: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…”
Some days it’s like in whatever state I am I am discontent, and that is not right. We are supposed to be content. Paul learned that. He learned that lesson. He was in prison and was able to say this.
Verse 12: “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
Paul learned what the important things in life are and that he could be content. He knew he had a lot of things to be content about: his relationship with God and with other people. The physical surroundings that he was in were not going to hold him back.
Verse 13 of Philippians 4: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
With God helping us and strengthening us, we can do all things. We can do all the spiritual things we need to do in terms of growth and in a lot of other things, too. This is a way to fight depression. Realize that we do have help from God.
The Book of Numbers has an incident where someone was depressed. It was Moses. He was depressed and fearful. Remember when the Israelites left Egypt, at one point it says they had 600,000 men. One would think they would have had about that many women and probably a lot more children than that. They often had big families, so think of a few million people, and they were all after Moses! They were always complaining to Moses. They wanted food. They wanted meat. They wanted water. Whatever it was, they were complaining.
We come to Numbers chapter 11, verse 14 where Moses says this: “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.”
There are a couple of keys to his feelings here. He says, I am not able. “I can’t.” When we are depressed, it is often because we feel like we just can’t do something. He says, I can’t bear all these people alone. “Alone” is the other characteristic of depression. We feel alone. God took care of that here. He said get 70 people to help you. Get 70 men to help you with this. It would be a situation where Moses can do what needs to be done because he will have all kinds of people helping him, dividing the work. He can realize he is not alone to have 70 other people helping him, but also He has God helping him. That is what we need to realize. When we are feeling depressed or overwhelmed or whatever it might be, God is there to help us. And who knows how He will help us! He might help us directly in some way, or He may provide someone else to help us. We get help from unexpected areas and unexpected people.
Back to Philippians 4, we will continue in a similar vein. Philippians 4, verse 19: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
God will supply our needs. We have to remember that. The place we are told that is in Matthew chapter 6. Let’s try to put things in perspective. When a person is in prison like Paul was, he has time to think about it. He has time to put things in perspective, so we can learn from him. Now we will quote something a little bit earlier in the Bible.
Matthew 6, verse 25: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”
A cubit is a length of about a foot and a half to two feet.
Continuing in verse 28 of Matthew 6: “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
We are not to be worrying about the physical things. We do what we can. We support our families. We do what we need to do to take care of ourselves, but we are not to be worrying about this.
There is something even deeper here to think about though. A while ago I was talking about a verse where Paul talked about getting fruit from his labor, and I did not really dwell on it. Maybe I should have. Fruit means results. For us we also realize there is such a thing as the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, humbleness, and self-control. These things are good character traits to be developing. When it talks about food here, you might also think about the fruit that we are to be developing—the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Then it talks about clothing. Back in the Hebrew Bible it says, let your priests be clothed with righteousness. Clothing can picture our righteousness, and remember we defined righteousness as keeping God’s commandments. Think about the clothing here as keeping God’s commandments. If you want to dig a little deeper into this, the important things really are the spiritual fruits that we are developing and the spiritual clothing—the righteousness, keeping God’s commandments. We have the characteristics of what we call the fruits of the Spirit and keeping God’s commandments in their full intent. If we were doing our best to do this, we don’t have to be worrying. That’s how we enter the kingdom, and that’s how we seek God’s kingdom. We seek God’s kingdom by developing that righteous character that I talked about before.