Do not be anxious about ANYTHING… Philippians 4:6
How, Paul? I don’t want to be anxious. What about this mess I am in? What about those health issues? What about this financial burden? What about that child who is wandering? What about my addicted friend who can’t seem to pull it together? What about the balls I am dropping, the deadlines, the school work, the laundry, the bills? How, Paul…how can I get to a place where I am not anxious about ANYTHING?
“…in EVERYTHING by PRAYER and SUPPLICATION with THANKSGIVING let your requests be known to God.” Pray. Ask. Remember gratitude.
“And the PEACE OF GOD, which SURPASSES all understanding, will GUARD your HEARTS and your MINDS in Christ Jesus.” Oh, how we need our hurting hearts and over-thinking minds guarded by the prince of peace.
Yes, there is hardship and suffering and evil and trials in this life. But there is also A LOT of GOOD. Paul goes on to say, “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.” (Philippians 4:8)
Paul closes the letter by saying that he has learned to be content in whatever situation he finds himself in. Whether brought low or abounding; whether in plenty or hunger; whether in abundance or need. He has learned the secret facing every circumstance: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). He says God is willing and able to “supply every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19).
Challenge: Practice gratitude…start a gratitude list. Practice dwelling on the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. It might mean turning off the news, taking a break from that group that tends to drag you into negative talk and gossip, or blocking a few social media feeds, but your heart and mind will be guarded, making room for the overflowing peace of God.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
Like Paul, we too have an upward call from God. Like Paul, we were created with purpose for purpose. Like Paul, we have unique skill sets, experiences, personalities, passions, and callings. Things the Creator set into motion as part of His Creation.
You might be thinking Paul is killing it here, and you are still trying to figure it out, or just trying to stay afloat, or feeling like things are falling apart around you.
Even Paul is still pressing on...dwelling not on triumphs or missteps that are behind, but straining toward what lies ahead. We can be effectively living in our calling and still have work to do. As long as we are still alive, we beg God for discernment and open doors around our calling, and then we press into it.
When we are stepping into our calling, we are in sync with how we were created and we are in sync with our overarching mission of glorifying God in the best way we can. In our calling, we will find that contentment, peace, purpose, and joy our souls crave.
Paul encourages us to forget past failures, missteps, hardships, and missed opportunities. Mourn them and then move on. Likewise, don’t perpetually dwell on past success and accomplishments, always looking back. Instead, strain forward to what lies AHEAD. Press into the still small voice from God. Press on to the glorious work of God in your life.
Questions: Do you feel like you are living out a calling from God, pressing into the work He has for you? If you are unsure where to start, we have created some worksheets at www.butGodMinistry.com/PathToPurpose
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3
Our culture tells us to look out for #1 (ourselves, of course!), that it’s all about our self-preservation and self-promotion. We should build our brand; our platform. But true to the upside-downness of the Kingdom of God, Paul says to look out for OTHERS first, count others more important, seek the interest of others over our own.
It isn’t about ignoring our well-being…that matters too. Paul follows the original statement with, “Look out not only to your own interests but also to the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:4) I think he is trying to say, “of course you need to look out for yourself, but it isn’t all – or even mostly – about you. Make sure you are looking out for others; in fact, make sure you are counting them more significant than yourself.”
WHAT IF we did this…what if we tried it for even one whole day? In all that we did, what if we put the interest of others above our own? What if we cheered more for others? What if we quickly volunteered for that thing no one wants to do? What if we went out of our way to meet the needs of others; to make their life easier even if it was inconvenient? What if we did that thing that never got done because no one stepped up to do it? What if we fed someone else before we ate a meal? What if we helped someone else get that thing we really wanted? What if we made a phone call to open a door for someone on a big dream or small need? What if we wished for the success of our neighbor more than us getting that thing we have been waiting on?
And then….WHAT IF others did the same for us? What an incredible, united, solid, healthy community it would be. But someone has to take the first step. Well, that first step was taken by Jesus. Jesus traded his holy residence for earth. Jesus traded his heavenly body for flesh. Jesus traded his throne for a cross. He looked out for us more than Himself. He took the first step, now we can do likewise. One day, guys. Then another. And another. Until it becomes a habit; becomes our life.
Challenge: Practice counting others as more significant today.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21
What are you living for? I mean, REALLY living for? Where do you spend your time? Where do your thoughts go? Play your goals out a few iterations…and then a few more…and then a few more. Where do you land? What are you really LIVING for? Because the core of what you are living for determines your course. Determines your joy. Determines your contentment. Determines your reaction to adversity and challenges. Determines where you will ultimately arrive. It’s the reaping and sowing truth embedded in creation.
Paul’s life is a beautiful example of living sold out for Jesus. For Paul, “to live is Christ.” He was all in for the Gospel. To know and tell of Christ…THIS is what he was living for. And with this strong and steady core, everything else flowed. He could have joy in the worst of circumstances because he KNEW God was sovereign and God would work it for good. He could brush off his enemies, like those in Philippi, because if the gospel was being rightly proclaimed, that is all that mattered. He could not fear what was around the corner, even death, because he knew “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He was living for Christ. And in death, he knew he would be with Christ for eternity.
Preachers had come into Ephesus attacking Paul. They were filled with pride, envy, and selfish ambition. When self is the motive, scarcity mentality sets in and others become the target of destruction. “For me to get a bigger piece of the pie, everyone else must get less or none at all,” scarcity and selfishness chant. But Jesus was who Paul lived for, and like Jesus, he didn’t waste his time defending himself here or counter-attacking. He consistently called out false teachers. But in this case, the true gospel was being proclaimed even when the motives were whack. They were against Paul, not Jesus.
With Paul’s rock-solid core in Christ, if he was attacked, but the Gospel was rightly presented…so be it. Because THIS is what Paul was living for…NOT himself, his following, his reputation, his legacy, his comfort. His goal was Christ known.
Questions: What do you want to be living for? How is it going so far?