Lord, You are great and worthy of my trust at all times and in all situations! Help me stand firm in You and rejoice in You. Help me not to be anxious but instead to bring my cares to You with thanksgiving. Father, help me train my mind to dwell on what is true, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read Philippians 4
As we’ve seen in the first three chapters, Paul wanted to warn the believers in Philippi about several threats to the gospel: those who would imprison them; those who would require them to be circumcised; those whose gods are their stomachs and who live with their minds on earthly things; and potentially the Philippians themselves, if they were not walking in unity with one another.
DEALING WITH CONFLICT
Learn some ‘Relational Wisdom’ below.
Philippians 4:1–9 Paul wanted them to stand firm in the Lord, so he encouraged them to pursue unity by remembering the way Christ lived, as a humble servant who poured out His life as a sacrifice for others.
If Christ, the Son of God, could serve them this way, then Paul wants to know how exactly is it that the Philippian church can’t get along with each other. Should they not be genuinely concerned for the welfare of one another—without complaining or arguing? Shouldn’t they be putting the interests of others ahead of their own?
Multiple times in the letter, Paul called them to “conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel,” to be “like-minded,” and “not complain or argue.” And then he mentioned two women by name, criticizing them publicly, so he might plead with them to agree with each other “in the Lord.” He even called on a mediator to help them.
Paul then called the church to “rejoice in the Lord always!” They could think back to Paul’s example of singing hymns in the jail in Philippi, still rejoicing in the Lord after being flogged and put in chains.
We, too, have such grounds for this rejoicing—not in our changing circumstances but in the unchanging, finished work of Christ. Why? Because, in short, our sins have been forgiven! Whatever difficulties and trials we face here, we are ultimately looking forward to heaven. Jesus took our sins upon Himself and paid the penalty we deserved. As those who have put our faith in Christ and repented of our sin, we are now called sons and daughters of God and will one day enjoy eternity in heaven with Him—free from sin and sorrow.
And Can It Be, by Charles Wesley
He left His Father’s throne above, So free, so infinite His grace.
Humbled Himself in matchless love, And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free, For, O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free, For, O my God, it found out me!
Then Paul called them to be known for “gentleness,” for their self-denying kindness. They should be known not as those who promote themselves but as those who don’t think about themselves much. Why? Because the Lord is near! He is not far off, so how can we boast in ourselves? “What do you have that you did not receive?” Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 4:7. Again, he is reminding us of the humility he spoke of in Philippians 2.
As we remember who we are compared to the glory of our Savior, we realize it does us no good to worry about things; God is in control. We should trust Him. We should present our requests to Him, and His peace will guard our hearts.
Yet, Paul said, while we wait for our Savior from heaven, we should think about what is true and noble, excellent and praiseworthy. Whatever these Christians have seen in him or learned from him, they should put into practice, imitating either his life or the lives of people like Epaphroditus and Timothy. Put those things into practice, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:10–23 Paul ended his letter with heartfelt thanksgiving for the Philippians’ partnership in the gospel through the years. They have helped Paul over and over again, sending him gifts of money and even sending one of their members, Epaphroditus, to help him while he was in prison. Such help is a “fragrant offering,” pleasing to God.
Clearly, Paul cared for the Philippians. In the first chapter, he prayed with joy because of their partnership. In the second, he called them his dear friends and planned to send Epaphroditus safely back to them so they might be glad and he might feel less anxiety. Finally, he told them how he loved and longed for them, calling them “his joy and crown.”
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8 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.
- God is all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Do you pray about the things that worry you? Do you cast your cares upon Him, knowing He cares for you? Do you take time to be still before Him, remembering He is the God of peace? Do you dwell in the shadow of the Almighty, believing God works all things for the good of those who love Him?
- Are there ways you spend time thinking about what is false, wrong, dishonorable, impure, ugly, or shameful? We can train our minds to think of good things. Perhaps we should fill our minds with good and true things in an effort to replace the evil thoughts that too often rise to the surface.
- Talk with your pastor or a church leader about ways your church partners with other churches in their evangelism—either locally or overseas. Think about how you can encourage them in this work of partnership. In fact, plan with another disciple to do just that.
- Visit one culturally different store or restaurant in your area, and learn where the owners are from by discovering their native language. Let’s revisit the Person of Peace again below. Remember Lydia, the person of peace in Philippi? Be alert to people of peace as you visit. [All Peoples]
- Write out a prayer of intercession to share with your Deepen Discipleship group that incorporates prayer for your group, your city, your country, Christians in other countries, and an unreached people group. [Spiritual Disciplines, Teaching Simply]
AS WE LIVE OUR LIVES, BE ALERT TO DISCOVER “PERSONS OF PEACE.”
READ AND LEARN
Missionaries and church planters talk about finding “persons of peace” in a neighborhood, city, or marketplace. Often the person of peace will have friends and relatives who are open to gospel witness and are welcoming to followers of Jesus. Finding them is but one “tool of the trade” that assists us in locating those in whom God may be at work in a community. Often, these people or “households of peace” are like a gateway relationship into a family, neighborhood, or community. Consider prayerfully seeking them out as you go about living more intentionally.
While we’re not required by Scripture to use this approach, we can see this pattern or principle in the New Testament:
- Luke 7:1–10 (The Centurion)
- John 4:1–30 (The Samaritan Woman)
- Acts 8:26–40 (The Ethiopian Eunuch)
- Acts 10:9–11:1 (Cornelius)
- Acts 16:13–15 (Lydia)
- Acts 16:22–38 (The Philippian Jailer)
We can often recognize the person of peace because they will:
- welcome you
- receive you
- be open to you and your friendship
- be open to what you have to say about Jesus
- be interested in and open to the life you live as a follower of Jesus
- assist or serve you in some ways
Review the passages above and look for these six characteristics.
GO AND DO
As you go about your daily life, learn to pray and be alert to these people of peace. Be intentional; look for them. Calibrate your spiritual radar so you can “catch” the opportunities God provides as you simply pray and look around.
Be intentional about seeking out people of peace, and expect that God will be at work in some. Only the Holy Spirit can open blind eyes and change hearts and grant repentance and faith in Christ. Pray to encounter people of peace, listen to and learn their stories, and then be ready to tell your own story (testimony). Finally, though, be sure to tell them the gospel.
As you meet these potential people of peace, remember to let Jesus be the filter. We go in Jesus’ name, with His authority to be and make disciples, so we need not fear if we meet some people who are NOT people of peace. It’s true that some won’t welcome us or want our friendship. As we identify with Jesus, they may reject us. They may not be open to friendship with us. That’s okay—Jesus is a divisive person. Let Jesus be the filter.
Consider the following ideas for finding persons of peace and plan some of these with your group:
- Bold prayer: Pray and ask for Persons of Peace to be brought across your daily paths.
- Prayer walking: Prayer walk in different kinds of neighborhoods and communities.
- Meet people: Get out and be with people. Spend time in strategic places and areas the Spirit has laid on your heart as you have prayed and talked with others.
- Intentionally sow broadly: Actively go to a number of places and people—as the old adage goes, don’t just fish in one pond.
- Tell them the gospel: In your conversations, use Jesus and the gospel as your filter.
- Use honest questions: Ask questions about their passions, difficulties, and things that are important to them. Ask if they are interested in learning about Jesus. Ask them if they know others who may be interested.
- Urge a response: Invite them to respond to the gospel, and invite them to learn more about Jesus in the Word.
- Reconnecting: Ask for their contact information so you can reconnect and continue the conversation.
- Remember the Spirit: Regardless of how you think it went, expect that God the Spirit is at work bringing conviction and opening hearts—expect the unexpected.
Check out the below resource for some practical ways to find People of Peace.