December 30, 2015
I want to introduce you to Andrew Dragos. Andrew serves as the Managing Editor of Seedbed.com. Under his direction, Seedbed, which began with a single webpage four years ago has now become thousands upon thousands of webpages on numerous subdomains. He is responsible for the growth of the Seven Minute Seminary as one of our most popular online resources. Andrew, a graduate of Asbury Seminary, is an astute student of Scripture and capable theologian. He and his wife, Leigh, live in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and he works out of our Franklin Headquarters.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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.
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.
The ancient city of Philippi to whom Paul was writing was one of the privileged colonies outside of Rome that enjoyed Roman citizenship and all of the rights and supposed honor that came with that status. In this letter, their Apostle is trying to point them to a reality beyond their earthly citizenship and to get them to see that they belong to a truly everlasting kingdom, whose Lord is Jesus Christ (3:17-21).
Consider the first chapter in the letter, where Paul writes about his imprisonment (1:12-23). Also, remember that back in Acts 16, the people and government wrongly beat and jailed Paul and Silas. Now—how could his church in Philippi trust in its Roman citizenship when it was that same empire that held Paul captive? The irony is deep and penetrating.
They too, however, aren’t without trials—they’re suffering the same persecution that their apostle did when he was in their region (1:27ff). So at some level, their privilege of Roman citizenship has failed them, which is why they need spiritual encouragement from a person such as Paul.
Two thoughts come to mind as I reflect on this Scripture.
First, notice that his exhortation is to rejoice, to be gentle, not anxious, and to continue praying while offering thanksgiving. Then there’s a long list of virtues to think about: whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy. These certainly aren’t the first things I think about or do when I’m dealing with adversity or facing a crisis. Our human tendency is to gossip, profane, lie, get defensive, offer counter-attacks, despair, etc. You get the idea. The habits suggested by Paul are remarkably counterintuitive. But what would happen to the witness of the church if this was always our first reaction?
Second, notice that these virtues transcend our world, yet they are profoundly for this world. By thinking on the things above (the good, the true, and the beautiful, as another ancient tradition used to call it), we become, almost paradoxically, empowered to live holy lives here and now. By trusting in God’s everlasting kingdom, earthly kingdoms get put in proper perspective. This is our challenge during adversity. This is the challenge of Christian discipleship.
The thing we can’t miss in this is that the Christian hope is not in the least bit escapist. God’s kingdom is not about taking us from earth. Verse 3:21 reminds us that Jesus is actually coming down from heaven again to give us our promised, glorified bodies. Our hope is earthy, and it’s meeting us here. Ultimately, all of our prayers will be answered in the advent of a resurrected Savior who is returning to fulfill his promise to the church. Until then, and in this new year especially, may we fix our gaze on his everlasting kingdom.
1. How have you been let down this past year, either by our global unrest, or in your personal life?
2. Where do you draw your strength and healing from—fading distractions or the promise of God’s everlasting kingdom?
3. Can you say, as Paul does, “Whatever you have seen in me—put it into practice”? Can you make this a goal in the new year?
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J.D. Walt serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. firstname.lastname@example.org.