Lesson 309: Philippians 4:5…

Philippians 4:5 Let your gentleness be evident to all

Gentleness is such an important virtue that Paul wanted it to be evident to everyone. It should not be a hidden virtue, like prayer or generosity, but an open virtue for everyone to see. 

I am gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29), said Jesus. [Y]our king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey (Matthew 21:5), wrote Matthew. By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you (2 Corinthians 10:1), wrote Paul. And if someone is caught in a sin . . . restore that person gently (Galatians 6:1), wrote Paul again.

The world can be a brutal place, but Christians should be known for their gentleness. It should be evident to Republicans and Democrats, to Jews and Muslims, to heterosexuals and homosexuals, to the righteous and the wicked. Let your gentleness be evident to all, wrote Paul.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

High level stress is bad for our health. It can lead to headaches, upset stomach, high blood pressure, heart problems, skin problems, asthma, arthritis, depression, chest pain, insomnia and more. By one estimate, seventy-five percent of adult doctor visits are for stress related ailments. Paul had a stressful life, but he also learned to receive God’s peace.

Imagine a God who loves you like a son or daughter, and has secured an eternal home for you, in the best of all possible worlds (John 14:2). Imagine a God who numbers the hairs of your head, and has promised that not one will be lost (Matthew 10:30, Luke 21:18). Imagine a God who watches over you so carefully that nothing bad will ever happen to you, that he will not use for your good (Romans 8:28-29). Since all these things are true, Do not be anxious about anything.

Philippians 4:8 [W]hatever 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

Few things define us more than what we think about, and thankfully, we do not have to think about whatever pops into our head. God tells us what to think about, and he is the source of mental health. If you want to enjoy better mental health, all you have to do is think about what God says to think about. 

A study showed that most people have about two hundred negative thoughts a day, and depressed people have about six hundred negative thoughts a day. It also showed that the average person is in a bad mood about a hundred days a year. All we need to do to improve our state of mind is to follow Paul’s prescription. If we exchange one hundred negative thoughts for one hundred positive thoughts every day, our lives will improve considerably. 

Lucius Seneca (the Roman statesman and philosopher) lived at the same time as Paul, and may have been in Rome when Paul wrote this letter. Seneca was not a Christian, but he was highly regarded by the early church for his noble thoughts and character. I will govern my life and thoughts as if the whole world were to see the one and read the other, for what [good is it] to make anything a secret to my neighbor, when to God . . . all our privacies are open, he wrote. If this was the practice of a pagan, how much more should Christians govern their thoughts, and dwell on that which is good.

Philippians 4:11 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances

While Paul was under house arrest, he learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry (Philippians 4:12). With Job he cold say, Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21). Paul and Job both had God, and learned to be content with whatever God provided.

A professional athlete did not have much growing up, but eventually earned over ten million dollars a year. He had a wonderful home, a yacht, and several cars. But he considered himself poor because he was not a billionaire. But even billionaires should feel poor if they do not have Jesus Christ. What is a billion dollars, after all, when all you have is a few short years to enjoy it? 

But if you will inherit bottomless wealth, and have forever to enjoy it, then you are truly rich. Believers can be content with whatever they have because, soon enough, they will have all they could ever want. How sad to be a billionaire, and not have Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus

Paul was happy to receive financial support from the Philippians, and believed that God would meet their needs as well. Paul did not promise there would never be lean times, but that God would take care of them at all times.

Only once in my life was I without money and food at the same time. I was in my early twenties, and it was the night before payday. I was ready to go to bed hungry, but when I knelt to pray, I remembered a stack of returnable bottles in the basement. I took them to the store and had just enough for a loaf of bread, a carton of milk, and some peanut butter and jelly. I went to bed thanking God for meeting all my needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Reflection and Review
How do you manage stress?
How do you handle negative thoughts?
Would you rather be rich or content?