Monday Reverb – 16October2023

WELCOME and THANKS for joining us.







Last year I adopted two golden retriever puppies, Bumi and Zuko. One of the most endearing things they do is greet me with all their excitement when I return home. They’ll run up to me wagging their tails, then run around looking for toys to bring me. Sometimes I’ll even let them be a little naughty and jump on me in their excitement.

On the flip side of their warm welcomes home, they struggled for many months whenever I left. Sometimes they would bark for up to ten minutes after I left the house before they settled down. Bumi would even start whining and barking if I walked into the other room. They became anxious when they couldn’t see me. It took them some time for them to learn that I would always return – I will never abandon them.

There is a story in the book of Exodus where Moses goes up to Mt. Horeb to meet with God. It seems to the Israelites that Moses is taking his sweet time and so they start to grow restless. Perhaps, something has happened to him, they wonder.

In the 106th Psalm, the psalmist writes a song about this, highlighting the failure of the Israelites to trust God, despite all that he had previously done for them.

At Horeb they made a calf and worshipped an idol cast from metal. They exchanged their glorious God for an image of a bull, which eats grass. They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt, miracles in the land of Ham and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.   Psalm 106:19-22

Rather than waiting for Moses to return, the Israelites decided to take matters into their own handsThey created a false image of God and his character rather than trusting in God’s unchanging continual care for them.

In times of uncertainty, we can become anxiousWe may be tempted to trust in things that we find around us to give us comfortWe look to created things rather than to our Creator for hope and meaning but our true comfort comes from Christ and his continual commitment to us.

Have you possibly fashioned idols in your life while growing impatient in seeing God work in and through you?

Remember when God has shown himself faithful to youWhere you have seen his provision, his grace, and his deliverance from difficult circumstances.

Return to these altars as memorials that the Father sees you, he sees Christ in you, and you in ChristYou never have to fear his return as he has promised to never leave you in the first place, but promises to live with you, and in you, by his Spirit.

Go ahead, feel elated, and jump up on the Master of your soul.  Let him know how glad you are to know that you can trust in his continual faithfulness.

I’m Cara Garrity, Speaking of Life.


Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Why do you think that we sometimes doubt God even when he continually shows himself faithful to us?
  • What idols have we fashioned for ourselves when we have grown impatient waiting for God’s timing?
  • What happens when we place our trust in other things besides God?
  • Name some specific incidents where you saw God come through for you.


11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, [b]take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”




Have We Lost Our Minds?

Philippians 4:1-9 (NIV)

Mark Twain once wrote, Of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most.1  While we can laugh at the humor of this statement, it still speaks to the importance of having a sound mind.  In fact, mindfulness has become an industry unto itself.

Today, we are going to be looking at a situation the Apostle Paul is forced to address in the Philippian church.  Two of its key leaders were caught in a dispute, and Paul tells them to be of the same mind in the Lord.

Paul is going to use this situation as an opportunity to teach the church about the importance of our thought-life.  We will see how these leaders had been caught up in the prideful mind.  We will talk about how to have a protected mind, and finally, how we can have a praiseworthy mind.

Philippians 4:1-9

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.  

I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.  [a]And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.  

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!   

Let your [b]gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.  

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.  

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.   The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.  

One of Paul’s main themes in his letters is his attention to our thought-life.  To the Romans he wrote:

Be transformed by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2 NIV).

To the Corinthians he wrote:

We have the mind of Christ and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16, 10:5 NIV)

To the Colossians he wrote

Set your minds on things above, where Christ is. (Colossians. 3:1 NIV)

And to his beloved disciple, Timothy, he wrote:

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)

The Prideful mind

Earlier in Philippians, Paul tells the church:

Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in Spirit and of one mind. (Philippians 2:2 NIV)

This certainly echoes with what we just read in chapter 4, that Euodia and Syntyche were also to be of the same mind.  It’s likely that this has been where Paul was going all along and what he has been building up to in chapter 4.  We don’t know what the nature of their dispute was, but whatever it was, it was causing problems for that congregation which was leading to a disruption of church unity and health.

Paul describes more of this prideful mindset in chapter 2.   A prideful mindset lacks humility and seeks its own interests rather than that of others.  It would seem then, that both women had lost their minds.  Or rather, the mindset of humility towards one another.  Instead, they were choosing to operate out of a prideful mindset.

Most of us can probably name someone we know who refuses to be wrong about anything, as if their entire identity is wrapped up in being correct.  If you can’t think of someone, perhaps it’s you.  All joking aside, none of us likes being wrong, or having our flaws or mistakes pointed out to us.  But what is so wrong with having the ability to not take ourselves so seriously or to be wrong about something?

The times in life where we admit being flawed or fallible make us even more relatable.  You can’t imagine how liberating it might be to be able to say, “I could be wrong.”  Having to be right, taking ourselves too seriously, and standing in quiet defiance of others, is just a short list of prideful thinking.  It is a cancer that eats away at our personal growth in Christ as well as the health of our congregations.  So, how do we move beyond this way of thinking?  Let’s take a closer look at the text.

The Protected Mind

Rejoice in the Lord always. I  will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near. 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. (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)

Did Paul just change the topic here?  I don’t think so, but I could be wrong.  See how freeing it is to say that?  But seriously, what could be better for a change of mind than rejoicing?

Knowing about our propensity to be anxious, Paul addresses that as well.  The Greek word for anxious means to be pulled in different directions.  One way leads to our hopes while the other leads to our fears.  For those who suffer from anxiety, you know how debilitating it can be, both emotionally and physically.  Anxiety inflicts the minds and imprisons us with scenarios of our own faulty imaginations.

Research has shown that 91% of all the things that we worry about never happen.2  The problem is that many live as if our fears have already been realized or they will be shortly.  Paul gives us the antidote to this and calls it prayer.  But the idea that Paul conveys here is for a deep affection and worship.  It is a relational understanding between two parties.

Prayer centers us.  It centers our minds back to what is true about us and God.  It is a worshipful trust in God’s loving nature, character, and posture towards his creation.

There is a scientific field of study known as neurotheology.  This is where scientists are discovering the effects of prayer on our brains; something that the ancients have known all along, scientists are just now catching on to.  Research is showing that even though toxic thoughts can cause brain damage, prayer can actually reverse that damage and cause the brain and body to thrive.

Dr. Caroline Leaf said, “It has been found that 12 minutes of daily focused prayer over an 8-week period can change the brain to such an extent that it can be measured on a brain scan.  This type of prayer increases activity in brain areas associated with social interaction, compassion, and sensitivity to others.”3  Sounds like information that Euodia and Syntyche could have used.

Verse 7 talks about the peace that accompanies our prayers which acts as a protection.  The term used here “guarding” gives a word picture of a soldier standing guard.

The Praiseworthy Mind

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.  (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

Paul concludes this section by reminding us to direct our thoughts toward those things that are excellent and praiseworthy.  In our day and age, we find a world that is anything but what Paul mentions as praiseworthy.  Whenever you consume the news or social media watch where your thoughts lead youAre these things triggering bad thinking?  Paul encourages us toward higher thinking which results in higher living.

The Holy Spirit translates to us the very mind and thoughts of ChristHis life has become our lifeIn him, we live, move, and have our beingThat includes the thoughts we think.

Letting carnal, selfish, prideful thoughts persist ultimately will undermine ourselves, our relationships, and our churchBut Paul has given us the cure to prideful thinking – the toxic thoughts which cause division and mistrust.

This leads to Paul’s conclusion in this passage:

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. (Philippians 4:9 NIV)

Our call is to rejoice in all that God has accomplished for us in Christ, to acknowledge that we have been forgiven, accepted, and given a new incorruptible life in ChristThis is what gives us peace – his peaceBecause of Jesus, we are seated in the heavenlies with the Father, Son, and SpiritWe are his inheritanceWe are his belovedIt’s all of grace and will always be all of grace.  This is truly worth rejoicing over.

Because of this, we have the privilege to enter God’s holy throne room with all boldness, spending time in his presence, finding the strength for reconciliation, servitude, humility, and fulfillmentWe have not lost our minds, but we have gained the mind of Christ.


Philippians 4:1-9 (NKJV)  Philippians 4:1-9 (NLT) 

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.  


I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.  


[a]And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.   

4 Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!  

Let your [b]gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.  

6 Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.  

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.   

The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.   

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters,[a] stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.

Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.  

And I ask you, my true partner,[b] to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.  

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — rejoice!   

Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.[c]

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everythingTell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me — everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.  


Small Group Discussion Questions

From the Sermon   

  • What are some of the consequences of having a prideful mindset?
  • Prayer is protection for our minds.  How have you seen your life or your thinking change after prayer?
  • What are some things that you find especially praiseworthy?
  • Come up with a gratitude list of at least 20 itemsShare that with someone else or your small group.


From William Barclay’s commentary on Philippians 4:1-9


Philippians 4:1

So, then, my brothers, whom I love and yearn for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

Through this passage breathes the warmth of Paul’s affection for his Philippian friends. He loves them and yearns for them. They are his joy and his crown. Those whom he had brought to Christ are his greatest joy when the shadows are closing about him. Any teacher knows what a thrill it is to point at some person who has done well and to be able to say: “That was one of my boys.”

There are vivid pictures behind the word when Paul says that the Philippians are his crown. There are two words for crown in Greek, and they have different backgrounds. There is diadema (GSN1238), which means the royal crown, the crown of kingship. And there is stephanos (GSN4735), the word used here, which itself has two backgrounds. (i) It was the crown of the victorious athlete at the Greek games. It was made of wild olive leaves, interwoven with green parsley, and bay leaves. To win that crown was the peak of the athlete’s ambition. (ii) It was the crown with which guests were crowned when they sat at a banquet, at some time of great joy. It is as if Paul said that the Philippians were the crown of all his toil; it is as if he said that at the final banquet of God they were his festal crown. There is no joy in the world like bringing another soul to Jesus Christ.

Three times in Php. 4:1-4 the words in the Lord occur. There are three great commands which Paul gives in the Lord.

(i) The Philippians are to stand fast in the Lord. Only with Jesus Christ can a man resist the seductions of temptation and the weakness of cowardice. The word Paul uses for stand fast (stekete, GSN4739) is the word which would be used for a soldier standing fast in the shock of battle, with the enemy surging down upon him. We know very well that there are some people in whose company it is easy to do the wrong thing and there are some in whose company it is easy to resist the wrong thing. Sometimes when we look back and remember some time when we took the wrong turning or fell to temptation or shamed ourselves, we say wistfully, thinking of someone whom we love: “If only he had been there, it would never have happened.” Our only safety against temptation is to be in the Lord, always feeling his presence around us and about us.

In vain the surge’s angry shock, In vain the drifting sands: Unharmed upon the eternal Rock The eternal City stands.

The Church and the individual Christian can stand fast only when they stand in Christ.

(ii) Paul bids Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. There can be no unity unless it is in Christ. In ordinary human affairs it repeatedly happens that the most diverse people are held together because they all give allegiance to a great leader. Their loyalty to each other depends entirely on their loyalty to him. Take the leader away, and the whole group would disintegrate into isolated and often warring units. Men can never really love each other until they love Christ. The brotherhood of man is impossible without the lordship of Christ.

(iii) Paul bids the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. The one thing all men need to learn about joy is that it has nothing to do with material things or with a man’s outward circumstances. It is the simple fact of human experience that a man living in the lap of luxury can be wretched and a man in the depths of poverty can overflow with joy. A man upon whom life has apparently inflicted no blows at all can be gloomily or peevishly discontented and a man upon whom life has inflicted every possible blow can be serenely joyful.

In his rectorial address to the students of St. Andrews University, J. M. Barrie quoted the immortal letter which Captain Scott of the Antarctic wrote to him, when the chill breath of death was already on his expedition: “We are pegging out in a very comfortless spot…. We are in a desperate state–feet frozen, etc., no fuel, and a long way from food, but it would do your heart good to be in our tent, to hear our songs and our cheery conversation.” The secret is this–that happiness depends not on things or on places, but always on persons. If we are with the right person, nothing else matters; and if we are not with the right person, nothing can make up for that absence. The Christian is in the Lord, the greatest of all friends; nothing can separate the Christian from his presence and so nothing can take away his joy.



Philippians 4:2-3

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you too, true comrade in my work, help these women, because they toiled with me in the gospel, together with Clement, and my other fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life.   

This is a passage about which we would very much like to know more. There is obvious drama behind it, heartbreak and great deeds, but of the dramatis personae we can only guess. First of all, there are certain problems to be settled in regard to the names. The King James Version speaks of Euodias and Syntyche. Syntyche is a woman’s name, and Euodias would be a man’s name. There was an ancient conjecture that Euodias and Syntyche were the Philippian jailor and his wife (Ac.16:25-34): that they had become leading figures in the Church at Philippi, and that they had quarrelled. But it is certain that the name is not Euodias but Euodia, as indeed the Revised Version, Moffatt, And the Revised Standard Version all print it; and Euodia is a woman’s name. Therefore, Euodia and Syntyche were two women who had quarrelled.

It may well have been that they were women in whose homes two of the house congregations of Philippi met. It is very interesting to see women playing so leading a part in the affairs of one of the early congregations for in Greece women remained very much in the background. It was the aim of the Greeks that a respectable woman should “see as little, hear as little and ask as little as possible.” A respectable woman never appeared on the street alone; she had her own apartments in the house and never joined the male members of the family even for meals. Least of all had she any part in public life. But Philippi was in Macedonia, and in Macedonia things were very different. There women had a freedom and a place which they had nowhere in the rest of Greece.

We can see this even in the narrative in Acts of Paul’s work in Macedonia. In Philippi Paul’s first contact was with the meeting for prayer by a riverside, and he spoke to the women who resorted there (Ac.16:13). Lydia was obviously a leading figure in Philippi (Ac.16:14). In Thessalonica many of the chief women were won for Christianity, and the same happened in Berea (Ac.17:4,12). The evidence of inscriptions points the same way. A wife erects a tomb for herself and for her husband out of their joint earnings, so she must have been in business. We even find monuments erected to women by public bodies. We know that in many of the Pauline Churches (for example, in Corinth), women had to be content with a very subordinate place. But it is well worth remembering, when we are thinking of the place of women in the early Church and of Paul’s attitude to them, that in the Macedonian Churches they clearly had a leading place.

There is another matter of doubt here. In this passage someone is addressed who is called in the Revised Standard Version true yokefellow. It is just barely possible that yokefellow is a proper name–Suzugos (GSN4805). The word for true is gnesios (GSN1103), which means genuine. And there may be a pun here. Paul may be saying: “I ask you, Sunzugos–and you are rightly named–to help.” If suzugos (GSN4805) is not a proper name, no one knows who is being addressed. All kinds of suggestions have been made. It has been suggested that the yokefellow is Paul’s wife, that he is the husband of Euodia or Syntyche called on to help his wife mend the quarrel, that it is Lydia, that it is Timothy, that it is Silas, that it is the minister of the Philippian Church. Maybe the best suggestion is that the referent, is to Epaphroditus, the bearer of the letter, and that Paul is entrusting him not only with the letter, but also with the task of making peace at Philippi. Of the Clement named we know nothing. There was later a famous Clement who was bishop of Rome and who may have known Paul, but it was a common name.

There are two things to be noted.

(i) It is significant that when there was a quarrel at Philippi, Paul mobilized the whole resources of the Church to mend it. He thought no effort too great to maintain the peace of the Church. A quarrelling Church is no Church at all, for it is one from which Christ has been shut out. No man can be at peace with God and at variance with his fellow-men.

(ii) It is a grim thought that all we know about Euodia and Syntyche is that they were two women who had quarrelled! It makes us think. Suppose our life was to be summed up in one sentence, what would that sentence be? Clement goes down to history as the peacemaker; Euodia and Syntyche go down as the breakers of the peace. Suppose we were to go down to history with one thing known about us, what would that one thing be?



Philippians 4:4-5

Rejoice in the Lord at all times. I will say it again–Rejoice! Let your gracious gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is near.   

Paul sets before the Philippians two great qualities of the Christian life.

(i) The first is the quality of joy. “Rejoice … I will say it again–Rejoice!” It is as if having said, “Rejoice!” there flashed into his mind a picture of all that was to come. He himself was lying in prison with almost certain death awaiting him; the Philippians were setting out on the Christian way, and dark days, dangers and persecutions inevitably lay ahead. So Paul says, “I know what I’m saying. I’ve thought of everything that can possibly happen. And still I say it–Rejoice!” Christian joy is independent of all things on earth because it has its source in the continual presence of Christ. Two lovers are always happy when they are together, no matter where they are. The Christian can never lose his joy because he can never lose Christ.

(ii) Paul goes on, as the King James Version has it: “Let your moderation be known to all men.” The word (epieikeia, GSN1932) translated moderation is one of the most untranslatable of all Greek words. The difficulty can be seen by the number of translations given of it. Wycliffe translates it patience; Tyndale, softness; Crammer, softness; The Geneva Bible, the patient mind; the Rheims Bible, modesty; the English Revised Version, forbearance (in the margin gentleness); Moffatt, forbearance; Weymouth, the forbearing spirit; the New English Bible, magnanimity. C. Kingsley Williams has: “Let all the world know that you will meet a man half-way.”

The Greeks themselves explained this word as “justice and something better than justice.” They said that epieikeia (GSN1932) ought to come in when strict justice became unjust because of its generality. There may be individual instances where a perfectly just law becomes unjust or where justice is not the same thing as equity. A man has the quality of epieikeia (GSN1932) if he knows when not to apply the strict letter of the law, when to relax justice and introduce mercy.

Let us take a simple example which meets every teacher almost every day. Here are two students. We correct their examination papers. We apply justice and find that one has eighty per cent and the other fifty per cent. But we go a little further and find that the man who got eighty per cent has been able to do his work in ideal conditions with books, leisure and peace to study, while the man who got fifty per cent is from a poor home and has inadequate equipment, or has been ill, or has recently come through some time of sorrow or strain. In justice this man deserves fifty per cent and no more; but epieikeia (GSN1932) will value his paper far higher than that.

Epieikeia (GSN1932) is the quality of the man who knows that regulations are not the last word and knows when not to apply the letter of the law. A kirk session may sit with the book of practice and procedure on the table in front of it and take every one of its decisions in strict accordance with the law of the Church; but there are times when the Christian treatment of some situation demands that that book of practice and procedure should not be regarded as the last word.

The Christian, as Paul sees it, is the man who knows that there is something beyond justice. When the woman taken in adultery was brought before him, Jesus could have applied the letter of the Law according to which she should have been stoned to death; but he went beyond justice. As far as justice goes, there is not one of us who deserves anything other than the condemnation of God, but he goes far beyond justice. Paul lays it down that the mark of a Christian in his personal relationships with his fellow-men must be that he knows when to insist on justice and when to remember that there is something beyond justice.

Why should a man be like this? Why should he have this joy and gracious gentleness in his life? Because, says Paul, the Lord is at hand. If we remember the coming triumph of Christ, we can never lose our hope and our joy. If we remember that life is short, we will not wish to enforce the stern justice which so often divides men but will wish to deal with men in love, as we hope that God will deal with us. Justice is human, but epieikeia (GSN1932) is divine.



Philippians 4:6-7

Do not worry about anything; but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all human thought, will stand sentinel over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

For the Philippians life was bound to be a worrying thing. Even to be a human being and so to be vulnerable to all the chances and the changes of this mortal life is in itself a worrying thing; and in the Early Church, to the normal worry of the human situation there was added the worry of being a Christian which meant taking one’s life in one’s hands. Paul’s solution is prayer. As M. R. Vincent puts it: “Peace is the fruit of believing prayer.” In this passage there is in brief compass a whole philosophy of prayer.

(i) Paul stresses that we can take everything to God in prayer. As it has been beautifully put: “There is nothing too great for God’s power; and nothing too small for his fatherly care.” A child may take anything, great or small, to a parent, sure that whatever happens to him is of interest there, his little triumphs and disappointments, his passing cuts and bruises; we may in exactly the same way take anything to God, sure of his interest and concern.

(ii) We can bring our prayers, our supplications and our requests to God; we can pray for ourselves. We can pray for forgiveness for the past, for the things we need in the present, and for help and guidance for the future. We can take our own past and present and future into the presence of God. We can pray for others. We can commend to God’s care those near and far who are within our memories and our hearts.

(iii) Paul lays it down that “thanksgiving must be the universal accompaniment of prayer.” The Christian must feel, as it has been put, that all his life he is, “as it were, suspended between past and present blessings.” Every prayer must surely include thanks for the great privilege of prayer itself. Paul insists that we must give thanks in everything, in sorrows and in joys alike. That implies two things. It implies gratitude and also perfect submission to the will of God. It is only when we are fully convinced that God is working all things together for good that we can really feel to him the perfect gratitude which believing prayer demands.

When we pray, we must always remember three things. We must remember the love of God, which ever desires only what is best for us. We must remember the wisdom of God, which alone knows what is best for us. We must remember the power of God, which alone can bring to pass that which is best for us. He who prays with a perfect trust in the love, wisdom and power of God will find God’s peace.

The result of believing prayer is that the peace of God will stand like a sentinel on guard upon our hearts. The word that Paul uses (phrourein, GSN5432) is the military word for standing on guard. That peace of God, says Paul, as the Revised Standard Version has it, passes all understanding. That does not mean that the peace of God is such a mystery that man’s mind cannot understand it, although that also is true. It means that the peace of God is so precious that man’s mind, with all its skill and all its knowledge, can never produce it. It can never be of man’s contriving; it is only of God’s giving. The way to peace is in prayer to entrust ourselves and all whom we hold dear to the loving hands of God.



Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things have the dignity of holiness on them, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are winsome, whatever things are fair-spoken, if there are any things which men count excellence, and if there are any things which bring men praise, think of the value of these things. Practise these things which you have teamed and received, and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The human mind will always set itself on something and Paul wished to be quite sure that the Philippians would set their minds on the right things. This is something of the utmost importance, because it is a law of life that, if a man thinks of something often enough, he will come to the stage when he cannot stop thinking about it. His thoughts will be quite literally in a groove out of which he cannot jerk them.  It is, therefore, of the first importance that a man should set his thoughts upon the fine things and here Paul makes a list of them.

There are the things which are true. Many things in this world are deceptive and illusory, promising what they can never perform, offering a specious peace and happiness which they can never supply. A man should always set his thoughts on the things which will not let him down.

There are the things which are, as the King James Version has it, honest. This is an archaic use of honest in the sense of honourable, as the Revised Standard Version translates it. The King James Version suggests in the margin venerable. The English Revised Version has honourable and suggests in the margin reverend Moffatt has worthy.

It can be seen from all this that the Greek (semnos, GSN4586) is difficult to translate. It is the word which is characteristically used of the gods and of the temples of the gods. When used to describe a man, it describes a person who, as it has been said, moves throughout the world as if it were the temple of God. Matthew Arnold suggested the translation nobly serious. But the word really describes that which has the dignity of holiness upon it. There are things in this world which are flippant and cheap and attractive to the light-minded; but it is on the things which are serious and dignified that the Christian will set his mind.

There are the things which are just. The word is dikaios (GSN1342), and the Greeks defined the man who is dikaios (GSN1342) as he who gives to gods and men what is their due. In other words, dikaios (GSN1342) is the word of duty faced and duty done. There are those who set their minds on pleasure, comfort and easy ways. The Christian’s thoughts are on duty to man and duty to God.

There are the things which are pure. The word is hagnos (GSN0053) and describes what is morally undefiled. When it is used ceremonially, it describes that which has been so cleansed that it is fit to be brought into the presence of God and used in his service. This world is full of things which are sordid and shabby and soiled and smutty. Many a man gets his mind into such a state that it soils everything of which it thinks. The Christian’s mind is set on the things which are pure; his thoughts are so clean that they can stand even the scrutiny of God.

There are the things which the King James Version and the Revised Standard call lovely. Moffatt translates attractive. Winsome is the best translation of all. The Greek is prosphiles (GSN4375), and it might be paraphrased as that which calls forth love. There are those whose minds are so set on vengeance and punishment that they call forth bitterness and fear in others. There are those whose minds are so set on criticism and rebuke that they call forth resentment in others. The mind of the Christian is set on the lovely things–kindness, sympathy, forbearance–so he is a winsome person, whom to see is to love.

There are the things which are, as the King James Version has it, of good report. In the margin the English Revised Version suggests gracious. Moffatt has high-toned. The Revised Standard Version has gracious. C. Kingsley Williams has whatever has a good name. It is not easy to get at the meaning of this word (euphema, GSN2163). It literally means fair-speaking, but it was specially connected with the holy silence at the beginning of a sacrifice in the presence of the gods. It might not be going too far to say that it describes the things which are fit for God to hear. There are far too many ugly words and false words and impure words in this world. On the lips and in the mind of the Christian there should be only words which are fit for God to hear.

Paul goes on, if there be any virtue. Both Moffatt and the Revised Standard Version use excellence instead of virtue. The word is arete (GSN0703). The odd fact is that, although arete (GSN0703) was one of the great classical words, Paul usually seems deliberately to avoid it and this is the only time it occurs in his writings. In classical thought it described every kind of excellence. It could describe the excellence of the ground in a field, the excellence of a tool for its purpose, the physical excellence of an animal, the excellence of the courage of a soldier, and the virtue of a man. Lightfoot suggests that with this word Paul calls in as an ally all that was excellent in the pagan background of his friends. It is as if he were saying, “If the old pagan idea of excellence, in which you were brought up, has any influence over you–think of that. Think of your past life at its very highest, to spur you on to the new heights of the Christian way.” The world has its impurities and its degradations but it has also its nobilities and its chivalries, and it is of the high things that the Christian must think.

Finally Paul says, if there be any praise. In one sense it is true that the Christian never thinks of the praise of men, but in another sense it is true that every good man is uplifted by the praise of good men. So Paul says that the Christian will live in such a way that he will neither conceitedly desire nor foolishly despise the praise of men.


Php. 4:8-9 (continued)

In this passage Paul lays down the way of true teaching.

He speaks of the things which the Philippians have learned. These are the things in which he personally instructed them. This stands for the personal interpretation of the gospel which Paul brought to them. He speaks of the things which the Philippians have received. The word is paralambanein (GSN3880) which characteristically means to accept a fixed tradition. This then stands for the accepted teaching of the Church which Paul had handed on to them.

From these two words we learn that teaching consists of two things.  It consists of handing on to men the accepted body of truth and doctrine which the whole Church holds; and it consists of illuminating that body of doctrine by the personal interpretation and instruction of the teacher. If we would teach or preach we must know the accepted body of the Church’s doctrine; and then we must pass it through our own minds and hand it on to others, both in its own simplicity and in the significances which our own experiences and our own thinking have given to it.

Paul goes further than that. He tells the Philippians to copy what they have heard and seen in himself.  Tragically few teachers and preachers can speak like that; and yet it remains true that personal example is an essential part of teaching. The teacher must demonstrate in action the truth which he expresses in words.

Finally, Paul tells his Philippian friends that, if they faithfully do all this, the God of peace will be with them. It is of great interest to study Paul’s titles for God.

(i) He is the God of peace. This, in fact, is his favourite title for God (Rom.16:20; 1Cor.14:33; 1Th. 5:23). To a Jew peace was never merely a negative thing, never merely the absence of trouble. It was everything which makes for a man’s highest good. Only in the friendship of God can a man find life as it was meant to be. But also to a Jew this peace issued specially in right relationships. It is only by the grace of God that we can enter into a right relationship with him and with our fellow-men. The God of peace is able to make life what it was meant to be by enabling us to enter into fellowship with himself and with our fellow-men.

(ii) He is the God of hope (Rom.15:13). Belief in God is the only thing which can keep a man from the ultimate despair. Only the sense of the grace of God can keep him from despairing about himself; and only the sense of the over-ruling providence of God can keep him from despairing about the world. The Psalmist sang: “Why are you cast down, 0 my soul?… Hope in God: for I shall again praise him, my help and my God” (Ps.42:11; Ps.43:5). F. W. Faber wrote:

For right is right, since God is God, And right the day must win; To doubt would be disloyalty, To falter would be sin.

The hope of the Christian is indestructible because it is founded on the eternal God.

(iii) He is the God of patience, of comfort, and of consolation (Rom.15:5; 2Cor.1:3). Here we have two great words. Patience is in Greek hupomone (GSN5281), which never means simply the ability to sit down and bear things but the ability to rise up and conquer them. God is he who gives us the power to use any experience to lend greatness and glory to life. God is, he in whom we learn to use joy and sorrow, success and failure, achievement and disappointment alike, to enrich and to ennoble life, to make us more useful to others and to bring us nearer to himself.  Consolation and comfort are the same Greek word paraklesis (GSN3874). Paraklesis is far more than soothing sympathy; it is encouragement. It is the help which not only puts an arm round a man but sends him out to face the world; it not only wipes away the tears but enables him to face the world with steady eyes. Paraklesis (GSN3874) is comfort and strength combined. God is he in whom any situation becomes our glory and in whom a man finds strength to go on gallantly when life has fallen in.

(iv) He is the God of love and peace (2 Cor.13:11). Here we are at the heart of the matter. Behind everything is that love of God which will never let us go, which bears with all our sinning, which will never cast us off, which never sentimentally weakens but always manfully strengthens a man for the battle of life.

Peace, hope, patience, comfort, love–these were the things which Paul found in God. Indeed “our sufficiency is from God” (2Cor.3:5).





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