I cannot agree with the way some of the Bible publishers divide the Scripture into chapters and sections. I realize that by doing this it has made it easier for us to study and refer to text, and I am thankful for this. However, some mistakes were made and thoughts were divided, making it harder to understand. Today's scripture reference, from the NIV, is an example of this. The first line of Philippians 4 reads:
Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! v. 1
The "Therefore" and the "that is how" show this to be a conclusion to a thought on standing firm.
Okay, so they messed up a bit but are we not all curious now about how it is we can stand firm? I know I am. I am looking all the time for Scripture that will instruct me on how to serve better and how to remain strong. I think we all want to learn how we can stand firm in the face of the many battles we fight in a day. So often we crumble for the same reason the disciples fell asleep in the garden. Jesus told them bluntly, "The spirit is willing but the body is weak." Jesus warned them to watch and pray so that they would not fall into temptation. We want so much to stand firm for our Lord but under the onslaught of daily living our body can fail us.
What I mean by this is that we want to take the time to pray, to worship , to study Scripture but at the end of the day we have not done any of it. The day was long, it was hard, there were emergencies, you did not even get a chance to eat lunch. Now you are tired and your body and mind are calling for rest. Your spirit wants to worship but your body refuses to agree. This happens so often it becomes our routine so that we are satisfied with the thought, "God is pleased with my intention; he knows my desire." Perhaps, perhaps not, but worship, prayer and the Word are not just things that honour our Father. These things have a wonderful effect on us, helping us keep a proper perspective and keeping us connected to the source of all things. Without them we grow weaker.
This takes us back then to how Paul was instructing us to stand firm. He says, "that is how you should stand firm in the Lord". To find out what he is referring to we need to go back to the previous chapter where Paul was telling us to press on to our goal. Obviously, if we are occupied with completing this journey in a manner that we believe will please Jesus, it will keep us on our toes. Yet, there is something that Paul writes here that I think should be a great source of encouragement to stand firm, if only we would remind ourselves daily:
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. vs. 18-21
You can see the struggle there with the body's desires. In our tiredness, weariness we give in to the desires of the body, giving it priority over our spiritual needs. Some people would argue that God created our body with needs so we must be good stewards of what we have been given. Perhaps, but I also understand what Paul means when he writes:
Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)
Paul would not allow his body to dictate to his spirit but he forced his body to submit itself to his spirit. When the flesh is in charge it agrees that the things of this world are good and necessary. We will give priority to those needs, hours of entertainment, pleasurable distractions, maybe a little bit too much rest, a bit too much to eat. However, our mind cannot be occupied with the desires of the body if we are going to stand firm. We must remind ourselves that we do not belong to these things because our citizenship is found with Jesus, in the Kingdom of God. We need this reminder everyday as the visual effects of this world are so attractive to us and can distract us from the invisible qualities of the Kingdom. There is also a matter of expectation.
Paul said that we eagerly await a saviour from this Kingdom. In other words, we are eagerly waiting the return of Jesus. Maybe after 2,000 years we have gotten a little tired of waiting because I do not see a lot of daily eagerness in many of the believers. Most of us do not even give it a thought unless someone else brings it up. We conduct our lives as if this event, which all of creation yearns for, will ever happen. Just imagine the changes in us if we gained that perspective and entered every day as if it was the day that Jesus was returning for us. How would that change your behaviour, your thoughts, your attitude toward the desires of your body and the needs of your spirit?
Now, how do we stand firm under the daily onslaught of life? By pressing on toward our goal. More specifically, daily casting off any attraction to this place, reminding ourselves of our citizenship every day, and living each day as if it is the day of Jesus' return. In this way we will be able to keep our priorities straight. We will put the emphasis where it needs to be. We will understand the importance of worship, prayer, and the Word every day and this in turn will make us effective servants in this battle we are part of. My friends, regardless of what we face in the flesh we are first and foremost a child of the Kingdom of God. Act as one. Stand your ground mighty warrior and sing the praises of our King in the face of the enemy. Stand firm.
- Ho, my comrades, see the signal, waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing, victory is nigh.
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”
- See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on;
Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone!
- See the glorious banner waving! Hear the trumpet blow!
In our Leader’s Name we triumph over every foe.
- Fierce and long the battle rages, but our help is near;
Onward comes our great Commander, cheer, my comrades, cheer! - Philip P. Bliss