Which book of the Bible is my favorite? The one I am studying at the time! No matter how many times I have read or studied any book or section of His Word, God always presents a new and fresh application for my life at that moment. There is one book that I tend to re-read pretty often.
Philippians is the first book of the Bible that I studied in-depth, so it has an extra special place in my heart. With threads of joy woven throughout, it is the favorite of many and a great place to spend some time.
God spoke to me in the very first chapter (verse 6) about His faithfulness – “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” At the time I was struggling with not being good enough, perhaps even failing in my responsibilities and He gave me this personal note of freedom right there in the first verses!
Then, in the third chapter all the success and failures of the past and present, simply vanished when I looked at Paul’s comment about his own resume’. He was so proud of his righteous, law-abiding resume’ until he met Christ. Then he threw out his “righteousness” in exchange for righteousness from God through faith! While I knew that in theory, it became very real to me when Paul explained his experience. That’s part of the beauty of Philippians. Paul used his life as a relatable example.
I realized that my life was more than what I cooked for dinner, my job description, my parenting efforts, how my hair looked, what my house was like, my clothes, or any other goal of perfection I may have sought before. Any reward for those goals would be short-lived and of little lasting value. My mission became to walk in a manner worthy of what Christ did for me, to share that good news with all those around me, no matter where I was.
Paul finished that passage with an encouragement to press on. If his life was a race toward a goal, the finish line was heaven, and he was diligently reaching out toward that finish line. Not to end his life quickly, but to live it in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel 1:27” No distractions, no detours, no slacking off, but moving forward toward heaven, remembering that Christ paid my sin debt so that I could gain entrance.
Like Paul, during the study of Philippians, I determined that my life focus would be to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel that Christ paid for my entrance into heaven. Every aspect of my life simplified when I took on this “eternal perspective.”
Then, there are those days…you know the ones I mean…the days when worry, and dread, and even fear, creep into my heart and mind and I get bogged down, and even wallow (think pig in muddy pit) in discouragement, robbed of all joy.
Paul knew about those days too. In the fourth chapter he reminds us to
1 – Give it to Him – “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
2 – He will guard your heart and mind – “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
3 – Remember His goodness – “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Paul’s remedy for the battle in our mind? Get out of the muddy pit, give it to God, and get focused.
Peace with God (and of God) allowed Paul to retain his joy – not just peace, but joy – in all circumstances, even while he was in prison and likely to die soon. His freedom and focus allowed him to keep his eternal perspective so that he could look death in the face and proclaim…“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” Philippians 2:17
So, you and I can rejoice and press on today and all our remaining days, to encourage others to find freedom, and focus, and joy, in their race to the finish line!
“Brethren… one thing I do:
forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Writing prompt – The words that changed my heart, and direction of my life….
Lisa Worthey Smith
Lisa is a long-time Bible study leader and author of Oscar the Extraordinary Hummingbird (voted in the 50 Indie Books Worth Reading for 2016), a non-fiction account of a severely injured hummingbird she rehabilitated, and her own time of suffering. It includes a Study Guide with lessons on suffering in the life of a Christian.
Her newest work, The Wisdom Tree, scheduled to be released fall 2017, is the parable of an olive tree planted in the Garden of Gethsemane for a special purpose during the time of Jesus. He is fed nutrients (Scripture) by his wise worm-friend, Herm, and tenderly cared for by the Master of the garden. There are questions about our relationship with God and basic Christianity at the end of each chapter with Scripture answers in a Study Guide at the end – suitable for book clubs, homeschool, small group study, or personal growth.
Lisa, her husband, and their 21 pounds of cuteness wrapped in a Schnauzer suit, live in north Alabama.