Three Exhortations

SCRIPTURE

Philippians 4:4-5

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 {near}.

INTRODUCTION

In these two verses we find three exhortations…

  1. Rejoice in the LORD always.
  2. Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.
  3. The LORD is near!

FIRST EXHORTATION: REJOICE IN THE LORD

Paul’s appeal for the Philippians to rejoice in the LORD is not simply an encouragement: it is a challenge to their faith. The Philippians know Paul’s history. They remember how their church got started: Paul and Silas were locked in the dungeon of the jail and at mid-night, Paul and Silas were rejoicing in the LORD. They had been beaten with rods and were in chains but in the middle of the night, a prayer meeting turned into a praise service that woke up all the prisoners. The praise lead to an earth quake and the earth quake disturbed the balance of the bars and gates and suddenly, the prison doors were open. The jailor was about to take his life when Paul stopped him. The jailor, his wife and children are all members of First Baptist Philippi. So when Paul exhorts them to rejoice, they know that he is serious.

To Paul, “Rejoicing” during difficult circumstances was an expression of faith and he is right. Anyone can rejoice when things are going good. I can rejoice when things are going good but what about when things are going bad. Last October, a friend of mine ask me if I wanted to go as his guest to the Ole Miss/Alabama game in Oxford. We have been there several times and enjoy the setting at Ole Miss and so I agreed. His son was our driver and he also invited his pastor. Alabama did not play well. They had a two touchdown lead going into the fourth quarter and blew it. Alabama played not to lose instead of playing to win and it came back to bite them. My friend said to our party, lets just sit here and watch what happens. This is huge win for Ole Miss and they will tear the goal post down. This is going to be a historical moment and we can watch it in person.” I liked the idea and sat back down but his son said, “I have the keys and I am not staying.” He and his pastor were headed for the exits. My friend and I followed. On the way out of the stadium and walking to the parking lot, my friend engaged the Ole Miss fans: he said, “You guys have a good team and you deserved to win.” He was congratulating Ole Miss fans on their victory. All the other Alabama fans including myself, were walking in silence with their heads down. My friend stood out in the crowd. Rejoicing during difficult times is an expression of faith.

I suppose the question that is on our minds is: “How do we rejoice always, including the difficult times?” Rejoice is the verb but the LORD is the object. We can rejoice always when we rejoice IN the LORD. In the LORD is a prepositional phrase. Prepositions usually indicate location such as “The Puppy is on the floor” or “In the trash.” A prepositional phrase always ends with a noun, pronoun, gerund or clause which is the object of the preposition. Understand here the LORD is the direct object of the preposition. We rejoice “in” the LORD.

Paul when in the Philippian jail was not rejoicing over being beaten or being in chains: he was rejoicing in spite of those things but the object of his joy was Jesus. He was rejoicing in the LORD not in his circumstances. No one in their right mind would rejoice over cancer but in the midst of cancer, you can rejoice in the LORD. The Romans had taken Paul’s freedom and were en route to taking his life but they could not take his relationship to Christ and this was the secret to his joy.

If our joy is in Jesus and not our circumstances, we can always rejoice. You have to admit, a rejoicing Christian enhances their face value.

SECOND EXHORTATION: LET EVERYONE SEE THAT YOU ARE CONSIDERATE

I am not a bible scholar but I can use Blue Letter Bible which is a valuable tool to me. The Greek word that the NLT translates “Considerate” is the most highly debated word in NT translation. The NASB translates it spirit, the AV moderation, the NIV and NRSV gentleness, ESV reasonableness, Holman graciousness, Wycliffe patience, Tyndale softness, Geneva Bible patient mind, Rheims and Moffatt forbearance and Williams “A man who will meet you halfway.”

Literally in the Greek, it refers to a person who does not claim their legal rights in order to show mercy on another. It was used most in the forgiving of debts. In other words, a CONSIDERATE person is one who will yield his right of way. Legally, he is in the right but there is not wrong in him giving you his position, place or turn. A considerate person is the one who motions for you to go first at the four-way stop.

I had an unusual experience last Sunday evening: I got a call to a home where the father is dying with cancer. I was reading to him out of Philippians 4 which is a great passage for such an occasion. I intended to begin at verse 6 but I started reading at verse 4…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. When I finished reading the passage…it dawned on me that the man I was reading to epitomizes consideration. I saw him just a few weeks ago propped up in his bed writing Christmas cards to folks who had not even been to see him. That my friends is consideration. These folks had not done one thing for him but He was thinking about them. Before I left his room he said I have something for you. He had one of his sons pick up a gift for me and he presented it to me. Unbelievable, a man whose body was racked with pain, dying of cancer, thinking about his pastor. That my friend is consideration. The considerate man is not a legalist nor is he a law breaker, he is a peace maker. He does not insist on his own legal rights.

The considerate man is the one James alludes to in James 2:13,  There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. The considerate man shows mercy when he could apply the law. This does not make him a criminal, he had broken no law in showing mercy to another.

THE THIRD EXHORTATION IS: THE LORD IS NEAR

Whereas I like the NLT’s translation of consideration, they may have taken liberties in verse 5. Literally in the Greek it is the LORD is en-gü’s  which means near in place, position and time. Let me give you some examples:

  • Matthew 24:32… “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near [en-gü’s].
  • Matthew 24:33…So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near,  right at the door.
  • Matthew 26:18…And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near;  I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”

The LORD may be near in terms of His coming [parousia] but He is definitely near [en-gü’s] in place, position and time. I like what Paul says in Romans 10… But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth).  And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” In fact, it says, “The message is very close [en-gü’s] at hand;  it is on your lips and in your heart.” Christ is near us. He is not distant or remote. He is closer than the air your breathe.

I like what Paul said to the Athenians, “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. It would be unthinkable that God who transcends all of creation would not at the same time inhabit His creation. I am not saying that God is in the trees and rocks, that is pantheism but I am saying He is near. You do not have to hollow or climb a mountain. He is near. You don’t see Him because He does not want to be seen but He is near. If you could see into the spiritual dimension, you would see His angels and you would see HIM. This is where the pure in heart have an advantage, they see HIM. You are not alone: Christ is near.

Remember what Jesus said to his disciples on the eve of His crucifixion…The time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. Did anyone see the Father? Not that I am aware of but Jesus said I am not alone because the Father is with me. To use the presence of the Father was invisible but to Jesus it was very real.

Acts 23:11 in the NIV, The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” Wow! Is this incredible or what? Jesus may return soon, no one knows but we do know that He is not distant, He is very near. So near he can hear you whisper, so near He can hear you think. Be comforted by His presence.

CONCLUSION

A young man was married and had a 5 year old daughter. His wife was diagnosed with cancer and lived for only a couple of months. The day they laid her body to rest it was dark, dreary and raining. Both he and his daughter were in a state of shock, so much had happened so fast; it was like a bad dream and they could not wake up. After the service, after all the friends and extended family had gone home, it was just dad and daughter but it was late, way past bed time. They went up stairs to go to bed but the little girl was so troubled in heart that she begged daddy to let her sleep with him and he agreed. When she crawled into his bed, he cut the lamp light off and the room was very dark. The little girls said, “Daddy, it sure is dark in here, isn’t it?” The dad said, “Yes, baby it is dark.” The little girl said, “Daddy, this has been the darkest day of my life.” Daddy, fighting back tears said, “Yes honey, it has also been my darkest day.” The she rolled her head toward her daddy and said, “Daddy, is your face looking at me?” “Yes dear, I am looking right at you,” said dad. “I can’t see you daddy because it is too dark but can you love me through the darkness?” “Yes, yes my child, I can love you through the darkness,” and with that the dad reached and kissed her cheek and said gently, “Close your eyes and trust me, I am right beside you and I can love you through the dark.” The little girl went to sleep but the father could not. Finally, he slipped out of bed and got on his knees and cried out “O God, this is the darkest day of my life. Is Your face upon me. Can you love me through the darkness?” He heard a gentle whisper in the darkness, “My face is upon you and I can love you through the darkness.”

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