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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 4/1/2015

Robert Chen

Dear Church:


1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

10I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

It's like a Mini Hall of Fame of Favorite Bible Verses, those verses that are italicized. One of the reasons why the first two italicized passages are so well loved is that they are beautiful, direct commands that remind us how to act and think. The last italicized portion is well loved because Paul tells us that our contentment is not tied to material possession but to our being possessed, so to speak, by the Lord -- "I rejoice in the Lord."


{A minor commentary about this passage in reference to leadership: We know the church in Philippi met in Lydia's house. We are to presume that Lydia is one of the leaders of this house church. In verse 2 above, the names "Euodia" and "Syntyche" are female names and Paul says explicitly that these women helped him in the work of the gospel. The early church, like the one in Philippi, had women leaders in various capacities. To limit their roles in contemporary settings seem ironically anachronistic. Whether Euodia and Syntyche were good leaders might be a legitimate question. Whether they should be leaders at all is a misplaced question.}


Like any church, the church in Philippi had its own headaches, principally division. It seems like Euodia and Syntche were leaders who did not get along for whatever reason. That's why Paul urges both these women to be "of the same mind in the Lord." What exactly divided them we cannot know given the absence of reasons. But whatever the reason for the disagreement, Paul assumes that such disagreement can be overcome. 


So, in the midst of beautiful, inspiring commands to rejoice in the Lord always and to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, of excellence, we get a reminder of "real world" issue like church division and an allusion to Paul's own condition (who's writing this letter in prison! See Philippians 1:7, 13). 


Such is our Christian life! 


Beautiful, powerful, inspiring commands that are to be applied in the midst of real world challenges. The New Testament does not paint a "romantic" or idealistic world, a world without suffering or pain or injustice. The world that is depicted is the this world of the sometimes brutal 1st century Roman world. The Gospel of Jesus Christ confronts and transforms this hard, stubborn, sinful world. Without flinching, without escapism, without false promises, without mythology, the Gospel of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaims God's Great News of Victory over the Power of Death and Sin and the Devil, all the while using broken, fallible human beings called "followers of Jesus." Remarkable indeed. Frankly, hard to believe that this Gospel and a faulty band of believers could have any real impact on this mighty Roman world. But it did have a lasting impact! Remarkable.


Let's pray: Father God, we confess our weakness before you. Weakness that is natural and weakness that is sinful. Weakness that is near-sighted and weakness that is full of pride. We confess the other side however. We confess your greatness. Greatness that is merciful and greatness that is full of wisdom. Greatness that is powerful and greatness that is gentle. Most of all, we confess the amazing greatness of your steadfast, unyielding love for us, your children. We confess that you will uphold us even when we let go of ourselves in despair. Such is your greatness! Thank you, O God. In Jesus' name, Amen.