5 Let your forbearance be known to all men. The Lord is near.
6 In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every man’s understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, what things are true, what things are dignified, what things are righteous, what things are pure, what things are lovely, what things are well spoken of, if there is any virtue and if any praise, take account of these things.
9 The things which you have also learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace will be with you.
A life that lives Christ is calm, tranquil, peaceful, and quiet. A life of turmoil, on the contrary, is a life that lives Satan. Forbearance is the most important element of a tranquil life. Forbearance is reasonableness and consideration in dealing with others. To have forbearance is to deal with others without strictness of legal right. If we would live a calm life, we must have forbearance.
Forbearance includes patience and moderation, but goes beyond them. If you have forbearance, you will not argue with others, fight with them, or debate with them. You may have a great deal to say, but you will have patience and moderation in dealing with others and will not say anything in response to provocation or irritation.
Suppose a group of sisters live together. The most precious sister will be the one who is the most forbearing. When difficulties arise, she will be calm and quiet. Even if others offend her, she will not retaliate. Sisters who lack forbearance, however, may easily react when they are offended. In their living there is no calm, no tranquillity, no moderation. A proper Christian life is a life of calm. To live such a life means that we do not argue with people or fight with them.
Forbearance is versus rivalry and vainglory, two negative things mentioned by Paul. Forbearance is also opposed to murmurings and reasonings. Some saints are given to the pursuit of rivalry and vainglory, whereas others are given to murmurings and reasonings. Whenever we have rivalry, vainglory, murmurings, and reasonings, there is no calm, no tranquillity, no forbearance.
It is easy to teach this, but it is quite difficult to practice it. To live in this way requires grace.
In 4:5 Paul also says, “The Lord is near.” When we live Him, taking Him as our pattern and counting all things loss in order to gain Him, we sense that He is present with us. He is near both in space and in time. In space, He is close to us, ready to help; in time, He is at hand, coming soon. Since the Lord is near, what need is there for us to be troubled and stirred up?
When we live Christ, knowing that He is near, we should let others know our forbearance, our moderation. Again I say, this is the first aspect of the expression of a life which lives Christ. Be assured that whenever you live Christ, you will show forth such a forbearance, such a moderate and tranquil attitude. But when you are striving in rivalry for vainglory or when you are murmuring or reasoning, you do not have this forbearance. This lack of forbearance proves that you are not living Christ. The first test of our living Christ is whether or not we express forbearance.
In verse 6 Paul goes on to say, “In nothing be anxious.” Often when we hear bad news, we worry and fall into anxiety. Anxiety undermines the living of Christ. Instead of being anxious, in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving we should make our requests known to God. Then the peace of God will guard our hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus (v. 7). The peace of God saves us from worry and anxiety.
In verse 6 Paul charges us “in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” The words in everything refer to the many different things which happen to us day by day.
In our prayer to God there must be the essence of worship and fellowship, and also petitions for particular needs. Even if we do not have specific needs, we still need a time of prayer day by day to worship the Lord and have fellowship with Him. As we worship the Lord and have fellowship with Him in prayer, we enjoy communion with Him and practice the organic union with Him.
The issue, the result, of practicing the organic union with the Lord is that the peace of God guards our hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus (v. 7). The peace of God is actually God as peace (v. 9), infused into us through our fellowship with Him by prayer. This peace is the counterpoise of troubles and the antidote to anxiety (John 16:33).
Bad news or difficult situations may cause us to worry or to be anxious. We find the antidote to this anxiety when we pray, practice communion with God, and enjoy the organic union. Then spontaneously, even unconsciously, the peace of God is transfused into our inner being. This transfused peace becomes the counterpoise of trouble and becomes the antidote to anxiety. From experience we know that through prayer we receive this antidote to anxiety when the peace of God is infused into us. Having the peace of God as the counterpoise to our troubles does not mean that the troubles will disappear. The troubles remain, but we have a counterpoise. Furthermore, the poison of anxiety is still within us, but we have an antidote—the peace of God transfused into our being through our fellowship with God in prayer. When we enjoy God as our peace, we are made calm within.
As two leading aspects of the expression of a life that lives Christ, forbearance and fellowship cause us to remain calm inwardly. In this way we shall become a tranquil people. This does not mean, however, that nothing negative will happen to us. Rather, it means that we need not be disturbed by negative things. Do not complain about your living situation. Live Christ! The first expression of your living of Christ will be forbearance.
To say that we should be forbearing and free of anxiety does not mean that every day we shall receive only good news. Quite often Satan will send us bad news. But we need not be troubled by this bad news, for we have the peace of God, God Himself as peace, within us, guarding our inner feelings. However, if we would experience this peace of God, we need to pray and have fellowship with God.
In 4:5-7 Paul does not mention a third thing apart from forbearance and not having anxiety. Instead, he simply points out two important aspects of a life that lives Christ—that we have forbearance, but no anxiety. When we are forbearing and free from anxiety, we are kept tranquil and in a calm atmosphere. Then we can live Christ and have the full enjoyment of Christ.
Years ago, along with many other Christians, I considered Philippians 4:5-9 simply as an exhortation regarding ethics and behavior. I heard sermons on these verses which treated them in an ethical way. Even unbelievers quote Paul’s word favorably. Paul’s word surely is marvelous, far better than anything spoken by Confucius or Socrates. However, even when I was young, I was troubled deep within when I heard others quoting these verses with the intention of applying them merely as ethics or principles of behavior. But only after many years did I gain the proper understanding of these verses.
One day the Lord pointed out to me that what we have in 4:5-9 is the expression of a life that lives Christ. According to the context of the book of Philippians as a whole, these verses must be interpreted in such a way. As we have pointed out, in 1:21 Paul says, “To live is Christ.” In chapter two he goes on to present Christ as our pattern. Then according to chapter three, we see that we must count all things loss and as refuse that we may reach the goal and gain Christ to the uttermost. Finally, toward the end of this Epistle, Paul testifies that he can do all things in the One who empowers him. But between Paul’s word about pursuing Christ and his word about being empowered by Christ, he indicates that we should have a living that expresses Christ. To be sure, this expression should not simply be the expression of human ethics or morality. Rather, it must be the expression of the very Christ whom we are living out.
Suppose we have a kind of forbearance, prayer to deal with anxiety, and also have the six wonderful human virtues mentioned in verse 9, but we do not have Christ inside of us. If this is our situation, we are still empty and altogether lacking in reality.
How wonderful it is to realize that 4:5-9 shows us the clear expression of a life that lives Christ! In this portrait we see that we need forbearance and also an antidote for anxiety. Moreover, we need the six governing aspects of a life that lives Christ. It is truly marvelous to see these things! I hope that many among us, especially the young people, will pray about these matters, pray-read the verses which speak of them, have fellowship concerning them, and testify to one another about them. Here in Philippians there is a vast territory for us to explore and inexhaustible riches for us to search out and experience.
The Life Study of Philippians, Chapters 27-28, W. Lee