This chapter is loaded with practical guidelines for the Christian life. Paul addresses one of the things that can rob your joy, which is disagreement between people. In this case, the disagreement is between two women (v.2). The altercation must have been serious enough to be mentioned in this public letter. Paul encourages these sisters in the faith to live in harmony with God and each other. This fits in with the theme of chapter 3, where we are exhorted to place the needs of others above our own.
The saying “you may not be who you think you are, but you are what you think” is clearly exemplified in v.8. That is to say, your thoughts will be expressed in your deeds and actions which in turn form your character. Therefore Paul advises the reader to focus on the good and beautiful in life, for this helps one to be positive in a negative world. In verse 8 the verb is “dwell” on these virtues, but in verse 9 the verb becomes “practice” these virtues. Such virtues should also be the standard by which a Christian gauges all entertainment and leisure activities.
To be content in whatever situation is the basis of joy, especially for Paul who was imprisoned at the time of writing this letter (v.11). There is a need to find contentment with what one has, without continually seeking to acquire more.
Questions for contemplation: Am I content? Or do I continuously consider the next acquisition in a frenzy for more, bigger and better? To be content is what brings joy in whatever situation we find ourselves. As previously noted, “comparison kills contentment.”
The emphasis of verse 13 is on Christ who gives strength. This is a fusion of the human will and divine power. We are able to do great things, not in our own ability, but in dependence upon God. We can therefore face today and tackle whatever comes our way, not because of who we are or what we had for breakfast, but because of the connection we have with the Living Christ.
The summation of Philippians is what we discovered previously: JOY comes when we place Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last!
Edward A. Appollis