Stand Fast, Man! Philippians 4.1-4 in the Lord . . . key words.
Daniel Szakalski was skinny, red headed, freckle-faced and a bit of a rapscallion in class. While I thought he was adorable, I knew by the way his mom cozied up to me on the first day of school, I was to have my hands full with her son in my fourth grade class. She warned me he was not a 'reader' and the required reading thing was going to be tough . . . but then, I found just the right series for him, and Daniel became a reader! As his teacher, it brought me such joy to see his smiling face andhis proud mother's as well.
I think in small part that is how Paul felt about his little flock of believers in Philippi, calling them 'his joy and crown'. From far away and in prison, with joy in his heart and a gleam in his eye, he charged his friends: "So then, my brothers, whom I love and yearn for, my joy and crown, stand fast in the Lord, beloved."
Please pay careful attention to how Paul admonishes them, 'stand fast in the Lord'. Those three words in the Lord are key. Paul is not saying 'be tough, because you are made of strong stock. You can do this, Teri, because you are educated! Come on, Laura, you are a fighter, get going! Paul is saying, stand fastin the Lord- because heis strong, hewill give you strength, heis all you need. I do so love that, don't you?
And so I must ask,
What is weighing on you today? Hmmm . . . Are you worried about how you will take care of your parent(s)? Do you have a very lost loved one?? 'Pending medical results? 'Awaiting a callback from a would-be employer?
'Super stressed by work and a travel schedule you do not know how you will maintain?
'Overwhelmed with worry about your should-be-grown, should-be-independent son?
Or are you a new Christian in a Muslim country, or even in this country, wondering what will be your fate--joy in your own heart, yet already despised by your family? Picture with me Paul, composing these thoughts from his heart to yours 'Stand firm in the Lord. . . let nothing cause your faith to waver.' With love in my heart, compassion in my chest, I say the same to you, 'Do not give up hope ... nothing has caught God off guard! He sees you, he loves you, so stand in him.'
This past week, I learned my older, kinda' drifter brother is really hurting-very very sick and homeless(!) in the Bay Area. The range of emotions followed suit with my thoughts: How could this happen in my family? How did I not know he was so sick? How ... ? How ... ? And now, what do I do? I caught a flight and attempted triage of a sort - and after the better part of four days, and many bite-my-tongue, 'just be kind' talks with myself as I tried to navigate the system, flew home having not made too much progress with/for him. But I did love him well, as I will continue to do. In trying times, one thing I know for certain: my hope is in the Lord, and I must stand fast in him.
'And how about in times of disunity or times of discord? Even then, or is it, especially then-we must be in the Lord. Remember, Paul called us Christians [believers, followers of Christ, pick the one you like) to 'be like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind', back in chapter two of Philippians. Now take a look at specifics here in chapter four: "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life." In reality, in life, there will be differences . . . often in families. But in the Lord, we must reconcile. Why would Paul 'call out' these two women whose names we are hard pressed to pronounce? Several reasons-they mattered, he loved them, he loved the body of believers, and he knew that discord could disrupt the work of the Lord.
While Paul pleads and urges Euodia and Syntyche to get along, to the Philippians as a whole, he gives a clear command: rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
What does Paul mean by always, and how can he say such a thing? 'Always' means all the time, anywhere and everywhere, no matter the circumstances. Paul could command it of other believers because he demanded it of himself. Paul rejoiced in the Lord by intention and regardless of his personal circumstances.
There is another side to this in the Lord thing-when we choose to be in the Lord, i.e. to be a Christian, a Christ follower, we are God's joy and crown. When we choose to be in the Lord, he makes all things right; when we live our lives in the Lord, we can and are able to rejoice in him, no matter the circumstances. And that's the truth. I know. After trying to navigate 'the system', as a mother of lost boys, as a woman in a world which longs for the wrong things which never satisfy, living life in the Lord is the only answer.