Feeding the Thousands, Again

Mark 8

Saturday, July 30, 2022

I’ll be honest I forget sometimes that there is the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand.  The feeding of the five thousand has a bigger number so I usually remember that and not the four thousand, but today I would like to talk about the feeding of the four thousand and one story after that.  The story starts out by saying that there was a large crowd of four thousand who were following and listening to Jesus. They had been following for three days without food.

I want to stop quick and highlight the fact that there were four thousand people.  Sometimes big numbers become a statistic and you forget how big they are. So, stop for a moment and think about how many that is.  For example, in Minnesota the average number of students in a school district is about two thousand five hundred through 13 grades!  It’s almost double that number of people. That’s a lot!

That crowd had been following Jesus for three days without food.  The fact that there were four thousand still there is amazing.  They wanted to learn so much they went three days without food, and they still were trying to learn even with hunger getting worse every moment.  The chapter also says that if they sent the people home they would faint.  The disciples asked Jesus where they would find enough food.  Of course, like before, Jesus asks how many loaves of bread they have, and after that proceeds to feed everyone with seven loaves and a few fish.  

What I find as an interesting detail is that he didn’t give them just enough to keep them going but it says that he gave enough for them to be satisfied.  Which probably means more than one loaf per person.  That means he took 7 loaves of bread and made it into at least four thousand loaves if not eight thousand.  To give some statistics, that’s probably over a thousand times what they started with.  That blows my mind!

A few verses later Jesus and the Disciples are in a boat but they have forgotten to take any of the bread they had just gotten from Jesus feeding the four thousand.  The disciples start talking about how they have no bread.  This is only a little after Jesus has just provided for four thousand yet they are concerned about not having food.  That’s crazy!  They just saw him provide yet it’s as if they’ve forgotten.  Jesus notices them talking about this and points out that he provided for the five thousand then the four thousand.  He then tells them “Do you not understand?”  That is a great question. Do we understand?  I’d encourage you to go read those few verses again as I think it’s better put there.  

Jesus provided for them when they needed it as he will also provide for us when we need it.  Let’s try and remember this in our daily lives.

-Philip Kirkpatrick

Application Questions

  1. Could you have followed for three days or more without food? Have you ever tried fasting – giving up food and/or other distractions to spend more time listening to and drawing closer to God and His Son, Jesus?
  2. Do you worry too much about the day to day worries of life?
  3. What has already been provided for you? How can remembering these things help replace worry with peace and satisfaction?

To Worry or Not to Worry

Matthew 6

January 6

What do you find yourself worrying about?

Finances, relationships, life decisions like which college or what job will fit you best, what people think of you or your family, pandemics, what your test result will be (covid test, spelling test, pregnancy test, SAT test, etc…), who will play with you at recess, the health of your parent, your child, your grandparent, your pet or yourself, how you will pay your bills, if your clothes are fashionable, global warming, flights and travel plans (or the lack thereof), government instability, natural disasters, and the list goes on. And on. And on.

There is a lot we can worry about. And the last two years hasn’t helped our worry levels. Anxiety is on the rise across all ages, but hitting young people especially hard. How can we help protect ourselves and our kids from the damage done by worry?

Worry does not change what will happen or what has already happened. (Though so often we waste much time worrying about what never happens at all.)

Worry does not change how well or how poorly we will respond to what does happen.

Worry does steal our thankfulness.

Worry does make us feel bad – and has a proven strong link to depression.

Worry does strip our focus off of God and His goodness and love and righteousness.

Can we agree that worry isn’t helpful? That we will be better off spending as little time as possible stuck in a worry cycle? So what do we do when we catch ourselves (or one dear to us) catching a ride on the worry train?

Yesterday I read a suggestion to limit yourself to a specific 5-15 minutes a day to worry. If you catch yourself worrying any other time of the day tell yourself it is not the time to worry now, but you will do that at the prescribed worry time (say, 6:10-6:20 pm). Interesting idea I have not tried yet.

But, I can tell you what HAS worked for me, and my family and friends, over and over again. Three times in the last three days I have heard and experienced the overwhelming power of turning to God in His Scriptures to combat our worry and anxiety.

A dear friend was worried about a new job possibility that appeared to be a closing door. She wisely decided to put a hold on her worried thoughts and instead took the time to write out her Bible passage for the day which happened to be about new beginnings. And when she was done – the phone rang with some positive information about the job.

My husband was stuck in a hotel overseas concerned about not receiving a negative covid test result so he could begin work he had been sent to do. It appeared there was nothing to do but wait and worry. Until, he decided to use the time instead to do the last 2 days of Bible reading and devotions. When he was done – the email came with the negative results and he got to work.

I was struggling with a decision that was weighing heavily on me for the past two months. But Monday was my deadline. I needed to contact my boss to let them know if I was going to pursue a job opportunity with them or not. I was worried about making the best decision and what it would mean for me and my family and those I would (or wouldn’t) encounter at work. I was struggling to know what I wanted..and what God wanted. Early Monday morning I was preparing the devotion on John the Baptist from Matthew 3 but wanted to check on some background information so turned to Luke 1. And, there was my answer as clear as could be, repeated twice in Luke 1:41-44. The letter has been written and peace has been growing while the worry has been wiped away. God sent the answer to my worry when I was in His Word. I know I didn’t give a lot of details, but ask me later and I can fill in the rest of the story but the important part is that in God’s Word the worry disappeared.

It sounds almost like magic. But, it’s not. It’s God at work. And God at work beats me at worry any day! And it happens again and again. My son has a great story about finding peace in his college decision when he was faithful in his Bible reading. Two generations earlier my mom has a similar story of the same peace discovered in scripture regarding a previously worrisome huge move and new job for her young family.

Often the answer and peace doesn’t come the same day. When our youngest was in elementary school she struggled with worry – especially at night. She would lie in bed long past bedtime thinking of what might go wrong the next day or the next year. Together we created some posters of Philippians 4:4-9 and stuck them to the wall by her bed. Here’s verses 4-7, but you might want to look up 8-9 as well and you can make a beautiful poster for your bedside, too.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

It didn’t happen overnight, but she read and re-read those words every night. She put those Scriptures deep into her memory and into her heart. She turned to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving. Under those circumstances worry had no chance to thrive. Over time her worry shrank and her peace grew and she slept soundly. She still does.

There is a lot we CAN worry about. And the worry can mess with our mind, diminish our health, steal our sleep, damage our relationships and take us deeper into depression and further away from God’s will for us. Or, we can SEEK HIM. Open the Bible He’s given to you where He reveals Himself and His answers for life and peace. Seek Him in prayer, just as Jesus taught. We can rest in peace knowing God is at work. He is feeding the birds. He is growing the lilies of the field. He is supplying answers. He is giving peace. That doesn’t mean that every day will be easy and no troubles will come. It just means that God is still there in those trials. He still has a plan. He still loves. He still guides. He still provides. He is still right. He still has a Kingdom like no other coming around the bend. Seek Him, His Kingdom, His righteousness. Rest easy knowing it’s gonna be alright. God is at work so I don’t have to worry.

-Marcia Railton

Reflection and Discussion Questions

  1. What did you used to worry about that you don’t worry about any more? What changed? Are you worried about something now? Do you think you will also be worried about it next year? 10 years from now? In the Kingdom? How could seeking God’s kingdom help take care of a worry problem?
  2. Describe an environment in which worry grows. Describe an environment in which worry can not thrive. Which environment do you want to live in? What steps can you include today to start changing your daily schedule and environment to reduce worry?
  3. Philippians 4:4-9 says prayer helps replace anxiety. In Matthew 6 the Lord’s Prayer, fasting, and teaching on our treasures all accompany Jesus’ teaching on worry. What can we learn about prayer from these passages? What pieces do you see in the Lord’s Prayer? Any aspects of Jesus’ prayer that you feel your prayer life could use more of? If so, practice adding those into your prayers today.
  4. How can you use the lessons of prayer and not worrying to help someone else today? Who?

The Under Pressure / I Will Survive Mash-up

Job 39-40

I’m intrigued by tardigrades. They are eight-legged microscopic animals that look almost like bears when they move, earning them the alternate name water bears. They can be found anywhere on earth, surviving the most extreme temperatures and pressures. Apparently it is no big deal for them to have no air, water, or food for a while. They can dehydrate in a water shortage and sit dormant for decades until more water comes along, and then rehydrate and continue their life as if nothing happened. They can even survive exposure to outer space unshielded from dangerous radiation. They have a resilience of almost mythical proportions.

Consider Behemoth (Job 40:15-24). He seems pretty solid. He makes me think of an elephant, hippo, or in the Harry Potter universe, an erumpent. Who knows what he is anyway? All I know is that I’d rather not cross paths with one. The most a tardigrade could do to me is crawl on me, and I wouldn’t notice it. Encountering a black bear could be scary, but they’d likely run away, especially if we are in a group. They don’t want to run into you any more than you want to run into them. But Behemoth doesn’t care. He’d trample you.

“Even if the river is turbulent, it is not frightened; it is confident though Jordan rushes against its mouth. Can one take it with hooks or pierce its nose with a snare?” (Job 40: 23-24)

Like the tardigrade, Behemoth is resilient. You or I would be swept away by the current, but not Behemoth. He makes his way through the turbulent Jordan and doesn’t lose his confidence. He knows the struggle is real, and the waters may even slow him down, but this is not the end of Behemoth. Not even close.

We’re of “small account” just like Job (40:4). We all have our struggles, our raging Jordans, that we are trying to make our way through. During the process, it’s fair to want to know why we have to struggle and suffer, and where all of it comes from. Is it from a broken world paying forward the hurt? Is it the natural consequence of our poor decisions? Does it come from God, like the author of Psalm 88 might suggest? Is it from evil forces trying to discourage us? Is it just general suffering we’re guaranteed to experience? Is it some combination of all of them?

But do you think Behemoth or the tardigrade worry about why they suffer? Probably not. They just try to get through it. Maybe while you are suffering, the “why” questions aren’t going to be the most important thing. You may only have the energy or capacity to react to the crisis and pick up the pieces later. Figuring out the deeper questions might be something you only worry about on the other side of suffering.

The ability to think about suffering is both a blessing and curse. If you think about your situation and realize that you are at least partly responsible for your suffering or the suffering of others, you have the ability to learn from your mistakes and avoid making them again. In that way, being able to avoid unnecessary suffering is a blessing. But it can seem like a curse to keep thinking about the purpose of your suffering when it comes from something completely beyond your control. This is the carousel of painful thoughts Job was on.

In that situation, it is fair to want to challenge God, like Job did. Where is his supposed justice? Go ahead and challenge God and have the wrestling match (Gen 32). He can handle it. Just be prepared to be challenged back. Be prepared for the possibility of injury. Be prepared to grow and receive a new name. Be prepared to be more resilient, more Behemoth or tardigrade-like.

To quote someone who voluntarily took on suffering for our benefit and was resilient through death itself: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)

-Jay Laurent

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Job 39-40 and Psalm 87-88

Thought Checker

Psalm 119:1-88

Psalm 119 11 NIV sgl

(We will read the second half of the longest chapter of the Bible on Sunday – but feel free to actually read the whole thing both days – it is full of good stuff!)

What comes to mind when you hear the word purity? Because we currently live in a fallen world where sin is part of our human nature, we are all impure. Think about it… what about your thoughts? What do you think about? Are there any sins that don’t start with a thought? I’m sure we could learn a whole lot about someone if we could read their thoughts, because the thing about our thoughts is that they are essentially hidden from the rest of the world. And this is why it can be so dangerous. What starts to be a single almost innocent thought can then eventually or suddenly develop from good to bad to ugly. So when would be a better time than now to examine our thoughts and heart. God knows our thoughts, we can’t hide anything from Him, remember? Our thoughts do matter. They reveal what is in our heart. 

 

Thankfully, we can find in Psalm 119 how to stay pure. 

 

Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.

 

Psalm 119: 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

 

Because God’s word should be our treasure in life we should hide it in our heart and meditate on it so that we can obey it and therefore stay pure. So let’s see what Philippians 4:8 says. “ And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” This makes staying pure a little harder, not only should they be pure, they should be honorable as well.

 

 I am so glad this verse made it into our Bibles because it has certainly helped me. When I was little I used to have trouble falling asleep from worrying, until my mom wrote out Philippians 4:6-8 and hung it up next to my bed. Suddenly I had a way to check my thoughts. A thought checker. If it doesn’t align with Philippians 4:8 throw it out of your mind. And even more than that, I was able to memorize it and because of that I’ve been able to use it throughout the years. 

 

Starting some habits can be really helpful in controlling your thoughts. But the first step is to really know the scriptures so you know what is right and wrong. Because how else can we know what the Bible says if we don’t take the time to study, meditate, memorize, and know what it says? Also you will need to commit to memorizing scripture so that when the time comes that they are needed you will be able to pull them out of our pocket and meditate on them. 

Here are some great verses to memorize and hide in our hearts.

 

1 Timothy 4:12 “ Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way  you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 

 

Romans 8:1-2 “And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for your. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Or 2 Corinthians 6:6, Romans 8:6, or 2 Corinthians 10:5, and many many others. 

 

So the next time you feel like your thoughts are controlling you, make it a habit to test your thoughts and make sure they align with Philippians 4:8.  When they don’t, affirm that it is a thought that doesn’t align with God’s word and toss it out. Just like Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan,” when Peter was a stumbling block for him, you might choose to say something in response to it to help combat it. Then, ask God to renew your mind and help you strive to live a life pleasing to Him. Lastly and one of the most important steps, meditate on scripture. Choose a specific verse that is personal and recite it over and over again. 

 

So how can a young person stay pure? By living according to God’s word. By meditating on Scripture and hiding it in your heart so that you don’t sin. 

 

Makayla Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+119%3A1-88&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 3-4, 2 Chronicles 1 and Psalm 72 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

God’s Peace

Phil 4 7

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I find myself to be a world champion worrier. This skill started when I was a child: storms terrified me! I soon learned as long as I could hear the airplanes (I lived under a flight path!), everything was ok. As I grew up, my fears changed: what kind of job would I have? Would I find a good husband? (I did!) And now, I worry about my sons. Are they safe, will they find a good spouse, and will they continue to follow God?

I finally made the decision to turn my fears over to God. Many times, the Bible tells us God is on our side. He knows what is going to happen: both good and bad, he is in control no matter what! I am still unsure and often frightened, because I’m human. As long as I don’t stay in the place of me taking control. I need to move towards God and give Him the control, as it should be. Take a moment to examine a place where your worries are preventing God from being in control. Give God the control and leave it with Him.

-Susan Johnson

Devoured by a Lion

1 Peter 5 8

1 Peter 5

So far this week, we have looked at the physical healing of a blind man and the mental healing of a demon possessed man. Today we’re going to look at emotional healing.

Let’s start by looking at verse 8. It says that the Devil, our enemy, is hunting for someone to devour. How many of you have ever felt like you’ve been devoured? I’m sure none of you have ever been eaten by a lion, but I don’t think that’s what this verse is talking about. This verse is talking about being devoured by the world, by our obligations, by our worries. I know I have felt absolutely overwhelmed by my school work, pressures from my friend groups and parents. If you want to talk about being overwhelmed, just look at Jesus’ life.

In verse 5 it mentions the sufferings of Jesus. We know that Jesus had the burdens of the entire world placed on him. That puts our problems into perspective a little, doesn’t it? While we worry about who we’re going to eat lunch with tomorrow, He was worrying about being betrayed by one of his closest friends. While we worry if we’ll be able to play on our school’s basketball team, He was worrying about being sentenced to death by the world that he was supposed to save.

I don’t draw attention to this to diminish our feelings, but it is important to put things in a proper context and to humble ourselves. In verse 6, it says that we need to humble ourselves so that we can be exalted at the proper time. Sometimes it feels like we are being devoured for so long without receiving any help from our God. We think that no one knows how much we are suffering under the stress of our worries and we doubt that God cares. But God does care, and you are not alone. We need to be firm in our faith that God will heal all of us of our emotional pain (vs 9).

Here’s the beautiful part of this chapter: it feels like we must wait forever to receive emotional healing, but God promises us right here in verse 10 that He will personally restore, establish, strengthen and support us after we have suffered. He will heal us.

Today I’m going to leave you with some additional verses. Just read them and soak in all they promise.

Revelation 21:4

Psalm 147:3

John 14:27

Psalm 34:17-20

Matthew 11:28

Psalm 34:19

 

-Nathaniel Johnson

Worry

Matthew 6

matt 6 27

I worry about things.  Big things or little things, or sometimes nothing at all.  As I mentioned in a previous devotion this week, I have a plan for things.  When things don’t go according to plan, I stress out, and at times let my worry and anxiety take over.  In the last week or so, I have had a series of issues with my house that have really caused me to worry.  First our freezer broke.  Then something caused our propane tank to go from 30% full to empty very quickly.  Then the heat for our house started having problems.  I have been extremely anxious over all of these problems.  So, when reading over Matthew 6 and trying to decide what to write about, I thought that the section I needed to learn from was the section on worrying.

So, what I am writing today is aimed at myself, and I hope you can also gain something from it.

In Matthew 6:25, Jesus tells us:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

He then compares us to the birds, to lilies, and to grass. God takes care of all of these items, and we are so much more valuable to God than these things.  Yet, we worry about these things, and try to handle them all on our own.

What good does worrying do us?  Worrying makes it hard to sleep.  It makes it hard to concentrate.  It makes us irritable and upset.  It can give us ulcers.  I can’t think of one thing that worrying actually accomplishes, but I can come up with a whole list of things it hinders.  Verse 27 sums this up nicely.  “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”  In fact, worrying can only decrease hours in our life.

I think we all know that worrying is bad, and that we should trust in God more and release our problems to him.  I know it, and yet I still struggle with this frequently.  So, what do we do?

Jesus sums this section up with two verses, 33 and 34:

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I often hear each of these verses talked about individually.  I don’t remember ever looking at them together.  However, they are together.  If we seek the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, all the things we worry about will be handled in God’s perfect method as well.  If we focus on God, we do not need to worry about all the other stuff.

So, I am not going to encourage you to stop worrying, because I don’t think that is the answer.  I encourage you to seek the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.  Seek it fervently so that you do not have time or room in your life for worry.   This ties back to Matthew 5:6, earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Hunger and thirst for righteousness….I believe this is the cure for worry.

-Andrew Hamilton

Read More of the Good Book

2Tim3 1617 (1)

Today’s common New Year’s resolution is to read more of the Bible. One reason people quit this resolution is that they get lost quickly, or they do not have a plan on how much they are going to read, or they are inconsistent or they do not have accountability to keep them on track. Whatever the reason people tend to start off with good intentions, but they often fall short of their goal.

The verses today are 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalms 19:9-11, and Luke 12:27-28

So why do people want to read more of their Bible? Why is it important to read the Bible? How do we stay true to our goal of reading more? How do we get started? These are all questions you may have, and they are questions that I myself have had in my life.

There are so many reasons to add “read the Bible more” to your New Year’s resolutions. Check out 2 Timothy 3:14-17. These verses tell us that we need to know the teachings and laws of God from a young age and that every word in our Bible, every scripture is inspired by God and can be used in numerous different ways. They are good for teaching and correction, seeking righteousness. Through reading the Bible we strengthen our knowledge of God which can help us strengthen our relationship with him. When our relationship with God is strengthened we are complete, and we can be empowered to do good works in his name and for his will. Another great reason to read the Bible is because knowing more about the history of our faith, the history of God, and his son and the people of God, can give us a deeper understanding of how truly amazing our God is. He is the creator of the heavens and earth, he hand-crafted every thing of this earth, and yet he chose to create you too. He took the time to create you and build his own plan for your life, and all of this is found in scripture. Jeremiah 29:11 says,” For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.” The Bible is full of stories and histories that are good for us to know, and they are good for us to draw parallels in our own lives.

Psalms 19:9-11 “The fear of Yahweh is clean, enduring forever, Yahweh’s ordinances are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the extract of honey-comb. Moreover by them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” These verses tell us that God’s word is more precious than gold, and it is sweeter than honey-comb. God’s word feeds our spirits, and having this fulfillment does not happen if we do not know the ordinances and the word of God. This is such an awesome gift that God has created for us. We can see his love and his caring for all of his creation through his word, and we can see his true value of us through the Bible as well.

Luke 12:27-28 “Consider the lilies, how they grow. They do not toil, nor do they spin. Yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. But if God does so clothe the grass in the field, which today is and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more shall he clothe you, O you of little faith?” These verses tell us how much God cares for us, and will take care of our every need. We live and breathe, we take care of other people, we help our neighbors, we take care of our families and friends, we worship God and in all these things we sometimes worry if our every need will be taken care of. In these verses we find assurance that even flowers and fields which serve very minor purposes are clothed in beauty, and we are so much more and God will take care of us. This is another reason to read our Bibles. When we are worried, sad or confused we can find solace and strength in the words the Bible has for us.

Today I want you to take this with you. The Bible is a great book that is useful in many contexts. It us useful for teaching others and yourself more about your faith. It is important for learning more about God and building a stronger relationship with him. It is a great comfort when we are in need or we are stuck in worry. The Bible was given as a gift to us, and we should treat it as this precious gift. We need to spend time in our Bibles. Going forward from reading this today, I hope that you can find a way to read more. Start by reading this blog, continue by using an app that sends you a verse of the day. You may even want to find an accountability partner to read along with you, or remind you to read. Being a Christian should not be a lonely venture. There are people out there who will support in your journey to God. I hope you’ve enjoyed today.

-Jana Swanson

Paul’s Final Exhortation for Unity

Philippians 4

IMG_0280

Yesterday we took a break from our discussion on unity in the body to talk about our union with Christ—the head of the body. Today we’re back to the theme of unity in the Church and looking at Philippians 4, where Paul offers the Philippians some final exhortations for unity. From Paul’s advice to the church at Philippi in this passage, we can see four principles that, if applied, will help promote unity in our own churches.

 

The first principle we see here is reconciliation. In verse 2 Paul calls attention to an apparent disagreement that was causing strife among two of the woman in the church. He urged them to “be of the same mind in the Lord.” These women had been workers, alongside Paul, for the Gospel and this disagreement between them was hindering their ministry. Personal differences should never get in the way of our commitment to the Gospel. When disagreements arise, the church should work together towards reconciliation so that it can get back to its primary focus.

 

The second principle we can take from this passage is to live gently. Paul says in verse 5 (NRSV) to “Let your gentleness be known to everyone.” Gentleness is one of the Fruit of the Spirit, but one that I think is often overlooked. This comes from a misunderstanding of what gentleness is all about. Many people equate gentleness to weakness, but it is actually a sign of strength. A weak person is one who lacks strength but a gentle person is one who appears weak for the benefit of others. Gentleness allows us to care for those who are weak and need special attention. Jesus was gentle—this aided him greatly in his ministry to sick and inflicted. If we want to have inclusive churches that minister to the needs of those who are weak, we must promote gentleness.

 

 

Living worry free is another principle Paul pushes in this passage that can aide our goal of church unity. In verses 6 and 7 (NRSV) he says “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Worry and anxiety are enemies of the Gospel. Worry is a prison; the Gospel is freedom. Worry keeps us focused on the evils of the age we live in—all the bad things that come about from our sinful nature. It takes our minds off the hope we have in the future Kingdom of God, where everything will be made right and worry rendered obsolete. When bad things do happen in our lives, we shouldn’t spend time thinking about how much worse they could get or why it is happening to us. We should instead bring our concerns before a God who can offer us peace that we won’t find anywhere else, and that can get us through this evil age until we dwell with him in His kingdom. A church at peace and without worry is one that is focused on the future and making a difference in the present.

 

 

The final unity principle Paul offers in Philippians 4 is filling our minds with that which is good. In verse (NRSV) he says, “Finally, 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.” There are a lot of things in this world that try to grab our attention and many of them are not beneficial. Our minds our shaped by what we take in, just as our bodies are by the food we eat. This is why what we think about is so important. If we want to get good out, we must put good in. If we want to be unified in our purpose, we must be unified in our thinking, and that thinking should be on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, and excellent.

 

While they are not always easy to follow, these four principles will go a long way towards promoting unity within the Church.

 

– Joel Fletcher

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