Stand Fast in the Lord
Text: Philippians 4:1
One of the most difficult experiences of life is dealing with wavering and faltering children. Outside a Christian context, it can be very difficult for parents to deal with watching their children throw away their lives, or waste their abilities.
However, for the Christian, while this may be upsetting, it does not compare to the wavering and faltering of children with spiritual problems. Watching them abandon Christ or struggle in their walk.
And as a parent looks at their child, very often the pastor looks at his flock. He laments spiritual instability and inconsistency.
The church at Philippi had many things going for it, but it was not a perfect church. As you well know, but often forget, there is no perfect church. And as we step into this final chapter, we’re going to see Paul give certain exhortations that you would imagine a good church wouldn’t have to deal with. So how does Paul help prevent a church from wavering? He calls them to their duty…
I. THE CONNECTION IN THIS DUTY – “therefore”
Remember, always ask, ‘what’s the therefore there for?’ The previous chapter has taken us to the heart of the gospel in the Christian life. There is no chapter in the Bible where if we were to contain ourselves to just one chapter as a guide to Christian living, this would be the best choice. There are chapters of deeper theology, but I’m not sure there is another chapter that drives us to deeper Christian living.
And we must remember all that truth is designed to get a response. Paul is not just trying to be interesting. He is trying to change lives!
He has taken us from the doctrine of justification, to sanctification, and to glorification. Beloved, we have been justified to be glorified, which necessitates the piece in the middle – we are to be sanctified. We have not already attained, neither are we already perfect.
II. THE AFFECTION IN THIS DUTY “my brethren dearly beloved…”
He has called them ‘brethren’, and he has called them ‘beloved’, now he joins both affectionate terms together. They are brethren, that means they’re family. No matter what they are connected to one another. But they are also beloved. They are not reluctantly connected, they are affectionately connected.
“and longed for” i.e. he longed to see them. It has an intensity of desire. Paul is yearning to see their faces. He uses this verb nowhere else, highlighting the unique place these people had in his heart. “my joy and crown” – they brought joy to his heart. ‘crown’ shows how he thought of them in light of eternity. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” 1 Thes 2:19. He has just been speaking of glorification, and the Philippian church. To Paul, the glory that awaits him, will the further gladdened by what God enabled him to do at Philippi.
I read this beloved, and I already see this taking place in my own heart. It is just over a year since the eleven members of this church called me to be their pastor, and every week that passes seems to cement you more in my heart.
III. THE EXHORTATION IN THIS DUTY – “so stand fast in the Lord”
Paul now gets to his point. This is made in light of all he has just said. And I am the same. If this was my last message to you, I’d say to you, ‘stand fast in all that is taught in chapter three’. Stand fast in v8, v10, v12, v14, v17. Keep doing this!
This is an imperative. Stand fast in these things is not a suggestion. Paul is demanding them to do this. And if you don’t stand fast in the Lord, you have gone wayward. This command is in the present tense, so it is saying to you, ALWAYS stand fast in the Lord. This is your priority. Always stand fast in pressing toward the mark of Christlikeness.
You don’t have a vacation on your responsibility there. The day you decide to sit down in Christian warfare, is the day the devil puts some bad decision before you, and you lack discernment to see the danger. The day you don’t stand fast, is the day your inward Adamic corruption wrecks havoc upon you.
This challenge comes to me and to you. We all must stand fast in the Lord. Like soldiers in the frontline of battle, hold your position. Do not flee from the enemy, do not retreat out of fear, do not be distracted by some personal feeling.
The very need to issue this charge is an acknowledgement that there are things trying to bring you down. You are in a conflict every day against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Every day, Satan searches for you weakness. Every day, he awaits opportunity to take advantage of any spiritual slackness. Every day, your own flesh has the inherent tendency to suggest various forms of appealing compromise to you.
This command assumes an assault. It expects an ambush. It is conscience of external and internal threats to your success in the battlefield of Christian duty.
Philippi faced the continued threat of false teaching from the Judaizers, the rising threat of a more hostile Roman empire, and the silent threat of their own depraved hearts. Things were getting worse in the empire for Christians, and they were going to get much worse in days ahead, but Paul issues a command – do not cave, stand fast! This command calls you to stand for the truth, to live out the truth, and to spread the truth.
It call you to stand with all those of Hebrews 11. You stand with Abel who was willing to die for the Lord, Noah who was willing to stand for the Lord when no one else would, Abraham who was willing to leave his home for an unseen city, Moses was willing to give up the pleasures of Egypt for the Lord…
“Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens…and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” v33-38
And you can do this because you are not to stand fast in yourself, but in the Lord. If you stand fast in the Lord, you will be enabled to “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” Col 1:11
Close – in both the affection and the exhortation we should remember our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul closes by calling them his dearly beloved. That’s the language of a husband to his wife. It is the language of Christ to His church. Paul had learned as a pastor, to love God’s people as Christ loved the church. His affection and concern were of a marital intensity, and he had learned it from Christ. But don’t miss the point. This is the language of Christ to you. Why does Christ call you to stand fast?
For one reason – His love for you. Commands to not indicate contempt. Christ loves you, and if you are wavering today, He calls you to stand fast. Don’t run away, don’t give up, don’t resign, don’t abandon duty, don’t stop praying, don’t stop learning, don’t stop growing – stand fast dearly beloved!
If you want to bring groanings to your Lord, stop standing fast. It is the ultimate reflection of carelessness to the cross to stop standing fast!
But let us remember that our Lord is also the great example in this. He is not calling us to do what He Himself has not done. He set His face as a flint to go to Jerusalem. He gave His back to the smiters, and He endured the cross. And thank God my sin of wavering will be covered by His perfect steadfastness.
So, dearly beloved, stand fast in the Lord.