Philippians on Friday: Overcoming Fear

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Friday devotion. Today we’re moving on in chapter one to verse 28. We’ll unwrap the entire verse on a later day. Today I want to focus on the first phrase of that verse:

…And in nothing terrified by your adversaries….

PhilippiansThere is an epidemic of fear in our world today. People are afraid. ISIS, global economic uncertainty, racism, school shootings, violent crime, political gridlock, and a host of other social ailments are relentlessly eroding people’s peace of mind. The prophecy of Jesus about the last days is certainly coming to pass:

Luke 21:26 – “Men’s hearts failing them for fear…”

Paul is encouraging the Philippians. He’s telling them that they don’t have to be terrified or afraid. Our adversaries can strike fear and terror in our hearts. Adversarial situations can bring fear. Not just in Philippians, but over and over in God’s Word, we are reminded that, as children of God, we don’t have to be afraid:

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. (Hebrews 13:6)

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear… (Romans 8:15)

Fear is one of the most formidable weapons used by the enemy against us. Some of us may deal with a small measure of fear that works to keep us in our comfort zone. Others may be completely overcome with fear – to the point that fear controls every facet of life. But to some degree, the enemy’s fiery darts of fear have stuck us all.

Fear is bondage. Fear is humiliating. Fear is controlling. Fear is persistent. Fear is resilient. Fear is debilitating. Fear is tormenting.

I want to make a bold, clear statement that I believe wholeheartedly:

It is not the will of God for you to live your life in fear!

God wants to give you freedom from fear. He has come that you might have life and life more abundant – and that can only happen when the tyrant of fear is dethroned!

Imagine what your life would be like if you were truly and completely unafraid. Imagine what you would accomplish for God and in life if you were not bound or held back by fear. That’s how God wants you to life – free from fear!

philippiansI could write a book on the subject of fear.  My family has dealt with it on personal level many times. But let me share a testimony of God’s grace and power: God set our family free from fear! The Power of God supernaturally delivered my wife from the chains of fear. I look forward to her sharing her testimony on this blog soon, but in the meantime, let me share a few practical steps to help overcome fear (and help stay victorious in the battle with fear):

  1. Remind Yourself that Your Life is in God’s Hands. We mustn’t forget that, as Christians, our lives are in God’s Hands – not the hands of the enemy, this world, or other people. Psalms says it well:

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: What can man do unto me? (Psalm 118:6 )

  1. Remind Yourself of the Unconditional Love of God. The Bible says in 1 John 4:18: “Perfect love casts out fear. When I understand that God truly loves me unconditionally and anything He does or allows stems from that love, it helps me not be afraid.
  1. Why Worry About Things that are not in Your Control? Most things in life are beyond our control, so what does worrying really accomplish? What benefit is there in worrying? Will worrying change my situation?  In most cases, being fearful of things or worrying about situations does nothing but steal the joy the Lord has so freely given us.
  1. God’s Grace is Sufficient. When Paul was dealing with a difficult situation, God told him, “My grace is sufficient.” That meant that whatever Paul faced, God’s grace and strength would be present in a sufficient amount to deal with the situation. As a Christian, no matter what you face, you will always find the supply of God’s grace to be equal to the crises. You will always have enough grace no matter what you face.
  1. Stay in the Word and in Prayer. A prayer-less life is a breeding ground for fear. A day without the Word is a day when fear gains grounds. Nothing keeps fear at bay better than staying consistently in daily prayer and Bible study.

Thanks for joining me today in our study of Philippians!  Before we go, let’s say a prayer together:

“Lord, You have not given me a spirit of fear. Fear does not come from You – it comes from the enemy. I ask You today to break the stronghold of fear off of my life and my family – in Jesus’ Name! I pray that You help me gird up the loins of my mind so that fearful thoughts cannot enter. Help me stay diligent in my prayer and devotional life. I ask these things in JESUS’ NAME!”

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Fridays: Stand your Ground!

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Fridays devotion. Today we’re continuing with chapter one and verse 27:

…that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Paul encouraged the Philippians to “stand fast” for the faith of the Gospel. To stand Philippiansfast means to stand firm or to stand one’s ground. It means we don’t waver in our faith, but hold firmly to the truth.

This was not the only time Paul urged the Philippians to stand fast. Later in his letter, he repeated the admonition:

…stand fast in the Lord.. (Philippians 4:1)

In fact, “stand fast” seems to be a frequent command in many of Paul’s letters:

“…stand fast in the faith…” (1 Cor. 16:13)

 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free…” (Gal. 5:1)

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught…” (2 Thes. 2:15)

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering…” (Heb 10:23)

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” (Eph 4:14)

PhilippiansFrom the frequency of Paul’s encouragement to stand fast, we must conclude that the believer’s faith in Christ and the Word are under attack. And this would be an accurate conclusion! From Genesis, where satan challenged Eve concerning God’s Word, to Revelation 20, where believers were persecuted for “the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God…,” the faith of God’s people has always been a target of the enemy.

There is a relentless pressure to compromise our faith in God, His Word, and His Kingdom. The devil and the spirit of this world are working in tandem to try to water down our faith. Those who believe in the infallibility of the Bible, the creation story of Genesis, the flood, the virgin birth, the resurrection of Christ, and the miraculous aspects of Christianity are frequently the objects of scorn by skeptics and scoffers.

If Paul thought it necessary to encourage the Philippians to stand fast in their faith in the first century, how much more is that encouragement needed in these last days?

Don’t let this world or the enemy water down your faith in God or your resolve to stand for truth.

Stand fast!

Stand your ground!

Don’t be wishy-washy!

Stand for truth. Stand for the Word of God. Stand for Biblical values. Stand for what is right. Stand for what you have been taught. Stand for righteousness and holiness.

A true child of God is not a jerk, self-righteous, or judgmental, but does, however, stand unwavering upon the truth of God’s Word.

Some people change depending on the most recent polls, the latest trends and fashions, what’s currently deemed politically correct, or what group of people they happen to be with at the moment.  The child of God, by contrast, is resolute in their deeply held beliefs.

There’s a fascinating story in 2 Samuel 23, about a man named Shammah – a man who stood his ground!

2 Samuel 23:11–12 – 11 And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines. 12 But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the Lord wrought a great victory.

He owned a hill of ground that produced an annual crop of lentils. The enemy tried to take it, but Shammah stood his ground and defended it. What may have only been a hill of beans to the enemy was precious and valuable to Shammah.

Your enemy may think your faith isn’t worth of hill of beans, but I want to encourage you to stand your ground. Your Christian faith is worth fighting for. The truth is worth fighting for. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s fitting:

“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything!”

A true child of God is not a jerk, self-righteous, or judgmental, but does, however, stand unwavering upon the truth of God’s Word.   Steadfastness in our walk, consistency in our talk, and graciousness in our actions towards others is a far greater testimony than being a person who doesn’t stand for anything!

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Fridays: Whatever Happens…

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Fridays Devotion.  Today we’re moving on to the next verse: Chapter 1 and verse 27:

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs… 

In the preceding verses, Paul was sharing with the Philippians his personal feelings about his ministry, his future, and the pull of his heavenly reward. In verse 27, he switches gears, turning his attention to giving the church some practical instruction on Christian living.  The New International Version says it like this:

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

Paul is saying, whatever happens to me – live your life the right way. Whether I am released from prison and come to see you, or if I die in this dank, dark cell as a martyr, conduct yourselves as Christians should.  Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

PhilippiansThe Gospel is the Good News – the good news about Jesus changing our lives. Live your life as a reflection of that. Our conduct should be a reflection of how Jesus has changed us. We have been born again of water and Spirit. We are now living epistles known and read of all men (2 Cor. 3:2). Let’s live our lives with that in mind.

I’ve met some “Christians” and after seeing how they live, I’ve wanted to say:

“Please don’t tell anyone you’re a Christian!”

They are giving Christianity a bad name. Their behavior is anything but Christ-like. The way they treat their fellow man, their lack of moral integrity and character, and their angry, bitter disposition is a detriment to the Kingdom of God. Their lives are a testimony, but not one that would make an unbeliever want to be a Christian!

We are Ambassadors for Christ – let’s live like it. We are the Father’s representatives doing the Father’s Business – let’s live like it! Let’s live our lives as a reflection of who we are and to whom we belong. We are the only “Jesus” some will ever see.  May our lives inspire people to want to follow Christ.

Paul said, whatever happens; conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel:  Whatever happens…

  • If you have a bad day – conduct yourself as a child of God.
  • If someone cusses you out – conduct yourself as a living epistle of Christ.
  • If someone mistreats you- remember you are His child.
  • If you lose the ball game – don’t forget you are a testimony of the power of the Gospel.
  • If your service is lousy at the restaurant – remember to whom you belong.
  • If someone isn’t nice to you or says something hateful – remember your response should be guided by, “What would Jesus do?”
  • Whomever you are around – your conduct is governed by Him, not by your environment.
  • Wherever you go – you never “clock out” of being an Ambassador of Christ.
  • Regardless of what happens to you – you are a living epistle, 24-7-365!

Paul told the Philippians, your behavior should be right whether I come to see you or not:

“…That whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs…”

PhilippiansThere are some people who only do the right thing if they know someone is watching or if their behavior will be found out. Some people’s behavior changes when mom and dad are around or when their spouse or friends are around. As a pastor, I know first hand that some people’s behavior changes when the Pastor is around!

Do you do the right things even when no one is around or will find out what you’re doing? That’s the true test of character and integrity. For the Philippians, their test of integrity was whether they would do the right things regardless of whether Paul came to them or not!  We should do the right thing and live the right way regardless of who is around or who is watching. After all, God always sees us!

Let’s live our lives as a reflection of who we are to whom we belong.

Furthermore, Paul said, I’m going to hear about your affairs! In other words, do the right thing whether I’m there or not, but even if I don’t get to return to Philippi, I will certainly hear about how you all are doing.  We may think what we do in secret will remain in secret, but as Moses said, “Be sure, your sins will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

In all situations and whether someone is looking over our shoulders or not, let us live in such a way that they are a testimony of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.

~Matthew Ball

Communion: It’s Not for Perfect People!

Anyone who grew up in the church can probably relate to the fiery preacher’s warning about communion: “Unless you’re where you need to be spiritually, you’d better not participate because you’ll be doing it unworthily and will be eating and drinking damnation to your soul!”

communionFor some, observing the Lord’s Supper was a frightening time. The prospect of drinking damnation discouraged all but the “holiest” and “most righteous.” It was implied that to take Communion you had to be perfect, or pretty close. For those who felt they weren’t “measuring up,” it was safer to sit in the back than to risk participating unworthily.

The irony is this type of skewed attitude is exactly the opposite of what celebrating Communion is all about! Communion is about remembering.  Its about remembering what Jesus did on the cross.  He gave His body to be broken and His blood to be shed so that we could be saved.  But it’s not only about remembering that He went to the cross, it’s also about understanding why Jesus went to the cross.

Jesus came to this earth, suffered, and died because man could never measure up! If man, by observing the Law, could have obtained righteousness, a Savior and a Cross would not have been necessary. Paul makes it plain in Galatians:

Gal 2:16 – Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ…for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. KJV

Our righteousness, goodness or works will never be enough to put us in right standing with God. If we could be justified by our own works then the Cross was unnecessary.

Hebrews, Chapter 8, puts it like this:

If the first covenant (the Law) was faultless, then there wouldn’t have been a need for the second covenant (Christ) – Hebrews 8:7

CommunionPraise the Lord! Jesus is a mediator of a better Covenant – one established upon better promises.  We are declared righteous because of what Jesus did. It’s His righteousness, His goodness, and His perfection that we are trusting in! When we obey the Gospel and are born again, we stand by faith in His work, not ours.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.

Observing the Lord’s Supper is about remembering that Jesus died on a Cross – because I could never measure up. Communion is not for perfect people. That notion would defeat the whole purpose of the sacrament. Communion is celebrating the fact that we stand in His righteousness, not our own. We trust in His moral perfection, not our own. We are clothed in His purity – a purity we could never attain apart from Him.

Paul said, “Let a man examine himself

If perfection were the qualification to partake of Communion then Paul would never have encouraged self-examination. If perfection were the pre-requisite, and Paul wanted us to participate, then Paul may have said:

“Whatever you do, don’t examine yourself!”

Because an honest self-examination will always render a guilty verdict – we will always find imperfection. If it were about perfection, self-examination would always result in each of us being disqualified to participate in Communion.  He said, examine yourself and then participate:

1 Cor 11:28 – But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. KJV

The purpose of examination was never to discourage us from participation; rather it was intended to help us see why we need to participate.   What self-examination is supposed to accomplish is to bring us to a stark realization of our own human frailty. When I look inwardly, I come to the conclusion that even in my best attempts, I still fall short of the mark. But that isn’t supposed to preclude me from participation. Paul said, “And so let him eat!”

In other words, my conclusion that I’m an imperfect human being causes me to remember the Cross. I eat the bread and drink the cup as a glorious reminder that my trust is in the Cross – my faith is in His work, not my own.

Certainly, I cannot reflect on the Cross and treat sin frivolously. I’m not advocating celebrating the Lord’s Supper without solemn repentance and heart-felt confession of sin. How can I reflect on the sufferings of Christ and it not cause me to die to sin and worldliness?

Neither is Communion to be done frivolously. It’s not the same as eating a light-hearted meal with our fellow believers (like what was happening in Corinth.) It is a very serious and solemn sacrament.

Communion is not a celebration of our perfection – it’s a celebration of His perfection. 

Repentance and solemness are all part of observing Communion, but let’s not lose sight of what’s at the root of the celebration: Imperfection doesn’t disqualify us from participation, rather our own human imperfection is the very reason the Lord’s Supper is necessary! Communion is not a celebration of our perfection – it’s a celebration of His perfection. It’s not a glorying in our own achievements – it glorying in the Cross.

Wouldn’t it be the epitome of irony if the one’s who are truly guilty of eating and drinking “unworthily” are the very people who feel like they are measuring up and  are worthy of taking communion?  That makes me think about the two men that Jesus observed praying in the temple.  Remember what He said about the man who prayed like he all it all together?  He was the one who went home unjustified.

I believe the people who are worthily celebrating the Lord’s Supper are the one’s who are trusting in Christ’s sacrifice at the cross.  They are frail human beings doing their best to please God, but still, at times, falling short of the mark.  But they celebrate communion by remembering that it is for that very reason Jesus came.  They are the ones who are  truly “discerning the Lord’s Body.”  They understand it was “His body on the tree” that paid the debt man was unable to pay and when we don’t measure up, the Blood of Christ makes up the difference!

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Fridays: Shall I Go or Stay?

Thanks for joining me for our on Philippians on Fridays Devotion.  Today we’re dissecting a fascinating passage: Chapter 1 and verses 22-26.

Phil 1:22-26 – (NIV) – If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

What an interesting passage of scripture! Paul is in a dilemma of sorts. He is describing to the Philippians an internal conflict. Should I go or should I stay? His conundrum is not about whether to stay in prison or be released – that would be an easy choice! He is thinking about heaven. He is weighing out the pros and cons of staying here or going on to be with the Lord.

He said to the Philippians, if I go, it would be better for me! I’ll be with Christ. I will receive my reward – my crown of righteousness. If I go, I will no longer struggle in this dark prison cell, chained to a wall. But if I stay, I will have more opportunities to preach the Gospel.   If I stay, it will be better for you!

22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. (KJV)

PhilippiansPaul ponders, “What shall I choose?” It’s interesting that Paul feels he has a say in the matter. What does that mean? I don’t, for a second, believe it meant Paul was contemplating or condoning suicide. Paul’s entire ministry was characterized by the notion that he was “not his own, but was bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). He both practiced and preached that God is control of our lives and we are submitted completely to His will and purpose. Committing suicide would go against the very core of Paul’s ministry philosophy (as well as an overwhelming amount of scripture).

Paul is obviously not speaking of taking his own life, so we can only infer from his comment that God – who is the only rightful author and finisher of life – was interested in Paul’s feelings on the matter.

I believe Paul had such a close relationship with God that God actually gave Paul the option. It was as though God was asking, “Paul, do you want to come home or do you want to stay?” Could it be that someone can have such a relationship with God that He would honor the person’s desire in something as significant as this?

Remember what God said about Abraham (the man who was called the “friend of God”):

Gen 18:17-18 – And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? (KJV)

Wow! God said, what do you think about this, Abraham? God asked for Abraham’s thoughts on the matter of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Joy comes from the selfless attitude of serving others and placing the will of God above our own.

Paul had already been “caught up to the third heaven,” had visions and revelations of God, and heard things during those spiritual experiences that he was not even permitted to share. So I don’t think it is strange that Paul walked so close to God that God was actually giving Paul a choice: remain in the body or be called home.

23-24: For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Paul is torn because, to be with Christ is better for him, but to be in the flesh is better for the Philippians! For Paul, death was a much better alternative than life. What is better than heaven? Christ has gone away to prepare a place for us – what is better than experiencing that heavenly place? Heaven is what we all yearn for!

But Paul knows the young Philippian church still needs his ministry and encouragement. And so after considering the matter he says,

“…but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” (NIV)

Once again, Paul shows us the secret to a joy and peace that transcends adversity and suffering. Paul is in prison. He is tired, weary, and battle-worn. The thought of heaven is tempting, yet he still focuses on the needs of the Philippians – he’s thinking of what is best for others! Joy comes from the selfless attitude of serving others and placing the will of God above our own.

PhilippiansWe should all lift our eyes to contemplate the joys of heaven. But when we see them, we must also turn back to see those who still need Jesus. When I think of my eternal reward, I must also think about the unfinished Father’s Business. How can I only contemplate my own reward? What about all the others who still need to hear the message?

It’s not time to go home yet! Why doesn’t God just take us all home now? It would be better for us. But it would not be better for the world. The Great Commission is not yet complete.

Yes, there will be great joy in heaven – but we also find great joy here, when our own desires and personal comfort comes secondary to our Lord’s Work.

Until Next Friday,

~Matthew Ball