“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4.9
What day is it? Really, is it Tuesday or Friday? It could be Saturday. I am not sure. I have also lost count the number of days my family and I have been sheltering in place and social distancing. How are you getting along? Do you have enough food, movies, and most of all, toilet paper? If you are single and extroverted, this has to be torture. For the introverted single, you are in your happy place, unless you are a single parent, on your behalf we pray and salute you. How about you married couples out there? Are you living in harmony or has the house been doubly quarantine with tape dividing the territorial lines? But wait, don’t forget about your kids if they are still living with you or did you send them away next door as home school foreign exchange students?
But really, how is it going with you Christians? Are you or have you experienced the five stages of grief? If you do not know what they are, here is the list:
The observation I take away from this crisis is that we are learning who we are. What we are truly like. This is who we are. Being isolated from others and concerned about getting sick or finances brings out in time our true self. This situation will either bring out the best of us or the worst of us. Either way, the Bible can help us during this time and remind us not who we are, but Whose we are.
The context from the Bible verse above takes us to another kind of isolation for a nobler purpose. Philippians is one of Paul’s prison letters. He is there because of “the cause of the gospel” (v.3). In this context, we can learn from Paul’s advice on how to thrive no matter the circumstance we find ourselves in.
Paul implores his readers to “join in following my (his) example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” – Philippians 3.17
It is the word “Pattern” that stands out to me. From the original language (Greek), the word means “made by a die.” Die casting is what he means or metal stamping. My wife does this when making bracelets. She takes a metal stamp with a letter from the alphabet. She places it on soft metal like brass. Then with a hammer, she strikes the stamp and it leaves an exact impression of the letter on the brass bracelet. By stating this, Paul then compares and contrasts the difference between the enemies of the cross (3.18-19) and those whose “citizenship is in heaven” (3.20-21).
Now, what about the “pattern?” Below, I will list by stamping Paul’s exhortation for believers on how they should behave no matter the circumstance they find themselves in, whether as a free person or one who is in isolation and prison. Paul’s advice is taken from his letter found in Philippians 4.1-9.
Stand firm in the Lord (4.1). What he means here is for us to remember the gospel (Jesus’ death and resurrection). Stand firm in your belief. Your mind and heart can take you places you do not want to go when you are isolated or in crisis mode. Go back to the gospel. Remember you are a citizen of heaven, not of this world. You have been saved by Christ and your destiny is far greater than those who do not believe in Jesus who died and rose again. This is a time for you to share the gospel with your household. Take time in this solitude to meditate on the gospel. Read the gospels. Share the gospel. Sing or play songs about the gospel. Keep your isolation centered on the cross.
Agree with those who are in the faith (4.2). Paul explained earlier that we should “maintain the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (2.2-3). Simply put, live in harmony with one another who are in Christ. Being cooped up with those you love may provide stressors that bring out the worse in us. This is a great opportunity to practice patience and endurance. To gently help the weaker in faith. To put the interest of others before yourself. Remember, we are all in this together. Together for the gospel.
Rejoice in the Lord, ALWAYS! (4.4). Be glad. Find ways to give thanks to the Lord. James in his letter wrote, “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” (James 1.2). Be joyful in all circumstances, not if you encounter, but when you encounter difficult situations. Perhaps your isolation is taking longer than expected, rejoice! Maybe your ill, put on furlough, can not pay your rent, the list can go on. Our joy in the Lord should not be dependent on our circumstances, those change, but what doesn’t change is what Christ ultimately did for you…whether you live or die you have a greater hope and destiny than most do. You are a citizen and a child of God through Christ. REJOICE!
Be gentle towards others (4.5).Why? Because not only is the Lord watching, but His coming is imminent (The Lord is near). With that, He will reward all according to what they have done. Don’t be brash or frustrated towards one another. Be loving, peaceable, and gentle.
Do not be afraid, pray and give thanks (4.6-7).Times like these can bring out the worst of our fears. Instead of feeding those fears, turn to Christ and pray. May your focus be heavenward instead of the sea that rages around you. Do not be like Peter who took his eyes off the Lord when attempting to walk out to the Lord during the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Look for ways to give thanks to God. His provision, His protection, and power. A good way to take the concern off yourself is by praying for the needs of others. It is amazing that when we do this how often the peace of God replaces our greatest fears.
Finally, dwell on excellent things (4.8). Paul concludes his list of being excellent in times like these by relocating your thoughts and focus. To be in quarantine invites unwanted and idle behaviors. If we do not have a plan for daily tasks we may find ourselves sliding down the slippery slope of thoughts and actions unbecoming of a citizen and child of God. This means to be careful what you read, watch or listen to. How you take that information and pass it on. Paul exhorts us to focus on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell o these things” (4.8).
All this to state in Paul’s conclusion: “practice these things and the God of peace will be with you” (4.9b). If you find yourself struggling and lacking peace during these days of quarantine, meditate, pray and act on these verses from the Apostle Paul. Remember, he is not one who writes as one who does not know what it is like to be in isolation. He is writing as one who knows what you are going through. Mimic him. Let his pattern of a quarantine life be your pattern for others to follow.
Even though many have received Christ Jesus as Lord, they still need encouragement and hope for daily living. This blog serves to provide hope and encouragement, as well as to equip Christians to walk faithfully with Christ all the days of their lives.