As Paul languished in Roman captivity, Emperor Nero, ruled as a tyrant king. Nero was probably responsible for setting the fire that burned Rome in 64 AD. It is speculated that he did so to make room for a bigger, more extravagant palace. Afterward, Nero publicly blamed Christians for setting the fire, and thus, introduced state-sponsored persecution of Christ-followers. Nero crucified and beheaded Christians. He fed them to ravenous lions while crowds cheered the morbid spectacle. It is even reported that Nero took imprisoned Christians, dipped them in oil, and set them on fire to light his spectacularly sculpted gardens. Although Paul was released from prison after writing the four Prison Epistles (circa 60-61 AD), tradition says that he was later rearrested and executed. Like John the Baptist, Paul was probably beheaded (circa 67-68 AD).
As Paul closed the Philippian epistle, he offered four memorable, monumental declarations of encouragement. He wanted the church to “stand firm in the Lord” (Philippians 4:1) and to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), regardless of their present circumstances. As our culture devolves, as America becomes increasingly post-Christian, we too need to be prepared to “stand firm” and “rejoice in the Lord always!”
First, Paul writes, recognize God’s presence. Know that “the Lord is near!” (Philippians 4:4). Paul was confident, and he desperately wanted his audience to be equally confident of God’s promised presence. Almighty God declares, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and the rivers will not overwhelm you, when you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched and the flame will not burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior” (Isaiah 43:2–3). Jesus promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Try praying, “Lord, reveal your presence to me today!”
Second, enjoy God’s peace. “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). When Jesus revealed Himself to the weary band of fear-filled disciples on the first Easter Sunday morning, He held out His nail-scarred hands and said, “Peace be with you”(John 20:19). Earlier He had said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful” (John 14:27).
Third, employ God’s power. We are equipped and enabled to “do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). He promised! “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you” (Acts 1:8).
Fourth, trust God’s provision. “God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Notice carefully. He didn’t promise to supply our wants, and He didn’t promise to supply most of our needs or some of our needs. The Lord promised, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Always!
“Stand firm in the Lord” and “rejoice in the Lord always!”
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.