Monday, January 27, 2014

Scripture Memorization Week One {Philippians 4:4-5}

I’m so excited to be starting my weekly scripture memorization, and I’m so happy you are a part of my journey. My plan for the first week was to do Philippians 4:4-9. I decided I wanted it to be my scripture memorization when I was reading in my Jesus Calling the other day. After reading it and thinking on it, I couldn’t help but to break it up in my mind. Each verse was so powerful in itself, that to memorize it as a whole was taking away from the individual parts of it. However, I know there is a reason that all of the verses are organized in that particular order.  I love this passage so much, and perhaps after breaking the all up into parts and understanding them more, I can better understand it as a whole. So, with that being said, the next three weeks of scripture memorization will be as follow: this week: Philippians 4:4-5, week two: Philippians 4:6-7 and week three: Philippians 4:8-9. If this works for you, I encourage you to do this a long with me, I would love to hear what others have learned from this particular piece of scripture.

To be honest, after the first verse though (verse 4), I had a hard time understanding what these verses were supposed to mean. What was I supposed to take from this? How does it fit together? Why were these verses written one after another as if they had some sort of connection? They in fact do, but I needed to do some research* of my own about the book of Philippians to truly appreciate these couple of verses, and subsequently, the

To understand these two verses, we really need to have an understanding of the background of this particular book of the Bible. This book is an epistle (or letter) from Paul to the Philippians. The “Philippians” he refers to are members of a church that Paul started in Philippi 10 years prior on his second missionary journey.  At the time this letter was written, Paul was under house arrest in Rome after a conflict in Jerusalem and was facing his trial. The Philippians, Paul’s friends and great supporters sent one of their people, Epaphroditus, to go to Rome to visit Paul and to give him a gift (probably money). There, Epaphroditus stayed and helped Paul with his missions and became ill. After he became ill, he went back to Philippi, and with him, he brought this epistle (the book of Philippians) written by Paul. Philippians 4:4-9 is most certainly not the beginning of the letter, but in these specific verse, I believe it clearly illustrates Paul’s attitude towards his situation, and the attitude that we as Christians are called to have, should we face tumultuous experiences. After finishing the book, I may just pick more out from it for scripture memory J

What really attracted me to this verse was those very first sentences: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” It seems so cheerful and so encouraging. In fact, this isn’t the only verse in Philippians that has the word “rejoice”. The book of Philippians has the word “rejoice” or “joy” 16 times! Yeah, 16 times is a lot! It seems that this is the general attitude of Paul. Surprising, huh? The man was a prisoner in Rome, and he talks so much about having an attitude of joy and rejoicing in the Lord. I looked up the word “joy” on theopedia. This is what it had to say:

“Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.” 

If anyone illustrates this perfectly, it’s Paul. But he is calling his church and anyone else who is a believer to REJOICE (have joy) in the Lord. This is saying that we should be content, confident, and hopeful in Christ. This isn’t just a command to do when we have what we need, or when there isn’t anything going terribly wrong. No, it says “Rejoice in the lord always” This is through any and every circumstance. This is a right we should fight for as Christians, to be able to have a joy that comes only from the Lord. A joy and peace that passes understanding.  

Okay so here’s the part of the passage that stumped me. Verse 5 says “let your forbearing spirit be known to all men for the Lord is near”. What the heck? How is that even related to the first verse? This command seems foreign compared to the first.  However, after reading several different versions of the Bible, it became a little bit clearer to me what Paul is saying in verse 5. I began to understand that these two commands are right there, side by side because they are such strong commands, needing to be emphasized for a single purpose. Here’s the NLT version: “Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do”. Here’s the NIV version: “Let your gentleness be evident to all”. And here’s the WNT & RSV version: “let your forbearing spirit be known to all men”. These are all different words, but getting a better definition of the word “forbearance” will help us understand how to comprehend this.  

EPIEKES is the Greek word which can be loosely translated as forbearing. Take Teknia’s definition for instance: “Sweet reasonableness, generosity, goodwill, friendliness, magnanimity, charity toward the faults of others, mercy toward the failures of others, indulgence of the failures of others, leniency, bigheartedness, moderation, forbearance, and gentleness”

In other words, graciousness. Now we can relate all of the different versions. We are called to be gracious towards, showing humility, and a forbearing or patient bearing of those who oppose or abuse us. This certainly does not mean physical abuse. No, this is talking about the personal offenses we take every day by others. This is talking about the little annoyances that make up our everyday lives, the little things that push us to the point of exploding after we get cut off by someone in a line, or someone can’t read our minds and agendas. I don’t know about y’all, but I am a complete hot head. I’m stubborn, and I am so very vengeful if we’re being honest. But that doesn’t mean I can’t ask for God’s grace to give me a gentle and forbearing spirit towards those who I have felt have wronged me in some way, or simply just annoyed me.  So at the beginning of verse 5, Paul is speaking to his peeps, telling them what God commands them to do. Why? Because they had earlier faced opposition by those who did not agree with their church (Philippians 1:27-30).

So we have a choice. We can choose vengeance against those who “do us wrong”. Or we can have a forbearing spirit, patiently bearing the injustices done to us by others, showing that we are Christians who have chosen to follow God’s command to us.

I long to be person who rejoices in all circumstances. I long to be a person with a forbearing spirit, having a patient attitude with those who abuse, annoy, or wrong me. I hope you long for the same thing. I hope we can work as Christians together to show others that God can give you the grace to manifest a spirit of forbearing and joy. For the day of the Lord is near and through my actions, I want to bring as many people to Christ that I can!

What did you get out of these verses? How is your scripture memorization going?

*I was really helped to understand this scripture by a sermon I saw here.

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