PHILIPPIANS - THE BOOK OF JOY
The Secure Mind - - or - - Worry Robs Your Joy
"And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
To "intreat" is to earnestly ask something. Paul just finished pointing out two women, by name, who were behaving in such a way as to shift the focus away from the work and onto themselves. Now he opens up his instructions to include some others who need some instruction. When he was "scolding" these two women he carefully pointed out what they were doing wrong, directed their attention back to being on the Lord, and then moved on. Sometimes we get stuck on the first step and go from correcting someone for their benefit, to hammering away at them for the sake of feeling better about ourselves. Paul didn't really even have to name exactly what they were doing. It certainly seems that he felt they were mature enough to know what they were doing that was wrong, and he told them to "get your focus back on the Lord" and then he moved on. Sometimes when we see another Christian getting off track we tend to step forward in an honest effort to get them back on track but we ourselves become sidelined with "pecking them to death like a duck!" We want to be sure they understand just how wrong they are and never back off to let them make amends or adjustments to their behavior. Paul named these two women and told them to get along better in an open letter to their church but then he moved on to address "thee also, my true yokefellow."
Yokefellow are people who are working together side by side. Paul begged the women to get their focus back where it needed to be, and then said "and the rest of you help these two women who have worked hard with me." They weren't just some gals that dropped in from nowhere. And they weren't just being singled out to be ostracized. He really wanted them to succeed and wanted the rest of their fellow Christians to help them. When eagles are molting they are very vulnerable because they cannot fly. Groups of eagles will get together during the molting time and make a circle around the most vulnerable one to protect it. The work together to ward of anything that might try to attack the weakest one. Then when that eagle is getting through the process and has more feathers back, they switch places so another more vulnerable one can go to the middle of the circle. How safe and secure that molting eagle must feel having all those others standing guard around him while he is at his lowest, literally, because he can't even fly. Not us humans! No sir-ee, we see somebody down, hurting and vulnerable and we swarm in there on attack to make sure they don't miss one single old feather. We say we want to be sure they don't miss anything and that we are helping them out. In fact, we often reach right in and do damage ourselves by "helping" them be thorough. We attack our weakest, most vulnerable.
Paul does point out that these women "which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other fellow labourers" had been doing the right thing before. He knew it because they had worked with him! We don't have any information about who Clement was but obviously the church did. He referred to someone specific that they had worked with and also "other" people they had helped. We need to address problems, we need to confront sin, but we do not need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Stop and remember how the person you want to peck to death has served in the past. Remind them how they have served and been successful in the past. Rest secure in the process of correction that God has laid out and don't worry about destroying someone who has offended.
Right smack in the middle of this exhortation Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord!" God forgives and forgets our sin. Sometimes we get hung up and don't move on after the molting has finished. How frustrating to the mighty eagle to be protected by others but then also kept down on the ground unable to soar again. We need to rejoice when someone confesses something and changes their actions. We can't use their past sins as a net to keep them grounded, never fully serving God again. We need to rejoice in the change God can bring about in their hearts and help them catch the wind again. Rejoice . . . don't recharge for another attack.
In verse 5 the word "moderation" means your gentleness. I'd have to say that American Christians have a reputation for shooting their wounded while still in battle. We can turn on each other soooo quickly. How many of us ever over-scolded a child for something they did. We made such a big deal out of it they didn't stand a chance at lifting their eyes for days. Imagine if these folks had not moved on and forgiven Paul but had kept reminding him about his past deeds. They could have handicapped this great missionary and kept him from accomplishing what God had planned for him!
I don't know exactly what Paul meant when he wrote, "The Lord is at hand" but I try to remind myself that it means to let God be God in situations. I don't need to lord over someone making sure they get every last detail confessed and changed. God is still right at hand and available to help them. I am to correct others but I don't need to overshadow them and be in God's way. Let God do HIS work and be secure in the fact that He WILL!
When Paul says, "Be careful for nothing" he doesn't mean be reckless. He means don't be so micro-focused that we don't fret or get hung up on something. Allow yourself to be secure in the fact that He really is in charge and will do His part of things.
I once heard the story of a little old lady who kept a little tin on top of her stove. Whenever she cooked or baked for her family she would reach in the little tin and take out the tiniest pinch of something and sprinkle it on the food while muttering to herself. One day her little granddaughter asked her what she was doing. The lady replied, "Why, I'm praying to the good Lord that this will all turn out well and nourish everyone who eats it. I'm praying." "But what's in the box" pushed the little girl. "Oh, that's just some love I like to sprinkle on things." We should be praying for others, be thankful for others, and make request to God for them.
Verse 7 says that when we do this correctly we will no longer worry about those issues. There is great peace to be found at the feet of Jesus. There is peace for sinners and peace for the saved as well. And God's peace is remarkable! It isn't flimsy or intermittent. It is straight from God's heart and it will feel like nothing else we've ever known! I have made some big blunders in my life. I have had to be singled out and "scolded" or made away of my shortcomings. Sometimes there have been an awful lot of people around me who knew about what was going on. It's a very polarizing time as other Christians step away from you and stand around in their little circle looking in. "But the peace of God!" It's so wonderful I can't explain it. I can't even understand it! It is beyond understanding by ANYone! And that exact peace will keep my heart (emotions) and my mind safe through Christ Jesus. Even if everyone around me is facing inward, pecking at me, I can have peace because of Christ. I can be forgiven . . . actually I already am! I can be free from all fear of being vulnerable. And I can also be assured that I will correct others correctly if I am in Christ Jesus.
I know a man who made a life changing, even life shattering, choice. What he did was very wrong. But when he was down and his life was falling apart around him, not too many people circled the wagons around him. A lot of people "flew off" leaving him exposed to further attacks by Satan. Others bit and pecked and made sure every single detail was made public and that he was shamed until he was almost helpless. For a time he was paralyzed by shame and fear. But when some Christians who knew better, got around him and supported him and watched out for him, he was able to properly make amends and turn around his life to live a great testimony to the Lord. Pecking the downed eagle did not make him better. It wounded him more deeply. When we are secure in our handling of others we can help bring them joy! God has already forgiven their sin and because He can do it, so should we (with His help).
Who are you pecking on today?