Are you still reading Philippians with me? Reading over and over never hurts. Of course, I’m assuming you are also reading elsewhere in the scriptures at the same time. We have been hovering over these passages, remembering Paul’s main objective which was to encourage these Christians in a Greek culture to stand firm in the doctrines of the faith and their basic applications. He wanted them to settle their disputes quickly so their work together for the spread of the gospel would go on and on.
Now he wants them to enjoy the peace which is part and parcel of this kind of lifestyle. So he gives them some specific things they are to do.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your repuests be made known to God. and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
Sovereignty and Responsibility
Paul urged his friends to make a decision to rejoice in what God is like and their relationship with him. In addition, they were to decide to be reasonable in their dealings with others, to get along in spite of their differences. It was a decision they were to make and follow through with. It was their responsibility. It is our responsibility too–to be reasonable with others and to rejoice that God is who the Bible says he is: our Creator, King, Judge, Teacher, Savior, Friend, and Brother. Decide you will do it.
Many people confuse God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibilities. They emphasize one without the other. And that leads to an imbalance and misrepresentation of what the Bible really tells us. God is sovereign; man is responsible. Charles Spurgeon used to illustrate this with a train illustration: There are two tracks running side by side. One is the train of God’s sovereign power; the other is a train flying the flag of man’s responsibility. They keep going straight ahead; they never cross. Both are true; both are themes flowing from Genesis to Revelation.
Here is an example of our responsibility: to rejoice in the Lord; to behave reasonably; not to worry; be thankful; pray. It is a matter of the mind; deciding to do it and doing it. Of course, you can ask for help!
Now comes the other train flying by. It is waving the flag of God’s sovereignty; his absolute power. His peace will guard our hearts and minds. It is beyond us to ever understand why we could be at peace with God; to escape his justice due our sin; to be saved from his wrath; to have our hearts stirred to love him, to obey his precepts, to calm down and rest in the power he demonstrated to us at Jesus’s resurrection. But, the Lord is near—at our right hand; perhaps coming back today in all his power and glory. Then we will see clearly his sovereignty and our responsibility. For now, be sure to keep both trains running.
Do what is necessary to rejoice and think straight about getting along with others. Maybe you need to reflect on how wonderful it is to be a child of God.