1. Outward Resources
When someone has a particular project in mind—something they’ve set their heart on doing—one of the first things that they need to do is to identify the things that they need to do and check the resources that are available. And those resources may include: a book on how to do the job; the equipment and tools needed to do it; advice from someone who has expertise in the area concerned; and the personnel needed in order to complete it.
When someone has a health problem—something that requires some assistance—one of the first things they need to do is to assess the sort of help required. They can then refer themselves to the appropriate body. And that could include: a doctor; a counsellor; a psychiatrist or psychologist; a podiatrist; or any one of a number of other helpers that might be available.
For whether one has a project, a health issue, or whatever, the resources that are available today—to help people through—are amazing. There are so many people, places, and organisations where one can go to get advice, help, or whatever one needs. So much so, that it can seem that if there’s a problem of any description, it’s just a matter of identifying the sort of help that is available and making the appropriate arrangements.
Having said that, it might seem, sometimes, that some take things just that little bit too far. For example, we have the ridiculous extreme of some people—particularly in the United States—where unless one has a personal therapist, one just hasn’t made it in the world.
2. Inner Resources
Nevertheless, outward resources—getting help from outside sources—can be very helpful and help us to achieve many things.
But they are not the only resources that are available. They are not the only thing on which we should depend. Because we also have inward resources—things we can call on from within. Resources like skills, abilities, intuition, common sense, and the like. And for those with faith, the Bible teaches us, we have a number of additional inner resources as well.
B. FOUR INNER RESOURCES
Because in his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul outlined some of the inner resources that are available to Christians generally. And he did so in the context of a church that was under the hammer. They felt the world was closing in on them. They were being persecuted for their faith. And as a result the church was falling into disarray.
And it’s from that context that Paul indicated to them that they had the resources—inner strengths if you like—to face up to such attacks. And the list of resources makes some very interesting reading.
1. Being Joyful (4)
Because the first of these resources was joy. Rejoice Paul said, despite everything rejoice.
Now Paul wasn’t being naïve; he didn’t want people to go around with fake smiles and false optimism. And he wasn’t talking about everyone being naturally optimistic either. No! What Paul was saying was that inside ever believer should be that feeling of joy—the natural result of having faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul’s appeal for joyfulness was founded on an appeal to their faith. Because despite whatever hardships they faced, the fact was they had accepted Jesus as their Lord and saviour. They had acknowledged that Jesus had indeed died for their sins.
And so, because of their restored relationship with God and their knowledge that they indeed would inherit eternal life, joy and rejoicing in God their saviour should be the natural result. Indeed, nothing they faced should compare with the excitement of their journey with God, which was theirs as a result of their decision for faith.
2. Being Outward Looking (5b)
The second resource that was available to them was the ability to be outward looking. If they were to be a joyful people—and they did have something to get excited about—then that joy should rub off on others.
Rather than be inward looking and preoccupied with their own interests, Paul said they should be full of enthusiasm with what they had already accepted for themselves. Indeed, should be only too willing and ready to spread the message to the world.
3. Being Gentle (5a)
The third resource, Paul said, was the ability to be gentle. Because despite everything, despite even persecution, despite whatever “ringers” they felt they were being put through, they still had it in them to be gentle and fair-minded in their dealings with others.
Oh, yes, some people might give them a hard time, some people might even threaten them. But despite whatever people threw their way, the joy—the heavenly joy that they should feel—meant that they should not lash out and retaliate against those who opposed them, but that they should treat them with a spirit of graciousness. And a graciousness that, without faith, they would not otherwise have been able to do.
4. Being Confident (5c-6a)
And the fourth resource was the ability to be confident in their faith. Because despite whatever opposition they faced, they should know that Jesus would come again to vindicate their cause.
Indeed, they should have the confidence where they weren’t trying to vindicate themselves against opposition, but rather that at the end of the world judgement would take place and all wrongs would be dealt with. Then all who opposed God and rejected the Christian faith would be punished and get their due. There was a time and place for vindication, Paul said. And the fact that people would be judged should have a bearing on their present situation.
In summary, then, Paul said that there are four inner qualities that are within every Christian—four qualities that every Christian can draw on. And they are: being joyful; being outward looking; having a disposition of gentleness and fair-mindedness; and having confidence that God is very much in control. And as a result of that, Paul exhorted his readers to use the inner resources that were available, which were theirs only through the grace of God.
C. THE NURTURING OF THOSE INNER QUALITIES
Now I don’t know about you, but it appears to me that many Christians today do not always reflect the four inner qualities that Paul described. The reality is that some Christians are not as joyful, as outward looking, as gentle, or as confident as Paul described that they should be. In fact many Christians are not only hard to get on with, but are inward looking, and have nothing of the joys of life that faith should bring. And in one sense it is difficult to see how these four inner resources could apply to everyone who has faith.
And that’s probably why Paul, having raised the issue of these four resources—which were freely available to every Christian—then went on to talk about how to nurture these very things. And he mentions two things that were necessary to develop these inner strengths.
1. Prayer (6b)
And the first is prayer. Because rather than people getting bogged down and inward looking, Paul said that believers should come to God, to communicate with him generally, and make their specific requests.
2. Thankfulness (6c)
And the second is the need to be thankful. That any requests to God need to be presented with a thankful heart. Indeed, believers need to thank God for their relationship with him, with the things that he had done and continues to do. And they need to thank God in all circumstances—in both the pleasant and adverse situations in life.
3. The Peace of God (7)
And through the practice of doing these two things, Paul was able to conclude, that then and only then would God’s people experience and appreciate the peace of God on which the four inner resources depended.
For the Philippians, yes, they may have been concerned about the security of the church and its members in a hostile environment. But what Paul was saying, was that despite that, they still had the resources to cope in such a situation. Indeed, they still had the means to be joyful, to be outward looking, to be gentle, and to be confident. And they didn’t need to withdraw, be insular, or retaliate as they might otherwise be tempted to do.
Now obviously, the Philippians were going through a pretty rough time, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But despite that, Paul encouraged them to draw on their faith, and to use the inner resources that God had given them. And if that could make a difference to the church at Philippi, then think about what it could do for us today.
After all, what kind of church are we? And do we reflect the four inner resources that are available to every Christian?
1. The Four Inner Qualities
a). Being Joyful
In other words, are we a joyful church? Do we exude the kind of rejoicing that should come through faith?
Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to be a church that bounces up and down to particular church music. Nor does it mean that we have to puts on a fake smile when we are feeling the exact opposite. But are we the kind of church that is enthusiastic? Are we convinced of the necessity of what Jesus has done, and have adopted it for ourselves? Are we people who live and express joy knowing where we’re going when we die?
b).Being Outward Looking
Are we an outward looking church? Do we continually look to the world outside, wanting to share the things we have learned and accepted for ourselves?
Not, are we a church that continually looks inwards to issues of survival and all that that entails. But one that wants to share the excitement that we have with others. A people who wants to tell others about God, Jesus, and salvation—no matter who they might be.
c). Being Gentle
Are we gentle and fair-minded in our dealings with other people—even with those who are determined to give us a hard time?
Not, do we lash out and retaliate against those who are against us—against those who oppose our views. But do we treat everyone with a spirit of graciousness, even in a hostile environment?
d). Being Confident
And are we confident, that despite what comes our way, we will be vindicated at the end?
Not, do we worry about things over which we have no control. But do we live knowing that whatever happens all wrongs will be righted, and they will be righted by God come judgement day?
Joyfulness, being outward looking, being gentle with others, and living lives confident in God . . . Is that the kind of picture we have of ourselves and our church? Because it should be. And if it isn’t, we probably need to do some soul searching; we need to think again. Because if these are the inner values that Paul said were available to those in the embattled church at Philippi, then think what those qualities could do for a church like ours today.
2. Nurturing Those Inner Resources
And it all begins with prayer, and with the need to express our prayers with thanksgiving.
3. The Peace of God
Then if we use those inner resources, if we use the whole package that comes through faith, we too will experience the peace of God in our lives. Indeed, we will live in the secure knowledge that our relationship with God is secure. And what a difference that would make.
Now, in the world today we can do many things. And there are a variety of resources that we can call upon for help. If we’re doing a project, we can get plans, materials, advice and even some outside help. And if the issue is of a more medical nature there are a lot of options available too.
And yet while there is an abundance of outward resources available, there are also inward resources available as well. Not least of which are the spiritual resources available for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.
Now the Apostle Paul was well aware of the inner qualities that faith could bring. And so, writing to a church in trouble. he was able to spell out what they needed to ensure their continued faith and survival. And the resources he suggested to the Philippians are the ones that are available to us right now too.
Being joyful in the Lord, being outward looking, being gentle and fair-minded, and being confident in God . . . These are four inner resources available to every believer. And with prayer and thankfulness, we can experience them in our lives and in the life of our church. And when we do, the end result will be, that even when we are facing all sorts of dilemmas, we too will be able to live knowing the peace of God in our lives.
Posted: 12th January 2021
© 2021, Brian A Curtis