Author: Ron Graham
Are You Positive?
—A study in Philippians
Paul's letter to the Philippians is positive in its theme, "I can!" It is also positive in its motivation, "the upward call of God" (Philippians 3:14, 4:13).
The kind of positive thinking that we see in Philippians is not the popular "positive thinking" we hear so much about. Rather, Paul in Philippians encourages Christ-centered thinking.
The value of this true thinking is that it is fruitful. A thousand positive thoughts are nothing if not translated into positive action. It's positive action is what this lesson is about.
We will work through Philippians noting positive actions that will enrich our lives —turning the mind of Christ into our joy in Christ.
1 Sharing, Abounding
Sharing. One of the great positives of the Christian life is "...fellowship in the gospel..." (Philippians 1:5). Time to share with the lonely, love to share with your family, material things to share with the needy, the gospel to share with the lost. Sharers create a community.
Abounding. We are encouraged to "...abound still more and more..." (Philippians 1:9). Later, Paul uses a similar word, "fulfill" (Philippians 2:2). "Do-leasters" have nothing to distinguish them. "Do-mosters" fill up and overflow in their good works and fruit bearing. Which are you?
2 Discerning, Progressing
Discerning. Paul prays for love to abound "...in knowledge and all discernment..." (Philippians 1:9). Discernment is the ability to value things correctly. Every day we make, and act upon, our choices from among the options open to us. These choices shape our lives. Christians so often lack this ability to select wisely.
Progressing. Paul was concerned for "...your progress and joy of faith..." (Philippians 1:25). Progress or improvement, "pressing toward the goal" (Philippians 3:14), should characterise us all, whether we are just beginning our walk with Jesus, or are well advanced along the way. So many are standing still, even going backwards. Can you look back and say you are a better Christian than you were, say, a year ago?
3 Striving, Esteeming
Striving. The Lord wants his people to be striving —not against each other, but "...striving together for the faith..." (Philippians 1:27). Should Christians be fighting? Yes, they should be fighting together against evil, for "the defence of the gospel" (Philippians 1:7). Offence is destructive, but defence is protective of the gospel and that's the fight in which we must engage as "fellow soldiers" (Philippians 2:25).
Esteeming. We should "...esteem others as better than self..." (Philippians 2:3). Have you ever been disregarded, disrespected, misjudged, patronised, or even despised? Did that do you any good? Well, on the other hand, have you ever been shown respect? Didn't that make you feel uplifted? You didn't become swelled-headed, but your true self-esteem was nourished by the respect given you. Therefore have, and show, respect for others.
4 Persevering, Rejoicing
Persevering. This is "...holding fast the word of life..." (Philippians 2:16). In the church there are those who, through thick and thin, will hold fast the word, even when they don't seem to be able to do more than that. Perseverance will have its reward.
Rejoicing. Paul exhorts us to "...rejoice in the Lord..." (Philippians 3:1). Paul says the same thing twice again in Philippians 4:4. Just showing your joy in Jesus is positive action. It spreads joy to others —not "religious razamatazz and holy hullabaloo" but genuine joy in heart, speech, work, and relationships.
5 Praying, Learning
Praying. "...everything by prayer with thanksgiving..." (Philippians 4:6). What could be simpler than asking and thanking? What more positive thing could be done? Can you explain why so many Christians fail to do this thing that every Christian can do?
Learning. "...The things you learned and received...these do" (Philippians 4:9). Christian life is a learning and receiving process. The first step is to understand what God requires. The next step is to apply this correctly to your own circumstances. The third step is to reach a level of excellence.
And Many More
In this lesson we have by no means exhausted the positive actions encouraged in Philippians. Here are some other examples. Can you find more? I'm sure you can!
- Magnifying Christ (Philippians 1:20)
- Suffering for Christ (Philippians 1:29)
- Confessing his Lordship (Philippians 2:11)
- Shining for Christ (Philippians 2:15)
- Caring for others (Philippians 2:20)
- Ministering to needs (Philippians 2:25)
- Watching out for evil (Philippians 3:2)
- Following good examples (Philippians 3:17)
- Waiting for the Lord (Philippians 3:20)
- Helping in the gospel work (Philippians 4:3)
- Meditating on noble things (Philippians 4:8)
- Greeting the saints (Philippians 4:21-22)