Joy and Gentleness

Monday, August 28, 2006


I am at the moment reading DA Carson’s Basics for Believer, which one of my friends has commented that it really isn’t so basic after all. However, the reason I think why Carson chose that title is because the crux of the Epistle of Philippians is the basics that all Christian believers must have.

They are:
1. Phil 1:1-26 Put the gospel first in all you do
2. Phil 1:27- 2:18 Adopt Jesus’ death as a test of your outlook
3. Phil 2:19-3:21 Emulate worthy Christian leaders
4. Phil 4:1-23 Never give up the Christian walk

I started reading on the 4th basic this morning and it was really refreshing. It has helped me readjust my thoughts, which has gone quite awry lately.

Here’s a summary of the sections I felt were personally helpful to me.

Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice!” (4:4). Paul has already introduced this theme from the first chapter (I will always pray with joy …). Paul has been a prime example of this virtue when he had first preached the gospel among the Philippians. According to Acts 16, he and Silas were arrested and thrown into prison. Beaten, bruised, their feet in stocks, they displayed not a whiff of self pity (emphasis mine). Far from it, they began instead a midnight chorus of praise.

Now he finds himself in prison again. And what does he say? “Hang in there, brothers and sisters, as I am trying to hang on myself?” (I can almost hear myself say that!) Not a chance! “Rejoice in the Lord. I will say it again: Rejoice!

The kingdom of God may be entered through suffering (Acts 14:22), but it is characterized by joy: Paul insists that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking”, that is, of obeying rules and observing kosher food laws, “but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men” (Rom 14:17-18).

Moreover, it is not the style of rejoicing that matters but the ground. The ultimate ground of our rejoicing can never be our circumstances for if it were then a change would render us miserable. Our delight must be in the Lord himself, which will enable us to live with joy above our circumstances.

Phil 4:5 is quite interesting, a verse I have not fully worked out yet, having no access to the bible tools I have at home. It is an imperative, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Carson explains the word gentleness to mean a kind of willed, self-effacing kindness, i.e. precluding the desire to be known, to deny oneself and be humble. I cannot yet see the connection between gentleness and humility. But it was something I need to be reminded on. I am hastened to do all things in the shadow of the cross. I do know that I excel in some things I do but I need to be “gentle” about it (still figuring this gentle thing out) and to do all things in the shadow of the cross.

Maeghan
Source: DA Carson, Basics for Believers, Leicester: IVP (2004): 105-109

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5 comment(s)

  1. Hi Maeghan!

    The ultimate ground of our rejoicing can never be our circumstances for if it were then a change would render us miserable. Our delight must be in the Lord himself, which will enable us to live with joy above our circumstances.
    This is so true, Maeghan! Thanks for writing this.
    I read Phil 4:5 in The Message and I thought it gave a good picture of what gentleness is:

    Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

    Hope all is well, Julia

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  2. Julia,
    I am not so sure about The Message translation ... it seems to be reading things into the verse?

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  3. Hope all is well

    Thanks for caring :) Things are OK - need to always remind myself that God is here and God is good. Basically to be still and know that He IS God.

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  4. I am checking this out on The Message - quite informative.

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  5. Hi Maeghan,

    Yes, I agree that at times it may be that he could be reading things in to it as is true of all translations. But I still think this is a good picture of gentleness - to remember that you are on the same side of every one you meet - sinners who have been saved by grace. I don't know about the 2nd half, though.

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