I think I just got it! The Bible says of Jesus that He learned obedience through the things that He suffered in Hebrews 5:7-9 which states, “…when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him…”
Before I continue I want to make it clear that this experience took place when Jesus had cloaked His divinity and took on human flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus as eternal God did not need to be perfected in any way. But Jesus did come as a sinless man, God in the flesh, referred to as the “last Adam” or “second Adam”, and experienced being human in this fallen world. And while here, He exemplified the footsteps in which we are to walk, and thus attentively learned obedience (5218 hypakoḗ) through the experience of and by heading the voice of suffering. In other words, suffering is our path.
The word for “suffering” in Greek is pásxō (3958) and refers to when something happens to us that is strongly, emotionally overwhelming to the one that is experiencing it. This happened in the past while Jesus had humbled Himself as a servant, but this learning (3129 manthánō) was objectively, unshakably real, and its lesson remains with Him who is now seated on the right hand of God, doing intercession on our behalf as our great High Priest.
We can all read that over and over and over again, and it is all just words. But, I’d been wondering about it, and been thinking on it – what the Bible terms “meditation” (as seen a lot of the Psalms). Plus, I’d been thinking on the book of James, specifically James 1:2-4 and 5:10-11. James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” And James 5:10-11 goes on to say, “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed, we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”
In short, it is through suffering that we are perfected (and no, I do not mean we will attain perfection while here). Whatever that suffering might be, whatever that trial might be, whatever that difficulty or hardship or suffering, it is there to train us, to mold and fashion us, to conform us into the image of Christ. As Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” And Jesus humbled Himself to the lowest degree, becoming the servant of all (Philippians 2). A servant is also termed slave in Scripture, and a slave had no rights and had to obey their master’s commands, even doing the most menial tasks. Soldiers in the military were no different, and priests in service to God in the Temple were no different either. They were in “service” to whoever was above them, and when they heard a command they did not question – they just did it. Period.
This is what our Jesus did. He who made all things, and in whom all things consist and are held together by the word of His power, the One who created principalities and powers and shaped man into His own image, whose fingers formed the stars, the very One who said “let there be light”, stepped down into darkness cloaking His glory; God incarnate, bowed down low, obeying every command no matter how demeaning, even to the point of death – “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2b)
I’ve read it time and again, but never had it touched me as it did today. Just the other night I was emoting to the Lord about how there are certain people who seemed to be very touched by His favor, and how I do not feel or appear to be favored by Him. It’s not that I even want “their” life nor do I wish them less joy. I just look at my own life and it appears so void of what everyone else has or is doing. And without going into too many details, my world is filled with pain, challenges, and grief; when one thing appear I was careful not to accuse the Lord of withholding, because that is not what I was doing. I was simply hurting and venting to the One I love the most, the One I know I can come to with any and every problem, my dearest friend and Father.
Then today I experienced great anger over the fact (and yes it is a fact) that many good things I’d been looking forward to have all be stifled by some form of suffering. Over and over again something I’d looked forward to has been dashed by some unforeseen pain or disappointment or grief. Now, no, it’s not maybe every time, but it is often enough that I can list many instances. And today all of that happiness turning to sadness time after time vented like a volcano. On top of this – not to justify my emotional explosion – so many of my dear friends are overwhelmed with physical illness and/or pain, circumstances and relationships out of their control, and are lost in a sea of emotion.
And then it hit me – Bam! We learn through suffering. Jesus did. And God’s almighty hand is fashioning us into the image of His dear Son by the same instrument of suffering. After all, the pupil is not above his/her teacher. Jesus showed us the way in which were to walk, and He walked the path of suffering. It is no wonder then that we are all walking this path. Jesus did not like it. We don’t like it. The student never likes being tested, but the test is essential. Even so, we are being tested. And this test, this suffering, is not to make us fail or weaker or make us look foolish or belittled by God. NO! God does not tempt us to fall! Ever! (James 1:13-15). But, this testing is to make us more resilient, more enduring, more sparkly more eternal and more and more like Jesus!!
Our life does not belong to us. Our lives here on earth are not about our happiness. We as Christians are not our own. We are bought with a price. We belong to God.
Even so, I am considering myself blessed because of all of my “temporal” happiness constantly turning to sorrow. I’m changing my attitude. I am choosing to count it all joy to endure my string of trials of sadness in order that I may be perfect and complete, wanting nothing. God is doing this for my good, and I am honored to be His child, that He is taking the time to carefully fashion each intricate detail, mold each divot, chisel each mark, sand each edge, sharpen what should be sharp, placing each gemstone just where it ought to be, and firing me in His kiln when necessary for both refinement and sparkle. I am not my own. I am His creation, His workmanship created for good works in Christ, His masterpiece, His little seed that must die that one day I might rise in the glory ordained for me in the eternity to come – for His praise and glory!
With all that is transpiring in our world today and the swift approach of economic collapse, the already manifesting food shortages, violent riots, political unrest, and the arrival of Christian persecution, this is the prescription of Dr. Jesus. The passage of Philippians 4:6-9 covers incredibly powerful, life-altering topics that we cannot afford to miss! Have you read this passage recently? Here are some of it’s topics: “Do Not Worry,” “Thankful Prayer,” “Think on These Things,” and “Habitual Practice of Peace.”
We are going to begin at the tail end of things, the “Habitual Practice of Peace” as found in Philippians 4:9 which says, “9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
Now, what were the Philippians to practice exactly? That which they had learned, received, heard, and seen of course! So, what was it that they had learned, received, heard and seen? Before we get to some of those specifics, let’s take a look at the Greek behind those four important words: Learn, Receive, Hear, See, and Do.
A Little Greek Lesson
Before proceeding to this passage’s application, it is essential that we take a quick look at what these words mean in the Greek. This will enable us to reach a better, more Biblically sound application.
The Greek word for Learn is not the type of learning that can be attained overnight, but rather, is acquired from experience through a great deal of reflection and discipline. The Greek word for Received comes from the combination of two Greek words which when combined mean, “to aggressively take alongside,” or “to receive with the mind.” In other words, you really want it and readily receive it. The Greek for Hear, literally means “to hear (listen)” and figuratively means, “to hear God’s voice” which leads to inner faith. After all, “Faith come by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” The Greek meaning of to See can mean to physically see, but can also mean to perceive with the mind “with inward spiritual perception” all through experience. And To Do in the Greek means to practice regularly, to “perform repeatedly or habitually” and is not just a one time thing. In other words, what one was discipled in, exuberantly received, heard with their inner ears, and saw with their spiritual eyes, was to be lived out over and over again.
Paul’s Example: “I Have Learned the Secret”
Along with this important knowledge of the Greek definitions, yet another step in coming to the best application is that of knowing what the Philippians had learned, received, heard and seen in Paul. To better understand this, let’s go back into Philippians 3 beginning in verse 8.
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death… forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you….17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”
According to this passage, Paul had learned through experience, reflection and discipline to be content, to be satisfied, to have an “inward sufficiency” that comes from the empowerment of Christ. A God-Sufficiency. Paul also knew how to be “abased”, that is, to be completely humble, even humiliated and God-reliant instead of self-reliant or others-reliant, as well as to “superabound” and to have excess. Furthermore, he had been instructed. The word used here should not merely say “I am instructed,” but rather should be translated, “I have learned the secret,” or “I have been initiated,” for it does include a message of powerful importance. And The Secret appears to have to do with the art of being famished or full, the art of superabounding in goods or suffering in great need.
In every secret society or brotherhood or fraternity there is always what is called an initiation for the newcomer, and nearly if not always, the new initiate has to go through some sort of pain or humiliation or bloodshed of some kind in order to be initiated into the group. The word used for the mystery religions of Paul’s day for doing such an initiation was the word used here for “I have been instructed” or “I have learned the secret,” and meant quite literally “to be initiated into the mysteries.” It is not just a mere instruction that anyone would learn in the classroom, but rather pictures the initiate closing their eyes and mouth in order to “experience [the] mystery” and thus be “initiated into the wonderful “mystery revelation” of learning.”
The Initiation Ceremony of Suffering
What is the mystery in which Paul had been instructed? Remaining in perfect peace while suffering. After all, Paul had gone through and would continue to go through extensive persecution, physical and emotional pain, poverty, severe opposition, and deep disappointments. As it says in 2 Corinthians 11, “in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one [195 lashes].25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” And yet in all of it Paul goes on to say, “29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” In chapter 4 states, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh….14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Application: Have You Been Initiated?
Indeed, Paul had learned the secret, and been initiated into “Christ’s sufferings” and that secret was resting in Christ and remaining in God’s peace through it and in spite of it all.
Now, how about us? Have we been initiated? Let us learn this secret of how to be unshakably peaceful, this mystery of being content in Christ no matter where we are located, no matter what is in our tummies, no matter what people are with us or not with us, no matter how much or how little money we have in our pockets. Taking up our cross and dying to ourselves daily takes on a whole new meaning with this in mind (Matthew 16:24-26; Galatians 2:20).
Through Paul, the Philippians had learned, received, heard, and seen what to do in the midst of good times and bad times, times of great overflowing abundance and times of little-to-nothing, days of great discomfort and days of a multitude of benefits. The Gospel is not just about the good days, but about the bad. The Gospel, as exemplified through Christ, does not promise us smooth sailing, great wealth, or only good times. Really, it guarantees us the opposite. It says we are blessed when we are persecuted, that we are to take up our shameful cross daily and follow Christ, that we are to rejoice anyway in all situations, and that when we are generous here (whether we have a little with which to be generous or a lot) then we have riches in heaven. The Gospel promises us something more amazing, more mind blowing and more incredible than what this superficial world will ever experience. It promises us rest, whether we are rich or destitute, when we are starving or fat and sassy. It promises us a sufficiency in Christ that nothing can touch! It promises us unshakable peace that nothing can defeat! It promises us that we are more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8).
We along with Paul are called to count all accomplishments and gains and all that this world looks up to as “dung”. We too are called to fellowship with Christ in His suffering. We are not to be conformed to this world’s standards, but instead are called with Paul to conform to Christ in His death. We are called to follow Paul in his example of following Christ, and are to thus learn the art of suffering well. We are to habitually practice peace in both prosperity and poverty, in humiliation and happiness.
If the stock market crashes, rest in Christ. If you’re favorite coffee is no longer found on the shelves of the grocery store or turkeys are unavailable for Thanksgiving or a pile of presents is not an option for Christmas this year or you lose your job, habitually practice peace. For true peace is not found in things. True peace is not found in money. True peace is not found in vacations or large parties or full refrigerators or brand new cars or any material, fleshly thing. True peace is found in Christ alone! Why? Because Christ is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
“Learned” =3129manthánō (akin to 3101/mathētḗs, “a disciple”) – properly, learning key facts; gaining “fact-knowledge as someone learns from experience, often with the implication of reflection – ‘come to realize’ “Also in Vs 11“I have Learned…”
“Received” =“3880paralambánō (from 3844/pará, “from close-alongside” and 2983/lambánō, “aggressively take”) – to take (receive) by showing strong personal initiative…. to join to oneself… to receive with the mind”
“Heard” =191akoúō – properly, to hear (listen); (figuratively) to hear God’s voice which prompts Him to birth faith within (cf. Ro 10:17). See 189 (akoē).[191 (akoúō) is the root of the English term, “acoustics.”]“Faith come by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
“Have Seen” =“3708horáō – properly, see, often with metaphorical meaning: “to see with the mind” (i.e. spiritually see), i.e. perceive (with inward spiritual perception).”A third meaning is “to see i. e. to become acquainted with by experience, to experience…”The first meaning is merely “to see.”
“Do” =“4238prássō – properly, the active process in performing (accomplishing) a deed, and implying what is done as a regular practice – i.e. a routine or habit (cf. R. Trench)… A primary verb; to “practise”, i.e. Perform repeatedly or habitually (thus differing from poieo, which properly refers to a single act); by implication, to execute, accomplish, etc.; specially, to collect (dues), fare (personally) — commit, deeds, do, exact, keep, require, use arts.”
“To be content”Cognate: 842autárkēs (the adjectival form of 841/autárkeia, “contentment”) – properly, self-sufficient, content in the sense of being satisfied because living in God’s content (fulness). This inward sufficiency is as valid in “low times” (suffering) as in “high times” (temporal prosperity). See 841 (autarkeia). 842/autárkēs (“sufficiency within”) occurs only in Phil 4:11 where it refers to positive self-sufficiency (inward adequacy) – i.e. that comes through the indwelling power of Christ. [842 (autárkēs) comes from autos (“self”) and arkein (“sufficient”) meaning “self”-sufficiency, which is entirely God-produced.]”
“Be Abased,”Cognate: 5013tapeinóō – make (become) low, to humble. See 5011 (tapeinos).With the believer, 5013/tapeinóō (“show humility, true lowliness”) happens by being fully dependent on the Lord – dismissing reliance upon self (self-government) and emptying carnal ego. This exalts the Lord as our all-in-all and prompts the gift of His fullness in us.”
“To Abound” 4052perisseúō (from 4012/perí, “all-around” which indicates abundance or surplus) – properly, exceed, go beyond the expected measure, i.e. above and beyond (“more than . . . “); “what goes further (more), surpasses” (J. Thayer).
“To Suffer Need” 5302hysteréō (from 5306/hýsteros, “last”) – properly, at “the end,” i.e. coming behind (to “be posterior, late”); (figuratively) coming behind and therefore left out; left wanting (falling short). 5302/hysteréō (“failing to fulfill a goal”) means to be in lack and hence, unable to meet the need at hand because depleted (“all run out“). This state of lack (insufficiency, privation) naturally results when a person misses out on what is vital.
Vs 11, “I have learned the secret…” “mueó: to initiate into the mysteries, hence to instruct”3453myéō (akin to 3466/mystḗrion, “mystery”) – properly, shutting the eyes and mouth to experience mystery; (figuratively) initiated into the wonderful “mystery revelation” of learning to be content in Christ in every scene of life – no exceptions! See also 3804/páthēma (“suffering”).
[The metaphor was also used of “the initiatory rites of the pagan mysteries. ‘I have been initiated’ ” (WS, 893).]”
“With” 3326metá(a preposition) – properly, with (“after with”), implying “change afterward” (i.e. what results after the activity). As an active “with,” 3326 (metá) looks towards the after-effect (change, result) which is only defined by the context… denoting association, union, accompaniment…”