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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.”
And then Paul goes on to say in Philippians 4:4, 11-13, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice...11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
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).
When we habitually practice what we have learned, received, heard and seen, then “the God of peace will be with you,” and Him being with us, changes us, conforms us into the likeness of Jesus, from glory to glory (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). As it says in Romans 8:16-18,“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament
Notes from word study
“Learned” =3129 manthánō (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” =“3880 paralambánō (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” =191 akoúō – 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” =“3708 horáō – 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” =“4238 prássō – 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: 842 autárkēs (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: 5013 tapeinóō – 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” 4052 perisseúō (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” 5302 hysteréō (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”3453 myéō (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…”