Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Paul was writing at a time of great conflict and strife, both for writer and reader. Indeed, Paul begins the letter by talking of his impending sentencing in Rome, and his faith in the face of death.
The Church in Philippi was not carefree either. It was struggling with the tensions that every church group faces. Yet still, in spite of all of these difficulties, Paul tells his readers to strive after everything that is good.
In our world, the future may look bleak. As I write, the Brexit negotiations are seemingly at a standstill, the new Prime Minister is facing opposition from many quarters, and the conflict between the President of the United States and some Congresswomen has only just disappeared from the front pages of the newspapers.
Paul’s message, however, still applies.
In his book ‘Let me commend’, Dr William Sangster explores how faith and evangelism may be just what the troubled world needs. Although seeking and sharing Jesus’ love with those around us may not seem to make a huge difference to world affairs, or even seem ‘irrelevant’, just imagine what would happen if every Christian in the world brought the message of the Gospel to just one other person.
Dr Sangster ends a chapter by saying: ‘The Gospel is relevant. However irrelevant it has seemed [to others], it has proved itself in age after age of crisis to be matched to world need. Our business is to proclaim it. The only question is ‘How?’’
We can only proclaim the Gospel to others if we seek and strive after it ourselves. We must, therefore, ‘Keep on doing the things that we have learned and received and heard and seen …, and the God of peace will be with us.’
God’s word, for all their craft and force,
One moment will not linger,
But, spite of hell, shall have its course
’Tis written by His finger.
And though they take our life,
Goods, honour, children, wife,
Yet is their profit small;
These things shall vanish all,
The city of God remaineth.
‘A safe stronghold our God is still, written by Martin Luther, tr. by Thomas Carlyle, Congregational Praise #485’ You can hear a choir sing it here.
Michael RJ Topple, Lay Pastoral Asst of Long Melford URC and Lay Preacher, Member of Chappel URC