“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 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.” (Phil 4:5–9)
The Lord Jesus is coming back soon. We are living in disturbing and distressing days. How then should we as Christians live and cope? Paul highlighted a few virtues Christians should manifest which will help us overcome such troubling times.
The first is moral excellence: “Let your moderation (epieikes) be known unto all men” (v5). The Greek epieikes here has no English equivalent. The KJV chose the word “moderation” or “self restraint.” “Moderation” is a good word to speak of epieikes, but epieikes also contains the idea of leniency, kindness, forbearance, gentleness. In other words, moderation bespeaks a Christian gentle-man—a man of chaste conduct and a forgiving spirit. Such a quality must be displayed not only to fellow Christians but also to enemies of the Christian faith. “A soft answer turneth away wrath” (Prov 15:1). Fire is not fought with fire, but with water. So fight hatred not with hatred but with love. “Recompense to no man evil for evil.… Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:17, 21). “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink. For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee” (Prov 25:21–22). Paul’s statement, “The Lord is at hand” (v5b) means Christ is coming back soon. When He comes back He will punish the wicked, and reward the righteous. In light of Christ’s soon return, believers should find the strength to endure all the hardships presented to them by a sin-cursed world.
The second is prayerfulness (v6). Christians ought not to be anxious. They should trust God to provide for all their needs. Prayer is a means of grace. God hears and answers prayers. “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). James said, “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (Jas 4:2). Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt 7:7–11).
When petitions are made to God they should be made with a heart of worship and gratitude. The Christian should never approach God with a demanding spirit as if God owes him a living. God owes us nothing; we owe Him everything. God promises His children who seek Him in prayer His peace (v7). God’s peace surpasses all human comprehension. It is well nigh impossible to describe or define such divine peace. This peace guards the heart and mind from doubts and worries. It is something most wonderful, and to know it, one must experience it.
Third is righteous thinking (v8). What should fill the mind of a Christian? Only such things as are (1) true (alethe, ie, valid, credible, veracious, sincere, upright, honest, just) as opposed to things that are false; (2) noble (semna, ie, venerable, reputable, dignified, worthy of respect) as opposed to things abominable or detestable; (3) pure (hagna, ie, innocent, pure, blameless, chaste, holy) as opposed to things immoral or defiled; (4) lovely (prosphile, ie, dear, beloved, acceptable, pleasing) as opposed to garbage or things disagreeable; (5) of good report (euphema, ie, commendable, praiseworthy) as opposed to evil speaking, or slandering. Paul’s list here is not exhaustive. To cover every aspect of pure goodness, Paul wrote those two final “if” clauses: “if there be any virtue (arete, ie, things that are morally excellent), and if there be any praise (epainos, ie, things that are commendable), think on these things.”
Was there a live example of a godly Christian that the Philippian Christians could observe and follow? The answer is yes; they had the Apostle Paul. Paul told them to practise what they had learned from him through his (1) letters (“received”), (2) sermons (“hear”), and (3) actions (“seen”). Paul was able to set himself up as an example because he was walking in the steps of Christ: for instance, he told the Corinthians, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Paul had this confidence because he had an infallible ministry as an Apostle of Christ. The Apostles were infallible in their writing (Eph 2:20, 2 Pet 1:20–21), preaching (1 Thess 2:13), and conduct (1 Cor 11:1). Those who abide by the Apostolic teaching are promised God’s peace (cf v7). JK
PREDEPARTURE UPDATE FROM ISRAEL
I am really sorry that I have been silent for a long time – partly because there is nothing much to say about life in three lockdowns, and struggling with research and academic writing. However, I am living in Eilat now – the southern tip of Israel, sharing the border with Jordan and Egypt. It is a desert by the Red Sea, a completely different landscape from the lush green North. Just beyond the crystal-clear blue sea are the towering red mountains of Jordan. The climate here is generally warm and dry while the rest of the country continues to shiver in the late winter chills. So why did I move from the North to the South – a seven-hour trip by train and bus?
I thank God for the many believers I have met while in Haifa. Through a brother in Christ, I got to know of a backpackers’ hostel called the Shelter (Isaiah 6:2). It was started by a Dutchman and his Jewish American wife to reach out to travellers and backpackers. They were once hippies but right after they were saved by reading the New Testament, they began to share the story of their transformed lives to all kinds of people – the homeless, hitchhikers, hippies etc. This meant inviting them into their home all the time just to have conversations and discussions. Eventually, God provided them a place to start a hostel in 1984. With a place like this, they had been able to reach out and care for Russian immigrants, South Sudanese refugees, foreign workers over the years. More importantly, they never failed to give out the New Testament with the gospel and many have come to know Jesus.
I was really drawn to their story and work since the time I heard about it but never thought I would have the opportunity or reason to make the move until last November, this same brother recommended me to the owners to volunteer with them. At this time, they were hoping that someone could go and help them with a small group of Mainland Chinese construction workers because of the language barrier. These workers began to visit the Shelter and two of them were recently baptized. So when the third lockdown ended in the first week of February, I immediately packed and made my journey down south, praying that I would really be of some help.
The Chinese meeting is held once a week – on a Saturday morning via Zoom to connect with the brethren in Be’ersheva. Over at Be’ersheva (a three-hour car ride from Eilat), there is a Mandarin-speaking Korean pastor and a Chinese preacher ministering to the workers in these two regions. For now, my part is just to get to know the six workers in Eilat while they also get to know me. As I have to leave Israel by the end of March (God-willing if the Ben Gurion Airport opens by then), I cannot do much but just to encourage them about the Christian faith, with the remaining time I have here.
In the meantime, as a volunteer of the hostel, I do meet many young Israelis who are either starting or have finished the three-month long National Israel Trail. Everyone who checks in, receives a pocket-sized New Testament in Hebrew and many of them say that is the first time they see and hold such a literature in their hands. I thank God for the opportunities to talk to them about God and Jesus as the Messiah, even if it is just one or two simple sentences. So far, nobody has picked up a stone and thrown it at me.
The Gospel that went out from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost part of the earth has come back full-circle to the Holy Land. Many more need to hear the truth about Jesus and I am really thankful that I can play a small part in this gospel enterprise. Eileen Chee (28 Feb 2021)
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