The desire to end well—and start fresh—is natural. In everything from business meetings to special meals, long projects, or the calendar year, ending on a high note provides a sense of satisfaction with the past and confidence for the future. But perspective is crucial: When we value the right things, we’ll understand true victory. Then, through Christ’s power, we can find the joy that often seems so elusive to others.
Illustration by Adam Cruft
Unlike Paul’s letters to the Galatians and the Corinthians, his epistle to the Philippians was not written in response to some crisis in the church. Rather, it was an affectionate message to dear friends. The final chapter contains his parting thoughts.
How can the end of Paul’s letter serve as an aid to wrapping up your year?
Paul shares his love for the Philippians, twice calling them agapētoi (v. 1). When New Testament writers referred to their readers as “beloved,” they used a form of the word agape, the highest and most selfless type of love. How has love within the church, between fellow Christians, sustained you this year? Have you grown in selfless love by emulating Christ?
Reread verses 2-3. Paul refers to a disagreement between two church members and urges them “to live in harmony in the Lord.” It’s common to expect earthly difficulties to end at the door of the church, but even Christians struggle daily with the flesh. What has been your best tool this year for overcoming ordinary disputes?
Paul reveals his respect for both Euodia and Syntyche by declaring that they “shared my struggles in the cause of the gospel.” Does it surprise you that parties to a church dispute would be honored in this way? Why might Paul have asked others to “help these women” (v. 3)?
The words in verse 4 could be seen as simplistic or unhelpful, but with spiritual maturity, we come to recognize the truth behind Paul’s encouragement to “rejoice in the Lord always.” Did anything hinder you this year from focusing on the thing that matters most—your life in Christ?
CONTINUING THE STORY
With gentle concern, Paul shares more techniques to help his friends preserve mental peace in a difficult world.
Worry steals joy and keeps faith small. But prayer brings peace, which makes joy possible and lets faith grow. “Do not be anxious about anything,” Paul says in verse 6. The Greek word for anxious means literally “divided, pulled in different directions.” Did you feel “pulled apart” by a situation this year? Pause for a moment to tell God about that experience. Invite Him to take care of anything unresolved.
Reread Paul’s list of adjectives in verse 8. Is this way of thinking foreign to you? Consider memorizing the list this month, so you can “think about these things” at will.
The apostle shares his gratitude for the Philippians’ generosity toward him, while also explaining his enduring contentment. What is the “secret” he speaks of in verse 12?
Finding peace and satisfaction in the constant presence of your Savior will bring contentment in all circumstances.
In looking back at the past year and ahead to the coming one, consider things of true value: the loving fellowship of believers, the peace that comes with prayer, the kindness of our generous God, the strength of Christ in you, and the priceless gift of eternal life.
Consider how this study applies to your life.
Has your mind ever raced uncontrollably or replayed unpleasant ideas that soured your heart? Philippians 4 indicates that much of what we’d call “success” in Christian life comes from right thinking. This is good news. You already have God’s all-powerful presence and are part of His eternal kingdom. The passage shows that, with changed thinking, heavenly peace can be yours even now. Let’s look more closely at Paul’s words, which perfectly combine human practicality and divine truth.
In verse 7, Paul writes about guarding our heart and mind in Christ, which implies that both can wander. How does praying to your loving, omnipotent Lord keep emotions (heart) and thoughts (mind) peacefully settled?
Verse 8 lists eight types of things we can think about to keep an otherwise fretful mind in a place of joy. Can you recall them now? Think of an example for each category. Now observe your demeanor and outlook. Have they changed?
Paul is speaking from divine perspective by the power of the Holy Spirit. What role does the Spirit play in your discernment of truth, loveliness, excellence, and the other categories?
Troubles will weigh us down unless we seek God’s supernatural peace. Give your anxieties to Him in prayer, and replace them with thoughts of what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. You’ll end the year on a high note—and begin the next one rejoicing in the Lord, who is always near (vv. 4-5).