Summary: In this section of Philippians, Paul points them toward three important Christ-like characteristics that are vital for us to survive and to thrive.


A. Let’s imagine for a moment that your airplane has gone down in the middle of the ocean.

1. You find yourself floating in a life raft designed for survival.

2. You immediately and frantically search for the survival kit that is usually provided in a life raft, and you are relieved when you find it.

3. The things you most desperately need to survive are in that kit.

4. So, when you open the survival kit, what kinds of things do you expect to find?

a. Do you expect to find a DVD player with a remote?

b. Do you expect to find a bottle of nail polish?

c. Do you expect to find a USB thumbdrive?

d. How about an extra HDMI chord?

5. No, you don’t expect to find those kinds of things; rather, you expect to find things like: water, food, first-aid items, sun screen, and flares.

a. These are thing things that you really need to survive.

b. Without them you will not make it long.

B. In a similar way, we Christians have ended up stranded in a non-Christian ocean called “life in this world below.”

1. Our survival kit is made up of a core of Christ-like characteristics that can be employed and experienced for our good.

2. If we have developed this core of character, then we have a chance not only to survive, but even to thrive.

3. But if we have not developed this core of character, then we are in trouble.

4. The good news is that God wants to help us develop this kind of character that will enable us to survive and thrive during both the best and worst of times.

C. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he addressed a number of the challenges that they were facing.

1. At this point in the letter, Paul shared with them three, simple elements of character that would guide them to survival in the midst of their challenges.

2. Let’s examine these three characteristics and make sure that we are developing them in our own survival kit.

I. Be Joyful

A. The first Christ-like characteristic that we need to develop to survive and thrive is to “be joyful.”

1. Paul wrote: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)

2. The fact that Paul mentions the subject of joy so frequently in this letter (14 times in 4 chapters) suggests that it was a missing characteristic in the Philippian church.

3. Why had they lost their joy?

a. Perhaps the tension in the church family had reduced their joy.

b. Perhaps their concern for Paul in his imprisonment was stealing their joy.

c. Or maybe it was just the everyday struggles of the Christian life that was robbing their joy.

4. But whatever it was that was stealing their joy, Paul told them to make it stop!

a. Paul repeated himself in that short verse for emphasis: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again rejoice!”

B. But let’s note this important observation: Paul commanded them to be joyful!

1. Notice that Paul’s statement was not a suggestion, rather it was a command: “Rejoice in the Lord always!” How’s that for an order?

2. Paul told the Thessalonians the same thing: “Be joyful always” (1 Thess. 5:16) – That is a command as well.

3. So how can you command someone to be joyful always? Isn’t that impossible?

4. What is easy for us to forget in this matter is that no matter our circumstances, we can always rejoice in the Lord.

a. Paul didn’t command them to rejoice in general, but to rejoice in the Lord.

5. Joy, like peace, is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God.

6. When we have Christ at the deep center of our lives, we can delight in the Lord even on the dark and dreary days, because the joy of the Lord is not dependent on earthly, external things.

7. In that sense, joy is an “inside” job.

8. Our Lord is so good, He has done such great things and has given such wonderful promises, that when we focus on those things they cause us to rejoice and be glad in the Lord.

C. Why is this truth and why is this characteristic so important?

1. Because life is hard. Because Satan is ruthless. And because joy is not automatic.

2. There are many hard things we may have to experience and endure in this life – including things like the death of a loved one, an illness, the loss of a job, family trouble, being robbed, or even being imprisoned – like the apostle Paul.

3. But the way to make it through anything we have to face, is to focus on the Lord and rejoice in Him!

4. Our joy in the Lord can help to carry us through anything and everything!

5. But if we lose our focus on the Lord, we can be overcome by the pain and sadness of this world.

6. Therefore, it is so important for us to rejoice in the Lord – it is an important part of our survival kit.

II. Be Graceful

A. In the next verse, Paul wrote: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Phil. 4:5)

1. The Greek word that the NIV translates “gentleness” is one of the most untranslatable of all Greek words.

2. It is a word that is rich in meaning, but there is no single English word that captures its meaning.

3. Here are a few of the words that have appeared in translations of this text: “let your [gentleness / softness / patience / forbearance / graciousness / reasonableness (ESV) ] be evident to all.”

4. In William Barclay’s translation, he chose two words to try to capture the meaning – he wrote: “Let your gracious gentleness be evident to all.”

B. So what is the command that Paul was laying down here for the Philippians and for us?

1. Paul was commanding that God’s people develop the characteristic of gracious gentleness.

2. Paul wanted the Philippians and us to treat people with gentleness, patience, and graciousness.

3. We know that there were relational problems going on there in the Philippian church, and no doubt relationships had been damaged along the way.

4. So what was the solution that Paul suggested – He encouraged everyone to relate to each other with gracious gentleness.

a. Graciousness has to do with forgiveness, patience, and being non-judgmental.

b. Gentleness has to do with treating people with kindness, softness and self-control.

C. We live in a time and culture that has lost touch with gracious gentleness and civility.

1. But as Christians, we must not be shaped by the harsh world we live in – a world of assertiveness, bluntness and cruelty.

2. Rather, as Christians, we must be shaped by the Holy Spirit so that we conform to the pattern of Christ.

3. I like what a little child once prayed: “Lord, make all the bad people good, and all the good people nice.”

4. We Christians must allow God to continue to do the transforming from the inside out.

a. We must turn away from and give up, not only our evil behaviors and actions in general, but also the ones that have to do with the way we relate to others – we must not be harsh, abrasive and judgmental toward others.

b. Rather, we must develop a relational gracious gentleness.

D. As Paul appeals to us to be graceful and gentle, we notice that Paul tied it with the Lord’s nearness.

1. The nearness of the Lord certainly creates accountability – God is present and He sees how we treat others – it isn’t hidden from Him.

2. And on a positive note, awareness of God’s nearness can give us the ability for self-control - to control our anger, rage and tendency to be judgmental or critical.

E. Can you see why developing this characteristic is a matter of survival?

1. The person who does not develop gracious gentleness will never have the kind of relationships they desire.

2. How good will our relationships be with our mate and kids if we are not graciously gentle?

3. How good will our relationships be with our friends, coworkers, or Christian brothers and sisters if we are not graciously gentle?

4. If we are harsh, impatient or violent toward others, we will either drive them away or will create continual conflict.

5. That is certainly not the Lord’s will for our lives and relationships.

6. That’s why Paul gave this command to the Philippians to be graceful, because being graceful will allow everyone to not only survive, but to thrive.

III. Be Peaceful

A. The final characteristic in our survival kit is found in the final verses for today: 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)

1. In these verses, Paul shared the secret to having a worry-free life.

2. A worry-free life – isn’t that something that everyone wants?

a. Imagine how much money we could make if we could package that and sell it!

3. Many of us know too well the damage that anxiety brings to a life – it can destroy it.

a. Our word “worry” comes from an old word that means “to strangle or choke.”

4. Depression and anxiety are conditions that effect so many people in our world today.

B. So, how can we deal with anxiety and keep from worrying? How can we “not be anxious about anything?”

1. Paul’s answer for the problem is prayer.

2. Paul says that if we are going to be able to worry about nothing, then we must pray about everything.

a. Unfortunately, we sometimes get those two things reversed – we worry about everything and pray about nothing!

3. We must realize that when Paul said that prayer is the answer, he was not giving a glib word or a pious cliché.

a. This answer of prayer is no magic formula, or rote daily routine.

4. When Paul suggested that prayer was the answer, he had in mind the serious business of bringing and living our lives before God.

a. In that way, prayer has to do with depending on God, confessing our failures and needs, and appreciating what God has done for us.

b. Our prayer should be many facetted as seen in Paul’s instruction in verse 6: “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests…”

5. But all of these things are an expression of our trust in the Lord.

a. Just like little children, we need to trust our heavenly Father.

b. We need to trust Him with our present and our future.

c. We need to trust that God desires only what is best for us, and that He alone knows what is best for us, and that He alone can bring to pass what is best for us.

d. Anyone who learns to pray with this kind of trust in God’s love, wisdom and power, will experience God’s peace.

C. And this is the kind of peace that Paul promised we would find – “and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (vs. 7)

1. Notice that Paul spoke of this peace as a “guard” for our hearts and minds.

2. Paul used a vivid military term used of a detachment of soldiers who stood guard over a city.

3. It will be helpful for us to view God’s peace like a detachment of soldiers standing guard over our hearts and minds.

a. Our minds are the place where anxious thoughts arise.

b. Our hearts are the place where fearful emotions take over.

4. The amazing thing about God’s peace is that it is beyond human understanding.

a. Human beings cannot produce or explain God’s peace it is beyond them.

5. I think it is obvious why learning to be peaceful is an important characteristic of our survival kit?

a. God’s peace is absolutely essential to living in the midst of anxious times and difficult circumstances.


A. I hope that all of us can see why it is so important for us to develop this survival kit of Christ-like characteristics.

1. How much better and more effective would our Christian lives be if we were joyful and peaceful always, and if we were graciously gentle with everyone?

2. These characteristics would give our lives stability and we would be such a blessing to others.

B. I want to end with the story of Horatio and Anna Spafford who as you will see, had developed and relied on this Christian survival kit.

1. On October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire swept through the city.

a. Horatio was a prominent lawyer in Chicago, and had invested heavily in the city's real estate, and the fire destroyed almost everything he owned.

2. Two years later, in 1873, Spafford decided his family should take a holiday somewhere in Europe, and chose England knowing that his friend D. L. Moody would be preaching there in the fall.

a. Delayed because of business, he sent his family ahead of him: his wife and four daughters.

b. On November 21, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on a steamship, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and 226 people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford's daughters.

c. Anna Spafford survived the tragedy. Upon arriving in England, she sent a telegram to her husband beginning "Saved alone."

d. Spafford then sailed to England, and while traveling over the exact location of his daughters’ deaths, Spafford wrote the words to this beloved hymn.

e. In the agony of his loss, when his suffering was the greatest, he expressed the peace of God which passes all understanding.

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul.”

3. Now for the rest of the story: Following the loss of their children, God blessed them with three more children (two daughters and a son).

a. Later, tragedy struck again on February 11, 1880, their only son, also named Horatio, died at the age of four from scarlet fever.

4. In August 1881, the Spaffords set out for Jerusalem as a party of thirteen adults and three children and set up a utopian Christian society called the American Colony.

a. Colony members, later joined by Swedish Christians, engaged in philanthropic work amongst the people of Jerusalem regardless of their religious affiliation - thereby gaining the trust of the local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities alike.

b. During and immediately after World War I, the American Colony played a critical role in supporting these communities through the great suffering and deprivations of the eastern front by running soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages and other charitable ventures.

C. The Spaffords’ story illustrates how that regardless of what we are going through, it can be well with our souls – we can be joyful and peaceful always and can treat others with gracious gentleness.

1. This is the lesson that Paul taught the Philippians so many years ago.

2. And I hope it is a lesson that all of us can learn and practice so that we can survive and thrive – that it can be well with our souls, no matter what we are going throu


The Bible Exposition Commentary, Philippians, by Warren Wiersbe, Victor Books, 1989