Philippians 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
It seems like every time you turn around, someone is quoting some part of the passage from verse six on, whether it’s in person, in a song, or on Facebook. That’s an indication of two things: this is really good advice, and it’s really hard to do. Much of the time we just give this passage lip service, which is why Paul puts in this verse. He is confident as to the quality of the example he has set, but here he expresses the clincher: put it into practice. Jesus (John 13:17) and James (James 1:22) said very similar things. It does us very little good to know things intellectually or theoretically if we don’t put them into practice. That’s one reason persecution can be very valuable to the church: it forces us to examine what we really believe, what we are willing to suffer or even die for. Someone has said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. Paul, along with Jesus and James, is telling us to get real, to apply God’s truth where the rubber meets the road. That forces us to be honest with ourselves and with God. James said, quite accurately, that failure to do so is deceiving ourselves. We don’t want to do that! Actually, on some level we might actually want to, but it’s very dangerous. Just like a child learning to walk physically, we have to learn to walk spiritually, and we are just as prone to falling down. There’s a reason such children are called “toddlers!” Many, many Christians are barely toddling around, spending more time sitting, or even flat on their face, than they do moving forward. That’s not surprising, but after a while it can get really old. We need to look at the examples that have been set for us, like Paul, and get busy putting those things into practice.
Naturally, this applies as much to me as it does to anyone. As a pastor, it’s my job to help people stand up again and take at least a few more steps. For myself, I’ve long felt James 1:22 was written expressly for me! However, Jesus’ focus, that if you follow through and do the things you know you will be blessed, (John 13:17) is the most helpful, being positive rather than negative. It’s the carrot, while James expressed the stick, and Paul is essentially neutral. In any case, I am to set a good example by living out the truth I know. I have been learning over the past few years through studying Coaching that there are far more effective ways of transmitting truth than just giving lectures. That’s why Paul mentions so many different learning vectors in this one verse. As a pastor, I need to come alongside people and show them how to live for Christ and walk with Him. If I will do that, they will have a much better chance of applying the truth I speak to them.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me apply, live out, the many things You have taught me in so many ways through so many people. Thank You for all who were faithful to be the examples I needed. May I in turn be the example You want me to be for all who are watching me, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!