by Gerry Gothro
When I was growing up, my mother would often say to me, “Don’t slouch!” It didn’t make any difference what I was doing — watching television or reading or chatting with friends or, most often, eating dinner. Not slouching, I came to understand, was very important in maintaining good posture, and it took lots and lots and lots of practice.
During a particular rough patch in life, I came across 2 Chronicles 20 in my daily Bible reading. You know the story. The Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Meunites were marching toward Jerusalem to do battle against Judah and Jehoshaphat. Calling all of Judah together, Jehoshaphat offered up a prayer for help, concluding it with the words “we do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.” The Spirit of the Lord then spoke to Jehoshaphat through Jahaziel assuring him in 2 Chron 20:17 that “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem.” This was a powerful word for me at the time, and it still is! My job is to take up my position (good posture) and to stand firm.
These days standing firm seems to be somewhat of a moving target. From lockdown to zoom meetings to google classrooms to limits on gatherings to more relaxed limits on gatherings to phase 3 to phase 4 to phase 10 (oh wait, that’s a card game) to….shifting sands seem to be the norm here.
Recently, my Bible reading plan led me through the letter to the Philippians, and I came across some other stand firm commands. Philippians 1:27 says “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I am with you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” For Paul, it’s always about the gospel, both preaching it and living it. In chapter 3 Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi to keep straining toward the goal, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
In Philippians 4:1 Paul says, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” It’s the ‘thus’ (or ‘take up your position’) that’s important here. In that little word Paul says I’m going to tell you how to stand firm. In Phil 4:2-9 Paul exhorts us to:
- (v 2,3) get along in the Lord (see also Phil 1:27 above)
- (v 4) rejoice always
- (v 5) be reasonable in everything
- (v 6) don’t be anxious but humbly pray with thanksgiving
These exhortations then receive the promise of verse 7 that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
But Paul is not finished exhorting us on how to stand firm. In verses 8 and 9 he says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
What do we do with ‘extra’ time these days? For starters, we don’t slouch! We practice, practice, practice! We practice the good posture of standing firm that Paul has laid out for us.