Read Philippians 4:9 (ESV)
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 good is learning about something if you never apply it?
Have you ever sat through a class and wondered, “When am I ever going to use this?” It has happened to me on more than one occasion! Theories, concepts, and random facts are worthless knowledge if they have no practical application. If you have ever played a trivia game with a pop culture whiz, you know this to be true. It might be sports statistics, music lyrics, or movie quotes, etc. They know about it! But aside from winning a petty prize in a trivia contest or the sheer enjoyment of it, all of this knowledge does very little to actually serve them.
Thankfully, our knowledge of God is not worthless. There are practical applications for the knowledge we gain when we learn about Him. In today’s verse, Paul says that if we put the things he has taught us into practice, God and His peace will be with us. So, let’s review the context of this verse. What has Paul been teaching the Philippians?
Rejoicing in the Lord, not circumstances was a big theme of Paul’s letter. He understood that the purpose of His life was to honor God, whether in his life or by his death. Because he had this perspective, he wasn’t afraid of suffering or death. He also knew that he should live in a way that honors God while he is alive. Paul had an inner peace from God because his joy was rooted in the Lord and not his circumstances.
In addition, he wrote of Christ’s example of humility and stressed the importance of unity among the church. When we follow Jesus’ example of considering others as more important than ourselves and looking out for the interests of others, Christians can live harmoniously with each other. There can be peace among us.
Paul also warned them against legalism and against lawlessness. He reminded them that we cannot place our confidence in the flesh and earn our own salvation. We only have peace with God because of the work Jesus did on our behalf on the cross. But that doesn’t mean we should live selfishly and carelessly. We should press on toward the goal of becoming more and more like Christ and remember that our citizenship is in heaven. When we understand that this world is temporary and that our eternity is secure, we can experience a peace that nothing in this world can take away.
We need to take this knowledge of God and live it out. We need to put it into practice. If we say we know that we have salvation by grace through faith alone in Jesus but still spend our days trying to earn God’s love and acceptance, we will not know peace. If we have the “head knowledge” that Jesus was humble and He told us to be humble too but we continue to act selfishly and arrogantly, there will always be tension and discord in our relationships. If we know that our joy should be in the Lord but instead we search for meaning in the things of this world, we will always come up empty.
Friends, lasting peace is found only in applying these principles to our lives. We can’t just have the head knowledge of these teachings. They have to work their way into our hearts. We have to live them out. We won’t always get it right but that’s why it’s called practice.
Lord, I love to learn about You. But I know that the knowledge You have revealed to us in Your Word is meant to transform us. Help me to put these things into practice so that I can become more and more like You. Amen.