If the Apostle Paul Had a Band - Part 6 (Finale)
And so we come to the end - the fourth and final chapter of Philippians. The story of Paul starting this church in Philippi was like that of a band on a very intense tour: he was doing concerts in a prison, had people heckling him in street performances, got beaten up, and eventually started a church with a fashion designer called Lydia, an ex-demon possessed girl, and a prison warden.
If Paul had had a band, he’d have been going where the people were, getting to know the scene, playing at any opportunity God gave him - be it a small club, a street gig, or even a prison. His main focus would have been sharing the message, seeing people get healed and grow in their faith, and starting communities of believers everywhere.
That’s the kind of band I want to have!
Behind this letter is the story of a man who’d had it all. Paul was intelligent, well educated, born into status and privilege, respected, and successful - yet he gave up everything, surrendering his life to Jesus. Jesus became his purpose and message, his life and death, his only desire, his joy and peace. Why?
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (1:21)
What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. (3:7)
The letter is also about the church in Philippi. A group of people who wouldn’t usually have hung out together - being of different ages, social backgrounds, and ethnicities - yet they became a community, formed in the midst of imprisonment, torture, and suffering. They too surrendered all to Jesus, were of one mind, considered each other greater than themselves, and cared for the needs and interests of others rather than their own. Why?
…being of one accord, of one mind …let each esteem others better than himself. (2:2,3)
The final chapter of Philippians points to two reasons: constant joy and everlasting peace.
As he ends his letter, Paul’s concluding message is to stand fast (v1), be constant, don’t give up. Always rejoice! (v4). But how could we possibly be full of joy all the time?
Paul talks a lot about joy in Philippians. He finds joy in Jesus, because for him, to live is Christ and to die is gain (1:18-21). He describes this joy as always present (4:4). It is worth giving his life for - he pours himself out in sacrifice because of it (2:17). For Paul, this joy he has in Christ is incomparable to anything in the world, to the extent that he considers everything else as rubbish (3:8). And yet it’s also something he longs for. He has joy, yet at the same time, it is not complete - so it’s something he presses on towards (3:12).
Joy is not happiness, because Paul describes it as being there in the midst of suffering. It is not a temporal thing - it is always present. It does not depend on circumstances - it seems to look elsewhere, beyond this world. It’s something worth giving up everything for.
In our pleasure-seeking culture, we only have glimpses of real joy. We strive after material things or temporal experiences, yet when we get these, we realise they’re not what we’re looking for. Finding joy means realising that what our heart wants and needs is something deeper, something beyond this world. It’s realising that our home is not here.
C.S. Lewis, a man like Paul, of great intelligence, education, and privilege, surrendered all. In his words, he was surprised by joy. He explained:
“I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power, and Pleasure often is.”
The first and biggest step to knowing Jesus, for Lewis, was the awareness that his heart longed for something that worldly pleasures could not satisfy. Most of the time, we miss this because, as Lewis said, “we are far too easily pleased.” He found that there was something more, that this world could not offer.
“I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy; the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
But we cannot have this joy without first finding peace: peace with God. Next in the passage, Paul talks about peace:
…and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (4:7)
When Jesus died and rose from the dead, he went to meet the disciples. They were together in a house, and Jesus walked in, alive in the flesh. His first words were, “Peace be with you!”
This is not the kind of peace that can be achieved through meditation, or a good night’s sleep. It’s not that momentary feel you experience when listening to your favourite band, or looking at a beautiful work of art. All of this peace is temporary, and soon you wake up to the harshness of reality: our fallen world, our problems and suffering, our own wrongdoing.
What we really need is forgiveness. What our heart longs for is peace with God, our Creator. Peace is a gift from God. Forgiveness is something He gives freely, without us earning it. This is grace - an undeserved blessing. That is why it is a peace “beyond understanding”.
Sadly I think there aren’t a lot of bands and artists out there that know true joy and peace. We’re often trying so hard to make it, to impress others, to be successful. But in Philippians, we learn that if we let go of all of that, then we will find peace.
My prayer is that you would know this constant joy and deep peace that goes beyond your understanding. As you serve Him with the creative gifts He has given you, that God would reveal to you two truths:
Firstly, this is not your home - you were made for eternity. These worldly pleasures are only glimpses of what God has for you. So look to Him.
And then, He wants peace with you. He welcomes and accepts you, because He has paid the price for you to have peace with Him. Jesus says today, as he did the day he rose from the dead, “Peace be with you!” Everlasting peace. Peace that surpasses all understanding.