Rejoicing in All Circumstances, Part 3 – Having a Forbearing Spirit

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(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

October 3, 2004

Rejoicing in All Circumstances, Part 3

Having a Forbearing Spirit – Philippians 4:5


Have you ever had one of those period of times when things just don’t seem to
be working out the way you would like them? (I know, some of you think that is
your life). That has been true for my family the last month or so. Just before
we went down to see my folks in Mississippi the dishwasher stopped working. (We
have since found that jamming the door closed with a stick seems to work). I
went to the basement to get something and noticed the dehumidifer, which keeps
the mold down there at bay, was not working. A half hour later I finally found
the problem was a kink in the hose where the line goes into the sewer. Then
there is my refrigerator. It has one of those ice and water dispensers in the
door. I was sitting at the table talking with Dan Fredericks, who was our
speaker last week and for the IFCA Conference on Monday and Tuesday, when the
dispenser just stated shooting water on the floor. It is disconnected now, but
at least I now know why there had been puddles in front of the refrigerator
lately. It really wasn’t the kids. Finally, I sat down to work on this sermon
yesterday and the computer monitor decided it was a good time to die. So I moved
a monitor over from another computer and got back to work.

We have all had those times when things break down. Sometimes we laugh about
it, such as we did when our “demon possessed” refrigerator started watering the
floor. At other times we just take it in stride because we all know that is just
part of living in a sin cursed world. Then there are the times it starts to get
to us and we get frustrated. Yet, even then, if we keep our minds on the right
things, we can still rejoice in the Lord. God had more than amply supplied for
all my needs, so I rejoice in His manifold blessings.

There are also those more serious things in life that occur when
relationships change. It is not that the changes are bad, just that they are not
what we may have wanted. Just before we went to Mississippi, the Rogers told us
that Mark had received a promotion and would be moving back to Florida. That is
a good thing, (though perhaps they will rethink that since three of the four
hurricanes that have hit Florida so far this year have gone through the area
they are moving to). We rejoice for Mark & Stacy and the kids, though we will
miss them a lot. While were in Mississippi we received word that two more of our
Boy Scout families will be moving in the near future, and again, while we
rejoice for them, we will also miss them. Then on the night we returned we found
out that the Robbins will be moving to Ohio, Lord willing, next year. My family
and the Robbins have been close friends over the last 13 years. We have raised
our kids together almost to the point that I think we sometimes wonder if we
each have three kids, or are their 6 kids that we just take turns watching.
Again, it is not what I would personally like for we will miss them
tremendously, but at the same time, I cannot help but rejoice for them because
of the opportunity God is allowing them to have. There are many changes I may
not like personally, but as I set my mind to see what God is doing in the midst
of those changes and consider what is best for others, I cannot help but rejoice
in the Lord with them and for them.

In being careful to keep my mind on the right things and looking for what God
is doing I can keep the command that God gave in Philippians 4:4 to “Rejoice in
the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” Now perhaps that might seem difficult in
some of the above situations when things break down or changes occur that you
don’t really care for, yet, I think all of us can see that if we do keep our
minds focused correctly on what God may be doing and what is best for others, we
can step forward and rejoice. But what about those times when something occurs
that is personally hurtful, or even worse, it is the result of someone else’s
sin? How do you obey that command then?

While we were away, I received an email from a family in the church that they
were leaving the church. That is personally hurtful because Diane and I have
been friends with them for the 11 years they have been here, and I do not
understand why they did not talk to me about what was going on in their lives
beforehand. This situation does not make me happy. How then do I rejoice in the
Lord in this? Now on the positive side of this, when I saw the wife Friday night
she gave me a hug and said that she and her husband really want to get together
with me. I am hopeful that any misunderstandings that may or may not exist will
be cleared up and all of us will be able to rejoice in what God is doing in our
lives. But future rejoicing is not present rejoicing. How do I rejoice when the
present situation still leaves some tension that I do not like?

A bigger blow then came on Friday of this week. I received an e-mail
addressed to me from another church family announcing that they are also leaving
the church and included their justification for doing so. Many you are aware of
this already because you were on their Cc list. Since I hit the “reply to all”
button many of you are now also aware of my response to what I can only
characterize as a disingenuous attack on myself and the other leaders of this
church. How do you rejoice when not only are you unhappy, but angry at being on
the receiving end of someone else’s sin? I say sin because I have learned from
four people that this family complained to them and they told them to go and
talk with me. They never did and I do not know how many others they have
complained to. There is a word for when you have something against someone and
complain to others instead of talking to the one you have a problem with and at
least get the facts straight. It is slander. If you listen to the slander and
pass it onto others, that is gossip. I do not know how much gossip is involved
with this either. My hope is that they will yet respond properly and there can
be reconciliation over these matters.

These examples so far are from my own life, but all of you have had similar
disappointments in your lives. How then do you respond with rejoicing when you
are hurt and angry because of someone else’s sin? We saw in part the answer to
this question three weeks ago in our study of Philippians 4:4, but we will flesh
it out more today in our study of Philippians 4:5.

Turn again to Philippians 4 and let us see what our Lord says through Paul in
how we are to handle the issues of life. Starting in verse 4, Rejoice in the
Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your forbearing [spirit] be known
to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by
prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to
God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your
hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true,
whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of
praise, let your mind dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and
received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace
shall be with you. 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you
have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned [before,] but you
lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be
content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble
means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance
I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having
abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens
me. 14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share [with me] in my affliction.

The command in verse 4 is to “rejoice,” which is from
cairw /
chair, which describes a
response that is emotional, but not an emotion itself, and which is not
dependent upon circumstances. Rejoicing is dependent upon mindset. It is present
or absent because of what you believe, and not the particular situation you are
facing, and the Christian’s belief is to transcend present circumstances. It is
our beliefs that allow us to view our circumstances from God’s eternal
perspective and then respond joyfully as appropriate.

Paul gives several specific reasons for Christian joy within the context of
chapter four. In verses 5-7 we find there is joy in having our Lord near to us
so that we can bring the things that are on our heart before Him in prayer and
leave them there knowing that He will take care of them. In verses 8 & 9 we find
joy in having our minds dwell on the right things – those things which are true,
honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report and are virtuous. This gives us the
proper perspective that is reflective of God Himself. Correct thinking brings
about correct beliefs which are another source of joy. In verses 10-13, we find
joy in being content in all circumstances. Contentment is something that is
learned as we trust God to keep His promise to provide for all my needs as you
seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:25-34). Contentment rests
on the fact that God is wiser than we are and is sovereign, so if something
comes into my life that I do not like, then He still has a purpose for it. And
because His love for me is proven in Jesus Christ, I can rest in that.

Christian joy is solidly based in these and other truths of God’s word and
obedience to them. It is joy that is present when we are walking with the Lord,
but it is absent when we walk our own way. There is no more joyful life by any
measure than that of a Christian who is walking well with Jesus, and there is no
more miserable life than the Christian who is not walking properly with the
Lord. A Christian who tries to keep one foot in the world is in constant turmoil
because his actions are in direct contradiction to the change God has made in
his soul.

The command to rejoice in the Lord always is not about responding with how I
feel, but with what I believe. There are times when my feelings are bad, yet I
am still to rejoice by giving the sacrifice of praise spoken of in Hebrews 13:15
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to
God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect
doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

To “praise” is to demonstrate approval of the character and/or action of
someone or something. It is a sacrifice of praise because you must give up
certain things in order to do it. In order to
praise God you must give up complaining against Him, which in reality is
accusing Him of not being fair. Instead, you must look to see how He is
wonderfully gracious and merciful. In order to praise God you must give up your
personal view of things and seek to understand them from His perspective. In
order to praise God you must set aside your focus on your negative circumstances
and instead put forth the effort to “count your many blessings” and then lift up
your voice to Him. In order to praise God you cannot feel sorry for yourself, or
hold grudges, or work to see your own will be done. You must be in submission to

God and seek His will to be done. These “sacrifices of praise” are the “fruit of
lips that give thanks to His name,” and the practical outworking of such
sacrifices of praise are “doing good and sharing.” These things please

As I apply these truths to my own circumstances, I must sacrifice complaining
about them and especially in any way that would blame God for them. God is
sovereign, but He did not break the dishwasher, put a kink in the hose of the
dehumidifier, cause the monitor to die, or make the refrigerator squirt water on
the floor. All of those are just part of living in a sin cursed world in which
things break.

I must also sacrifice my personal view of things in favor of His view. I do
not like it when friends move away, but those folks do not exist for my good
pleasure, they are God’s servants who exist for His good pleasure. He can move
any of us around to where He wants us at it pleases Him. I am to rejoice in the
new opportunities God gives my friends and will rejoice to hear what God does in
and through them in the new places that He puts them.

I must also sacrifice my focus on my negative circumstances. God is working
and doing so many wonderful things that it is foolish to let a few
disappointments or even personal attacks take the focus off His glory. Even
while some were reading the accusations that I was not doing enough in raising
up elders, I was meeting with John Halpin for that very purpose. While some were
complaining that there is a lack in the body life of this church, God was
forging together a “band of brothers” at a men’s retreat who are seeking to only
increase the size of that band of men committed to the Lord and one another. Men
who will hold each other accountable for their daily walk with the Lord and
fulfilling their God given roles in leading their families and using their
spiritual gifts. I am sure God will do something similar with the ladies who
went to the “Women of Faith” conference. While some were disparaging our lack of
outreach and leaving us without as many workers at the Community Day this year,
the Lord kept Elias and I very busy in handing out tracts and talking with
people about the Lord. We may not know until eternity the results of that
effort, but what a wonderful time we had in being faithful in telling others
about Jesus Christ that day. And even though Sunday morning attendance has
fallen off, we have had an increase in our AWANA program with a team of
dedicated workers seeking to encourage our children to know and walk with the

In order to rejoice in the Lord always I must also sacrifice feeling sorry
for myself or holding grudges. I do not like to be slandered, but who am I but
the servant of the Lord anyway, and look how He was treated. Should I expect any
less? Instead of holding grudges, I am to work towards reconciliation because in
that the Lord is glorified. If those that have sinned against me do not respond,
then I will continue to leave the door ajar for them so they can return and be
reconciled whenever they respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

There is one additional aspect to giving this sacrifice of praise and
rejoicing in the Lord, and that is the practical
outworking of them in “doing good and sharing.”
Here in
Philippians 4:5 the specific command parallel to this “doing good and sharing
is to “let your forbearing spirit be known to all men.” It is important
to emphasis that this is a command, not a suggestion. The same foundation that
enables us to rejoice always also enables us to respond correctly.

The word translated here in the NASB, Young’s & the RSV as forbearing,
/ epieiks, is an
interesting one. It is translated here as “moderation” in the KJV, and
“gentleness” in the NKJV, NIV and Darby’s. MacArthur, who likes doing Greek word
studies makes the following conclusions regarding this word.

epieikhV / epieiks,
has a richer meaning that any single English word can convey. Hence,
commentators and Bible versions vary widely in how they render it. Sweet
reasonableness, generosity, goodwill, friendliness, magnanimity, charity toward
the faults of others, mercy toward the failures of others, indulgence of the
failures of others, leniency, bigheartedness, moderation, forbearance, and
gentleness are some of the attempts to capture the rich meaning

epieikhV / epieiks.
Perhaps the best corresponding English word is graciousness – the
graciousness of humility; the humble graciousness that produces the patience to
endure injustice, disgrace, and mistreatment without retaliation, bitterness, or
vengeance. It is contentment.
(MacArthur – Philippians, pg. 276).

This humble graciousness, as MacArthur describes this word, was a
characteristic of Jesus – 2 Corinthians 10:1. It is also a characteristic
required of Elders – 1 Timothy 3:3. That does not mean that only Elders have to
have it, but rather that it is a mark of someone who has been taught it, as
Titus 3:2 says all Christians are to be taught, and who has learned to obey the
command here in Philippians 4:5. The origin of having this characteristic in
your life is living according to the “wisdom from above” as described in James
3:17 which states, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable,
gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without

Such godly wisdom comes from having the mind of Christ, and that is the same
foundation that enables us to rejoice in the Lord always. You must move away
from self-centeredness in your actions and responses to other people into those
that are reflective of Jesus Christ living through you.

What are some of the specific actions that would demonstrate this
“forbearance” or “humble graciousness?” Let me use some of the illustrations I
have already given this morning as examples of how you can do this.

When something breaks, you are not to take out your frustration on those
around you. Remember we live in a sin cursed world and that things breaking are
just part of life. Give the sacrifice of praise to God and instead of blaming
Him or someone else. You may even need to thank God that whatever has broken can
be fixed or replaced that He supplies your needs so that you can do so.
Forbearance follows the golden rule of Matthew 7:12 and treats people the way
that you would like to be treated.

What about if the thing did not just wear out or break on its own, but
somebody actually broke it for you. You should still treat them the way you
would like to be treated if the situation was the opposite way even as you obey
the command of Ephesians 4:32 to “be kind to one another, tender-hearted,
forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Lets be
realistic, you may need to get a hold of emotions and attitudes before you can
do this, but after you calm down there should be a gentleness and patience in
dealing with the person. Be careful about responding with anger. Proverbs 14:29
tells us that He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is
quick-tempered exalts folly.
Now you may still have to correct the person or
teach them the correct way to do it so that they do not break it again. You may
even need to require them to repair or replace what they broke if they were
negligent and the breakage was not accidental, but all of that can be done
calmly. (I hope you all understand the Biblical principle of restitution – of
replacing or repairing what you break of others).

What about when you have personal disappointments? Again, we give the
sacrifice of praise by giving up our own point of view in favor of God’s point
of view. We look to see what He is doing in the lives of others and respond
accordingly. We put into practice Romans 12:15 and “Rejoice with those who
rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
The more we actually live according
to Philippians 2:3,4 in not being selfish and instead consider others more
important than ourselves, the easier this will be. It is our selfishness that
collapses our world around ourselves so that we cannot be genuinely joyful for
someone for the positive changes in their life though those changes are
personally disappointing to us.

Then there are those times when someone has wronged us. Again, we give the
sacrifice of praise by remembering that God is still at work doing many
wonderful things, while at the same time not taking the personal hurt to heart
where it would create bitterness and cause us to respond with revenge. We must
be honest and acknowledge that revenge might come to mind, but when it does we
must practice the command in Romans 12:19 to never take our own revenge. We
leave it in the hands of God and instead we overcome evil with good.

One of the ways in which this is done is being a reflection of God’s
character. God is longsuffering with us (2 Peter 3:9), and we are to extend that
same patience to others. In Colossians 3:12-13 Paul tell us, “And so, as
those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of
compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience
13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint
against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
This is
the same principle Jesus taught in Matthew 18:21-35 about forgiving others
because of the great debt God has paid on our behalf in Jesus Christ in
forgiving us our sins against Him. No matter what someone has done to us, it
does not compare to our sins against God. Why then can we not offer forgiveness
for Jesus’ sake who died for their sins as well our ours?

None of these mean that the sin still does not need to be confronted, for it
does. Nor does it mean that there will not be consequences for their sin, for
there will be. (Remember Achan in Joshua 7?). It does mean that we go the extra
mile is seeking to bring about reconciliation and restoration of the one that
has sinned even as Jesus told us to do in Matthew 18 and Paul instructed us to
do in Galatians 6.

There have been some tough things that have happened at this church in the
last couple of weeks, but we can be true to our name, Grace Bible Church, by
extending charity toward the faults of others and mercy toward their failures
even though they do not deserve it. But then, if they did deserve it, it would
not be grace, would it?

It is because of our Lord Jesus Christ’s great working in our lives that we
can respond properly. Our rejoicing always in all circumstances is in and
through Him. We then extend that rejoicing into its practical outworking of
letting our forbearance, our “sweet reasonableness, generosity, goodwill,
friendliness, magnanimity, charity, mercy, bigheartedness, moderation,
forbearance, gentleness, humble graciousness,
be known to all men through
how we respond to all the various situations of life, including when others
treat us wrongly. If we are rejoicing in the Lord, it is hard to be selfish and
vengeful. If we are selfish and vengeful, we cannot rejoice in the Lord.

Study Sheets


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help.

Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the
sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children –
Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the
sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times any word related to
“forbearance” is used Talk with your parents about how you can be humbly
gracious to others.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What things have recently broken in your home? How did you react? What
relationships in your life have recently changed? How did you react? What other
disappointments have you had recently? How have you reacted? Has anyone recently
slandered you? How did you react? What does it mean to “rejoice” in Philippians
4:4? What is the basis of Christian joy? What are the sources of that joy? How
is the “sacrifice of praise” in Hebrews 13:15 related to rejoicing in the Lord
always (Phil. 4:4)? What are some of the things you must “sacrifice” in order to
praise God? What is the practical outworking of giving the sacrifice of praise
(Heb. 13:16)? What is the meaning of forbearance (
/ epieiks, ) in Philippians 4:5?
What are some of the specific ways this forbearance (humble graciousness) can be
demonstrated? Give examples from your own life. How should you react when things
break? Toward someone who breaks your things? Why? How should you react when you
are personally disappointed? Why? How should respond to someone who personally
hurts you? Slanders you? Why? What is the relationship between “rejoicing in the
Lord always” and “letting your forbearing spirit be known to all?”


Sermon Notes – October 3, 2004


Rejoicing in All Circumstances, Part 3 – Philippians 4:5







joy (caivrw / chair)


Reasons to rejoice (Phil. 4)


The Sacrifice of Praise (Hebrews 13:15,16)



Forbearing Spirit


ejpieikhv” / epieiks

The actions of forbearance