July 30, 2021

When Things Get Tough, the Tough Get Praying

Philippians 1–4

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Paul and Timothy, servants 1 of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers 2 and deacons: 3

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the...


Paul and Timothy, servants 1 of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers 2 and deacons: 3

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, 4 both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

The Advance of the Gospel

12 I want you to know, brothers, 5 that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard 6 and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word 7 without fear.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

To Live Is Christ

Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy 8 of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see 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, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Christ's Example of Humility

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 9 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 10 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, 11 being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Lights in the World

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Timothy and Epaphroditus

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy's 12 proven worth, how as a son 13 with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.

25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died 14 for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Righteousness Through Faith in Christ

Finally, my brothers, 15 rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God 16 and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, 17 blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Straining Toward the Goal

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Therefore, my brothers, 18 whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Exhortation, Encouragement, and Prayer

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, 19 help these women, who have labored 20 side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness 21 be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, 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 22 and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

God's Provision

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

14 Yet it was kind of you to share 23 my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 24 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Final Greetings

21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.


[1] 1:1 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface
[2] 1:1 Or bishops; Greek episkopoi
[3] 1:1 Or servants, or ministers; Greek diakonoi
[4] 1:7 Or you all have fellowship with me in grace
[5] 1:12 Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters; also verse 14
[6] 1:13 Greek in the whole praetorium
[7] 1:14 Some manuscripts add of God
[8] 1:27 Greek Only behave as citizens worthy
[9] 2:5 Or which was also in Christ Jesus
[10] 2:6 Or a thing to be held on to for advantage
[11] 2:7 Or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)
[12] 2:22 Greek his
[13] 2:22 Greek child
[14] 2:30 Or he drew near to the point of death; compare verse 8
[15] 3:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 13, 17
[16] 3:3 Some manuscripts God in spirit
[17] 3:6 Greek in the law
[18] 4:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 8, 21
[19] 4:3 Or loyal Syzygus; Greek true yokefellow
[20] 4:3 Or strived (see 1:27)
[21] 4:5 Or gentleness
[22] 4:9 Or these things—9which things you have also learned
[23] 4:14 Or have fellowship in
[24] 4:17 Or I seek the profit that accrues to your account

When Things Get Tough, the Tough Get Praying

Key Verse | Philippians 4:6–7

[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Bio | Jhonda Johnson

Hey, friends! My name is Jhonda. However, to most I'm JPJ or just J. I am a Texas gal—born and raised—and by His grace am now living boldly and bravely, constantly reminded that I have been supernaturally saved.

Most who know me can attest that I am a lover of books, Bibles (in different translations, of course), journals, hugs, and definitely tacos! I enjoy relaxing and looking for new possible adventures. Whether it's trying new cuisines, being inspired by talented writers, or traveling to wherever the Lord opens up a path, discovering something new is always a fun adventure.

Central Truth

Living in an atmosphere of prayer brings the promise of perfect unexplainable peace and victory over the worries of this world.

Devotional | Philippians 1–4

I grew up hearing the phrase "When things get tough, the tough get going." Hearing this, I had so many questions. Where were the tough going? How did I go with them? What made them so tough? Had they...

I grew up hearing the phrase "When things get tough, the tough get going." Hearing this, I had so many questions. Where were the tough going? How did I go with them? What made them so tough? Had they unlocked a secret that the rest of us didn't know about when hard times hit? No, they held no secrets and weren't going anywhere special except to the land of worry or anxiety (a land none of us really wants to visit). In tough moments, peace seemed so elusive, if not downright impossible.

Over time, I learned that the true test of strength isn't how well you can muscle through things. No, true strength comes from confidence in the power of prayer and from thankfulness.

Without truly knowing more of God's character and His Word, I never really knew how to pray. As I began to open God's Word more often, I realized that prayer is a conversation in which we meet with God and invite Him in, and we find examples of how to pray throughout Scripture. It didn't take me long to understand that prayer is the best place to go when things get tough. 

The book of Philippians is a great resource in this area because it's rich with examples of encouragement, rejoicing, and living out the gospel in the midst of hardship.

In the simplest terms, Paul gives us three beneficial steps:

1. Prayer—a conversation with God. A method of adoration, devotion, and worship.

2. Supplication—a wholehearted sharing of our needs and problems with God. He wants our honesty, and He wants everything, big and small.

3. Thanksgiving—an appreciation, giving thanks to God.

Prayer is powerful; it provides a pathway for us to sit at our Heavenly Father's feet, knowing He hears us, loves us, and wants to bring us His ultimate peace. Only then comes the sweet result of victory and freedom. Knowing that, I like to say, "When things get tough, the tough get praying."

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Discussion Questions

1. How has prayer impacted you? How have you seen prayer bring peace in your life or the lives of those around you? 

2. Do you regularly pray and give thanks for others in your life when they cross your mind? Why or why not? When has worry or anxiety distracted you from praying?

3. What do we see Paul praying for throughout Philippians? What are ways you can incorporate joy and thanksgiving into your prayers? How can we help one another pray in these ways?

4. What are your favorite verses to pray?

5. When you think about praying, why is it important to remember that the Lord is near and will guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7)?

12 Comments available

Nicolas Ochoa about 2 months ago

Really great job Jhonda! Super encouraging and such an incredible reminder. Thank you!

Michael Scaman about 2 months ago

Paul pictures the believing gentiles as part of an offering to God with himself poured out as another offering over them. Unexpected picture.

Michael Scaman about 2 months ago

The Philippians got a lot of encouragement of salvation, even the 2 ladies who didn’t always agree were fellow-servants with Paul. Paul says their names written in the book of life.

Michael Scaman about 2 months ago

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus”

Some books Paul opens calling himself apostle. Here Paul is a servant and a fellow servant with Timothy.

Linda Green about 2 months ago

Thank you, Jhonda, for the reminder to pray with thanksgiving, wherever God has us. Your devo is a beautiful continuation of yesterday’s encouraging JTJ- love it when that happens!

Participating in an extended time of prayer with Equipped Disciple taught me that worship happens with prayers of confession and accepting the forgiveness Jesus died to give me. And equally important: forgiveness towards those who have hurt me (Matthew 6:15). Job demonstrated this truth (Job 42:10).

Today’s verses made me think on the difference between Job’s response to suffering and Paul’s suffering and response (2 Corinthians 11: 24-29, Philippians 4:12-13). Thinking Paul knowing he was suffering for a purpose, and that he was a terrible sinner saved by grace changed everything.

Paul speaks of joy and rejoicing 16 times in Philippians while writing from a prison cell!

Sue Bohlin about 2 months ago

(1/2) Super devo, Jhonda, thank you!

Philippians 4:6-7 is my favorite passage in the whole Bible. I loved reading it in the NLT this morning:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Sue Bohlin about 2 months ago

(2/2) In thinking about this command to pray to an omniscient, all-powerful God (as in, what’s the point?), an image came to me. In our hallway, we have a rope suspended from the door in the ceiling that gives us access to the attic. Pull down the door and we can unfold the ladder that allows us to go up into the part of our house we rarely visit.

That’s what prayer does: it opens access to the spirit realm, where God invites us to come up and be part of what He’s doing. The call to pray is an invitation from God. And it leads to experiencing His peace. But we need to go up into the spirit realm to get it.

Hugh Stephenson about 2 months ago

3 of 3

My calling- Know the goodness, kindness and justice of God so well that I trust him with all my heart and I don’t lean on my head knowledge. He will “make my way straight”

In this, and this alone, I can cast aside a life of fear and anxiety which drove me to to all manner of addictions and coping behaviors.

My prayers will be heard in Heaven.

And I will have such peace that I can’t explain it. Although others will see His peace in me and want an explanation.

Hugh Stephenson about 2 months ago

2 of 3

(In a recent study on Revelation I was taught/shown the verses that show prayers being heard and having an impact in Heaven. Wow. A powerful representation of the supernatural.)

And then, for me, the most haunting promise in the Bible:

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Then my “heart and mind” (from Proverbs 3:5-6) come back into play in this Philippians verse.

Is there anything in Heaven or earth more powerful than the peace of God? Is there anything I desperately want and need more than that?

Hugh Stephenson about 2 months ago

1 of 3

Sister Jhonda! Love the link to Vince Lombardi, a childhood hero of mine.

While I love the simple gospel spelled out in the hymn of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11), I have to go to Philippians 4:6-7. This is my #2 life verse after Proverbs 3:5-6.

(The Proverbs verse sets up the Philippians verse for me. I must know Jesus in my heart and not merely in my own “understanding”. Only then can I move towards a place of peace…that passes all understanding.)

I note that verse 5b states “the Lord is at hand” (near).

That’s a perfect lead in to the command; “do not be anxious about anything…”.

And then another command; “but in everything by prayer and supplication and with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Why am to make my requests known to God? Doesn’t He already know before I ask?

Greg Jones about 2 months ago


Philippians, great book to follow Job, fingerprints of its themes and imagery are everywhere.

Job asked, why affliction? Punishment is the purpose of affliction.

Philippians1:12-14 Paul’s punishment with chains serves the purpose of accelerating the claims of Christ.

A need to be seen as right creates tensions in Job.

Philippians1:15-18, Christ is preached, who’s right doesn’t matter.

Job, the nature of God is compared to Leviathan. “Will it make an agreement with you for you to take it as your slave for life.”(Job41:4)

Philippians2:6-11 Paul comparing the nature of Christ the same as the nature of God, poetically, like Job, uses the metaphor of a slave as a descriptive. .

Greg Jones about 2 months ago

2/2 I can’t help but to consider Job39:27-30, being used as food for God’s purpose, and Job41:33-34 a God with wrath comparable to Leviathan as a king over, looking down on, the haughty and proud, as influencing Paul’s thoughts in Philippians.

When God serves my purpose, how can I resist Him? Flip that idea of Him, and I resist God quicker than you can say Israelite.

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