Philippians 4:1-9 is a very practical section dealing with the subject of spiritual stability. We live in a very unstable world today, and sad to say, the church is also wrought with much instability. The command that we find at the end of verse 1, to "stand fast", is very practical and very needed.
Philippians 4:1 (NKJV) Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
"Stand fast" comes from the Greek word steko which was used of a soldier who would not budge from his post even in the midst of battle. As Christians we battle every day. We fight to live righteously in the midst of a fallen world. Paul tells us how it is possible to stand fast, he says we are to stand fast "in the Lord." God is on our side and when we trust in Him He will fight our battles for us. Notice what Moses said to the children of Israel:
Deuteronomy 1:30 (NKJV) 'The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,
Deuteronomy 3:22 (NKJV) 'You must not fear them, for the LORD your God Himself fights for you.'
1 Corinthians 15 gives us some encouraging words on standing fast.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58 (NKJV) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
We are not fighting a losing battle, we have the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ. The battles we win when we stand fast for righteousness will count for eternity. Much of what happened in the Viet Nam war was in vain. They would stand fast in battle only to give up the ground that they had fought for the next day . Not so in the war for righteousness. Our labor is not in vain. Our standing fast counts. And that is why Paul tells the Corinthians to stand fast.
1 Corinthians 16:13 (NKJV) Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.
Paul also tells the Galatians to stand fast in their liberty.
Galatians 5:1 (NKJV) Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
He is telling them to hold their ground against legalism, to stand fast in their Christian liberty.
It should be clear that God wants us to be spiritually stable but it isn't always easy to do. I think Christians want to be stable, we want to be able to hold our ground in the midst of battles, but can we? Where do we go for help? We need to draw our strength from the Word of God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
It is through a study and application of the Scriptures that we become " thoroughly equipped for every good work." Including standing fast. Psalm 1 speaks directly to the issue of stability and its connection to the Word.
Psalms 1 (NKJV) Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
That's the kind of life most people want. To be firmly planted in a place that flourishes with all the delights of life, to prosper in all they do. This is the spiritually stable person. A key to stability is found in verse 2. He delights in God's law and he meditates upon it so that all of life is viewed from the divine viewpoint.
God wants all of us to be stable, and in Philippians 4:1-9, Paul gives us six elements to stability. They are unity, joy, humility, faith, gratitude, and right thinking. Stability comes from:
1. CULTIVATING UNITY IN THE BODY OF CHRIST.
Philippians 4:2-3 (NKJV) I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
Division is a disease in the body that causes instability. If we are going to stand fast, we must be in unity with others in the body of Christ. Paul stresses the importance of this unity in 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 12:12 (NKJV) For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:20-21 (NKJV) But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."
1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (NKJV) that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
We are all part of Christ's body and we need to maintain our unity that we may have stability. Unity is maintained through love. Paul tells us that love doesn't seek its own:
1 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
Love looks to the needs of others. Strife and disunity come from two people concerned about their own interests. When you are seeking to fulfill your own interests, somebody is bound to get in your way, which will cause strife and disunity. But unity comes from people who are walking in love and thus seeking the interests of others. If we are going to have unity, we must walk in love.
2. WE NEED TO MAINTAIN A SPIRIT OF JOY.
Philippians 4:4 (NKJV) Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
How easily we become discouraged in the midst of trials and tribulations. We tend to be victimized by our circumstances, our health, our finances, or our friends.
This is a command -- "Rejoice!" It is a present imperative, "keep on rejoicing." Does that sound like a strange command? If you are in the midst of a severe trial, your world is seemingly crumbling around you, and someone walks up to you and says, "Rejoice!" You're liable to give them a piece of your mind or maybe even take a swing at them. But notice it doesn't say, "Rejoice in your circumstances", you can't always do that. It says, "Rejoice in the Lord." Now, that I can always do. I don't always like the way things are going and if I'm going to rejoice always, it must be in the Lord. I can't always rejoice in people -- they come and go. I can't always rejoice in my circumstances -- they are constantly changing, and often I don't particularly like them. But I can always rejoice in the Lord, He's constant!
Spiritual stability is directly related to how you think, especially how you think about God. You show me a stable person in the midst of conflict, and I'll show you someone who knows God. For example: Paul, in Acts 16, has been beaten and put in the inner prison in stocks for preaching the gospel. Notice his response:
Acts 16:25 (NKJV) But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
Can you in the slightest way relate to that? They are not rejoicing in their circumstances but in their God who controls all circumstances. If you know God, really know him, it will always be easy to rejoice in Him.
Then in Philippians 4:4, Paul says this, "Again I say, 'rejoice.'" He repeats it for emphasis. This is a command, and because it is a command, it is a sin not to rejoice just as it is a sin to break any other command. Do you understand that?
WHAT ARE WE TO REJOICE ABOUT?
1. Rejoice in who God is.
We could pick out many attributes of God that we are to rejoice in but the attribute of God that comforts and strengthens me the most in trials is the sovereignty of God. God is the sovereign ruler of the universe who controls all things. When King Uzziah died, Isaiah found his comfort in the fact that God was still on the throne:
Isaiah 6:1 (NKJV) In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.
Israel's earthly ruler had died but their sovereign God was still in control.
You can't steal my joy when I realize that my loving Heavenly Father is in charge of everything, every circumstance is in his control. Nothing happens outside his control, nothing! And furthermore, he controls it all for my good:
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Sometimes I don't always like what's good for me, but I can always rejoice in my God. God loves us and He is on our side. We can always rejoice in who He is.
2. We can also rejoice in the election of God.
Luke 10:19 (NKJV) "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
This would be a cause for great joy. To have power over your enemy and to be unable to be hurt in the battle. But notice what Jesus says:
Luke 10:20 (NKJV) "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
Jesus told his disciples to rejoice in their election. Many people today get upset about the doctrine of election, but Jesus said election should bring us joy. Our names are written in the Lamb's book of life, and no matter how tough things get down here, we can rejoice in the fact that we will spend eternity in heaven.
Revelation 20:15 (NKJV) And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
If you have trusted Christ, you can rejoice that your name is written in the book of life. My salvation and eternal destiny are unshakeable. I will never be subject to the judgement of God because Christ has born that for me. I can always rejoice that God has chosen me to be his child.
In the end of Philippians 4:3, Paul says, "And the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life." Then he says in verse 4, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" Both Paul and Jesus connected rejoicing with election. Spiritual stability comes as we learn to rejoice in the Lord. The joyful person is a stable person.
The elements that help us to be stable are unity, joy and:
3. HUMILITY -- learning to accept less than you think you are due.
Philippians 4:5 (NKJV) Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
The word translated here as gentleness by the NKJV is the Greek word epieikes, which comes from epi, which means: "over", and icos, which means: "reasonable." It could be translated overreasonableness. Some have said that this is one of the most untranslatable of all Greek words. The difficulty can be seen by the number of translations given of it. Wycliffe translates it patience; Tyndale, softness; Cranmer, softness; The Geneva Bible, the patient mind; the Rheims Bible, modesty; the Revised Version, forbearance (in the margin gentleness); Weymouth, the forbearing spirit; the New English Bible, magnanimity. The Greeks themselves explained this word as "justice and something better than justice." In any of these words, we find the opposite of obstinacy and pride. The LXX of Psalm 86:5 uses the adjective to translate: "ready to forgive." The word epieikes, frequently occurs in Greek literature and three times in the NT. Paul uses it of Christ in:
2 Corinthians 10:1 (NKJV) Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ; who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.
It has the sense of "sweet reasonableness" -- that you are responsive to an appeal. Some have said it means: "charity toward the faults of others." It is a kind of patience which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, and mistreatment without hatred, malice or retaliation.
Add it all up and you could call it "graciousness", in all of them there is grace. But there is another element that we must understand; it is the graciousness of humility which says, "You may have offended me, mistreated me, misjudged me, misrepresented me, not given me what I deserve, you may have ruined my reputation with some, but I humbly and graciously accept it." That is what epieikes, means, "let your humility be known to all men." When you have this kind of attitude (whatever anybody does to me is okay, God is in control) you'll be a stable person.
Spiritual stability belongs to the humbly gracious. We see this attitude in Joseph. When his father died, his brothers feared that he would retaliate but he said:
Genesis 50:19 (NKJV) Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?
Joseph's attitude was "Vengeance is the Lord's, I am going to humbly accept whatever comes my way." Joseph was a humble man.
So, Paul is saying, "Let your humble graciousness be known to all men." The word "known" is the Greek word ginosko which means: "to know by experience." People are to know that we are graciously humble by the experiences that they have with us. This is to be known to "all men", not just believers. This is the kind of person who doesn't demand their rights. If you are the kind of person who demands your rights, you'll become an unstable person because pride causes instability:
Proverbs 13:10 (NKJV) By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom.
Proverbs 28:25 (NKJV) He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the LORD will be prospered.
Paul says, "Be humble, don't demand your rights, have mercy toward the failures of others." This produces stability. The humble person is a stable person because his pride is not constantly causing him conflicts.
So, stability comes from Unity, Joy, Humility, and fourthly:
4. FAITH -- Spiritual stability requires resting on a confident faith in the Lord.
Philippians 4: 5b-6a The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing...
The phrase "the Lord is at hand" could be taken with verse 5, or 6, or both. Remember, the chapter and verse divisions were put in the Bible by men. I think that it best fits with verse 6; because the Lord is near, don't worry about anything.
The words "at hand" are a translation of the Greek word eggus, (eng-goos) it means: "near, imminent, approaching, impending, right around the corner, close, nigh."
Who is it that is near? The Lord! Who is the Lord? It is Jesus. When was it made manifest that Jesus was Lord? At the second coming.
The kingdom was given to Christ at His ascension, but this was made manifest to all Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Jerusalem's destruction was a sign that Jesus Christ was the Lord, the Messiah of God.
Matthew 26:63-64 (NKJV) But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!" 64 Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven."
Here Caiaphas, the high priest, asks Jesus if he is the Son of God, the Messiah. Notice the similarities between Jesus' answer to Caiaphas and what he says in:
Matthew 24:30 (NKJV) "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Jesus told Caiaphas, "You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power." He said to His disciples, "You will see the sign that the son of man is in heaven." He told Caiaphas, "You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven." He told His disciples, "You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." It is obviously the same event in both passages. Notice Caiaphas' response to Jesus' statement.
Matthew 26:65 (NKJV) Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!
What did Jesus say that was blasphemy? Caiaphas understood that Jesus was claiming to be Lord, the Messiah. At his coming in AD 70, in the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, he was declared to be "Lord."
The title "Lord" is used in reference to the Second Coming. In 1 Thessalonians 5:13-18, Paul has been talking to the Christians about death, and has argued that since God has raised up Jesus, He will also raise up those who are united to Him by faith. In all of these statements, Paul refers to the Lord Jesus Christ by His personal, most human name, "Jesus." When he starts to speak about Jesus' return, however, he switches the names, no longer referring to Jesus as "Jesus", but to Jesus as "Lord".
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 (NKJV) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Paul associated the second coming with the fact that Jesus is Lord. So, when Paul tells the Philippians that "the Lord is near" he is speaking of the second coming of Christ.
The Greek word for "coming" is parousia, which means" "arrival or presence." To the disciples, the "parousia" of the son of man signified the full manifestation of His Messiahship; His glorious appearing in power as Lord. William Barclay says of "parousia," "It is the regular word for the arrival of a governor into his province or for the coming of a king to his subjects. It regularly describes a coming in authority and in power."
So, what Paul is saying to the Philippians here is, "The coming of the Lord, His presence, is very near, so don't be anxious about anything." The Lord, the Sovereign One is near. I think that this is the best way to see it in this text. The Lord is near, His presence is near. This seems to fit a lot better with verse 6 than it does with verse 5.
To us, twentieth century saints, we could read it like this, "The Lord is HERE! Be anxious for nothing." The Lord, the Sovereign One, is here. His presence is here, why worry?
Your view of God controls your conduct. A proper view of God is what stabilizes you. Who is the Lord who was near to them and here to us? Do you know him? If you don't know Him, just knowing He is here won't help you much.
Look at what happened to David. This is the David that we saw last week, David the giant killer, the one who knew that God was on his side. We see here a different David.
1 Samuel 21:10-15 (NKJV) Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, "Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: 'Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands'?" 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, feigned madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, "Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 "Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?"
This is David the giant killer. What happened to him? Fear is controlling David, he's filled with anxiety. So he calls out to God? No, he handles it himself, and acts like he's retarded so the King will let him go. David's ploy worked, the King sent him away, but he was still afraid of and running from Saul.
1 Samuel 22:1 (NKJV) David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him.
Here David sits in a cave and starts to think about what a jerk he's been. Do you think that God could have delivered him from Achish? Did he think so? Theologically, yes, but he was focusing on the problem and not on his God. In Psalm 57, which was written from this cave, David begins to put his theology back together.
Psalms 57 (NKJV) Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by. 2 I will cry out to God Most High, To God who performs all things for me. 3 He shall send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah God shall send forth His mercy and His truth. 4 My soul is among lions; I lie among the sons of men Who are set on fire, Whose teeth are spears and arrows, And their tongue a sharp sword. 5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth. 6 They have prepared a net for my steps; My soul is bowed down; They have dug a pit before me; Into the midst of it they themselves have fallen. Selah 7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. 8 Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. 9 I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. 10 For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, And Your truth unto the clouds. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth.
He begins to focus on God, and his strength and stability return. He had forgotten that God was on his side. Have you ever done that? Your theology works on Sunday, but during the week when you hit the wall of trials, trouble, or persecution, you start to panic and you end up scribbling on the walls and drooling on yourself. If you have an awareness that God is Sovereign and that he is on your side, you will have stability. Why should I worry or fear when I know that the Sovereign God who loves me is here?
We see this same idea in Habakkuk, of fear turned to faith when we focus on God. The thing we can learn from Habakkuk is that a mind fixed on God can turn doubts into devotion and all confusion into confidence. Go to Matthew and take a left five books.
Habakkuk 1:1-4 (NKJV) The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw. 2 O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, "Violence!" And You will not save. 3 Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. 4 Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.
Habakkuk says, "God, why don't you do something? Why are you allowing this to happen? Why do you allow all the evil to go on?" Have you ever felt like this? I have! In verses 5-11, we have God's disclosure. The change of speakers is apparent from the verbs; look and watch in Hebrew include the plural you. God speaks!
Habakkuk 1:5-11 (NKJV) "Look among the nations and watch; Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you. 6 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs. 7 They are terrible and dreadful; Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. 8 Their horses also are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. 9 "They all come for violence; Their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand. 10 They scoff at kings, And princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it. 11 Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; He commits offense, Ascribing this power to his god."
Verse 10 says, "For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it." The Babylonians were known for piling up dirt by the city wall until they had a ramp to go up into the city. They were a fierce people with no mercy. Now Habakkuk has a worse problem. How can God use such an evil nation to punish Judah? He was traumatized by God's revelation.
Habakkuk 3:16 (NKJV) When I heard, my body trembled; My lips quivered at the voice; Rottenness entered my bones; And I trembled in myself, That I might rest in the day of trouble. When he comes up to the people, He will invade them with his troops.
He was so upset that he could have been hospitalized. What is he going to do? Here stands a shaken prophet, and his problems are real, not imaginary like many of our problems. He is talking about the wiping out of his nation. This is serious stuff. In verse 12 of chapter 1, he starts to remind himself about God.
Habakkuk 1:12 (NKJV) Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction.
He develops his own catechism -- to teach orally by repetition. He uses a question and answer format. "Are you not from everlasting?" This requires an affirmative reply, "God you are eternal -- you're bigger than history and your plan is always good." "Oh LORD my God" -- Yahweh, the eternal "I AM." The self-existent God who is uninfluenced, "My Holy One" -- God makes no mistakes.
Habakkuk 1:13 (NKJV) You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he?
"You are holy and you must deal with sin -- we deserve this. God, you are eternal, self-existent, holy-- we shall not die-- God made a covenant with us and he can't lie. He won't destroy us, but he is disciplining us."
God is sovereign and He is in control. Do you see what Habakkuk is doing? He is saying, "Everything I know about you, God, tells me to stop worrying, you're in control."
Habakkuk 2:4 (NKJV) "Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.
Here is the principle: we are to live by faith trusting God. In chapter 3, he outlines the worse possible situation.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NKJV) Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls; 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
"No matter how bad my circumstances get, I will rejoice in my God. God is faithful and I will trust Him. In Him I find my joy and contentment." This is a stable man and his stability is related to his view of God. "I will joy in the God of my deliverance."
Back to Philippians 4. What is the result of knowing that the sovereign Lord is here? "Be anxious for nothing."Stop worrying about anything! Worry and anxiety are a denial of God's sovereignty and providence. If you imagine that God can't help you, then you have created a god other than the true God, and that's blasphemy.
So, the key to a stable life is resting on a confident faith in the Lord, which comes from meditating on His Word. As I do this, I become very familiar with who He is a and how He acts. Since I know that He is sovereign and that he loves me, I'm not going to worry about anything. The great weakness of the Church today is a lack of understanding about who God is and how he acts. The Church's instability is caused by its weak view of God. The solution to our instability is not a psychologist, counselor, or self-help book. Our solution is theology proper -- a study of God. We must come to know the God of the Bible. Martin Luther said to Erasmus, "Your thoughts of God are too human." I think that most of us fall into this same category, our thoughts of God are too human. A.W. Pink said, "the God of modern religious thought no more resembles the supreme sovereign of the Bible than does the dim flickering of a candle resemble the glory of the noonday sun."
If we are going to stand fast in the midst of conflict and adversity, we must have unity, joy, humility and faith. Remember, to worry betrays a lack of trust in God's care and is unconscience blasphemy. When we know God in an intimate way, we will trust Him in every situation that we find ourselves. As we trust Him, we will have stability in our lives.
Isaiah 26:3-4 (NNAS) "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. 4 "Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.
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