June 30, 2010 David Balzer

Philippians 4:1-9: Peaceful Living

Sometimes, what’s meant to be a clear, simple message. Can LOSE something in the transmission. It’s clear in our HEADS. But somewhere along the line, the message is scrambled. And it ends up meaning something completely different.

Like these announcements in Church Bulletins. I’m told they’re real.

  1. Don’t let worry kill you. Let the Church help.
  2. Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.
  3. Pastor is on vacation. MASSAGES can be given to church secretary.

People seem to think it’s hilarious to make fun of the minister. Like these bloopers.

  1. The Rev. Merriwether spoke briefly, much to the delight of the audience.
  2. During the absence of our pastor, we enjoyed the rare privilege of hearing a good sermon/ when J.F. Stubbs supplied our pulpit.
  3. Due to the Rector’s illness, Wednesday’s healing service will be discontinued until further notice.
  4. On a church bulletin during the minister’s illness: GOD IS GOOD. Rev. Hargreaves is better.

Sometimes the minister gets his own back.

  1. Next Sunday Mrs. Vinson will be soloist for the morning service. The pastor will then speak on “It’s a Terrible Experience.”

Churches certainly seem to be full on some weird people. Like these announcements.

  1. Today’s Sermon: HOW MUCH CAN A MAN DRINK? with hymns from a FULL choir.
  2. Eight new choir robes are currently needed, due to the addition of several new members, and to the deterioration of some older ones.
  3. For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
  4. Thursday at 5 p.m. there will be a meeting of the Little Mothers Club. All wishing to become Little Mothers, please see the minister in his private study.
  5. Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 to 8:30 p.m. Please use the back door.
  6. For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
  7. This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the altar. (I don’t think that one “came out right”)

It’s important to be CLEAR about what we communicate, isn’t it? To avoid confusion. And as Paul gets to the end of his letter. He wants to make sure his message gets through. So he REPEATS his main point.

What IS his BIG IDEA? His main point? There’s a good argument for saying that Ch 1 v 27 is it. Flip back to it.

(Phil 1:27 NIV)  Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you STAND FIRM/ IN ONE SPIRIT,/ CONTENDING AS ONE MAN FOR THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL

What does conduct worthy of the gospel look like? The answer comes in three parts. Stand firm. Agree with each other. And contend for the gospel. (Strive to see that people hear it.)

And that’s not a bad message for US to hear, either. Stand firm. Agree with each other. And contend for the gospel. A good summary of what a church should be doing.

1. What? (4:1-3 cf 1:27)

Why am I going all the way back to Ch 1? Because it’s the same message he REINFORCES here at the start of Ch 4. Making sure the message gets through.

Stand firm!, Agree!, Contend for the gospel!

Look at v1.

(Phil 4:1 NIV)  Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should STAND FIRM in the Lord, dear friends!

That’s the first part of the lesson. Stand firm. Persevere. And then look at v2.

(Phil 4:2 NIV)  I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to AGREE with each other in the Lord.

That’s the second part. Unity. Have the SAME MIND about things. And then v3.

(Phil 4:3 NIV)  Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have CONTENDED AT MY SIDE IN THE CAUSE OF THE GOSPEL, along with Clement and the rest of my FELLOW WORKERS, whose names are in the book of life.

Examples of people who have lived the THIRD part of the message. Contending for the gospel.

So there we have it. In the first three verses. The “WHAT” of his main message.

Stand firm. Agree. Contend for the gospel. Let’s look at each for a few minutes.

a. Stand firm

Firstly, Paul says “THIS is how you should stand firm”. What’s the “THIS” refer to? HOW are we to stand firm? (To make sure we don’t give up. Keep going to the end.)

According to chapter 3. It’s by counting everything else as rubbish compared to knowing Christ. Valuing him above everything else.

And it’s by pressing on to take hold of godliness. Because that’s why Christ took hold of you to begin with.

It’s by forgetting what’s behind, and straining toward what’s ahead. To win the prize of Christ himself.

It’s by following the example of people like Paul. And avoiding bad ones. It’s by setting our minds on heavenly things, not earthly ones.

THAT’S how you should stand firm. Why would you want to do anything else/ when Paul paints such a wonderful picture as that?

b. Agree

But don’t just stand firm ON YOUR OWN. No-one is an island. You need OTHER CHRISTIANS to help you. And so you need to AGREE.

You see, the two are connected. Back in 1:27 Paul says “Stand firm IN ONE SPIRIT”. The very UNITY AND LIKE-MINDEDNESS of Christians HELPS THEM to stand firm.

It’s like the difference between a brick wall, and a rough stone garden wall. One is regular, and consistent. The bricks are all the same. And they fit together well. There’s good solid contact between the bricks. Plenty of cross-section for the mortar to stick to.

And the even-spacing makes the wall stronger. Each join is covered by a whole brick. The load is shared evenly across the whole wall. Weak points are concealed and strengthened by the rest of the wall.

But a rough stone wall isn’t strong at all. There are big gaps. And the pieces never fit well. They’re all sticking out in different directions. It’s hard to make the wall plumb. The load is shared unevenly.

And some churches are like that. People with a whole range of different ideas. Disagreeing. Pulling in different directions.

But unity helps stability. Like a brick wall.

And then to reinforce the point, Paul names names. He doesn’t do it very often. Euodia and Syntyche. Two women who AREN’T getting on. Who DON’T have the same mind. And he PLEADS with them. Pleads with EACH of them. Agree with each other!

He loves this church so much. And he can tell what this must be doing to them. So he’ll get down on his knees and BEG them to fix things up.

How often do WE do that? PLEAD with people to make up. Does it BOTHER us? Or are we more likely to bury our head in the sand. And pretend it’s not there. Or that it’s not our problem.

We don’t know what the particular issue was. Paul doesn’t give us specifics. He doesn’t HAVE TO. In fact, it’s probably better for us that he DOESN’T. Because then we can apply it to a whole RANGE of areas.

His point is “Take a look at yourselves. Look at how your DISUNITY has DESTABILIZED you.” You’ve taken your eye off the ball. You’re so busy squabbling, and taking sides, that you’ve lost your focus. And you’ve stopped sharing the gospel.

And instead, you’re more worried about who gets to pick the paint colour for the crèche. Or who didn’t keep the kitchen clean. Or what type of music is more appropriate for church. Or whether tea and coffee should be allowed in the sanctuary. Or why someone else prepared the flowers for the Christmas day service, or whether the appropriate procedure was followed at the church meeting. Or why someone parked in your car space. Or sat in your chair.

c) contending for the gospel

And Satan LOVES IT.  Because the REAL tragedy is that it’s stopped them from contending for the gospel. Look at the second half of v3.

(Phil 4:3 NIV)  these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel,

They’ve been such hard workers for the gospel. But now they’re more interested in scoring points against each other/ than they are at winning souls for Christ. No wonder Paul PLEADS.

And it’s a tragedy that it’s often the same in churches TODAY. People who are so busy fighting wars INSIDE the church, they’ve got no time, or energy, or interest, to fight any wars OUTSIDE the church.

But the flip side is that when there’s unity. And like-mindedness. Then progress can be made for the gospel.

Whether it be everyone pitching in to help with letter-boxing – even if some people mightn’t agree it’s very effective.

Or helping at the Doonside Festival. Everyone doing their part. So that the message of Jesus can go out. Some tie balloons. Some fill sandbags. Some speak to people. Not everyone has the same job. But we’re LIKE-MINDED. Pulling in the same direction.

Even this morning. Six or eight people all doing different things It’s a great help to me to be able to concentrate just on preaching. And an encouragement too – as I’m built up by others as they lead me in prayer, teach me new things in the kids’ talk, lead me in singing praise to God.

Different jobs, but like-minded. Doing it for God’s glory. Helping each other to STAND FIRM. Being like-minded. Contending for the cause of the gospel.

How are YOU helping us to do that?

2. HOW?

That’s the “What” of Paul’s message. But then he gives us the “How”. The way we can move forward in these things.

And we can summarise what he says under four headings. Rejoice. Pray. Think. Do. (rpt)

a) Rejoice

Joy is one of the great themes in the letter. Flip through some of these verses with me.

In Ch 1:4 Paul always PRAYS with joy

In Ch 1:18 He REJOICES because Christ is preached by ANY MEANS.

In 1:25-26 His fellowship with the Philippians brings them progress and joy in the faith, and joy in Christ Jesus that overflows

In 2:2 he wants them to make HIS joy complete by being like-minded,

In 2:17-18 He’s glad and rejoices even though he’s being poured out like a drink offering.  And he wants them to be GLAD and REJOICE with him.

In 2:29 The Philippians are to welcome Epaphroditus in the Lord with GREAT JOY

3:1 He says, “My brothers, REJOICE IN THE LORD!”

In 4:1 The Philippians themselves are his JOY and crown

Here in 4:4 REJOICE IN THE LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Finally in 4:10 Paul rejoices greatly in the Lord that at last the Philippians’ gift has arrived.

But it’s not just ANY OLD joy. It’s not the joy of a high. Or the joy of victory in a sporting contest. Or the joy of an infatuation with a new boy or . That lust at first sight. Or the joy of finally getting that new piece of equipment, or car, or dress, or shoes, or house, or boat.

A false, unrealistic, temporary emotion that only sets you up for a fall.

It’s the long-term, deep, real delight at knowing you are VALUED. And you have a PURPOSE. God has loved you. Christ has won you. And there is no more significant task than living for him. THAT’S what Joy is.

Rejoice IN THE LORD. Rejoice BECAUSE of the Lord. Rejoice because of WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU HAVE in the Lord.

Again and again Paul says it. But is JOY what describes YOUR attitude to the Christian walk? WHY NOT?

Why is it we get more excited and animated watching the State of Origin, than we do discussing the things of Jesus? Why do we get more excited and interested that the Winter sales have started early/ than we do that we’re going to CHURCH?

Here’s a quote from CH Spurgeon: “Holy joy will oil the wheels of your life’s machinery. Holy joy will strengthen you for your daily labour. Holy joy will beautify you and give you an influence over the lives of others.”

And I think that what Paul’s getting at with the next part. V5. “Rejoice. (and) let your GENTLENESS be evident to all”.

Gentleness is what JOY looks like from the OUTSIDE. Gentleness to others is the EVIDENCE of an attitude of joy. It’s the external thermometer for our internal temperature of joy in the Lord.

Imagine how JOY would have helped Euodia and Syntyche. If they’d only rejoice in what they HAD. Rather than focus on how they’d been WRONGED. Or wallowing in SELF-PITY. Or being eaten-up inside by BITTERNESS.

b. Pray:

And Paul’s next point is connected to the first.

If joy is an up-beat, celebration of how good life is. (The confidence that things will go WELL for you). Then ANXIETY is the opposite. The ugly monster that eats it up.

WORRY can sap the enjoyment out of life. Unsettle you. Stop you sleeping. Churn you up on the inside. Make you sick. It can narrow your horizons – make you think of no-one but yourself.

But, Paul says, “The Lord is NEAR. So DON’T be anxious about anything.” He’s watching. He’s listening. He’s living. He’s answering. He’s controlling.

Worry is a sign that you can’t control the way a situation will turn out. And yet when the Christian comes to that same out-of-control situation, remembering that the Lord is near. He does something ELSE instead. V6.

…The Lord is near. {6} Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Prayer is the ANTIDOTE to worry. Yes, you CAN’T control the outcome. But God CAN. So give it over to him. Let HIM deal with it.

Present your requests to God. Your petitions. The things you’d like to see happen. The way you’d like to see things turn out.

And do it with thanksgiving. That’s an attitude of thanksgiving. Gratitude at what God ALREADY gives you. A joyful acceptance at the hand God’s dealt you.

It’s not that thanksgiving is a CRITERIA to asking. The secret formula you have to recite before you can get to the selfish bits. It’s not that God won’t listen to what you want unless you say thankyou first. That’s the way you sometimes hear people teaching about prayer. But it’s only your y old grandmother who behaves like that. Not God.

There’s NOTHING you can say that will MAKE God answer YES to your prayers. Including thanksgiving. He hears your requests because of JESUS. So present your requests with an attitude of thanksgiving.

And pray about EVERYTHING. There’s nothing that we’re NOT to pray about. Big things. Little things. Short prayers. Long prayers. Pray while you’re driving, lying down, or waiting in line. Pray while you’re on the bus, on the computer, or even on the toilet.

Pray in EVERYTHING!

And when we hand it all over to God like that. Is it any wonder that v7 will follow.

(Phil 4:7 NIV)  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Peace. Acceptance. Tranquility. Trust. It’s an attitude the world can’t understand. An attitude the world WANTS.

CT. Studd, the famous missionary, once traveled to China by boat. The captain was a bitter opponent of Christianity. He just LOVED to argue with the missionaries who traveled on his boat. When he heard that Studd was onboard, he started probing him with questions.

Instead of arguing, Studd put his arm around the captain and said, “But my friend, I have a peace that’s beyond all understanding, and a joy that nothing can take away.”

The captain finally replied, “You’re a lucky dog,” and walked away. Before the end of the voyage, he’d become a rejoicing believer in Jesus too.

(Rejoice, Pray)

c. Think

And Paul’s third command is to THINK. Think God’s thoughts. Fill your mind with heaven. After all, that’s where your citizenship is.

The way to make sure there’s no room for quarrelling, or anxiety, is to fill your mind with good things. V8.

(Phil 4:8 NIV)  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

And this command has applications in SO MANY areas. But let me just flesh out ONE. The one PAUL highlights. Our relationships.

When there are people you don’t get along with. Like Euodia and Syntyche. Rather than demonise them – assume the worst motives behind every action. And the worst slant on every word. Assume the BEST. Focus on their GOOD qualities. Thank God for what they do WELL. What’s PRAISEWORTHY. Even if the words almost stick in your throat as you do it. Try to find SOMETHING you can thank God for about them.

And when it comes to your own responses. Rather than thinking about revenge, and bitterness, and hurt, and powerplays. Think noble, and pure.

d. Do!

But don’t just THINK it. DO it. Whatever Paul’s said, you gain NOTHING if you just nod your head, take down notes, write to-do lists, make up prayer points. Set goals.

And then never get round to DOING any of it. V9.

(Phil 4:9 NIV)  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–PUT IT INTO PRACTICE. And the God of peace will be with you.

We’re good at HEARING God’s word. But what are we like at DOING it.

Because it’s what we DO with what we hear/ that shows where our heart is. Listen to this challenging quote. It’s from a guy called R.G. LeTourneau.

“If you’re not SERVING Christ, it proves you don’t LOVE him. If you don’t LOVE him, it proves you don’t KNOW him. Because to know him, is to love him. And to love him, is to serve him.”

Do you KNOW Christ? Do you LOVE him? Do you SERVE him?

Paul encourages us in this passage to DO these things.

STAND FIRM, AGREE, Contend for the gospel

Rejoice, Pray, Think, Do

That’s the message. Have you got it?

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