It was rather odd, but I had a very strong leading to read Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. His whole letter is amazing, and I greatly encourage you to turn over and read it. Sure, you can choose whatever translation you want, but at the time, I was using the Names of God Bible (NOG). But for some odd reason I fixated on the 4th chapter:
So, brothers and sisters, I love you and miss you. You are my joy and my crown. Therefore, dear friends, keep your relationship with the Lord firm!
You know, when you first began to receive my Morning Messages, that is what I was praying you would be able to do: “Keep your relationship with the Lord firm!” That’s right, not wish-washy and questioning every step along the way, but FIRM, steadfast, secure and strong.
I encourage both Euodia and Syntyche to have the attitude the Lord wants them to have. Yes, I also ask you, Syzugus, my true partner, to help these women. They fought beside me to spread the Good News along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
What is amazing is that Euodia and Syntyche would be completely unknown if Paul had not mentioned them. They are not mentioned anywhere else but in this letter. He obviously knew them and loved them. In fact, he credited them with being faithful and honoring the faith. Okay, I only surmised that because he commented on how they “fought beside [him] to spread the Good News.” That my friends would require them to be faithful and to honor the faith. We have no idea what happened between them, but Paul was hoping that whatever it was, they could settle it. Isn’t that what he encouraged all of us to do? Turn over to the beginning of the letter and see what he was encouraging the whole church to do:
If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but for those of others (Philippians 2:1-4)
That is what all of us are to strive to do. Settle your differences and seek peace between whoever you are angry with because this isn’t a “good idea,” or “suggestion.”As believers, this is required of us. That’s why Paul asked the question, “Is there any encouragement in Christ?” Well, is there? “any solace?” Hum? “Any participation in the Spirit”? I am pretty sure there is. J.B Phillips renders that first verse as:
“Now if your experience of Christ’s encouragement and love means anything to you, if you have known something of the fellowship of his Spirit, and all that it means in kindness and deep sympathy . . .” (Philippians 2:1)
Does that help you any? “Then,” as Paul continues. “Fill me with joy by having the same attitude and the same love, living in harmony, and keeping one purpose in mind.” As Phillips renders it, “Make my best hope for you come true! Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you.” Brothers, Sisters, fellow believers . . . this is for you! Are you having difficulties with someone? Then as Jesus said, “When you are praying and are angry with someone or have anything against someone, you better forgive them or your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins! (Mark 11:25). Eek!
Always be joyful in the Lord! I’ll say it again: Be joyful!
Hey, it is so much fun to be joyful! Certainly better than griping and complaining. Who wants to hang out with anyone who is grouchy and moody all the time? One thing all of us must discover is that regardless of our circumstances, we can have a peaceful and joyful spirit. Honest. It does have to depend on your situation or your surroundings. Think about Paul. We know that he was a prisoner when he wrote this letter, and yet he was encouraging them to be joyful “I’ll say it again: Be joyful!” Here he is, sitting in jail and writing one of the most personal letters he wrote. The whole letter is joyful, and he doesn’t even correct or rebuke anyone.
If you think about it, during this time the attitude of the Romans was rather bleak. Death was the inevitable end of life, and suffering in life was just a prelude to that grim fate. In their minds, the gods were capricious and cruel, and when they felt like it, they would dish out their divine “justice.” Humans had no options other than simply accepting the ultimate futility of having their ambitions and dreams dashed to pieces.
When Paul wrote this letter, he was experiencing exceptional suffering. But instead of bemoaning his circumstances, he offered joy. He was writing to them so he could show them that although he was sitting in prison, he could experience joy, and so could they! All they had to do was embrace that gospel message.
Then he adds, “In this joyful experience”:
Let everyone know how considerate you are.
The Lord is near.
Oh, okay. How?
The same answer:
The Lord is near.
Never worry about anything.
Oh, I’ve heard that before. In one of my messages I encouraged each of you to get rid of your worrying and fretting; stressing over things you can’t do anything about, anyway. But someone sent me an email because he was confused and asked, “How in the world can I avoid worrying about something?” I answered him with Paul’s advice:
But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks.
So what would happen then?
Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Yeshua.
Ooh, that is what I want to tap into, and it certainly makes spending time in prayer worthwhile! Friend, if you don’t spend time in prayer, you have good reason to worry and you will never experience that “peace, which goes beyond anything you can imagine.” Not only that, that peace will “guard your thoughts” [no more worrying] “and emotions” [you will experience that joyfulness]. And it all comes “through Christ Yeshua!”
Then he went on and gave some more advice:
Keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable.
That’s what you should be thinking about. One of my sons asked me if I had ever watched “South Park,” a particular adult cartoon. He explained that yes, it is quite crude and abusive, but at the end of many of the shows you get a Libertarian point of view. Now I don’t know if that is true because I couldn’t stand to watch for than about three minutes of it. I have no interest in watching that cartoon (or any of the “adult” cartoons being broadcast). My reasoning is quite simple: is there anything that is “honorable,” “pure,” “commendable“? No? Then I have no interest in it.
I want to follow Paul’s admonition:
Practice what you have learned and received from me, what you heard and saw me do. Then the God who gives this peace will be with you.
I want very much to experience this peace of God in my life, so I choose to follow the things Christ (through Paul) has taught me.
Folks, I think this is what the Lord wants to tell you this morning: Quit looking at all of your problems: the bills; unexplainable illness: the noisy neighbors (shoot, the noisy kids!), the lack of funds; the cost of groceries . . . whatever it is that is causing distress and anxiety in your life. You can celebrate your life! You don’t have to be “down in the dumps.” You can rise above it. Just allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life.
Now some of you discovered all this years ago, but somehow, all of that disappeared. You may have experienced a disappointment of some kind; someone may have let you down. It is okay. The Holy Spirit can resolve that, too.
As Paul wrote, “Always be joyful in the Lord! I’ll say it again: Be joyful!”
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.