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Live Sent With A Heart That Is Thankful Philippians 4:1-9
November 26, 2019, 9:07 PM

            Just a quick reminder here that if you haven’t picked up your Who’s Your One prayer journal, please stop by the table in the hallway. We have several still back there. I don’t want any of you to be deprived of being part of this really cool way of engaging in God’s mission.

 

Now next Sunday I’ve asked Don to give us a short overview of what their Sunday School class has been studying. Share Jesus without fear. And hopefully by then we’ll have something else to hand out to you. I realize we’re pushing the envelope of discipleship. You bet we are.  

 

That’s what our faith is all about. I think we all know it. We just have trouble putting it into action. But that’s why each one of us is here. / I’m not talking about just in this church, / but in this life that we’ve been blessed with / in this world that God’s created for us. We’re called to God’s mission / to serve Him. I think if you’ve only been here even once in these past 4 or 5 weeks you’ve heard me hammering away at that very message.

 

            You might remember the last couple of weeks, one of the key takeaways from all of this is that in God’s holy mission we are the hands and feet of the Holy Spirit and as followers of Jesus Christ we are responsible to His mission. It’s not optional. It’s not about if we feel like it or if we think we can or can’t. We’ve been commissioned, just like His apostles. Each one of us is called to glorify God in His mission through a farther reaching, outward focus by building disciples who will build disciples. Just like someone has already poured into each one of us. Maybe they still are. We pour into somebody else.

            Psalm 102:18 tells us, “this will be written for a later generation, and a people who have not yet been created will praise the Lord.” A later generation / one that has not even been created yet. That’s what it looks like to live with an outward focus. To consider how we today can effectively impact future generations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Delivering a message of hope to helpless people today and that same message of hope to helpless people in the future.

 

But when we become inwardly focused; thinking only of ourselves and today / how we’re going to get through today; and we start asking questions like what’s really the point of it all anyway / we’re dead. God calls us to be that city on a hill; a beacon of light for all the world to see, so that He will be glorified through His Word; to be a letter that’s sent for generations to come, so that they will know the Truth that is Jesus Christ. THAT’S / discipleship. THAT’S / what defines us as Christians.

                                                                                                                        Let’s pray ---

 

            Now we’re not going to mess around this morning. I’m going to ask you to open your Bibles and turn to our Scripture. You’ll find it in Philippians 4:1-9. Now if there’s one thing I’ve learned after a little more than a year in the pulpit here, trying to keep you all focused on the message with the savory smells of great down home cooking wafting out of the back of the church is pretty much…. I don’t want to say impossible… but…

 

 

Let’s say I’m fooling myself if I think all your attention is up here. At best it might be a 50/50 split… at worst you’re already thinking, how much longer is he going to talk… oh my gosh I wish he’d hurry up! Especially today with it being our Thanksgiving meal. All the turkey and mash potatoes and stuffing…

 

Ok, I’m done. Honestly, I’m starting to wish I’d stop talking myself and get it wrapped up. So I promise you this morning we will move through the message quickly. But don’t ever think I’m placing food as a priority over God’s Word. Not at all. That’s not the case. Just going to get to the point a little quicker today / maybe. 

 

            // So as we step into the world of our Scripture, we’re reminded that Philippians is another one of Paul’s prison epistles, just like Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon. You remember that Paul was imprisoned in Rome under what we might consider house arrest; possibly chained to a guard with a good deal of mobility. It’s obvious from Scripture he was still able to get around and teach and write.

 

Now the main message he’s conveying through his letter to the Philippian church is one of encouragement and hope. We draw from earlier chapters that even in his chains, he is still preaching the Gospel and bringing lives to Christ, setting the example.  And that’s what he wants the church to focus on – his example.

We get the impression too that women played a prominent role in the church. We know from Acts 16 that the church in Philippi was actually planted by Paul when he first spoke to a group of women “who had come together” in a place of prayer just outside the city gate that faced the river.

Lydia was a well to do merchant in the city. She was one of those women in that first meeting with Paul and she accepted Christ that day, along with all her household.  And we know from Acts 16:40 that Lydia’s home became the gathering place for the church.

 

Now there were a couple of other women mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Philippians too, Euodia and Syntyche, who were apparently the source of some quarreling in the church. Paul addresses this problem in our Scripture and exhorts them to reconcile with the help of his unnamed true companion. This then leads into his greater message to them and the whole church and to all of us in our Scripture. So let’s read, Philippians 4:1-9. 

                         Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored 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 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 and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

            Now we’re not sure from Scripture if the two women mentioned here were part of the group of women gathered initially outside the city gate with Lydia. But we do know that Paul knew both of them well, because he says they’d worked closely together with him and other disciples in sharing the Gospel. And whatever their differences were, they were bound to affect the church.

 

So Paul’s telling them, ladies / let it go. He’s pleading to both of them individually, whatever it is that’s causing your rift; whatever it is you think is so important that you have to fight about it / it’s not worth it. It’s going to tear the church apart.

Any squabbles you have about “stuff” is so petty / and so small / compared to the work we’re called to in Christ; work we’ve done together already and there’s so much more to do.

 

Something to think about here. Paul sees this a big enough problem that he calls both women out by name in a letter he knew would be read to the entire church. He calls out the problem, but he doesn’t leave it hanging. He gives them a solution. Forget your issues. Stop fighting. Rejoice in the Lord / always. Be reasonable. Work together.

And in all things through prayers of thanksgiving, lift all of it up to God. Prayers of thanksgiving. That’s Paul’s solution. We’ve talked about outward focus. Paul’s telling them here to have an upward focus.

 

            You see when our whole focus is on loving Jesus, when our hearts are fully turned to worship our Lord, and our whole desire is bent on glorifying Him, we’re not going to have time to even consider the possibility of starting an argument with somebody else. Our heart will be so deeply in tune with the Lord that petty bickering won’t even cross our mind. I mean what is there to argue about when two hearts and two minds are like in Christ?

 

            I think at the end of the day / it comes down to humility. I think it always comes down to humility. When we stand here and sift the sand out of every situation or conflict, the one thing that always seems to be left in the bottom of the sifter is pride. It doesn’t just get in the way of our relationship with God. It ruins our personal relationships too and can result in a cancer that spreads to everyone around us. Just like the church in Philippi.

            So let’s put a different filter on our heart. We begin see life differently, living it through a heart that’s thankful. Thankful for the blessings we do receive, instead of an expectation for more. A heart that’s thankful for the relationships we have and we cherish those friends and family that are close instead of abusing them or taking them for granted. A heart that’s thankful for Jesus Christ, the work He did for each of us on the Cross and we seek to reconcile through Him with others rather than win an argument or a fight.

 

            The key to a thankful heart is an attitude of forgiveness. I think there are two ways we can live our life and both emanate from our heart. One is through a veil of criticism. We look for the fault in others. We seek the opportunity to pin our own bitterness or anger on someone else and think that’s going to make us feel better. But it never does. Not really. It only makes us more bitter and more cynical, looking at others even more critically.

 

            The other way to live is through a filter of forgiveness and once again, that’s begins with humility. It has to begin there. It’s driven by looking at another person and realizing you have something very much in common with that person – no matter who they are. You’re both sinners. But you’ve both been saved by the grace of God through His Son’s death on the Cross.

 

The difference / may lie in salvation. But we’re not the judge of that. God is. The only thing we can really control is our relationship with Jesus and how we respond to others. We’re called to see Christ in others through the same filter of forgiveness that Christ has shown us. That will always lead to an upward focused, thankful heart.

When we think about Jesus’s acts of healing in the Bible, what does He do? Does He just snap His fingers and say you’re healed? No. He always looks to the heart of the person first. Always. He always looks to forgive the sin before he heals the sickness, right? Why? Because the main problem in a person’s life isn’t the suffering, it’s the sin.

 

We pray, God if you just get me through this illness or this trial in my life, then things will be better. I’ll be healed. But through His filter of forgiveness Jesus looks into our heart and He says I know your pain, but your real problem is sin. I’m going to heal that first. Because that physical ailment you’ve got / It’s temporal. Heart change / is eternal.

 

Now there are times that I absolutely cannot stand my secular job. I’m going to stop short of saying I hate it, but it can be incredibly frustrating and overwhelming. But the best part of the day is usually my 30-minute drive to Manhattan talking to God. I always ask Him to open my eyes to the opportunity to glorify Him in my work that day.

 

Well Friday I had a somewhat stressful conversation with a guy. Spent 30 minutes on the phone trying to get him to understand that he had already deducted a credit memo. Walked him through the process step by step, 2 or 3 times. And at the end of that 30 minutes, he says Dave, I understand everything you said and I agree with you. But I still show this credit memo open. I was done.

 

 

            Everybody in the office could hear the conversation and knew I was frustrated and probably not as forgiving as I should have been, especially since this conversation was over my lunch. But afterward I went down to the breakroom and one of the girls from the office was there. I’ve worked with her for about 40 years probably. And I started venting a bit. Not much, but complaining and airing my annoyance with the guy. Motivated by pride I’m sure.

 

            But somehow the conversation shifted to her daughter, who’d just gone through a divorce and her husband had been cheating for about 5 years – off and on. She’d fought beside him through two bouts of cancer. Three grown children, several grandkids, I don’t remember how many now. But he left her for the second time for another woman and is getting married to that woman next month. The divorce was just finalized in August.

 

I’m sorry if this is bringing up bad memories or causing any of you pain. That’s certainly not my intent. But my friend was hurting right then and God blessed me with the opportunity to talk her through that moment and she opened up to me with a faith I never knew she had in all those 40 years. Reminded me of our Scripture today.

 

The back and forth, the conflict I was having with that guy. It may have been necessary to a degree to get the job done. But that’s not what life’s about. It’s not about the arguing, the fighting; the winning or losing. It’s not about the division we see so much of in our nation today. It’s about being in the moment and doing life with each other. About walking with my friend through the pain she was feeling right then for her daughter and for herself.

It’s about sharing the love of Jesus Christ. It’s about realizing that we can have different opinions and not have to hate each other. People get so wrapped up in their drive for power and recognition, they lose sight of the value in relationships.

 

Instead of looking at the person across the aisle with a heart of compassion and forgiveness / seeing them as their brother or sister and saying let’s work together; they somehow see them as the enemy and are driven to destroy rather than reconcile. OK, yes, I’m referring to the political scene in our country today with those words.

 

Because just like the church in Philippi, the arguing and the fighting has a way of trickling down and spreading to all those within reach. And that’s exactly why Paul’s message to Euodia and Syntyche, to the whole church in Philippi and to all of us / is so important. Paul calls the two women and the church to agree in the Lord. Then he explodes with a series of exhortations.

 

Instead of looking to the things that are of the world; that are driven by self, like greed and power. Look to those things in life that are honorable and just. Seek out purity and love.  Set your mind on excellence and things that are worthy of praise. Those are the things of God that a thankful heart would be focused on, not the things that tear down and destroy. That was never God’s plan for His people. Never.

 

 

            I want to wrap up today with a quick little story about Roy Campanella, one of the first African Americans to play major league baseball. He had a great career; won the Brooklyn Dodgers Most Valued Player award several times and was the catcher on the team that won the 1955 World Series. The year I was born and I’ve got a picture of that team at home and Roy’s sitting on the front row.

 

Roy’s career was cut short in January 1958 after a car wreck left him a quadriplegic. Certainly being the athlete he was with such a promising future, he was broken. He spent a lot of time rehabbing in the Institute of Physical Medicine in New York City. One day he saw a plaque hanging on one of the walls and in the moment he read it, he was moved from a sense of self-pity to an attitude of thankfulness for the gifts God had given him. The plaque said:

“I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey…

I asked for health that I might do great things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things…

I asked for riches that I might be happy,
I was given poverty that I might be wise…

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of others.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need for God…

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things…

 

 

I got nothing I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among men, most richly blessed!

 

            As we move into this holiday season, I pray that we live each day with an upward focus; that we lift our prayers to God with hearts that are truly thankful.

 

I pray that we all look to each other through a filter of Christ’s love and forgiveness and that we seek only those things that are of God – 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… these are the things of God and the true testament of a heart that is thankful.

 

We’re going to have our Thanksgiving celebration now, so there won’t be an altar call, but I will be around for a while. If you have anything you need to talk about, please track me down.