These are the notes from my sermon on Sunday, 27th July.
Theme - Rejoice in God always, from the reading - Phil 4:2-9.
Last week we looked at the goal we have in Christ. The idea of running a race.
This week we are looking at how we keep going on that journey.
There are 5 main points packed into these few verses which i want to very quickly pull out.
2. be good
3. don't worry
4. think good things
5. put into practice.
all of which leads to inner peace and helps us keep running that race. I wanted to make the focus of this talk about how we keep running the race, about how we press on, how we overcome disappointment, how we face hard and troubling times. Sadly i suspect there won't be any dragons in this weeks talk, i may make up some words. irregardless of all these things lets have hearts and minds which are focused on Christ and doing things his way.
Rejoice, to be glad, to take delight in. Not a word we tend to use a lot.
The Greek translation of this verse is to take Joy in the Lord.
You may have seen those things on social media sites such as 100 happy days, or a week of 3 happy thoughts etc. I think we can learn a little something from these. They are choosing to take delight in positive things. Paul in writing to the Philippians says rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice!
He realises two important things, one we are stupid and need reminding, lots. And two the power of joy. Nehemiah 8 v 10 says the joy of the Lord is your strength. Paul is writing from prison, Nehemiah is writing from exile. They understand it's not easy, they are facing trouble and hardship BUT they remind us to take joy in the Lord and this strengthens us and helps us press on in our journey of faith, as we run towards the finish line.
Rejoice is not about happy or sad, it's not dependent on your circumstances. I think that is something very important we have to realise and come to terms with. It is not denying what is going on. It's trusting in God, and choosing to praise him in the midst of whatever is going on. So often it's bad habits or years of not rejoicing that make it so difficult to try and turn it around and be those joyful people. Lets take a couple of minutes in our groups/tables to discuss this question -
What helps you OR what could help you to rejoice when facing hard times?
Something to encourage you, Paul wrote in Romans 7 that the things he wanted to do he didn't do and the things he didn't want to do he did. We are not the only ones who struggled. I will be honest with you, at 4am this morning when I was sick to my stomach and bent double in the bathroom it was hard to rejoice. Probably more so for Vix who found me in that way. BUT that is exactly the time to rejoice.
point 2. be good
Verse 5 says let your gentleness be evident to all, why? Because the Lord is near.
Earlier in the chapter Paul beseeched Euodia and Syntyche to put aside their differences and be of one mind in the Lord. Why, because unity and love and good demonstrations of family are a positive witness. Be gentle, be kind, treat others as better than yourself whether they are or not. Be good. Elsewhere in the new testament it says be perfect as your heavenly Father is. We could swap the word good or perfect for the word holy. For God is good, he is perfect, he is holy, and we are called to be these things. Holy sounds scary but if we stopped getting hung up on our misconceptions and religious sounding words and started being good then we would soon recognise holiness all around us.
All of which comes back to this ideas of a race, lets run it in a good way, why because the Lord is near. Jesus said people would know that we are his disciples, and how is this? By having love one for another. It's difficult to love without being good.
point 3. don't worry
I think God has a sense of humour, either that or I'm a slow learner. Last time I preached was on worry, and here I am again discussing that very subject. Verses 6 and 7 give us a pattern we can follow. We have the command "don't be anxious" or "don't worry". Then we have the way to do that. Instead pray. It tells us to use all sorts of prayers. And what happens? We are filled with God's peace. This isn't a temporary, fleeting, happy for a moment, gone in a second peace. This is God's peace, a peace that transcends understanding, a peace that is bigger than circumstances. A peace that will guard us, keep us safe, and help us to run the race in front of us.
And this is the point, God is running the race with us but it's up to us to involve him. To turn to him and pray, petition, praise, thank, present our requests to a loving heavenly Father. And he will be with us, and his peace will fill every part of us.
A few years ago my company restructured and a lot of people were worried, I found myself in a weird situation of not being unduly worried, which I can only put down to God's peace. I had somehow managed to hand the situation over to him. The upshot of it all was that I ended up getting a promotion. In the midst of turmoil, God's provision in my life was revealed. I've been with the company for 8 years now. And sometimes it gets a bit tough, but I remember that He did that for me. And as and when I allow him in, when I bring the situations I face before him, he does fill me with peace. Even in the last week I managed to forget all of this, Wednesday was horrible, I felt stressed and bleurgh, I went for a walk, listened to some demon Hunter and poured out my complaint to God. Somehow he met me there. I still have a lot of stuff to get done but I am not facing it alone.
In our tables, let's discuss for a few moments about how are worry and prayer can be similar and can be very different?
point 4. think good things
A good friend once said to me "don't trust your thoughts about yourself when you're tired". Why because they tend to be negative. Verse 8 tells us we should think good things. One of the greatest things, or to my mind it is at any rate, of God's creation is the diversity we see within it. To each one of us here God has blessed us with different gifts, different ways of thinking, different viewpoints. As we start using our hearts and minds to think good things, think Godly things, we will see more of God. Why because the things we think eventually come out.
Imagine the scenario, you dislike someone, you spend your time mulling over how much you dislike them, how stupid they are, how irritating they are, how annoying they are. For a time you are able to keep up the pretence of being friendly, after all we are good British Anglicans. But as time goes on the thoughts get more vivid, more crazy. But you keep up the pretence. And then one day something silly, something minor happens and you snap. And all this stuff spews forth. Our thoughts come out. If we start thinking different thoughts. If we start thinking blessings upon our enemies/those people who annoy us. If we start thing positively, praiseworthy, lovely, admirable thoughts, you know what will eventually spew out of us? Good things. Which kinda nicely leads on to the last point.
point 5. put into practice.
Do good things, we mentioned earlier that people will know we are God's people by having love one for another. Paul exhorts us to put into practise the good things we have learnt and seen in him.
So what have we learnt from this passage?
1. Rejoice in all circumstances.
2. Be good because god is near.
3. Don't't worry instead pray.
4. Think good thoughts.
If we put into practice these things, then we will run the race well. In another one of Paul's writings he uses the metaphor of the race, saying what has happened to you? You were running the race well, why have you got lost?
And this is the encouragement and the challenge to keep running that race, to keep pressing on towards the prize in Christ Jesus. To not give up, to not give in. Knowing that when we stumble and fail we have a God who forgives. A family who helps us. We have a goal, it is reachable. We can do this. It is possible.
And how can we do all this? we have the spirit of Christ in us? One of my favourite people, Andrew Schwab the lead singer of a band called Project 86 described a situation where you are asked to play one v one basketball with Lebron James. You're gonna lose, doesn't matter how good you are. But what if you could pick any 3 players from any period in time to play for you? He picked Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Shaquelle O'Neil. Those 3 would beat Lebron hands down. If that illustration is a metaphor for us, basketball is life, Lebron is sin, the devil and everything which holds us back, and MJ, Magic and Shaq are God the Father, Son and Spirit. We aren't doing this by ourselves, we have the maker of the heavens watching over us, we have the way of salvation made for us AND we have the spirit of Christ that enabled all of this in us. IN US!
To end I want to read these verses from the Message.
Philippians 4:4-9 MSG
Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.