Title: A Call To Relational Peace
Series: Philippians (18/20)
Reference: Philippians 4:1-3
If you have a Bible, I want to invite you to open up to the New Testament book of Philippians. As you’re doing that, we’ll take a moment to dismiss the little ones to Children’s Worship. So all the little boys & girls, you can make your way to the back of the Sanctuary–and from there you’ll be escorted off to another great Bible adventure.
We have been studying the book of Philippians on Sunday mornings. This morning we are beginning the last chapter (chapter 4). The title of today’s message is “A Call to Relational Peace.” I’ll begin reading with verse 1, and I’m going to ask if you are physically able– Let’s all stand, in honor & reverence, for the reading of God’s Holy Word. The Word of God says in Philippians 4, beginning with verse 1:
“Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
Father, would You add Your blessing upon the proclamation of Your Word. We ask it in the strong name of Jesus, amen. You can be seated.
I want to begin with a little survey. How many of you would say that, right now in your life, you are dealing with stress? If that’s you— If you’re dealing with stress (stress in the family, stress in a relationship, financial stress, job stress–any kind of stress). If you’re dealing with stress, raise your hand up real high and keep it high
Now take a moment and look around… On one level or another, just about all of us are dealing with some type of stress. Okay, you can put your hand down?
Real quick, another question: If you are sitting beside your major source of stress, raise your hand (no don’t do that, don’t do that)!
If you’re dealing with stress, I want you to know that Philippians 4 is going to dial your number! Philippians 4 is going to be for you, because the theme of this chapter is about finding peace in what would otherwise be a stressful situation.
This morning we’re going to see Paul speak to that as it relates to our relationships. Then beginning with verse 4 (that will be next Sunday), Paul will speak to that as it relates to our circumstances. Let me remind you that this isn’t merely theoretical for Paul. Paul is a man who actually experienced peace & contentment while going through some very difficult things.
And so, if you were one of those who raised your hand, saying you were dealing with some stress, I want encourage you to be faithful in your attendance over the next few weeks as we wrap up our study of Philippians, because what the Bible teaches here in Philippians 4 can be so instructive for us.
Now, if you didn’t raise your hand– If you say, “I’m not really dealing with any kind of stress in my life.” If that’s you, then you are dismissed (you make all the rest of us sick because your life is just too good!) I’m just joking. We don’t want anyone to leave, even if you have a problem admitting you have some stress…
I already told you that the theme of chapter 4 is about finding peace in what would otherwise be a difficult & stressful situation. Paul begins to speak to that as it relates to our relationships, and as he does so, he begins to address a problem between two ladies in the church.
The movement of the passage breaks down real easy for us. If you’re taking notes this morning, let me give you three observations to sort-of hang your thoughts on. Number one, notice here The Plea For Unity.
1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown…
Let me just stop here and point out how Paul speaks of the believer’s in Philippi with such tenderness and affection. Do you see that? He calls them “my beloved brethren.” He’ll repeat that “my beloved” phrase at the end of verse 1 again. He says I’m longing to see you. He calls them “my joy” and “my crown.” Those are very affectionate phrases.
We know not all was well in Philippi. We know the church needed to work on some things. We know some in Philippi were sources of stress for Paul, and yet he speaks of them (and indeed to them) with such an affection.
This is such a great example for myself, for Pastor Jesse, for Zach (for anyone who might desire to go into ministry). There’s a real temptation for pastors to make this task of “building the church” about building a big building / building a thriving organization. There’s a real temptation to see this church and to think, “Okay– What do we have to do to fill this building? What are the things we need to do to build this building? To build this organization”? And in all the effort & work & labor that goes into that, somewhere along the way we miss the reality that you (the people) are the church.
Does that make sense? The task– For those in vocational ministry, and for those who would desire to spend the rest of their life in vocational ministry, the task is to build the church. And we really have to be on guard here because building the church is not primarily about building a building, nor is primarily about building a good organization. Building the church is primarily about building up the people.
This was Paul’s heart. He got this. This is why when he spoke to a church, like Philippi, a church that was struggling with unity. A church that was struggling to serve one another (to put one another before self), Paul was able to look at folks like that with a tenderness and an affection because he understood the task was about building them. That’s why they (the people) were his joy (not some building). They (the people) were the crown of his ministry (not some program he helped to implement or some building effort he championed). Paul understood that the heart of a good pastor is about growing people. Not a building. Not an attendance. Not a program. Not an organization, but ministry is about building people.
1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. 2 I urge (here’s the plea for unity)… 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony…
Now this is not the first time Paul has addressed the issue of unity in the church.
Only conduct yourselves manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel…
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…
Chapter 4 is not the first time Paul has addressed the issue of unity, but before his words were general and far-reaching, applying to the entire church. You get to chapter 4, and the difference is that now Paul is calling out names!
He says I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche… That’s such a strong and intense word. It speaks of a passionate plea. Paul says, “I’m urging you, ladies. I’m begging you. I’m pleading with you…” And to do what? 2 …to live in harmony…
I think it’s worthy of noting that these two ladies used to work together. 3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel…
Here are two women, who at one time worked together with Paul in spreading the gospel. Here are two good ladies, two hard working ladies, two ladies who (at one time) worked side-by-side in the cause of Christ, but now they’re fussing and fighting with one another. They just can’t seem to get along, and the problem is so bad Paul hears about it (and he’s not even there)!
It really is a sad thing when brothers & sisters in Christ argue, and fuss, and fight with one another. (I realize we still get in the flesh, and we say things we should say; we do things we should do. I understand that, I really do), but it’s sad… It’s sad when people who have been forgiven the most from the Lord, forgive the least with one another, and God only knows just how damaging that is the witness of the church.
I remember reading about this man who was on his way to a costume party. The party was going to be down at this farmhouse (way out in the country). He goes to the costume store, and he buys a devil’s suit. It was one of those suits with the two pointy horns, and it had a long tail and a big pitchfork. It was a real authentic looking costume.
This fellow puts on the devil’s suit, and he thought he would sneak up and surprise everyone, so instead of driving his vehicle, he decided to walk to the farmhouse. He takes off walking, and about half-way there, out of nowhere comes this great thunderstorm. There was thunder, and lightening, and the wind was wailing (it was so powerful)! The man looked around for some cover. He spotted an old wooden building off in the distance, so he took off running and he leaped inside that small wooden building.
Now what the man didn’t realize was the little wooden building was a small country church, and they were right in the middle of a great revival service (you can just imagine what happened next)!
The preacher was up there preaching! There was lightening, and thunder, and the wind was wailing (it was so powerful), and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the devil comes busting through the door!
Well the people started screaming and running. Some ran out the emergency exits. Some climbed out the windows. They were filing out of that place any way they could. But then there was one man who stood up and said, “Hold on just a minute!”
He said, “Mr. Devil, I want you to know I’ve been a member of this church for over forty years, but I want you to rest assure that most of the time I was on your side.”
We recognize the humor in that, but I’m telling ya: One of the big ways that Satan comes against the church is through a lack of unity. It’s through fussing, and fighting, and whining, and griping, and complaining, and bellyaching (and the vast majority of times, it’s over things that only matter because you prefer one thing over another thing, and there are absolutely zero Kingdom issues at stake)! But the devil knows… If he can keep us spending all our time & energy & focus on secondary issues, then we want have time & energy & focus for the primary issues.
I believe that’s why Paul doesn’t mention who is right and who is wrong. Did you notice that? Paul doesn’t mention who is right and who is wrong, and often that’s all we care about! Paul doesn’t even mention why they are fighting, and again– I believe he doesn’t say anything about the specifics because the specifies doesn’t matter! What matters is unity, and so Paul says in verse 2, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche…” Paul says “I’m pleading with you two ladies to live in harmony…”
Number one is the plea for unity. Paul urges these two ladies to get on the same page (to live in harmony). Number two on your notes is The Power For Unity. 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord…
The Lord is the basis for unity. Jesus is the foundation for unity in the church. And not just unity, but in all things (amen)! Jesus is the source from which we are to be continually drawing.
Paul hinted at this back in verse 1, when he called the church to stand firm. 1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord…
In the Lord! That’s where you’ll find strength. In the Lord! That’s the place of hope, and unity, and peace (not just for your life, but for the church and for your relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ)!
The call to stand firm, and the call to live in harmony (to live in unity), it is powered not by how long we’ve been Christians, not by how much we know about the Bible, not by how many mission trips we’ve been on. Our strength, and our unity, and our everything else is tethered to our union with Jesus.
This is the essence of Christianity. If you’re here and you’ve never been saved, this is what being a Christian is about. It’s not about you living a certain way, prescribing to a certain pattern or list of rules, but it’s about Jesus living in & through you!
And if you are a believer, let me remind you: this is what being a Christian is about. When then Bible calls us to stand firm, and to live in harmony with one another, the Bible isn’t calling us to try harder. The commands of Scripture do require effort (to be sure), but that effort is meant to be empowered through Christ who lives in you! It’s Jesus; He’s the power behind it all. You can stand firm. You can forgive. You can move forward in unity. You can put others before self, and you can do it all without grumbling or complaining because it’s Jesus who lives in you!
This is why, listen, beloved, this is why when I’m not living in harmony with my brother or sister in Christ my first move has got to be back to Jesus. (You remember us talking about this back in chapter 2)?
When there’s a lack of unity & harmony in any of my relationships, my first move isn’t to fix the other person. My first move isn’t to point out the offense, or how they’re wrong, or what they should have done right. My first move has got to be back to Jesus because here’s the truth: When I’m rightly related to Jesus and you are rightly related to Jesus, we’re going to get along just fine.
The plea for unity, the power for unity– Here’s the last one, number three on your notes– The Peacemakers For Unity.
Paul calls on these two ladies to live together in harmony, and then he calls on folks in the church to help them move toward unity.
3 Indeed, true companion…(we don’t know who exactly Paul has in mind here, but Paul knew. And the church in Philippi knew)…
3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers (he’s talking about the rest of the church there), whose names are in the book of life.
We have “true companion” working toward reconciliation. We have Clement working toward reconciliation, and we have the rest of the church working toward reconciliation. I think that’s amazing because our tendency is to push people away and say, “It’s none of their business!” We think along the lines of, “If my brother and I are at odds, who are you to come over and put your nose in that? Why, it’s none of your business.”
Yet the Bible says it is their business because they are part of the body of Christ, and fussing & fighting in any part of the church hinders the witness of the whole church. So it is your brother’s business! It’s my business to be involved in helping you reconcile with others, and it’s your business to be involved in helping me reconcile with others.
If the church is going to be the church, we’ve got to be willing to have these kinds of conversations. Offensives are sure to come. Especially among those of you who have your hand to the spiritual plow, and you’re leading in ministry (you’re serving in ministry). Offensives are sure to come, and we’ve got to be able to forgive & restore & do life together in harmony.
So what? How does this passage call us to action? Let me give you a couple of things to think about.
Number one, don’t shy away from hard conversations.
If you have a problem with someone in this fellowship, don’t shy away from hard conversations. Engage those who have offended you (in a spirit of humility and grace now), but engage them. Don’t shy away from hard conversations with your brothers and sisters in Christ because they’re likely to be difficult or awkward conversations. You do your part and seek to be a peacemaker.
You say, “But I don’t know how they will respond?” It doesn’t matter how they respond. What matters is how you respond. What matters is you choosing to do the right thing!
Don’t shy away from hard conversations, and then number two, respond with forgiveness.
If someone approaches you because you hurt them, or offended them, or overlooked them, the right response is to extend forgiveness.
Peter once asked Jesus (Matthew 18:21): The Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Peter thought he was being really generous because the Jews taught we should forgive up to three times! Peter is like, “I’ve doubled that and added an extra one for good measure.”
Jesus said to Peter (Matthew 18:22): Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Jesus is saying, “Peter, if you’re keeping score, you’re missing it. If you really want to forgive, then you’ve got to put up the scorecard and just forgive, and keep on forgiving!”
Don’t shy away from hard conversations, and respond with forgiveness.
Let me pray for us…