Sunday July 18th
A woman was walking along the beach when she stumbled upon an old oil lamp. She picked it up and rubbed it, and lo-and-behold, a Genie appeared.
The Genie said, "I can grant you one wish. So, what will it be?"
The woman didn't hesitate. She said, "I want to see peace in the Middle East.” She pulled out a map, and pointed to Israel and all of the surrounding countries. She said, “See this map? I want these countries to stop fighting each other."
The Genie looked at the map and said, "You must be crazy, lady! These countries have been at war for thousands of years. I'm a good genie, but not THAT good! Make another wish."
The woman thought for a minute and said, "Well, I've never been able to find the right man.
You know, one that's considerate and fun, likes to cook and helps with the housecleaning, who gets along with my side of the family, and who doesn't watch sports all the time. That's what I’m going to wish for ... a great husband."
The Genie let out a long sigh and said, "Let me see that map again!"
We all wish for peace, don’t we?
But if someone were to ask you, “WHAT IS PEACE”, how would you answer them?
Webster’s dictionary has this to say about peace: it is “freedom from or stopping of war; freedom from public disturbance or disorder; freedom from disagreement or quarrels, harmony, concord; an undisturbed state of mind, absence of mental conflict; calm, quiet, tranquility.”
All these explanations of peace talk about peace as if it is something that happens when conflict and problems aren’t present.
I have to get rid of all those things that create anxiety in my life in order for me to have peace. If this is true, then we’ll never have peace. Because as long as we are alive, we’ll always have conflict, and we’ll always have problems. Peace doesn’t come by getting rid of our problems. Peace comes by focusing our thoughts on what God wants us to think about. Peace doesn’t come with the absence of the storm; it comes in the presence of the storm because Jesus is walking there beside us, and we’ve got our eyes fixed on Him.
This is exactly what Paul is addressing in the opening verses of this final chapter of Philippians:
1Therefore, 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!
2I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 3Yes, 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.
One of the main issues concerning peace in the Philippian church was these two women who were fighting with each another. We have no record of what they were fighting about, but whatever it was, it had separated their friendship. This situation was creating enough of a problem that word had gotten all the way to Paul in his Roman prison about their conflict.
This situation created great pain for Paul. He describes the people of this church as brothers. He calls them his source of joy and his crown. And he calls them his friends. Paul had started the church at Philippi. Most of the people in the church had been saved as a result of Paul’s teaching. That most likely included these two women that were now fighting, women who Paul says had, “contended at my side in the cause of the gospel”. When they were focusing on the gospel, they got along. But somehow, they took their eyes off of Jesus and started focusing on themselves. That’s when the trouble started! That’s when the trouble always starts – when I take my eyes off of Jesus and only think about myself.
Paul not only tells these women to fix the problem that was standing between them, he tells them how to fix it. He tells them to “agree with each other”. The NKJV says, “be of the same mind”. They couldn’t change what had happened between them. That was over and done with. But what they could change was how they felt about the situation and their attitude toward one another. They had to change their minds about who was at fault. They had to change their minds about who was going to be the one to seek forgiveness and restoration.
A couple of chapters earlier in this letter, Paul said this: (Phil 2:5 -8) “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” These women weren’t going to get past their conflict until they changed their minds and got Jesus’s mind instead!
Paul gave one more piece of advice to help these two Christians get back in relationship with each other. He asked other Christians in the church to act as mediators between them to help pull them back together. Because sometimes we need help, and blessed are the peacemakers!
Paul seemed to expect a good outcome to this situation, because his next words to them are a double reminder of what he’s been saying throughout the whole letter: Verse 4
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
I don’t think that we struggle so much with the concept of REJOICING as we do with the word ALWAYS! We actually like rejoicing, but we like to have something that we feel is worth rejoicing OVER!
The thing is that if we truly believe that God is working ALL things for our good - then what’s NOT to rejoice over! Even the hard things are going to turn out for our benefit!
Sometimes we need to get a little more excited waiting to see how God is going to turn our situation around for our ultimate good. And while we’re waiting, we can start our rejoicing because we know that He WILL turn it around!
Paul gives us some guidelines as to how to accomplish this in verses 5-7:
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
We have to remember that worrying accomplishes nothing.
Proverbs 12:25 - "An anxious heart weighs a man down."
So what should we do instead of worrying? PRAY!
Pray about everything, Paul says. And pray with Thanksgiving both for what God has already done in your life and what He’s about to do in answer to your prayer!
And when we do that… when we give it to God in prayer instead of worrying about it… that’s when we finally find peace. It’s a peace that surpasses or transcends all understanding, which means that people won’t believe how much peace we have when they see what we’re going through, because the peace we’re experiencing isn’t a NATURAL peace, it’s a SUPERNATURAL peace!
Then Paul gives another tip to finding God’s peace in verses 8-9:
8Finally, 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. 9Whatever 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.
The key to our peace is where we are putting our thoughts. It’s all about our thinking!
Just like Euodia and Syntyche, those two quarrelling ladies, we need a change of mind to replace our negative, “stinking thinking”!
We need to let go of our focus on past hurts and replace it with a focus on the things that GOD is telling us to focus on… true things, noble things, pure things, lovely things, admirable things, excellent things, praiseworthy things.
To emphasize what he’s talking about, Paul uses the example of the recent offering that the Philippians have sent to him (verses 10-13)
I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Here’s how Paul looked at their gift: He appreciated it, but he was already fully content even without it. He had experienced times of plenty and times of want, and either way, he had learned that his REAL source of security wasn’t gifts or finances, it was JESUS!
If we lose sight of that, our sense of peace and contentment is easily affected by our constantly-changing circumstances.
Paul emphasizes in verses 14-18 that the real benefit of their giving wasn’t what it did for HIM, it was what it did for THEM… to give their offering as unto the Lord:
14Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;
16for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.
17Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
And then Paul caps it all off with this wonderful promise:
19And my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
You have made an effort to provide for ME, says Paul, and I GUARANTEE you that God will provide for you!
Compared to other places that Paul visited, Macedonia was very poor economically. The brethren in Philippi were not ‘well-to-do’ people. Yet, despite their poverty, they were the most charitable and giving congregation of all the churches that Paul had founded.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Paul uses the example of the generosity of these Macedonians to encourage the wealthy Corinthians into giving to the relief of drought-stricken Jerusalem:
“Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”
These impoverished brethren in Philippi had begged Paul to let them send a financial contribution to help their fellow believers in Jerusalem who were suffering the effects of a severe drought.
We don’t need to worry about our own needs when we share in giving to the needs of others.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”
Paul promised the Philippians that they could count on God to provide for their needs - not necessarily everything they ever wanted, but their needs would always be met. And his assurance to them, AND to us, is that they would receive blessings because they had been faithful in their giving, because it’s impossible to out-give God!
Paul’s closes his letter with these personal words to this church that he loved so much:
20To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
21Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings.
22All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household.
23The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Peace is a real thing. We can not only attain it; we can maintain it.
But we have seen that the key to peace comes from an attitude of the heart – an attitude of gratitude that gives thanks and praise to God no matter what is going on in my life. It is a decision to rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.
It is a choice to focus my thoughts on things that are good, and pure, and noble, and true – rather than on all of the negativity in the world around me.
I would like to take verse seven and turn it into a prayer declaration over us all today:
May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard our hearts and our minds this day, and in the days to come. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.