Sunday 21st May 2023 - Sue Beddows
Readings Acts 16: 6 - 15 and Philippians 4: 4 - 9
Today we’re concluding our study of Philippians
Lord we thank you for the gift of your Word and as we think on the words we are about to hear, open our hearts and minds to hear Your word to us.
Father as I speak, may You speak & may Jesus be glorified. AMEN
In the reading FROM Acts 16: 6 - 15
Paul’s Vision of the Man of Macedonia
6 Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district[a] of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
The church of Philippi was the first church that Paul founded in Europe during his second missionary journey.
Paul originally went to Macedonia because of a vision. In it Paul saw a man of Macedonia standing and asking that he come over to help them. Paul responded and so the church was established in Philippi and the first city to be evangelized in Europe.
Paul’s custom was to go to the synagogue whenever he first arrived in a new city, so when the Sabbath came, Paul went outside the city to the river looking for a place of prayer, but it seems there were not enough men practicing Judaism in Philippi to have a synagogue! So Paul went to the river around 1.5 miles away, in the hope of finding a Jewish ‘meeting place’
There Paul met Lydia. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited them to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded them”
Lydia’s conversion was the first of three significant events associated with the beginning of the church in Philippi. The second was the exorcism of demons from a slave girl, which could foretell the future, and by which she earned her masters a lot of money! Paul rebuked the spirit, and it left her but her owners were not at all happy – no more money! So, they took Paul and Silas before the magistrates and they were thrown into prison after being stripped, beaten and severely flogged. Around midnight there was a mighty earthquake, and all the prison doors flew open. Paul and Silas did not flee, but instead they stayed and shared the gospel with the jailer. This brough about the third important event, the jailer and his entire family came to believe in the Lord as a result of Pauls witness.
So to Pauls message in chapter 4 Philippians 4 : Final exhortations
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. 9 Whatever 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.
In these six verses, Paul closes his letter to the Philippians by summarizing the 4 ways the church should live lives worthy of the gospel
1. Firstly - By always having Joy in the Lord
2. Secondly - Through their gentleness
3. Thirdly - Through prayer
4. Lastly - Through their thinking and their practice
1. Paul’s first point is to always have Joy In the Lord
Verse 4 - Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!
Our joy is grounded in God – unlike our circumstances that are always changing, God never changes
Let’s not forget the context of this letter from Paul – he’s writing it from prison – he’s in chains!
The church itself is also in a difficult position, because of the persecution they’re facing plus their own disunity
The whole point of the verse is that regardless of our circumstances, we are called to rejoice in the Lord - always!
That I know is a tall order! Especially when our circumstances are not in a good position, but that’s what should push us to come to God even more so
If our joy was dependent on our circumstances, we would probably be miserable most of the time!
But when the object of our joy is the Lord, we can always rejoice because the source of our joy is the gospel and not the difficulties we face – let’s remember that NOTHING will separate us from the love of God in Romans 8:38-39
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If we Just think back over the last few years, how we all lived in fear and with those restrictions
For me it meant I was able to spend more time reading God’s word and more time in prayer – both personally and with others, Zoom was the order of the days!
Has your joy in the Lord changed? I would say YES - it’s been strengthened!
Whatever our circumstances, we should look to Christ – his joy is a superior joy that overshadows all our circumstances. Don’t look to the world and our situation – look to Christ
For our church, weekly services now mean that finding joy in God is so much more accessible!
2. Paul’s second point is that we live lives worthy of the gospel through our gentleness
Verse 5 - Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
As Christians we are called to be reasonable and gentle, for the sake of our fellowship inside the church, and for the advancement of the gospel outside of the church – our gospel witness!
We should care about our witness to those outside of the church
If there is any conflict or disagreement, we shouldn’t just leave the church, or get angry with one another – we should talk with one another in gentleness – grounding our unity in the gospel.
Don’t be impatient or quick to be irritated – be reasonable and willing to talk it out
Our unity and gentleness display the gospel to the world.
One of the things we may remember Martin saying last week was to do all things without grumbling or arguing
Our gentleness and unity are part of our witness and when that is seen by others - It’s a powerful witness to the world – Janet’s coronation party just a few weeks ago came to mind as I thought about this point, there were many non-Christians there among many of us, and a jolly time was had by all! The coronation itself was a real eye opener for me! Obviously, I was not even born for the late Queen’s coronation, but to see the involvement of God and His church in this was absolutely awesome! A real Christian witness!
Then the final sentence of V5 – The Lord Is Near
There are two trains of thought on this
Be gentle because Jesus is dwelling within you, or it could refer to the second coming of Christ – an event we do not know when it will happen!
3. Paul’s third point is about Prayer
In Verse 6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
We live our lives worthy of the gospel through prayer – the opposite of being anxious about anything is to pray about EVERYTHING!
The Philippians had a lot to be anxious about – Paul is in prison; the church is being persecuted and Paul is insisting they’re not to be anxious about anything!
Anxiety is our failure to trust in God – it’s doubt in God’s goodness and His sovereignty.
Paul is saying that in any situation causing us to be anxious, or to doubt God, there is only one way to respond – PRAY!
This should be our first response – when its often our first response to try and fix things ourselves or take the problem to other people
Yes, it’s good if we take it to other people to pray with us about the situation but we must learn to bring it to God in prayer for ourselves
Prayerlessness shows our lack of trust
But Prayer reveals our dependence on God and should be our knee jerk reaction to any anxiety BUT
it should not be a reaction for just when trials come along. We should bring everything to God in prayer
That means not being self-sufficient when things are going well and just depending on God when things are going wrong. Don’t just lean on God when we think we can’t handle things ourselves
We need to be dependent on God for everything – spending regular time with Him daily, both in His word and in prayer and to approach Him with an attitude of thanksgiving, not just to make requests.
In LECTIO 365 – the night Prayer time session is spent reflecting on the day and recognizing where God was at work in our lives and thanking Him – thanksgiving in prayer– just asking ourselves when did we experience His goodness and when did we hear Him speak? It’s a real opportunity to give thanks to God for His work in us.
Time is then also spent reflecting on moments of darkness in our day – things that have happened that we need to confess to God
When we come to God in prayer and to thank Him for his loving care – V7 reminds us that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Remember The hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus”?
O what peace we often forfeit – O what needless pain we bear
All because we did not carry, everything to God in prayer
We have been praying for a lady named Sharon for several months now who was diagnosed with cancer. She came into the café this week to tell me she is now clear of the cancer! She knew we have been praying for her because I told her we were. Also, Steve, my husband who 18 months ago was diagnosed with cancer is now cancer free!
It’s not easy – I know myself and others are still waiting for answers to prayer but it’s God’s timing and not ours, but we have to hold on!
4. Paul’s final point is about thinking and practice
As Christians, our purpose is to know Jesus in our thinking and to make Him known in our practice – our daily lives
In V8 and 9 we read
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Our command is to think about these things
c. 9 Whatever 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.
Paul knows the Philippians minds are caught up in their circumstances – he’s telling them not to be so distracted that they forget to set their minds on Christ
At the end of Chapter 3 Paul makes a distinction between how unbelievers think and how citizens of heaven think
Paul says of unbelievers:
19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ
So, are our minds fixed on earthly things or fixed on Christ?
Our minds must be set on Knowing Jesus - There is no greater thing a worship song we sang today
So how are we to achieve this? By the word of God
Holy thoughts centered on God means our minds must be full of God’s word – His Holy scriptures held in our hearts
What we think about informs what we do
The connection between V8 and 9 is that V8 commands us to think about these things and V9 commands us to put it into practice! Thinking and doing go hand in hand
And Paul calls us to imitate him - in v9 he points to himself as an example of living the Christian life
And what better example from someone who was called, lived, walked, made mistakes and learned from Jesus himself - Paul proclaimed the gospel despite being jailed for it
We are called to imitate Paul by knowing Christ and making Him known to others. Knowing Him in our thinking and making Him known in our practice
This is our purpose as followers of Christ – to know Christ and make Him known
If we respond to Christ through these 4 areas we’ve heard about today, we will not only have the gift of peace but the giver of peace, God himself, will be with us!
We are trying to organize a church monthly house group to study God’s word and to pray.
Tess will be shortly sending out an email to try and establish the preferences for the timing of the group, so we can have a way that we can move closer to knowing Christ, together, in unity
Let us pray
Father God thank you, that you have given us Your word, and shown us how we are to live in this world
We ask you to grant us your power and grace to live this way, in all circumstances, that our lives would truly display the worth of knowing You.
We pray in your mighty and precious name
A Poem based on Philippians by Deborah Ann Belka
Let us not love in idle words,
that simply roll off our tongues
Let us love in truthful actions
and deeds that are left unsung
Let us not love with conditions
that requires more of another,
Let us love in a forgiving measure,
bracing and lifting up each other
Let us not love over factors,
that causes us to clash and fight
Let us love with assuring hearts,
filled with joy and His delight
Let us not love in competition,
that causes one to win or lose,
Let us love with honest declarations,
His truths be in the terms we choose
Let us not love with a lofty heart,
that brings or puts another down,
Let us love with hope and bold faith,
so others can see the truth that we’ve found
Let us love with pure, honest deeds,
so our conduct awes and inspires
another life to turn to our Lord
for that is what His heart desires!