If you have not been reading the notes in our workbook, I want to encourage you to do so. Much of the notes are taken out of Warren Wiersbe's book on Philippians, Be Joyful. Weirsbe points out from verse 6 that worry can rob us of our joy. "Have no anxiety about anything..." He goes on to point out that right praying (verse 6), right thinking (verse 8) and right living (verse 9) will bring us peace and security which will free us from anxiety and allow us to have a secure mind in Christ. This is the main message of this lesson.
Today, I want us to take a few minutes of this time for an exercise. On the back of a page in your notebook, write down something positive - what is right with the Lord's church - this congregation and the church in general. Also write down what you see is wrong (in a general sense) with the church today. I'll give you a few minutes to think about it and write your answers. It helps to look at them in black and white.
As much as we would like everything to be right with the church, we know that is not possible because we are in the world and so is Satan. One of Satan's favorite ploys is "divide and conquer." This seems to be true, in verse 2 of our lesson today, between Euodia and Syntyche. These two seem to have been two hard-working women who were not in agreement over something. Don't you know that they must be mortified to know that all we know of these two women is what is recorded here in two verses? Do you think it might have caused them to think twice about how adamantly they disagreed with each other if they had dreamed that Paul might record it for all of future mankind to read? Maybe we all ought to remember that, if we find ourselves caught up in a disagreement. What if that were the one action ever recorded about my life?
Notice that Paul sees no need to get into the middle of the problem. He has done that in other letters, but here he just asks that everyone help these two women to get along. We don't know if they were arguing over the cradle roll curriculum, who is going to teach the ladies' class, color of paint for some wall, or if it was just a typical personality clash. In the overall picture, the disagreement or cause of the disagreement was not important in Paul's eyes - for he knew the source - Satan. He does ask the others to help - to intervene and mediate. The church has enough to deal with, fighting Satan in the world, without inviting him right into the fellowship.
The crux of the problem was that their disagreement was taking their focus, and perhaps some of the other members' focus, off of Christ. Were they judging each other? - volleying for power? Christ was not foremost in their vision. Christ needs to be our focus at all times. He is what is true, what is honorable, what is just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent and worthy of praise. Satan is going to try to distract us. If he can get us to focus on one another's faults or worldly things, then he has a chance to divide and conquer. He knows we can't focus on two things at one time.
Focus is kept on Christ with right praying. Verse 6, "Have no anxiety 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 passes all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Focus is kept by right thinking. Verse 8, "Whatsoever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." And focus on Christ is kept by right living. Verse 9, "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me DO; and the God of peace will be with you." "Do" is a little word. It is an action verb - a lot of action.
Problems in the church need to be kept in the peripheral vision. When one member takes her eyes off of Christ and focuses solely on the problem(s), it can cause others to shift their focus also. You may be acquainted with someone or a church who has developed an eye disorder and has become near-sighted. They see too many problems with each other and in other churches.
I have been guilty of focusing on problems and causing others to focus on them, too. We have been guilty of focusing on problems and causing others to focus on them, too. It is commonly achieved in gossip. When I hear people talking about church problems today (they can make it sound so disastrous), I just want to throw up my hands and say:
These things are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, worthy of praise to God. They are created and maintained with a focus on Christ. These things are done by imperfect, sinful people who want to give God the glory. Of course there will be a problem occasionally. Let's understand that God's grace has brought about our reconciliation.
Some problems will never go away. Here's an example. Sunday, my daughter said, "So many teens find the worship service boring these days." To which my husband replied, "Teens have been saying that for years - centuries, probably. The problem is the maturity level of the individual, not the worship service. It was designed by God. It is not the church's duty to entertain. Nor is it the church's responsibility to 'get people in a worship mode.' Only the individual can do that" etc. (You know that lecture.) These teens will grow up, and with the proper groundwork laid, they will one day find the services relevant in their lives.
When we see a problem in the church it would be helpful if we would not complain to others. It may cause others to take their focus off of Christ. We may need to talk to someone and ask for their help in understanding the issue or ask for help with our attitude. It would also be helpful not to complain to the leader. Have you ever heard someone say to a person in charge, "Why did you do it like that? You didn't do that right." That is being a joy robber. More than likely the leader is probably aware if there truly is a problem and is either working on it or having to cope with the problem so that other, more serious problems don't arise.
Instead of complaining and gossiping, do what one of our elder's wives did. I've directed VBS for years. Crafts have always been a challenge for us. At the end of VBS year before last, Jonette Shirley came up to me and instead of saying to me or someone else, "These are the lousiest crafts we have ever had. I can't believe you expect the kids to like these or be able to do them." Instead, she said, "Jeannie, why don't you let me be in charge of crafts next year?" Instead of pointing out that there was a problem, she resolved a problem. We can learn a lesson from her example.
Instead of pointing out a problem, we can go to a leader and say, "Would it be helpful if I ...?" Then follow through. Do what you can to resolve a problem. Look at your list of wrongs - can you help with any of them? If you can't, then by prayer and right thinking, get your focus back on Christ.
If you tend to see problems, then resolve to be a problem fixer, or just look beyond the problem to Jesus. When we begin to complain among ourselves, it is time to remind each other to "focus on Jesus."
Don't you just love it when you find an Old Testament story that fits a New Testament concept?
In II Chronicles 20, the enemy is coming with a great multitude to fight against the Israelites to take
their land. There is a great problem to write down. Jehoshaphat is king and calls the assembly together. Do they
have a council of war? No. They pray.
God will take care of the important battles in our lives if we can only say to Him, "My eyes are on You." We must take the problem to the Lord in right praying. We must focus our eyes on the only true, just, honorable, excellent thing worthy of praise - Jesus, with right thinking. And then in right living, DO what we have learned and received and heard in Paul imitating Christ, and our minds will be secure because the God of peace will be with us, and we can rejoice.Link to Philippians 4:1-9 (Spring 1988)
Link to Philippians 4:10-23 (Spring 1988)
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR