13 Sep 2020


Why can Gospel Partners always Rejoice?

Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong
Sermon Title: Why can Gospel Partners always Rejoice?
Scripture Text: Philippians 4:1-23

Overview

Joy seems hard to find in our fallen world today, and yet Paul exhorts us in the closing chapter of Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always”. How is it possible always be rejoicing, and what reasons can there be to always rejoice? Paul will reveal to us three reasons why, in the Lord, rejoicing is not only possible, but always possible.

  1. Rejoice, and be reconciled for your names are in the book of Life (v1-4)
  1. Rejoice, and not be anxious, for the God of peace is at hand (v4-13)
  1. Rejoice, and be a gospel partner, for God will supply all your needs (v14-20)

Reflection Questions:

  • What is keeping you from reconciling a fractured relationship in your life today? How can the anticipation of heaven lead to humility, grace and forgiveness on earth?
  • Is anxiety something you struggle with? Allow a deep assurance that the Lord is at hand lead you to draw near to him in prayer, and grant you a peace that surpasses understanding to guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
  • Have you learnt contentment in Christ? If not, what will it take to do so? If you really believed that God will supply all your needs, how will it shape your level of giving today?
Scripture: Philippians 4:1-23 (ESV)

1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious 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 surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

 21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.

 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

TRANSCRIPT

We arrive at our final sermon in our journey through the book of Philippians. For those of you who have been listening to the messages and participating in the bible studies, it is my prayer that the truths of Philippians will dwell richly in you, as we allow the Word of God to do the Work of God, in us, the people of God.

Shall we pray.

Sometimes, when I conduct the bed-time devotions for my godkids, Kianna will volunteer to pray.

And what I noticed about the way Kianna prays is that she never fails to include two things in her prayers. She’ll always pray for the coronavirus situation in Singapore, she’ll pray for the protection of the doctors and nurses, and for her family and friends. And the other thing she’ll always say is this: “Thank you God, for sending Jesus Christ to die on cross to wash away our sins”.

You see, regardless of how her day went, regardless of earthly circumstance, she is always able to, always able to, express gratitude to God because the Atonement. She is always able to be thankful each time she directs her mind to the cross of Christ.

We see this pattern of prayer reflected in Paul’s own prayer at the opening of the letter.

Phil 1:3-6

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

Paul says, I’m always thankful, I’m always joyful, when I direct my mind to the partnership we have in the Gospel, and the sanctifying work of God in your life. I doesn’t matter that I’m in chains, it doesn’t matter if there are people out there who want to preaching to spite me, I always make my prayer for you all with grateful joy, because of the immovable, unchangeable, unshakeable truths of the gospel.

In our text today, Paul exhorts us to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again he says, rejoice”. He didn’t present it as an option. He gave it as an instruction. Which means he intends for us to obey it.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

But how is it possible to always rejoice? Can we choose our emotions? No, we can’t. But in so far as our emotions are a response to a stimulus, we can choose what we want to focus upon.

Rejoice in the Lord. Our rejoicing as to do the Lord. It is motivated by the Lord Christ. We rejoice in response to what the Lord has done, is doing, and will do in our lives.

Paul gives us three reasons why, as Christians, we can always rejoice. We can rejoice in the Lord always.

Reason 1: Rejoice, and be reconciled for your names are in the book of Life
Reason 2: Rejoice, and not be anxious, for the God of peace is at hand
Reason 3: Rejoice, and be a gospel partner, for God will supply all your needs

We can rejoice because of what the Lord has done, what the Lord is doing, and what the Lord will do, in our lives. What he has done is save us for eternity, what he is doing is that he is guarding us with his peace, and what he will do is supply very need of ours.

Let’s look at our first reason: Rejoice, and be reconciled for your names are in the book of Life

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Paul now addresses directly an issue about which he has addressed implicitly throughout the letter. The problem of division between gospel partners, namely, Euodia and Syntyche.

The words he uses in verses 2-3 echo things he has said before.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord

The phrase “agree in the Lord”, translates from the Greek wording “autos phro-neh-o” αὐτὸ φρονεῖν  which Paul has used two times before.

In Phil 2:2 “complete my joy by being of the same mind” (autos phro-neh-o”) Τοῦτο φρονῆτε

In Phil 2:5, “have this mind (touto phro-neh-o) αὐτὸ φρονῆτε

In both instances, it is a call to humility, to not insist on your way, but to put others before self.

And the phrase “laboured side by side in the gospel” συναθλοῦντες  echoes Phil 1:27, “striving side by side for the gospel”. Paul is essentially using the same phrase here, as he did in Phil 1:27.

In context, it is a call to unity in the service of the gospel. It is a call to gospel partnership.

What this means is that Paul isn’t suddenly raising a new topic. He has been speaking about the unity of gospel partners from the beginning.

The exhortation in 3:14 to “do all things without grumbling or disputing”, must be understood to apply to this situation as well.

So here’s the thing, this speaks to the personal nature of God’s word. This letter is written to the church at large, such that it is generally relevant to everyone, but it’s also written for Euodia and Syntyche, such that it is especially applicable to them.

Put yourselves in the shoes of Euodia as the letter from Paul arrives at the church is being read out. You know that you are in a public dispute with a fellow believer. You know there is unresolved tensions between you and someone else. You and those around you are well aware that there are obvious fault lines in the partnership of the gospel.

Then Paul opens by saying how he rejoices every time he remembers you guys, because of your faithful partnership in the gospel. And you feel a prick in your conscience, thinking, “well, I could have done better as a gospel partner”. And then he says, “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” And you go, is talking to me? And then Paul goes on to say, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be children of God”

And at this point, you’re going, wait a minute, it’s about me and Syntyche isn’t it? And the answer is yes. The gospel, Paul believes, has a direct application to the division between Euodia and Syntyche.

And I wonder, friends, have any of you felt that same way. As you sat through the sermons and participated in the bible studies on Philippians over the past 10 weeks, have you ever thought to yourself – is this about me? It sounds like Paul is speaking to me. Wait a minute, is the preacher talking about me?

Perhaps the answer is yes. Perhaps, like in the case of Euodia and Syntyche, what Paul writes in the letter generally to the Philippians, is at the same time, a word in season for your situation. A tailored message for your soul.

In fact, I’ll be very surprised if the letter to the Philippians hasn’t spoken to you personally at all! Because a message that calls us to build fellowship in the gospel, a message that calls us to be humble and not grumble, is bound to relevant and personally applicable to all of us, in one way or another.

Instead of disputing, Paul appeals to Euodia and Syntyche to put on the mind of Christ, the mind of humility, of preferring others to yourself, and so be reconciled to each other. Perhaps you too, need to find reconciliation in your life, a long standing relational division that can be solved by humility. Perhaps you can add your name alongside Euodia and Syntyche and address this letter to your heart.

And Paul will teach you how to be reconciled.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

There is no division, there is no quarrelling, there is no resentment when you are rejoice. So rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice. What’s there to rejoice about? Do you know what he did to me? Stop right there. Paul is not asking us to rejoice in the situation. He’s asking us to rejoice in the Lord. Don’t focus on the wrongs and the hurts, focus on the Lord.

Luke 10:20 says, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Jesus tells his disciples that even though there is reason to rejoice in your earthly circumstance, it is better to rejoice in your heavenly position.

Because Euodia and Syntyche are gospels partners with Paul, he is certain that they belong in heaven. And because they belong in heaven, they have a reason to rejoice always and so be reconciled.

Do not look to your earthly circumstances for happiness. Look to heavenly promise. And your rejoicing that your name is in the book of life will eclipse the frustrations you face here on earth, it will overcome the petty differences that arise from your sense of pride, and lead you to reconciliation.

Have anyone of you worked in customer service before? If you are a hiring manager for a customer service position, what will you be looking for? You will be looking for someone who is able to say, “I’m sorry”, even though he’s in the right. The ability to say, “I apologise”, even though he did nothing wrong.

Why is that important? Because the goal of customer service isn’t to establish guilt and innocence. You’re not hiring a lawyer. The goal of customer service is to keep the customer coming back for your goods and services. Which means, reconciling with the customer is more crucial that getting the customer to admit that he’s at fault.

Paul is saying, because our names are in the book of life, because we are citizens of heaven, there are more crucial things to focus on, and to rejoice in, than to worry about who’s in the right, and who’s in the wrong, and how to make sure people know exactly that you’re right and they are wrong.

People who are married know this. You want to be proven right all the time? Even if you win, you lose. You may win the argument; but you lose the relationship. The marriage suffers. And apart from indulging your pride, what else do you gain? What if you’re right, but there’s no one left? What good is that?

How many disputes among us will be resolved, simply by not rehashing what others did, but by rejoicing in what Christ did – he died on the cross to wash away our sins. And wrote our names in the book of life.

With that truth in mind, tell me: isn’t there a better way to live? Isn’t there a better purpose to live for, than to live to appease our pride? Is it not the better way to live by laying down our pride and giving up our rights, and striving side-by-side for the sake of the gospel?

Don’t return and rehash and remind yourself about what people did to you 5, 10, 15 years ago. Rather, return and rehash and remind yourself about what Christ did for you 2000 years ago, when he died so that you may live, no longer for your pride, for our partnership in the gospel.

Rejoice, and be reconciled for your names are in the book of Life, and now you live not for self, but for Christ. That is the first reason we can rejoice always is because of what the Lord has done. He by his cross, he has written our names in the book of life.

The second reason we can rejoice always is because of what the Lord is doing. The Lord is at hand, he is guarding us.

Our second point. Rejoice and not be anxious, for the God of peace is at hand.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious 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 surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Rejoice and let your reasonableness be known to everyone. Again, if you have a digital bible, you will see and asterix over reasonableness which informs you that this word can also be translated as “gentleness”, which I believe has to be included to properly capture the essence for the word. Almost everywhere in the new testament when this word is used, its translated gentleness.

Let your reasonableness/gentleness be known to everyone. This means Paul is sticking to the issue here. How many times in a fight, do we hear this, “you’re being unreasonable!” That’s right. That’s why we fight. The reason why we fight is because we allow argument and aggression rather reason and gentleness to determine what we say and how we act. Paul exhorts us, Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice, be reasonable, rather and unreasonable, be gentle rather than aggressive. But that’s easier said than done isn’t it?

You see, our aggression, our desire to fight, comes about as a response to a perceived threat to our selves. Either a threat to our self-esteem, our pride, our security, our reputation, our sense of personal fairness. Whatever form it takes, threats to our self causes us to be anxious. Threats generates stress and anxiety, it raises our adrenaline, it gets us hot behind the collar, and instinctively we want to lash out and fight. We want to protect ourselves, we want to defend ourselves, we want to guard ourselves.

Paul’s remedy to this is prayer. Paul’s solution is to cast our cares and anxieties upon God because God is not distant, God is at hand. He is near. And he can protect us, he can defend us, he is able to guard us with his peace.

You see, if God is real, and he if he is just, and if knows all things. Then we have nothing to prove before anyone else. It doesn’t matter if we lose here on earth, God will balance the ledger in heaven. It doesn’t matter if people think poorly of us. God knows exactly who we are, and ultimately only his opinion counts.

You see, if we can rely on God to set the record straight, to grant us justice, to exact vengeance on our behalf, then we can be mistreated and misunderstood. Then we can endure abused, we can be contradicted and slandered. And we do not need to have the last word, nor do we need to be vengeful people who curse those who curse us and return evil for evil.

That’s the imitation of Christ, who, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

With the Lord at hand, we need not be anxious, we can rejoice in his projection, and turn the other cheek.

See how prayer ties it all together.

 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 

Paul wants our gentleness to be made known to people, and our cries for help/justice to be made known to God. In other words, let the world see your magnanimity in your horizontal relationships, and let God hear your lamentations in your vertical relationship.

Those who rejoice in the nearness of the Lord through prayer have the emotional capacity to be gentle towards others. Like the moon that depends on the light of the Sun in order to shine, it is the Christian who bask in God’s mercy, who will show mercy. It is the forgiven who forgive.

So in prayer and thanksgiving, make your requests be made known to God, and let your gentleness be made known to man.

And the effect of prayer is that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Prayer brings the presence of God to bear upon our circumstance. It brings a personal immediacy to the reality of God in our life. Prayer turns our anxiety into peace; it transforms our aggression to gentleness, it changes our unreasonableness into reasonableness.

And this peace of God that guards our hearts and mind in Christ Jesus s not just an effect on prayer, it has an effect on us. This is its effect:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

It will causes us to think excellent things. It will direct our mind to praiseworthy things. It won’t lead us to dwell on past offences, or consider creative ways of getting even, or think evil of our opponents. It will lead us to think of truth of the gospel, the justice of God, the holiness of God, the love of God. That’s how peace comes to us, that’s how the peace of God guard our minds from anxiety and evil.

And the peace of God will also guard our hearts. “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things” It will lead us emulate the heart of Paul, the soul orientation of Paul, the lifestyle of Paul. It will lead us to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ.

In summary, the peace of God who is near to us, will lead us to think excellent things, and it will lead us to live excellent lives. And in turn, that is how we are assured that the God of peace is with us. And if he is with us, who can be against us, and nothing can go against us, we can rejoice.

So Rejoice, not merely for what the Lord has done, but also for what the Lord is doing, he is guarding us with his peace. The God of peace is with us. We can rejoice in the Lord always.

The final reason we can rejoice in the Lord always is because of what the Lord will do for us. He has written our names in the book of life, he is guarding us with his peace, and he will provide for all our needs.

Finally, rejoice, and be a gospel partner, for God will supply all your needs.

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul qualifies his joy two times, so that no one misunderstands. His joy is not found in the gift from his gospel partners, his joy is rooted in the gift of gospel partnership. Paul’s joy is not in the gift, but in the giver.

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me
11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.
17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.

His joy is not in the gift that was sent, but in the givers who sent it. The gift is evidence that he has partners in the gospel, and that is his joy, from the beginning to the end of the letter.

But why doesn’t Paul rejoice in the gift? Because he didn’t need it. Why didn’t he need it? Is because he’s rich, he has plenty? Nope. He didn’t need it because he is content even in poverty, he is content even in lack, he is content even in hunger.

But how in the world can you be content when you have so little? How can you be content when you are poor and your hungry and you are needy? Because, Paul would say, “Christ is enough for me”.

How I wish we could spend an entire sermon just dwelling on the subject of contentment, so much of worldliness is driven by discontentment. But suffice for our sermon this morning to realise that contentment is possible in this life, in world, that is completely apart from having the world, and completely tied to knowing Christ.

You see, Christians are people whose hearts have been changed. Christians are people who have ceased to love money because Christ has taken the place of their supreme treasure. The place in our hearts where money once occupied, Christ now occupies. Where money once made the world go round, now our world revolves around Christ.

If all your joy and your contentment and your satisfaction is found in Christ and Christ alone, you would be able to be content and rejoice always, in all circumstances, because you always have Christ.

“I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

The secret is seeing and savouring and being satisfied in Christ himself as your exceedingly great reward. The things of the world has lost power to addict you to its pleasures, the things of the world has lost its hold on you, because the things of world now means so little to you, compared to knowing Christ.

Paul has learnt contentment, he knows contentment, and the secret is Christ who strengthens him. Which means you don’t look to your circumstances for contentment, you look to God. You don’t look to your bank account to give you peace, you look to prayer. You don’t turn to good food and nice clothes and fancy holidays to grant you joy, you turn to Christ.

And when that happens you see, when you learn contentment in Christ, you can begin to truly become a gospel partner. Because you will be liberated to give generously for the sake of Christ. You can, because you are content in every circumstance. But without contentment, you simply cannot afford to give anything away.

Who is richer? The man who has a million bucks, or the man who can afford to give away a million bucks? So many of us have so much, but we are so poor, because we cannot afford to give, because we don’t have enough. We want more. We are discontent with our circumstance.

We have not learnt the secret of contentment in Christ. But here’s the encouragement.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Not only is Christ sufficient for us, God’s riches will supply us. Here’s the assurance: those who give themselves and their things away for the sake of the gospel, those who sacrifice for the sake of Gospel partnership, will not simply find contentment for their souls, they will find supplication for their needs, not to mention glorification in their eternal home. Is this not a reason to rejoice in the Lord always?

I want to close with how Paul opens this chapter.

1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

We’ve heard some pretty radical stuff from Paul in this letter. “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”, “I count all things as rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ”, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”. Radical, surprising statements.

And I count chapter 4:1 among them. 1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,  “My joy and my crown”? When was the last time you turned to your CG member and said, you are my joy and my crown? I’ll tell you who, a gospel partner, who rejoices in gospel partnership. That’s who.

Paul rejoices not just in Christ, but in Christians. They are his joy, they are his beloved, he longs for them, he sees them as his crown, as his treasure. That’s the language of a true gospel partner. The fellowship is everything to him, these spiritual friendships matter the world to him, the church is precious to him.

And so the threefold greeting that wraps this passionate letter is no just a throwaway formality. It’s almost tangible how greatly Paul wants to greet them, wants to meet them, because he loves them.

21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Father, the same Spirit that dwelt within Paul, dwells also within us. And we have decided to follow the same Lord Jesus Christ. Grant us the same soul, the same mind, the same love, for Christ and the church, that we might be the gospel partners you have called us to be, for our eternal joy and your everlasting glory. Amen.

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