Thursday, January 17, 2013

Time to be different!

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4–6

As Paul was finishing his letter to the church at Philippi he wanted to leave them with some practical tips on how to make their faith in Jesus real, not only to themselves, but also to those outside of the faith. Paul was extremely aware that for Christ-followers spiritual growth was essential. He was also aware that in order for the Church to affect this world for Jesus Christ, the Church would have to act differently than the world did. If the Church reacted to trials and suffering just like everyone else what would be the point of following Christ? Christ-followers are called to be different. Jesus told his followers that they were the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)! Through the inner change that takes place when one puts their faith in Jesus they would become a refuge of hope and a haven for encouragement when the evils of this world shows itself. The Church at Philippi knew suffering and knew trials. These people were persecuted for their faith, they understood poverty, and saw friends beaten and imprisoned. Paul was writing them to encourage them through these most gut-wrenching experiences. In these three verses Paul gave the Philippians three ways to make their faith real to themselves and to the world around them. If we apply these principles to our lives, we also can experience a powerful faith that will see us through the trials of our lives and reveal Jesus in our lives.

Paul says in verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”. For me the hardest word in that verse is the word “always”. There are times in my life when I find it difficult or impossible to rejoice. When I am going through trials or suffering, being joyful is too often the last thing on my mind. Paul, however, tells us that as Christ-followers this is something that needs to always be in check. Why? Simply put, because people are watching. Whether it is fellow believers, the world, or even my wife, there is someone who is watching and needs me to find joy that comes from somewhere other than myself. How is it possible to be joyful “always”? Well when you understand that Joy is a divine phenomenon and is supplied by the Holy Spirit, you realize that it is not  something you can manufacture; it only comes from God. With that being said you still have a big part to play in your “always rejoicing”. You can reject that joy and wallow in your circumstances, or you can accept the fact you represent something greater than yourself, and you are being examined by the world around you. Simply said, you can choose to accept the God given Joy, or you can reject it. When you have true Joy through your trials you give others hope.

The second thing Paul expects Christ-followers to keep in check can be found in verse 5 where he states,  “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” Christians need to be Gentle people. There are times when we are to be rash and harsh, and times when we are called to be violent (99% of the time we are called to be rash, harsh, and violent is over sin, specifically, Our Own Sin). To everyone else we must be gentle. The people of this world are so used to the dog-eat-dog mentality that when they find a person who is reasonable, mild, patient and so contrary to the temperament of the rest of the world, it gets their attention. Paul says that gentleness is a characteristic of a Christ-follower. 

Finally Paul gives us a practical way to overcome stress when he writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. Paul tells his readers to stop stressing. In fact, he even goes as far as to tell them how - by prayer. Paul is revealing to us that we can combat stress in our lives simply by talking to God, and by thanking Him for the blessings in your life. Paul says that when we will do that, pray, we will experience the peace of God, and the peace that comes when you are going through that trial or suffering you won’t even be able to explain it. Still, it will be a sign to you and to all who witness it that you serve a Mighty and Powerful God! 
Remember this week to check yourself - are you rejoicing? Is gentleness one of your defining characteristics? Have you been praying away your stress? 

Have a great week…
Love Pastor Jay

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