Good Congregational Practices (1)
secret of goodwill is being complimentary and praising others (verse 1).
“Therefore, my beloved and longed for brethren, my joy and
crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.”
When we see the word “therefore,” we need to ask what it's
there for. Most commentators
link this verse with the previous section where Paul has warned the
Philippian brethren about false teachers who have become enemies of the
gospel. This is his final
admonition for that section. Paul
“is deeply concerned [too] that the Philippian Christians really know
that he loves them. We see
that he begins and ends verse 1 with the word 'beloved'” (Barnes).
But Paul doesn't stop here. He
longs to see these brethren again. These
members are like family to Paul. You
know, when family members don't care to see each other or when they see
their meeting together as a drudgery, something has gone wrong.
You know, when the local church has a family-feel about it, every
gathering of the members will be like a family reunion (Ibid.).
Paul then praises these brethren by calling them his joy and
crown. Just as our
grandchildren, good spouses, and children bring us joy, so Paul says
that his spiritual family at Philippi brings great joy to him.
Then Paul says that these brethren are his crown.
This is not a kingly crown, but the crown of victory given at the
end of a race (Martin). Paul
valued these brethren like we'd value an Olympic gold medal!
Paul wanted obedience to his command to stand firm, but notice
how he placed this directive in the atmosphere of goodwill, a goodwill
that is seen in his compliments and praises for these brethren.
Don’t you know that these brethren wanted to stand firmer after
hearing how Paul valued them so highly?
What about us? Do we
try to express our affection and affirmation for other brethren too?
When have we last expressed a compliment or praise to another
brother or sister? Some
psychologists tell us that for every negative statement we make, we must
make at least 5 positive ones to keep the balance even in another
person’s emotional bank account (Faulkner).
In fact, they claim that if a married couple doesn't have at
least 5 positive moments for every negative one, the marriage will
become unstable and may eventually break up.
A divorce can be predicted with 87% accuracy based on their
negative attitudes expressed in a couple’s conversations!
So often, if we aren't appreciative of and encouraging towards
our church family, then we'll become critical of and negative towards it
(Ibid). The secret of
goodwill is being complimentary and praising others!
secret of endurance is standing firm in the Lord.
Paul wants these brethren at Philippi to be like soldiers
determined not to retreat, whatever might be the forces against them (Foulkes).
They are to hold their ground in the Lord's teachings and not
give in to these false teachers who want to have Moses' law and Jesus'
teachings joined together. They
are not to panic, but to hold fast to those teachings that Paul had
given them in the past! Those
teaching had exalted Jesus and the new covenant.
Jesus was the fulfillment of Moses’ law, and He had established
and put into effect a new covenant with the shedding of His blood.
Jesus Himself once affirmed: “Therefore, whoever hears these
sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built
his house on the rock: and the rains descended, the floods came, the
winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was
founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).
Working together to build our lives upon Christ and standing
firm in Him will help us to weather the storms and false teachers of
life. Paul wanted these
brethren at Philippi to be grounded in the Lord so that they would not
be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of
doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the craftiness of their deceitful
plotting” (Ephesians 4:14). Paul
did not want these beloved brethren to lose the fellowship that they had
in Jesus. The secret of
endurance is standing firm in the Lord.
secret of harmony is being submissive and lettings others help you in
times of conflict. “I
implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the
Lord. And I urge you also,
true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel.”
Someone has said, “I love the brotherhood, but it's the
brethren I can't stand” (Barnes).
Notice how Paul again, even in this hard situation where he must
be critical, is also affirming with regards to these sisters (Foulkes).
We have no idea about what these women were in conflict, but they
had been faithful workers with Paul in the past.
Christians struggling with each other can still be in the book of
life. They were out of
harmony, so their music is repelling instead of attracting (Barnes).
These sisters needed to learn to get along, and Paul did not
ignore this problem. Maybe
Paul remembered how Jesus taught us that when we have some problem with
another brother or sister, we are to go and talk with them and seek to
be reconciled before coming to worship (Matthew 5:23-24).
Paul begs each sister by name to be submissive to the Lord.
All strife can end when we submit our wills to God's will
(Hewlett). As we both bow at
the feet of Jesus, we can be reunited.
But Paul also was practical and asked another brother to
intervene and help these sisters to be reconciled.
It is interesting how each of us can approach conflicts in a
different way. In our
opening story (Shawchuck and Moeller), we saw that Susan was aggressive,
domineering, and inflexible. Some
call this the shark approach because such people think, “I must win,
and you must lose.” Of course, these folks approach an issue in a
“jaws-like fashion”, and other members feel like they are being
forced to conform to their positions, and anger begins to rise.
Then we saw how Helen tried to suggest a compromise; she tried to
keep the group together through negotiation and bargaining.
Some compare her to a fox because such people think, “All must
win a little, and all must lose a little.”
Of course, these folks are flexible, seek the common good, and
try to be mediators rather than manipulators.
Other members may give in to their compromises, but often they
feel only half-satisfied and half-committed to their solutions.
Then there was Denise. We
saw that her response was to retreat and avoid the conflict at all cost.
Some call this the turtle approach because such people think,
“I will withdraw to avoid hurting anybody.”
Of course, these folks can be good at trying to keep peace and
helping others to see if a matter is really important.
Other members, however, realize that those who withdraw really
offer no real solutions to the group's problems, and they feel somewhat
frustrated at the erratic behaviors of numbness or removal that often
take place. Then we saw
Iola's approach of surrendering her own interests to accommodate the
group's interests. Some call
this the teddy bear approach because such people think, “I'll lose so
that you can win.” These
people like to keep a peaceful atmosphere, are sacrificial, and try to
solve disagreements by offering a short-term and personal solution.
Of course, other members appreciate the teddy bear's willingness
to take difficult situations upon themselves, but they also realize that
their solutions usually aren't realistic and don't really address the
group's needs (Ibid.). Of
course, from the reading in Philippians, we don't have any idea which
approach Sister Euodia and Sister Syntyche took to their situations, but
whatever it was, it wasn't working, and they needed someone to help them
work through their difficulty. They
needed a mediator to help them towards reconciliation.
Sometimes we may need the help of another brother or sister to
bring about reconciliation. They
needed a Eunice, a person who wanted to find a true solution to the
problem. We see how Eunice
was patient and helped both groups to learn about each others’ needs.
We see how she used the conflict to strengthen the group and not
destroy it. We see how she
believed that a third option could be found through brainstorming—not
my way or your way, but our way was finally discovered.
Some call this approach to conflict that of an owl because such
people think, “Let’s find a way for everyone to win.”
Paul asks the owl to help these sisters find a solution to their
problem. How wonderful it is
when the shark, the fox, the turtle, the teddy bear, and the owl can all
learn to live and work with each another because Christ has tamed this
wild kingdom (Ibid.)! The
secret of harmony is being submissive and lettings others help you in
times of conflict.
secret of unity is seeing others as fellow workers and partakers of
eternity, rejoicing in the Lord, showing fair-mindedness to all, and
remembering the Lord’s presence. Let’s
read our text again beginning in the middle of verse 3: “With
Clement also, 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
gentleness [or better your fair-mindedness] be known to all men.
The Lord is at hand.” We
know nothing about the Clement that Paul names here, but we do see that
Paul pays these sisters, Clement, and the rest of his fellow-workers a
great compliment by saying that their names are written in God’s Book
of Life. Daniel 12:1 and
Revelation 21:27 both tell us that God has recorded and written down the
names of those who will be saved. God
will not forget His children. Isn’t
it amazing how tactful the apostle Paul was?
He saw other brethren in the church as fellow-workers.
He doesn’t talk badly about these sisters or their mediator.
In fact, he sees them all as fellow partakers of eternity
together! When we realize
that we all sinners who have been saved by God’s good grace, maybe we
will be less critical and less condemning of others as well.
If we are really going to spend eternity with each other, maybe
we’d better start trying harder to get along with each other right
now! Isn’t it amazing that
here’s a congregation that has tension within, false teachers without,
their evangelist was seriously ill, their missionary was in prison, and
Paul tells them, “Rejoice in the Lord!”
In fact, Paul’s “assurance [to rejoice] rings out like a [trumpet]
call, and is repeated so that its message may not be misunderstood”
(Martin)! Now if the
brethren at Philippi could rejoice in the Lord despite their
difficulties, why can’t we in Prescott do the same?
Our sins are cleansed! We
enjoy God’s love, Christ’s strength, and the Spirit’s help!
We have a solid church family and the hope of heaven!
Why can’t we rejoice in the Lord?
Being fair-minded means that we’re willing to forsake our
rights for another’s benefit (Barnes), it means that we willing to
take all the angles into account, it means that we’ll be charitable
towards faults and merciful towards failures (Martin). “The
Lord is at hand” could refer to Christ’s second coming.
But many commentators believe that it means the Lord is near and
close to us. How calming and
encouraging it would be to the brethren in Philippi to recall once again
that Christ was standing ready in His present nearness to help them
(Hewlett). Just as God was
near to Israel, so Christ is close to His people and hears their cries
and feels their pains (Deuteronomy 4:7; Psalms 145:18, Acts 9:4,
Keener). The secret of unity is seeing others as fellow workers and
partakers of eternity, rejoicing in the Lord, showing fair-mindedness to
all, and remembering the Lord’s presence.
secret of peace is prayer, reflection on the wholesome, and being
intentionally involved. Let’s
read verses 6-9: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by
prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made
known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and mind through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are
noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever
things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there be any
virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in
me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Someone has translated verse six: “Don’t worry about
anything, but pray over everything.”
To stop worrying, start praying (Barnes).
When we pray, our appreciation
for God’s past mercies will help to stimulate our trust for His future
ones (Hewlett). God’s
peace as a soldier standing watch over our hearts and minds to keep us
from being troubled is a striking image (Keener)!
Since Philippi was an old fortress city filled with many retired
soldiers, this image would have struck home (Martin)!
Modern meditation often teaches us to turn inward, but God’s
reflection encourages us to look outward on all that is wholesome.
Dwell on matters of truth, like God’s word and reliable
sources, not gossip and rumors. Focus
on what’s honorable, the serious and dignified matters of life.
Thinks about what right, not what’s wrong, suspicious, or
doubtful. Dwell on what’s
pure, and not the shady. Concentrate
on what’s lovely and beautiful in life.
Tune in to what has a good reputation and leave off the
questionable. Meditate on
matters of excellence, virtuous things with high standards.
Let’s put our minds on things with are praiseworthy and
valuable. Let’s reflect on
the wholesome to the point that such thinking begins to shape our own
conduct. In fact, Paul
challenges the brethren in Philippi to be intentionally involved in
living out or practicing the good things that they had seen Paul doing
in his life. We don’t just
have righteous thoughts, but we display righteous actions as well.
If we’ll pray, reflect on the wholesome, and be intentionally
involved in living the Christian life, then Paul assures us that the God
of peace will be with us. The
secret of peace is prayer, reflection on the wholesome, and being
secret of love is having a concern for others and taking advantage of
the opportunities to serve them. Verse
10 says, “But I rejoiced greatly that now at last your care of me
has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked
opportunity.” This is
the only letter in which Paul felt it necessary to express the depths of
his joy (Harrell). Paul is
about to thank the brethren in Philippi for a gift that they had sent to
him. This is why he says
that their care for him had flourished again.
In other words, their bond of love was confirmed by their
generous gift (Hewlett). Having
worked on a mission field myself, I can personally testify that “care
packages” from brethren are wonderful boosters!
The items were not as important as they fact that this gift
showed that others were thinking about you and your family, and they
wanted to show in a real way that they cared for you.
Paul too was overjoyed at this gift which was hand delivered to
him by Ephaphorditus! It
showed that the brethren in Philippi were really concerned for his
welfare. That’s what love
does; it finds a way to show concern.
And it is usually expressed through small but thoughtful
items—a note of encouragement, a sympathy card, a phone call, some
photos, a newsletter or bulletin explaining what has been going on the
congregation, a toy, a book, a magazine, a meal, a brief visit.
How are we showing our concern for others here in the church?
Notice how Paul said that their care had flourished again.
That almost sounds like maybe they had not been caring.
So not to be misunderstood as being unappreciative, Paul quickly
adds the last part of the verse: “though you surely did care, but you
lacked the opportunity.” Getting
something to Paul in that era was probably a little harder than getting
something to others in our day. So
Paul says, “I know you really cared, but you just didn’t have the
opportune moment to show it.” Not
being able to find a carrier was something sort of out of their control.
But whenever these brethren did learn that Ephaphorditus was
headed Paul’s way, they got on the ball and sent their gift through
him. Love takes advantage of
the opportunities to serve, doesn’t it?
Someone has humorously asked, “Why don’t we jump at
opportunities as quickly as we jump to conclusions?”
Another person passes on this advice, “When you have a chance
to embrace an opportunity, give it a big hug.”
Are we praying that God will help us to see and to take advantage
of the opportunities that He gives us each day?
Sometimes when we fail to take advantage of an opportunity of
service, it will never come again. Let’s
try to encourage each other to make the most of our opportunities to
serve. The secret of love is
having a concern for others and taking advantage of the opportunities to
Paul loved the brethren in Philippi, and the brethren in Philippi greatly loved Paul! How wonderful is this glimpse that we get of their brotherly affection! Do we desire goodwill, endurance, harmony, unity, peace, and love in our congregation like they had? Then let's put into practice the six secrets that we've discovered in this chapter this morning—praising each other in the Lord, standing firm in the Lord, learning to settle our conflicts in the Lord, being unified in the Lord, experiencing peace in the Lord, showing love in the Lord. The old hymn has it right: “Jesus is all the world to us, our life, our joy, our all. He is our strength from day to day without Him we would fall. Beautiful life with such a Friend, beautiful life that has no end. Eternal life, eternal joy! He's our Friend” (Thompson)! Let's truly be the church of Christ!