Hark the Herald Angel Sing
The story is told of an airline pilot who had a peculiar habit. Whenever he took off from his hometown, he would ask the copilot to take the controls. Then he would stare intently out the window for a few moments. One day the copilot’s curiosity got the best of him, so he asked, What do you always look at down there?
See that boy fishing on that riverbank? I used to fish from that same spot when I was a kid. Whenever a plane flew over, I would watch it until it disappeared and wish that I could be the pilot. With a sigh he added, Now I wish I could be back down there fishing.
In the book, Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, Overcoming Setbacks, Steve Brown writes, The most unhappy person in the world is not someone who didn’t get what he or she wanted. The most unhappy person is the one who got what he or she wanted and then found out that it wasn’t as wonderful as expected. The secret of a happy life is not to get what you want but to live with what you’ve got. Most of us spend our lives concentrating on what we don’t have instead of thanking God for what we do have. Then we wake up, our life is over, and we missed the beauty of the present.
This morning as we continue our look at Christmas Carols, we turn to a beautiful carol that describes the Angels singing Glory to the newborn king. But the real the thrust of the song is found in the second stanza: Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
Peace is that elusive gift we tend to spend a life time chasing, but it always seems just outside of our grasp. We must understand that we are offered peace as God’s children because we have been reconciled with God. Christ came and provided the sacrifice for our sins, but especially at this time of the year with all of the fusing and fighting that happens at the toy aisle, it’s a little hard to feel at peace.
In the passage that was read for us this morning we heard about "the peace...which passes all understanding." In the context of our text this morning Paul deals with the subject of peace. Now, before we go any farther I need to lay a little ground work. Peace is not the opposite of war, The opposite of war is creation. When we talk about peace in a Biblical sense we are talking about being in a right relationship. I need you to write that down, because it is important, actually it is vital to your Christian life, and the life of this church that we are at peace with one another or in a right relationship with one another.
Let’s look at our text this morning and see what Paul has to say about us being at peace. Look with me at Philippians 4:2-3 (Read text)
First we have got to be at peace with one another
The attitude of so many people today is that you must gripe and complain and argue and fight for everything you want in life. Unfortunately at this time of the year, that me first attitude is prevalent in stores, parking lots, and everywhere we look.
I am so thankful that Christians don’t have that same struggle. Since we were raised under the covenant of grace and saved from our past, Christians are very humble and always put others needs and feeling before their own. Right???? Well no… And it’s not a new struggle. In John 14-16 we see that Jesus is constantly addressing the "I want it my way!" attitude of the apostles. Actually what the Bible says is that they were arguing over who was the greatest in the kingdom.
Here are twelve men who were in the presence of Jesus. They heard Him teach about love, forgiveness, and being a servant and yet they constantly argued about who was the most important, who should be the one to get their way. And 2,000 years later we still act very apostolic. We have all these wonderful things in common, we were saved by the same Messiah at the same baptism and we have the same Bibles, that teach the same truths and yet we still find reasons to disagree from time to time.
I read this week about a congregation that was going through some social shift in their neighborhood and their church was experiencing some growing pains. So their leadership decided that they needed to send out a questionnaire to see how their members felt and what they dreamed about. What they learned was that they had a lot of disagreements about what they should do.
For instance, some thought they ought to go to the bank and borrow all the money they could borrow, buy more land and build all the buildings they needed immediately. But others felt that they shouldn’t borrow at all. Instead, they ought to wait and not build anything until they could pay cash for it.
Some felt they were giving way too much to missions, and said that they were having a light house effect where they were sending the light off in the distance but it was dark at home. They wanted to use their money at home to meet needs in their community and to update the existing facilities or build new ones. But others said, We’re not giving enough to missions. We need to give more!
One person responded that the preacher didn’t preach enough on stewardship, and he ought to be encouraging the people to give more. Then two surveys later someone wrote, It doesn’t make any difference what the subject is, the preacher always talks about money.
Now that wide diversity shouldn’t surprise us because we all have opinions on everything, even about church work. The struggle comes in when our actions and attitudes about our opinions turn ugly as we strive to be the greatest in the Kingdom. We want our way and if that means you can’t have your way, that’s fine as long as I get what I want. Eventually we get to the point that we draw lines in the sand, or choose sides and pretty soon we are in a full fledged church fuss.
In our text today Paul mentions two women; both of them really committed Christian workers who have had a disagreement. Now remember that this is a letter to the whole church at Philippi. Paul has dealt with some very important matters, so why on earth, in the midst of such an important letter, does Paul stick in something so personal about two of the ladies in the congregation? Shouldn’t he have tried to solve this problem much more discreetly and privately? Why so publicly as to write about it in a letter that millions have read now for nearly 2,000 years?
Well, maybe it is because it is important that the church communicate to the world that we don’t handle disagreements the same way that the world handles them, we’re able to find common ground and agree to work in harmony with one another. I love what Paul does and what he doesn’t do.
First of all, he doesn’t take sides. He doesn’t say, "Syntyche is right and Euodia is wrong. So you get out of here, Euodia." He doesn’t do that.
Secondly, he doesn’t pull rank. He doesn’t say, "I’m the apostle here and therefore I say if you two don’t agree, you’re both out of here."
Instead, he encourages them to find common ground where they can agree. He says, I plead with (you) to agree with each other in the Lord. Paul also wrote in Romans 12:18, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
There is something else that Paul does. He appoints a third party to intervene. In verse 3 he’s called, faithful friend. We don’t know who he was, but whoever he was, he was a peacemaker.
Now there is nothing Satan would rather do than to divide this church. Because if he can do that, then he can cripple us so we can’t get out the good news about Jesus. We must pledge to one another and to God that we’ll not allow ourselves to be used as pawns in the hand of Satan to divide His church. As we serve God together, we will be at peace with one another.
Next Paul talks about having peace within.
Let’s continue with verse 4-7 (Read Text)
Now, I don’t know how you felt as you came to church this morning. Sometimes we feel like we’re on top of the world and everything is going our way. But probably, most of the time, we don’t come to church feeling that way.
Did you come this morning carrying a heavy burden? Maybe you’re worried about something. Maybe there is a problem in your life that just doesn’t seem to go away. Maybe you feel guilty because of some sins you have committed. Maybe you’re concerned about finances. Maybe you’re frustrated because you’re trying to get something accomplished and you can’t seem to get it done. Whatever the reason, here we are. And I think Paul’s words are directed at all of us who carry burdens.
And we need to realize that as Paul writes these words he is not sitting in some ivory tower. Not all the pieces of his life are in place either. He’s in prison and facing trial. He may soon be executed. But in these verses, Paul writes a formula for developing peace within. He says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." In other words, Don’t worry. Let God handle it.
Someone once said, worry is the Christian’s most popular sin because it is one that we don’t even try to disguise. Worry is so common in our lives that we’re not even ashamed of it. When we come to church we mouth all the right words: Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, or It is well with my soul.
But then we leave church and forget that He’s with us. We forget He’s Lord and King. And we take all the burdens that we brought with us and put them right back on again. And we begin to worry more and more.
Worry is assuming responsibility that God never intended us to have. He will carry the burdens for us. We need to turn our worries over to God. That’s what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:7, "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.”
Finally, Paul mentions peace with God.
Let’s finish our passage today by reading verses 8-9 (Read Text)
It would probably be a good idea to read these verses at least once a week or even once a day. Paul is giving us 8 filters for everything you hear and everything you see. Everything needs to pass through these filters and if they can’t make it through these filters then it shouldn’t be in your mind and in your heart.
There is so much garbage in this world, the old saying garbage in, garbage out is true. The things we listen to, read, and see shape who we are and how we act. When the boys were a bit younger we had been listening to a lot of Bob Marley, the boys especially loved his song Three Little Birds. Well one day we were out hiking in the woods and Trafton rounded a corner and grabbed hold of a limb as he went. When he let go of the limb it shot back and hit Rylan square in the face and he went down. Trista scooped up Rylan who was crying. We looked and there was no blood, which is always a good thing, but because he was crying, Trafton got upset and started crying. Then out of nowhere Rylan stopped and looked at Trafton and said, Don’t worry about a thing, every little things going to be all right.
So think about it, the things we see and hear make a big impact on our lives. Can the movies you see, the TV programs you watch, the music you listen to, and the books you read pass through these 8 filters? And if you are not sure if they will pass through these filters, then you are probably just trying to justify what your sinful nature wants to do.
Paul says, Put everything through these 8 filters. If it’s not true, then don’t welcome it. If it’s not noble, if it’s not right, or pure, or lovely, or admirable, or excellent, or praiseworthy, don’t let it find a home in your heart. And if you’ll use these filters you’ll have peace with God.
Do you remember the words that Jesus first spoke to His disciples following His resurrection? The disciples were in the upper room, and they were fearful for their own lives. Their leader was dead, and their future uncertain.
Just then Jesus appeared though locked doors and spoke to them. Do you remember what He said? His first words were just one simple phrase, Peace be with you. The very thing that they didn’t have was the very thing that He offered, peace. And He still offers it to us today.
Do you have it? Did you come into God’s house this morning with it? Or did you find yourself carrying burdens that were too heavy to carry? And are you going to leave here with those burdens still? Or are you going to turn them over to Jesus?
I know One who died on a cross for your sins. And I know One who shed His precious blood so that you can have everlasting life. And I know that He is available to you this morning, and that you can have Him as your Lord and Savior simply by coming and confessing your faith in Him, and giving yourself to Him.
We give you the opportunity to do that as we extend His invitation. We invite you to come as we stand and sing. Will you come?
Questions For You To Consider
Read Philippians 4:1-9
Paul pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Why is he concerned with their relationship?
What does it mean to agree in the Lord?
How can you help bring peace in the body of Christ?
How do the promises in verses 4-7 help you find peace?
Is it easier to be at peace with yourself, others, or God?
How can true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy thoughts help to cleanse our minds and restore our peace?
In verse 9 Paul tells us that the God of peace will be with us as we practice what we have learned. What have you learned in this passage that you need to put into practice?