Philippians 2:1-11, “Complete Joy”

Mark Wheeler
July 27, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Philippians 2:1-11
Complete Joy

God of every nation, Your law is right, Your rule is just, and even in this fallen world Your kingdom knows no boundaries. May the compassion, patience, and forgiveness You show us in Jesus Christ our Savior form the ministry of reconciliation we offer to all people in Jesus’ name. Amen.

What, in this life, gives you the greatest joy? What makes you giggle with glee? What puts a smile on your face that you simply cannot just “think” away?
Is it when the pizza is delivered in less than 20 minutes? When the price of gas was surprisingly 10 cents lower than you expected? Seeing your family after something that might have injured or taken someone away? Being first in line at the food counter in Costco? A giggling baby? A 9th inning, game saving homerun?
What is it that gives you joy?

This Summer our sermon series comes to us from Paul’s prison epistle to the fellowship in Philippi. We have already seen that even though Paul was under house-arrest and could have remembered how hard life had been in Philippi, he chose instead to be thankful for all the ways God works good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). This letter is so filled with different forms of the word “joy” that it is often called the “Joy Epistle”. In fact, our hymnbook has almost 30 hymns in it using these verses as their joy-filled inspiration!

Today we read from Philippians 2, a piece of Paul’s letter that scholars believe contain the words of one of the very first Christian hymns, sort of an early Praise and Worship song (in fact, first song we sang this morning comes from this “song” in Philippians), & we’ll learn something about complete joy. Listen to God’s Word from Philippians 2:1-11…. —-
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Paul closes chapter one challenging his readers to live faithfully: 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…. striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you…. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him….
Chapter 2, 1 therefore …. Since you are going to behave in a way that declares your belief, since you are going to work together for Christ’s sake, and since you will suffer as a result … therefore, Paul gives four “if” statements – 1) if being united with Christ encourages you, 2) if Christ’s love comforts (strengthens) you, 3) if you experience the Holy Spirit, 4) if you know the fruit of the Spirit, kindness and concern….
We’ll stop there for a minute – do those “if”s apply in your life? Do they apply in our church’s life? Are we encouraged by Christ? Do we feel Christ’s strength in our bones? When was the last time the Holy Spirit’s presence was very real in our worship? Does kindness for one another and concern for the world around us give us direction and motivation?
If we say “NO”, then we have a whole lot of other questions to answer. But if we say “YES”, then there’s a THEREFORE to listen to.
If all of that is true, therefore, make my joy complete….

Apparently, a big part of “complete joy” for the Apostle Paul is in the Church faithfully being in community – one with each other.
He asks us to “be like-minded”. I do not think that means we need to agree on every topic of conversation. We can still have different favorite movies; some of us can still like watching golf on TV; and it’s OK for some to be more inclined to join a prayer ministry and others to volunteer at the soup kitchen.
But I also don’t think we simply need to compromise our values when we find ourselves in disagreement.
Paul goes on to say that we should be Christ-like in matters of humility, generosity, grace and truth.
So what do we do when we encounter “family” with whom we strongly disagree? At least according to this passage, it looks like we encourage mutual humility, considering others as more important than ourselves (Jesus said to take the log out of our own eyes before we take the speck out of someone else’s); we encourage mutual generosity, giving ourselves and our personal agendas away for the good of the whole; we encourage mutual grace, offering love and forgiveness even at great cost to ourselves; we encourage mutual seeking after biblical truth, remembering that Jesus never forsook His purpose or His relationship to His Father even when to do so might have seemed gentler and more compassionate.

Some of you are aware that our denomination, at its recent biennial national meeting, made a few decisions that have been long-waited-for by some in the denomination – and they are ecstatic; those same decisions have caused deep concern, regret, and heart-break for others who see the decisions as apostasy, maybe even heresy.
How do we continue to strive for unity, like-mindedness, when we are at such a drastic degree of difference? And it’s not just that some prefer a different color than others, we are talking about an entirely different set of standards for authority.

John 17 records what we know of as Christ’s High Priestly Prayer – much of which describes His petition that we, the Church, would be one even as Jesus and the Father are one. Jesus is not talking about institutional unity (organized unity, denominational unity); Jesus is praying that we would be “united together with Christ” in our missional, worshipful, focused, faithfilled lives.

I would be very happy to talk about what all this means with any/every-body who wants to know more. I can arrange for speakers who were present at the General Assembly meeting to come and answer questions. Our Presbytery has a whole system set up to assist congregations to discern their own role and partnership with the Presbytery and the denomination. Our Elders just finished a year-long study on the essential tenets of Reformed Theology and what it means to be Presbyterian in America in the 21st century.

Philippians 2 is a great guide in the process. Be like Christ – humble and generous, but faithful and steadfast. He came from heaven to earth, to show the Way;
From the earth to the cross, our debt to pay;
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky,
Lord, we lift Your name on high!

Paul says, 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (so we will listen to the Word of God first and foremost to discern our direction) 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (and we choose to do that today!, rather than wait for the day when we will have no choice – Jesus, You ARE LORD and Savior right now!) 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Lord, we lift Your name on high!)

Complete joy is ours for the taking – not based on our life circumstances, but based solely on our relationship with God through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ our Savior – our only comfort in life and in death.

If you have lost the joy of the Lord, get it back this morning! Make a conscious decision that you are going to follow Christ. The only way to have complete joy is to turn what does not make you joyous over to the Lord.
Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)
We have to remain close to Jesus! I read a guy who says it this way, “Joy suckers do not like to be around Jesus, so stay close to Jesus! ‘Remain in me, and I will remain in you’, that is Jesus’ promise!”

Next Sunday, we have an opportunity to put this joy-making unity in action. Next Sunday, August 3, our church doors will not be open because we will join together with several other churches here in Northeast Spokane at Sharpley-Harmon Park to hold a unified worship service during the Hillyard Festival weekend. We will provide valet parking for anyone who wants it; they also will have golf-carts to help people get from their cars to the amphitheater in the park. Worship will be at 10am, I suggest coming early to get a closer parking spot and a better seat (in the shade), and to listen to some “warm-up” music before worship actually begins.
And since we won’t be here – we invite/encourage your August 3 tithes and offerings to be sent in during the week or on August 10.

May God bless us, every one.

Resources:
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 439.

Wheeler, Mark; “Being in CommUNITY”; Ledger; Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church; August 2014.

Philippians 1:12-30: “My Only Comfort”

Mark Wheeler
July 20, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Philippians 1:12-30
My Only Comfort

Faithful God, You walk with us throughout life’s journey. As our strength diminishes, may our faith increase. As our eyes grow dim, let the light of Christ shine more brightly before us. Help us live to the end of our years in joy, knowing that You lead us into eternal life! Amen.

As most of you know, last week while you were faithfully worshiping here under the leadership of Gene and Kathy and Lilly, I was in AZ worshiping with my Mom the day after my Dad’s funeral. My Mom’s pastor was also on vacation, so they had volunteers and Associate Pastors leading their worship – which, frankly, helped me pretend I was here with you.
It was an awkward worship experience because just 22 hours earlier I sat in the front row while my Dad was being memorialized. So, my mind wandered off to my final days with my Dad just a week before his death. One day my Mom was whisked off by a church-friend to go to the store – a much needed break from the care-giving she had been responsible for. So my Dad and I got to talk with each other. In his final couple of weeks he was very lucid some times, and very confused other times. This was a lucid moment. I told him how much I loved him, and I thanked him for how he had taught me to be the best I could be. And I asked him if he was scared. Listen to how he answered:
“What would I be scared of? I guess I wish I knew how long it would take – but I’m not scared. ‘I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him until [sic] that day.’”
As my eyes welled up with tears, I asked him what he meant. And he said, “I don’t know exactly what’s next, but I know that it’s good.”
Not exactly a PhD in statements of faith; but I remember clearly when he became a Christian during my senior year of high school; and have full confidence that this was Dad’s way of reminding me of his faith and God’s perfect faithfulness.

This Summer we are working our way through Paul’s epistle from prison to the people of Philippi. Last time we saw that even though Paul was under house-arrest and could have remembered how hard life had been in Philippi, he chose instead to be thankful for all the ways God works good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).

Today we read Philippians 1:12-30, & discover our only comfort in life and in death. Listen to God’s Word from Philippians 1:12-30…. —-
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me (being arrested and bound and imprisoned for my faith) has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

These verses serve to remind us of one basic truth: the choices we make do not define us – we are defined by something far deeper.

Paul had chosen between arresting Christians and accepting Christ; between facing a Roman execution and facing the Roman emperor; between denying Christ and relying on Christ; between being grouchy/grumpy about his treatment/predicament and being grateful/ about his appointment; between death and going to his eternal home in Christ and life and continuing his eternal life with Christ.
And he tells his readers in the northern Greek city of Philippi to choose between conducting themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ and any other lifestyle; between being fearful of religious opposition and standing strong in their faith.
And he challenges us in our every choice – to do good and be rewarded or to do bad and be punished; to choose a job in manual labor or a job in an office; to go to this school or take that job; to marry at all, or whom to marry; to stay close to home or to move farther way; to buy these prescriptions or to pay rent; to choose expensive treatment or to allow nature to take its course; what are you deciding today?
These decisions, as important as they are – and they are very important! – , do not define us. What defines us, what gives our lives meaning, the thing that drives our purpose, is in recognizing one truth.

Almost everybody in this room has lost loved ones to some kind of death – some tragically too soon and unexpected and some after suffering far too long and prayed for. I have lost personal friends, some very close friends, but until two weeks ago I had not lost any close family members. So the week between my father’s death and his funeral was a wonderful reprieve from my regular routines and responsibilities. I had, long before, signed up for a week of continuing education and spiritual renewal at Whitworth University. One of the speakers there, the President of Princeton Seminary, made some passing remarks about his reliance on a Reformation era statement of faith – The Heidelberg Catechism (written just over 450 years ago, when the Protestant Reformation was still young and developing). So I started re-reading the Heidelberg Catechism, and my faith and life has been fully revived (not that it was dead, but this really jump-started it again). A “catechism” is a statement of faith written in question & answer form, often used to help teach new believers and people who wonder and want to learn more about what these “Christians” believe.
I re-recognized this singular truth and realized that this is exactly what my father told me a week before he died! And I have rediscovered this truth in almost every reading of Scripture since 10 days ago. And I have heard it said again and in different ways from some of your mouths and lives. And I am now compelled to make sure we are all on the same page!

Today’s passage from Philippians 1, and Question/Answer 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism, and my father, and our faith together expresses this singular truth.
Philippians 1:21 says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
My dad said, “‘I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him until [sic] that day.’”
The Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1 says: “What is your only comfort in life and in death? – That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ…. Because I belong to Him, Christ by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him”!

Did you hear those words? “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” That does not mean, do you know where your remote control is when you’re in your Lazy Boy?! The word “comfort” comes from the Latin root “fortis” (which means “strength”) and prefix “com” (which means with). What is your only source of strength in life and in death? My only source of strength is that – I am not my own! – I am not responsible for my own salvation! I am responsible for receiving the gift of faith; I am responsible for choosing to obey and honor God rather than reject and turn away from God. But my salvation is totally in God’s hands because I belong—body and soul, in life today and in death forever—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ!

And while we nourish and enrich our faith by being in community, by sharing our lives and our struggles together, notice the singular nature of this question and answer.
What is your (singular) only (singular) comfort in life and in death?
That I (singular) am not my (singular) own, but belong—body and soul (my whole being), in life and in death (my entire existence)—to my (singular) Savior, Jesus Christ. This is very personal. I Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

If you’re here this morning and have not yet made that personal choice to receive God’s gift of faith in Jesus Christ, you can change that. You can make Jesus the Lord & Savior of your life right now.
If you need to renew or refresh your belonging to Jesus today, you can do that as well.

In just a few minutes some of us will join together for our Lord’s Prayer Corps time – an extended time for prayer and worship downstairs in the Social Hall – we will pray for each other there, and rediscover our only comfort in belonging to our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Resources:
Barnes, M. Craig; Body & Soul: Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism; Faith Alive; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012.

Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 433.

Philippians 1:1-11: “Partnering Well”

Mark Wheeler
July 6, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Philippians 1:1-11
Partnering Well

Lord Jesus, with saints throughout time we pray, “Come quickly!” And we hear Your promise, “I am coming soon.” With this hope in our hearts may we run the race marked out for us, keeping our eyes, minds, and hearts fixed on You. Amen.

This morning I would like us to go back nearly 2,000 years to the city of Rome. It is an exciting time to be in Rome, a metropolis of gladiators, chariots, & palaces. But we’re not going to stop at the coliseum or the emperor’s palace.
Instead, we’re going to look into a drab little room. Inside we see a man seated on the floor. He’s an older fellow, shoulders stooped & his head balding. Chains are on his hands & feet that are also attached by a longer chain to a Roman guard.
It is the apostle Paul. The apostle who has traveled all over the world of his day. The apostle whose message has liberated people in almost every port. The apostle who was bound only by the will of God is now bound by chains, restricted by walls, accused by enemies, & scheduled for trial in the court of the cruelest of emperors, Nero.
Paul is writing a letter. No doubt, it is a complaint letter to God, a list of grievances. No doubt, he is writing the New Testament version of the book of Lamentations. You see, he has every reason to be bitter, to complain.
But he doesn’t. Instead, he is writing a letter that now, 2,000 years later, is known as the “letter of joy.” That is the letter we are looking at this morning.

Bobby Jones, champion golfer from a generation ago, once said, “Have you ever noticed how much golfers practice? Smart businessmen have been quick to take advantage of that, developing public driving ranges where we can practice driving the ball, & putting greens where we can practice our putting.
“But why hasn’t someone developed public sand traps? Sand traps are an inevitable part of the game of golf, & every golfer ought to practice ahead of time how to get out of trouble.”

I think that’s good advice for all of us. For even as we talk about being thankful for the blessings that come our way, we must admit that problems & troubles also come our way.

I think it was Norman Vincent Peale who said, “Problems are a part of life. All of us are going to have problems right up to the moment we die. And some of you are going to have problems after you die.”

So it only makes sense, if we’re going to find ourselves in sand traps, that we learn how to get out of them. And the letter to the Philippians, written by the apostle Paul, can help us do just that.
He writes this letter while imprisoned in Rome under what we would call “house arrest.” Now that was usually better than being in a dungeon, but Roman soldiers could be cruel; yet, Paul’s letter is filled with thanksgiving. And in it, Paul writes, “I always pray with joy…” (Philippians 1:4)

So let’s look at the first 11 verses of Philippians 1, & see what they teach us about praying with joy and the benefits of partnering well. Listen to God’s Word from Philippians 1:1-11…. —-
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

From this we learn three things about prayer.

I. PRAYER SHOULD BE A FIRST RESPONSE RATHER THAN A LAST RESORT
Listen to verse 3, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…”
Then, in chapter 4, verse 6, he says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
What is Paul saying? He is saying that whenever anything happens to him, whether positive or negative, he prays. That’s his first response. He prays, “God, thank you for the blessings that you give me. God, I even thank you for the troubles that come my way. Now teach me the lessons that I need to learn from them.” Paul always started with prayer.
But for many of us, we wait until we’re knee deep in the sand traps of life, & there seems to be no way out of our problems. Then we call upon God & cry, “Help me. I’m in trouble.” We turn to prayer almost as a last resort.
On June 13, my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, and less than 3 weeks later he died. I was privileged to be able to spend time with him just a week before he passed – and he showed peace and confidence, because he had been a man of prayer.
If you suddenly discovered that you had just a short time left to live how would you react? Would you curse or would you pray? I’ll tell you what you would do. You would respond instinctively. You wouldn’t think about it. You would just respond in the way that is most natural for you to respond.
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act. It is a habit.” So what kind of habits have you developed in your life?
I read about a soldier who was doing sentry duty on the front line in WWI. After being relieved of duty, as a Christian, he wanted to pray, to thank God for protecting him, & to ask for His continued protection.
But the enemy lines were very close, & he couldn’t go far, so he just walked a little ways away from where he had been standing guard, knelt & began to pray aloud.
The sentry who replaced him heard his voice & thought he was speaking to someone in the enemy lines. So he reported him. The officer in charge said, “You’ve been accused of revealing secrets to the enemy. How do you plead?”
The soldier said, “It’s not true. I wasn’t doing that.” The officer replied, “Then what were you doing when you were out there facing the enemy & talking?” He said, “I was praying.”
“You were praying out loud?” “Yes, I was.” The officer said, “Show me. Pray right now.”
So the young man knelt & prayed. And when he finished the officer dismissed the charges. “Because,” he said, “nobody can pray like that unless he has been practicing.”

So what do you do naturally when troubles come your way? Paul says that prayer should be a first response & not a last resort.

II. PRAYER SHOULD BE OFFERED IN AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE.
This is important. Nothing inhibits prayer more than a grumbling, complaining spirit. Notice verse 3: Paul writes, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”
Now that’s an amazing statement because if you go back & read in the Book of Acts about Paul’s first visit to Philippi you’ll find that some very bad things happened to him while he was there.
He could have said, “I remember Philippi & that demon possessed slave girl who followed us around & harassed us. I remember how they arrested us, & beat us, & put us in chains, & then tossed us deep into that dark & dirty dungeon. Oh yes, I remember the terrible experiences we had in Philippi.”
But no, he said, “I remember Lydia & how she & all her household became Christians. I remember casting a demon out of a slave girl & seeing her set free. I remember the Philippian jailer & his family, & all those other people who are now followers of Jesus. And when I remember, I thank my God for you.”

Like Paul, we have a choice. Positive & negative things happen every day. We can focus on the negative & become unhappy grumblers if we want. But if we’ll focus on gratitude, wonderful things can happen in our lives.

The 2nd thing we see is that Paul was confident they would allow God to continue working through them. Listen to verse 6, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
God has a plan for your life, & for mine. There’s a task that He has called us to do, a place that He wants us to fill. And He’s not finished with us yet.

There is a story told about a 300 lb. man who went to his preacher & said, “Preacher, I’m so depressed. I’ve tried to lose weight & I can’t. I can’t even get a date. I feel like an outcast in society. Can you help me?”
The preacher said, “Well, I think I can. Go home & be ready at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning.”
So at exactly 8:00 the next morning his doorbell rang & the man opened the door expecting the preacher to be there. But instead, there stood a beautiful girl dressed in a jogging outfit who said, “The preacher says that if you can catch me I’m yours.” Then she took off running. Well, this guy took off after her, huffing & puffing. Of course, he couldn’t catch her.
Well, this went on for 6 months. Every morning she was there. He chased her for 6 months & lost 120 pounds, & the next to last morning, he almost caught her.
Well, he could hardly wait for the next day to come because he knew that he would catch her that morning for sure.
The next morning the doorbell rang. He opened it eagerly, & there stood a 300 lb. woman. She said, “The preacher said that if I can catch you, you’re mine.”

Now, that isn’t quite the way that I would handle the situation. But I suppose that is one way of utilizing the potential in people. Paul looks at the people in Philippi & says, “I see great potential here. I see God working in you, & He is ready to complete His work.”

Thirdly, Paul had developed some deep relationships with the people in Philippi. When you read his letter you sense that Paul really loves them. In verse 5 he thanks them for their “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
And in verses 7 & 8 he says, “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” In other words, “I love you as Jesus loves you.”

Now listen, when you’re in trouble it is important to have friends who will stand beside you, friends who will be there through thick & thin, that you can always count on. You know they’ll never leave you nor forsake you. That’s what a church is – a people who partner with each other well, and who partner with Jesus well.

Boris Zdorovetz is an ex-underground church leader from communist Ukraine. He spent years in prison. He lost one eye to glaucoma. He lost one arm to a WWII bomb. But he never lost his faith in God through Jesus Christ.
When you look at him, he’ll look back at you with that one eye & you know you have his undivided attention. He has a personality that just draws people to him. And he’ll reach out with his one good hand, & grip your hand tightly as he exchanges greetings with you.
Boris Zdorovetz has an optimistic spirit, even though life has been tough for him. He looks ahead to the “finish” which he knows will be “good”.

There are times when we need to let go of our burdens & look ahead to the “good finish”. So we need to pray with an attitude of gratitude rather than complaining.

III. WE SHOULD PRAY FOR GOD’S GLORY RATHER THAN FOR OUR OWN
Listen to verses 9-11. He says, “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.”
The lasting legacy is always in giving the glory to God. When I take the glory as my own, the legacy ends when I die – when I give it to God, God uses it to continue blessing people into eternity.

Is prayer a first response for you? Or is it a last resort? Do you pray in an attitude of gratitude? Or are you always grumbling? When you pray, do you make sure that God receives the glory, & not you?

If you’re here this morning without Jesus Christ in your life, you can change that. You can make Jesus the Lord & Savior of your life.
If you want to renew or refresh your partnership with Jesus today, you can do that as well.
In a minute we will join together at the Lord’s Table for communion – and we invite you to pray with us as we dedicate ourselves to partnering well with Him and with each other. Amen.

Resources:
EXTRA THANKS TO: Newland, Melvin; “Praying with Joy”; Ridge Chapel Church of Christ; Kansas, OK; November 2011.

Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 429.