In the Lord (Sermon Notes)
Sermon notes from Philippians 4: 1-7
In the first seven verses of this fourth chapter, Paul provides contrasting views of life in the body of Christ. Feel the dissonant directions as he writes them. First he expresses his love, and calls those who are his beloved, his joy and crown, to stand firm in the Lord. Suddenly, he shifts the scene and needs to deal with conflict and disagreement that has broken out and threatens to disrupt the life and witness of the church. And then turns his attention to the joyfulness, prayerfulness and gratitude that will lead to the peace of God.
How are we to combine these seemingly disjointed themes? Perhaps we cannot. And that is exactly the difficulty faced by all those who live and lead in the Christian church. Every local congregation has multiple faces.
Perhaps you will be able to weave all three of these things together into a sermonic whole. However, you might be convinced you can do more justice to this section by a three part message separated yet woven together by prayers and songs. We recommend you consider the latter.
In part one, Paul expresses the deep love and hope of a missionary pastor for the community of Christ. “You are my brothers and sisters, my joy and my crown; you are my beloved. I love you and long for you. And I exhort you to stand firm in the Lord”. There is beauty here, beauty in the deep spiritual bond between a shepherd and flock, a pastor and congregation. Rich is the pastor and rich is the congregation who live with such a bond!
But suddenly the sunshine clouds over because news has arrived of a conflict within this community that threatens its work and witness. He is not referring to conflict or attack from the world. This is conflict within - between co-workers, among people whose names are in the book of life, people who are loyal companions. Idyllic pictures of the church as a community where all live happily in love for one another all the time simply don’t match reality. In the approaching verses he mentions another enemy – worry. The community of faith ought to find worry incompatible with its life of faith, but all too often the two stand side by side. All those in church leadership roles know that so well. Yet these fractures and failures may not continue and others within the body must aid them in reaching agreement again. Rare is the congregation that does not urgently need correction, encouragement, exhortation and prayers to this end.
After dealing with this urgent need, Paul can return to the theme with which he began. Rejoice. He repeats it–rejoice! The passionate pastor calls his congregation to rise above the conflict and above the worry, through a life of gentleness, prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. And the net result–the peace of God which surpasses all understanding! Healthy is the congregation who can combat their conflict and worry with prayer and thanksgiving. They know peace!