Date: February 13, 2005
Theme: Rejoice, Rain, Relax!
– Philippians 4:4-8
– Ude, John
The Order of Worship:
Liturgy: TLH, p. 5 ff.
Theme: Rejoice, Rain, Relax!
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (ESV)
Sermon: Philippians 4:4-8 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.
In the name of Jesus February 13, 2005
An imprisoned apostle writes to a persecuted people and the keynote of his letter is: REJOICE. Where under the sun is anything like this possible except where the Holy Spirit is breathing His joyously creative breath of faith? We saw an astounding example of it when Paul came to Philippi. He and Silas were beaten with rods and thrown in prison for casting a demon out of a young lady, because her owners couldn’t tell fortunes with her anymore. But there in prison, they were not overwhelmed with doubt, discontentment, discouragement and despair. No, the Spirit breathed His joyously creative breath of faith and they sang hymns of praise. Despite the pain, they had a Spirit breathed inner joy in Christ, His love and salvation, His peace and protection that lifted them above every circumstance of life. It’s like the sign on the cabinet maker’s shop that said: “living above.” What a blessing of joy it is for each of us to live above our work in this world, to live above the humdrum boredom of the daily grind, to live above the irksome frustration of worldly toil, yes to live above the pestilent circumstance of this diseased earth. Living above is neither an escape from reality nor a flight from responsibility. It is finding peace, hope and love in Christ to carry on life on the lower floor with the joy bells of life in heaven. Such joy is the flag flown high above the castle of the heart announcing the presence of the King. So Paul can write V. 4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Luther thus once described faith as “a living, resolute, total confidence in God’s grace, a trust so certain that it is willing to die a thousand deaths for its belief. And such a trust in God’s grace and such knowledge of God’s grace make a man joyous, resolute, and robustly cheerful over against God and all God’s creatures.” That joy in the Lord thus accentuates the positive and eliminates the negative. V. 8 “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 is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things.”
When the King of grace is reigning in our heart, and His grace is ventilating our mind with thanks and praise the corrosive work of doubt, discontentment, discouragement and despair cannot consume the foundation. Oh indeed, that sinful corruption within us continues its multi-pronged attack on the castle of the KING. The presence of the KING does not now rid the heart or land of all enemies. In fact His presence stirs up resentful enemies. But the joy of His coming in our hearts invites us to roll out the carpet of submission, adorn every parapet with praise, and fill the banquet hall with festal joy so we seek with every attitude, word and action to put on the festive garments of righteousness, blow the trumpets of faith, and ring the joy bells of life in heaven.
Paul continues V.5: “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” The word “gentleness” refers to a gracious forbearance. In secular Greek it was used for a nobleman so secure in his position and so generous with His possessions that he was lifted above the competitive scramble of this selfishly cruel world. His kindness, encouragement and prosperity would RAIN blessings down on those around him like the showered blessings of Heaven. And the LORD is at hand, in residence in the castle of our heart, to shower the blessings of Heaven upon us. He gave up all the glories of Heaven to give those glories to us. He became our Servant even in the shameful payment for all our sins on the cursed cross that we might be Lords with Him in the mansions of Heaven. That position is as secure for us as Jesus own blood and righteousness. He has showered such vast riches upon us that its like inheriting a huge ranch, 100,000’s of miles. There are breathtaking mountain views of His grace guiding and forming the contours of our life, rainbow crowned waterfalls cascading over ours sins with undeserved blessings, vast herds, wondrous wildlife, and streams dancing with opportunities. We have hardly begun to experience the rich inheritance He has given us. Each day is an opportunity to experience new delights with those around us. With the gracious shower of such delightful blessings, He lifts us above the competitive scramble of the selfish world to rain the blessings of Heaven on those around us.
And V.6 says, “Be anxious for nothing.” RELAX. Worry starts like a rivulet in our brain but if allowed to continue, it soon erodes the whole landscape of our mind until all thoughts plunge into the now raging river of anxiety. Jesus demonstrates in Mt. 6 how worry thus erodes our values and priorities, changes our focus, and destroys our peace. Yet how often we are like the lady who walked up to the service counter in a department store and said, “I’d like to exchange this item for one that works right.” “Fine,” the cleck responded, “Give it to me and I’ll get one that works for you.” “No, I won’t give this one up,” the lady snapped. So we pray that God would resolve our problems. But when He says, “Great, give me your burdens and I”ll give you my peace in exchange,” we respond, “No, I can’t give up my worries.” But Paul had handed over all the worries over his trial and imprisonment. And now he could tell the Philippians how God had used it to bring the Gospel to Caesar’s house and to the whole Roman army garrison, how God had used it to actually encourage others to trust the LORD with bold confidence and how the very outcome of the trial was the opportunity to reveal whether it was Paul’s time to be at home with Christ or be with the brethren here for a while longer. Relaxing in the hands of our Savior, we can learn this secret of joy. V 11, “For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
That relaxed contentment in God’s hands shines through His closing prayer which we conclude our sermons with. v. 7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The word “guard” is the very word they would use for the soldiers that were guarding Paul in prison. Day and night he could hear the footsteps of those soldiers and see their shiny armor. We can understand how they guarded people but what passes understanding, Paul proclaims, is how the peace of Christ far more effectively guards our hearts and minds. Thus, Paul’s very imprisonment became a reminder and picture for Him and us of perfect peace in God’s providence. An imprisoned apostle writes to a persecuted people and the keynote of his letter is: rejoice. This is possible where the Holy Spirit is breathing through His Word His joyously creative breath of faith? Amen.