You probably feel like that too sometimes. I think all human beings long for peace. Yes, we long for excitement. Yes we long for purpose. Yes we long for challenges but we also long for peace. We long for God to lead us like David to quiet waters where our souls can be restored.
A life without peace is also a life without joy. Conflict, turmoil and anxiety are the opposite of peace and they are indeed the opposite of joy. Yet, they are inescapable in our world. If I were to ask you what kinds of things in your life are causing you mental and spiritual unrest you could probably name at least one thing. If I were to ask you if you were having relationship problems I wouldn’t be surprised if you said yes. If you said “no” I would congratulate you but I wouldn’t be surprised if you said “yes.” If I asked you if this lack of peace in your life was robbing you of joy, I also wouldn’t be surprised if you said “yes.”
All through the Bible, God is called a God of peace (1 Cor. 14:33). The Gospel that we preach is a Gospel of peace. Jesus died on the cross in order to bring peace between God and man by paying the price of sin so that it could be forgiven. In Isaiah 53, that great prophecy about work of Christ on the cross, Isaiah prophesied:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
The gospel is about receiving eternal life. It is also about peace. And so it shouldn’t surprise us that Paul deals with the issue of peace in the book of Philippians. In other places, Paul emphasizes that peace between God and people. Here, Paul emphasizes two kinds of peace that the Gospel promotes. Both of which, if we have them, will promote our joy.
I. Peace with one another.
2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
We don’t know much about Euodia and Syntyche beyond what we can discern from this passage. Here is what we can deduce about them.
They were strong, passionate followers of Jesus Christ.
When Paul speaks about them, he talks about how they “contended” at his side in the cause of the Gospel. That word “contended” is translated in other versions as “laboured,” or “strived” or “shared in my toil.” It is probable that Euodia and Syntyche shared the hardship of persecution with Paul. I have heard some people refer to Euodia and Syntyche as “Odious” and “Soontouchy” because of their obvious conflict. In light of what we can tell about them from this passage, I don’t think that they deserve those names.
Euodia and Syntyche were not on the fringe of the Philippian Church. They were dedicated servants of Jesus Christ. They obviously loved Him and they worked very hard in the ministry of the church and of the Gospel and probably suffered for it.
Yet somehow, Euodia and Syntyche had a conflict. Paul doesn’t elaborate on what that conflict is. However, the fact that they had a conflict shows us that sometimes people who love the Lord don’t always get along as they should.
I noticed in particular here that Paul doesn’t say who was right or wrong in the conflict. If find it interesting that he doesn’t take sides. He just pleads with them to agree with each other in the Lord.
Notice how Paul asks someone he simply calls, “loyal yokefellow” to help these two dear ladies to resolve their differences.
Sometimes we need help to resolve our differences. It’s called “mediation.” It can be called “marriage counselling” it can be called “family counselling.” There is no shame in needing it.
In fact, shame keeps people from seeking it when they really should seek it.
Whenever I do a wedding ceremony for a couple, I make sure to emphasize that if they ever find themselves in a position where they can’t seem to work out their differences that they shouldn’t let shame or cost prevent them from seeking marriage counselling.
When we find ourselves sick and we don’t know how to cure ourselves, we are unashamed to go to someone who we think can help us, right? When our car breaks down and we don’t know how to fix it, we are not ashamed to take it to a mechanic. When our plumbing plugs up or we are having electrical problems we don’t hesitate to call for help and we are willing to pay.
Why do we choose to suffer in silence when we are having difficulties in relationships?
There are YOKEFELLOWS out there who can help us. We need more of them. Some of you might want to consider a ministry like that. Some of you might even have a natural talent for it. However, there are YOKEFELLOWS out there who can help us.
Peaceful relationships with those we care about are so important to joy.
II. Inner Peace.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Peace and Joy go together. That’s why I think Paul put this next verse in amongst verses on peace.
It would be easy to see the next few verses as simply commands. Perhaps, though, they are not simply commands. Maybe they are instructions on HOW we are to find joy in the Lord.
Cultivate a peaceful spirit
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
In other words, be willing to yield your personal rights and show consideration, forbearance, kindness, and leniency to others.
Jesus showed true gentleness both in the midst of conflict and in the midst of popularity. His healings and miracles often brought the crowds to a high pitch of enthusiasm. But He refused to let them make Him the kind of king they wanted. He reminded them of the passage in Isaiah 42:1–4,
“Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.”
Jesus knew who He was, but He was gentle and humble. Jesus’ awareness of His power enabled Him to be gentle to those in need. The broken reed He would not crush but would fully restore. The flickering wick of a lamp He would not put out but would cause it to burn brightly again. His gentleness works. It brings forth righteousness, and it will bring forth justice in the earth, He gently takes the sinner and makes him whole.
It’s easy to be gentle with some people. But Paul commands that we show it toward all – no matter who they are.
The opposite of gentleness is contentiousness. A contentious person is someone who likes to fight.
Sometimes we think we have to fight and dispute to get our own way. And so I find it interesting that King Solomon said:
Pr 25:15 Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
Richard Dunagin talks about how his kids won four free goldfish at a school carnival. When he went to find an aquarium, however, he found them to be way too expensive. Then he spotted a discarded 10-gallon display tank, complete with gravel and filter--for a mere five bucks. Sold! Of course, it was nasty dirty, but he said the savings made the two hours of clean-up a breeze.
He said that those four new fish looked great in their new home, at least for the first day. But by Sunday one had died. Monday morning revealed a second casualty, and by Monday night a third goldfish had gone belly up. An expert he consulted pinpointed the problem: he had washed the tank with soap, an absolute no-no. His uninformed efforts had destroyed the very lives he was trying to protect.
Dunagin then says:
Sometimes in our zeal to clean up our own lives or the lives of others, we unfortunately use "killer soaps"--condemnation, criticism, nagging, fits of temper. We think we're doing right, but our harsh, self-righteous treatment is more than they can bear.
Paul encourages us to be gentle with one another because “The Lord is near.” Paul expected Jesus to come back to judge the earth at any time. Paul had great faith that at that time, justice would be done. He had great faith that at that time, all wrongs would be righted and all injustices seen to. We can afford to be gentle if we know that Jesus will look after our interests.
Gentle words often have power.
B. Cultivate a PRAYERFUL Spirit.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
One day a man told his colleague that his wife had bought a new set of furniture on the “lay awake” plan. “Don’t you mean the ‘lay away’ plan?” his friend asked? “No” responded the man. She bought it on credit.”
There are all kinds of things that cause us to lay awake at night. There are all kinds of things out there that can steal our peace of mind. Worry is a constant temptation to all of us. Anxiety is a constant companion to some.
And it is a joy stealer. Having peace of mind is so important to joy. Paul gives us a great prescription for peace of mind – prayer and petition with thanksgiving.
Prayer is a way we submit our lives to God. In prayer, we acknowledge that we are not the masters of our fate or the captains of our souls. In prayer we acknowledge that life is bigger than we are and that we can’t deal with it alone.
If we truly submit our lives to God, we can have peace.
I just recently watched the move “God’s and Generals.” It focuses mainly on the life of Confederate General Thomas Jackson, better known as “Stonewall” Jackson. Jackson was a man of contradictions. He was a fierce warrior who executed his battles with amazing strategy and aggression. At the same time, he was a man of deep faith. He exhibited tremendous bravery on the battle field. He earned the name “Stonewall” for calmly standing his ground when other Confederate units were retreating. His bravery came from his assurance that God was directing his life.
When he was asked by a captain how he could remain so calm in battle, his answer was this:
Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me.
Jackson then added that if all men lived with this kind of faith, they would be equally brave.
He was assured that he was not going to die until God decided it and that when God decided that, it would all be good. In the end, he was accidently shot by his own troops and died of pneumonia while recovering. Even in death, he experienced peace.
The chief surgeon of Jackson’s Corps, Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire, recorded Jackson’s final words. A few moments before death, Jackson cried out orders to his commanders as if her were on the battle field. In the midst of these orders, Jackson suddenly grew silent. Holmes reported that “a smile of ineffable sweetness” came over Jackson’s pale face, and then a look of relief. These last words were then quietly spoken: Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.
Jackson was a man of war, but I believe that by the grace of God, he found peace.
If we learn to submit our lives to God, we will experience peace.
In fact, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ.
When Paul mentions peace as a “guard,” he uses a military term for “marching sentry duty” around something valuable or strategic. As we rest our case, as we transfer our troubles to God, “Corporal Peace” is appointed the duty of marching as a silent sentry around our minds and our emotions, calming us within and keeping our hearts from all anxiety and despair.
What keeps us from anxiety will not always be obvious to others. You see, God’s peace is a peace that passes all understanding.
When the peace of God is guarding our hearts and minds, people wonder how we stay so calm in the midst of crisis. When Zachary was sick, people were amazed by how well we handled it. Well, we prayed a lot. Others prayed for us. God guarded our hearts and our minds.
For peace and joy cultivate a PRAYERFUL spirit.
C. Culitvate a POSITIVE Spirit.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me— put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Let me turn this verse around so that we can see how it reads:
Finally, brothers, whatever is false, whatever is shameful, whatever is wrong, whatever is immoral, whatever is ugly, whatever is unworthy of respect – if anything is disgusting and contemptible – think about such things.
If we think about such things, what do you think our mind set will be like? It won’t be positive. It won’t lead us to a good path. It won’t lead to happy thoughts. It won’t lead to peace.
Focusing on things that are true, and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy can only do us good!
Notice how Paul says that if we focus by both thinking about them and, as Paul says in verse 9, putting them into practice, the God of peace will be with us – why? Because these things are natural to God. God is noble. God is right. God is pure. God is lovely. God is admirable. God is excellent and praiseworthy. When we think about these things, we are putting ourselves into God’s natural element. We are aligning our thoughts with how God is. When we think on these positive things, God is with us and we are with God. That is a joyful place to be.
Focusing on the positive can even help us in our relationships with people.
Peace and joy come when we cultivate a positive spirit.
If you want more joy in your life, Philippians teaches us to make peace a priority. You will always have to face conflict and anxiety. They are facts of life. There will always be times when you will disagree with people. There will always be times when you face situations that give you anxiety and worry. From what Paul says today, we can see that even dedicated followers of Jesus Christ sometimes find themselves having issues. Sometimes they need help to resolve them. If you are in that situation, don’t be ashamed to seek it. If you are not, maybe you can be a “loyal yokefellow” who can help others.
Secondly, cultivate inner peace. Cultivate a peaceful spirit by practicing gentleness. The Lord is near to you and he will help you be gentle when you least want to be. Cultivate a PRAYERFUL spirit. Pray instead of worry. It is easy to tell you that. It is harder to put into practice. So as part of those prayers, ask God to give you His peace to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Ask him to help you be anxious for nothing. Then, Cultivate a POSITIVE spirit. Focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. So often the world tries to get us to focus on the opposite. So much of what passes for entertainment today and so much of what we find in the media focuses on the false, the shameful, the wrong, the immoral, the ugly, the disgusting and the contemptible. If you fill your minds with these things, don’t be surprised if you lack inner peace. You are not focusing on the things that bring peace. You are not focusing on the things that are in line with God. So think about such things and put them into practice. You have the promise that if you do, God will be with you. You will be able to more and more rejoice in the Lord.
Our hearts yearn for peace yet peace is hard to find in our present world whether it is peace with others or inner peace. The world is looking for peace. What do you think would happen if we as a church truly modeled peace? What do you think would happen if the world saw that, yes Christians don’t always agree and yes Christians have problems, but that despite that, they have a peaceful? I can think of a few things. One would be that our own lives would be far more joyous. Peace and joy do go together. I think that we would be better able to do the work of the church since conflicts wouldn’t get in the way. I think we might also find our outreach gets better results. I think that people might really conclude that the God of peace is with us and maybe want Him with them so they can experience His peace too.
C. 2012 by Rev. Steven Brown. You are free to use portions of this message but please do not pass this off as your own.