Philippians 4: “Worried Sick”

One day after school I was off on one of my many adventures and completely lost track of time. Needless to say, school got out at 2:45, I was supposed to be home by 3:00, and dinner was served promptly at 5:15. At this point, it was something like 5:30 and I still had five to six minutes of walking to do.

Needless to say, I started running home, trust me, I knew I was dead meat when I got there. I finally got home and my family was just finishing up from dinner…not good. You know it’s bad when your sister won’t make eye contact and has that look of disbelief. I walked into the kitchen, when my mom uttered the famous mom phrase, “Where have you been, your father and I have been                             . You know it… “worried sick.”

There have been many times that mom has said, “I was worried sick.” I remember thinking one time, you don’t look sick. But think about that expression: “I’ve been worried sick!” If you didn’t know any better you would think, is that even possible? Can you worry yourself to the point of being physically sick! We know the answer to that…yes!

I heard a doctor once say, “food doesn’t cause ulcers in your stomach.” It’s not what you’re eating that causes ulcers; it’s what’s eating you.

If not controlled, worry and anxiety can do a lot of damage. Worry and anxiety can affect your daily life: interfere with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and even job performance.

A WebMD article I read said, “Many chronic worriers tell of feeling a sense of impending doom or unrealistic fears that only increase their worries.” People who struggle with worrying are extremely worried right now that I’m writing about being worried. Anxiety and worry manifest themselves in many different ways, but you need to know that they don’t discriminate by age, gender, or race.

Worry vs. Worship

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Did you know; it’s utterly impossible to worry and worship at the same time! Did you also know that worship is a major spiritual weapon? The first line of defense to worry is to worship through prayer. Paul’s giving you permission here to offload your stress onto God. As one commentator put it, “Paul is telling us to take all the energy that is used in worrying and put it into prayer.”

The Blue Print for Prayer

In verse 6 Paul gives us a blueprint for what we can do when we begin to worry:

  1. Tell God what you need (prayer and petition NIV)
  2. Pray about everything
  3. Don’t worry/be anxious about anything
  • Prayer = General term for worshipful conversation with God.
  • Petition = Being specific to God about what you need. Notice it doesn’t say what you want.

4. Thank him for all he has done.

Thanksgiving is an important attitude to have when praying to God. Prayer combats worry by creating in us a thankful heart.

You need to remember that God didn’t create worry. Adam and Eve weren’t worried about being naked until after the fall. They didn’t even worry about what God thought of them until after the fall. In short, worry is the result of the fall when sin entered the world.

Glass of Water

How heavy is a glass of water? The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, it will have great impact on my ability to function during that day. In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes. And so it is with worry…

Philippians 3: “Running Toward Perfection”

Perfect

I can guarantee, simply based on the title of this reflection, that not many people will be eager to keep reading. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “running, it’s because you’re talking about running.” Ah, no. For some reason, as I have come to find out, the word “perfect” is quite the deterrent for people, especially Christian people. Many times when we hear the word perfect, especially associated with our faith, we tend to get a little antsy and want to change the subject. Changing the subject is one thing, but completely ignoring the word wont serve us any better.

Here’s the kicker: whether or not I like to talk about being perfect there’s two things here at work. On the one hand we can’t ignore God’s desire for us to be perfect, especially when we read Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 5:48 (NLT) But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. The other thing at work is the fact I’m a pastor in a Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. This means, we put a high value on striving towards living a life of holiness. John Wesley himself would come under fire for his passion and desire to live according to what he read in scripture, just like the words found in Philippians 3.

Before we jump in I want to share one important misnomer: we don’t teach or strive to live in perfection in the sense of elitism, but instead to honor and please Jesus. We also don’t teach perfection in believing that it’s the only way to experience salvation. Instead, we teach perfection because it’s what God calls us too, not man.

Teleios

Philippians 3 is an important chapter for Wesleyan’s because we find Paul making multiple references to being both “perfect” and “mature.” What is important to understand is that both words are derived from the same Greek word “teleios.”

(v. 15)Let those of us then who are (spiritually) mature (teleios)…” But in verse 12, Paul isn’t speaking of maturity as much as he’s speaking of “perfection.” (v. 12) 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection (teleioō). Confused? Sure! It would be confusing to here Paul say, I don’t consider myself perfect, yet in the same breath counts himself in a group he describes as perfect.

You have to know that understanding verse 15 as “mature” is not wrong. In fact, like we’ve discovered “teleios” has many different meanings, with mature being one of them. However, it’s important to note that Paul isn’t confused on his word choice, but rather is trying to help us understand the progression of both maturity and perfection in our lives. Paul’s use of “mature,” and our understanding of “mature” are two completely different things. The difference in understanding “maturity” shouldn’t be measured by the clay, instead the difference should be determined by the potter.

Runners Run

I’m not a runner. I despise running. In fact, I look like Harrison Ford when I run; it’s just painful to watch. But if, and that’s a big if, I were a runner, I would need train in order to finish a marathon. Marathon runners don’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m going to run a marathon.” They have to train, and train, and train, and everyday they train is another day of perfecting their body to complete a marathon.

So it is in our relationship with Christ. Salvation isn’t the finish line, but just the start. Our spiritual marathon is a daily pursuit to perfect our spiritual lives. Paul focuses on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

15 Let all who are spiritually mature (teleios: mature, perfect, lacking nothing) agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Happy running!

 

Philippians 2: “Be Humble”

Have you ever wondered why the type is offset in Philippians 2:6-11? Typically when we see the type set like this in our bibles it means the writer is quoting from other scripture. But notice here that the text isn’t in quotes, yet it’s still off set like it’s being quoted from another source. Well, many scholars believe that Paul is quoting not just from another source, but another song. In fact, many scholars refer to Philippians 2:6-11 as the Christ Hymn because they believe this was a song that was regularly used in the worship of the early church. This ancient Hymn reveals not just the truth of God through his son Jesus, but it also reveals what the early church believes to be true as well.

Before Paul gets the challenge of how the Philippians should live, he first needs them to answer a few questions. Truth is, we can’t do or even understand the full implications of what Paul is teaching without first answer the following questions from verse 1:

  1. Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?
  2. Any comfort from his love?
  3. Any fellowship together in the Spirit?
  4. Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

Before you go any farther, before you consider how you are to live and who you are to live for, you must answer each of these questions, especially number four! Here’s the kicker! Question four is not written to an individual! It doesn’t say, Is your HEART tender and compassionate, it says, “Are your HEARTS tender and compassionate.” Paul understands that it’s an individual that makes the whole, but he’s speaking to a faith community, not just an individual in the faith community. This is important when we recognize that verse two dives deeper into the role of the church. This is why commentators link verse 30 in Chapter 1 through the beginning part of Chapter 2. Re-read verse 30 (NLT) We are in this struggle together.

If our hearts are not tender or compassionate, then we need to stop, take stock, pray, work on that part, then proceed. One of the most powerful words in the passage is THEN! If you answered yes to the above questions; if you are affirming that this is the way you are living; if you can say your heart is tender and compassionate… (v.2) THEN…make me (Paul) truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. He continues: Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT) Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

If you pay attention to the progression in verses 1-4, you will see it progress from community to individual, but the theme for either is to be humble like Christ.

Be Humble

There is two ways to learn humility; the first way is to focus on the person of Jesus Christ. In that case consider the Christ Hymn: (v. 6-11)

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself (in obedience to God)
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

The Son of God went all the way down to the humiliation of the cross, showing us that he was a humble servant. Now he calls us to do the same.

John Wesley

As Raavi Zacharias puts it, “Fully stretched, John Wesley was 5’4.” Not exactly a towering presence when he walked up in front of an audience.” Get this:

  • Wesley traveled over 250,000 miles by horseback
  • Preached around 40,000 sermons in his life
  • Worked in 15 different languages
  • Wrote over 600 different pieces of literature
  • At the age of 83 he was angry with his doctor because his doctor wouldn’t allow him to preach more than 14 times a week!
  • At the age of 86 Wesley writes in his journal, “laziness is slowly creeping in, there’s an increasing tendency to stay in bed until 5:30 in the morning.”

Two summers ago I had the opportunity to visit the home of John Wesley in London and in the back of the property stands a simple sign that reads, “Reader, if you feel constrained to praise the instrument, stop, and give God the glory”

That’s humility.

Philippians 1: “Joy”

Tony Campolo, “Visible Joy”

I seem to be particularly dangerous when I get on elevators. Our society teaches us to turn and face the doors and stand there quietly. But in my younger days, I loved to turn around and face the others in the elevator with me and say something like, “You’re probably wondering why I called this meeting.”

Once when I was in the elevator of a New York skyscraper filled with very serious-faced businesspeople, I smiled and said, “Lighten up. We’re going to be traveling together for quite a while. What do you say we sing?” Incredibly, they did! I don’t know whether they were intimidated by me or just wanted to have some fun, but businessmen with attaché cases in hand and businesswomen in their power suits joined me in singing, “You Are My Sunshine.”

When I got off at the seventieth floor, one man got off and walked down the hall with me, wearing a big smile on his face. I asked him, “Are you going to the same meeting I’m going to?”

“Nah,” he said. “I just wanted to finish the song.”

In Archibald MacLeish’s great play J. B., Satan is asked what he misses most about heaven, and he answers, “The sound of the trumpets!”

Indeed, to be in the presence of God is to be part of a glorious celebration. Sometimes that is hard to grasp when I’m in the pulpit looking at the somber faces of those in the congregation. I hear them say, “We know the joy of the Lord.” And I feel like saying, “Would you please notify your faces?”

Campolo, Tony. Let Me Tell You a Story: Life Lessons from Unexpected Places and Unlikely People (p. 55). Thomas Nelson.

Joy in the Church

If there’s one thing the enemy tries to use to counteract joy, it has to be sorrow. It’s important to realize that sorrow is as much a powerful weapon of destruction, as joy is for redemption. There are times when my prayer for the church is simply, “may the joy of the Lord be our strength.” There’s enough sorrow in the world already, what the world needs is a faith community willing to put it all on the line and live out what joy looks like, even in the midst of tragedy.

Joy in Philippi

As we begin reading in Philippians this week we need to keep in mind that the predominant theme of Paul’s letter is simply, joy. It’s incredible to consider that one of Paul’s “prison epistles” (The letters Paul wrote from prison) would include the concept of “rejoicing” and  “joy” over sixteen times in four chapters! My prayer for each of you as we read Philippians this week is to be filled with the measure of joy that Paul communicates. That we too would experience the radiant, powerful, positive, and triumphant message of God’s redemptive work for us, in us, and through us!

Philippians 1:9-11 (NLT) I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Happy reading, welcome to Philippians!