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As we wrap up our series “Philippians: To Live Is Christ,” Todd Wagner teaches through Philippians chapter 4. This section of scripture is home to some of the most frequently misquoted Bible passages in the entire Bible. Todd teaches us how to battle worry and be content with the truth of Christ.
Don't Worry... This Message Is for You
An Accountant, an Athlete and an Alien Walk Into a Church
Stars of the Faith
The Song That Changes Everything
How to Make Every Relationship Better
To REALLY Live Is Christ
Philippians - Week 2
The Pastoral Epistle I Would Write
Hello, friends. How are we doing? We are going to study today my favorite chapter in the Bible. Now if you've been here very long, you should probably laugh at that. I say that all the time, and here's the reason I say that. I think I said it when we went through chapter 3 last week, and I know I said it when we looked at chapter 2, that that's probably the most important, if not my favorite, chapter in the Scripture because it tells you everything you need to know about Jesus.
I'll tell you why I say that. Every time I read God's Word, it's like having a cup of coffee with this genius friend who gives grace and glory to me and helps me and sets me on my way, and I'm like, "That was the best cup of coffee I've ever had." If I could just do that again, if I could have 30 minutes, two hours, five hours with somebody to sit and talk and learn and be sharpened, that would be the one I'd try and reproduce.
Every time I dive into God's Word in that way, which I have the privilege of doing to make sure our time is meaningful here, I have that experience. Not when you take some spit bath in the Scripture or take it like a Flintstones vitamin, but when you really sit down… Not like, "Hey, how are you doing?" "Good, man. Good to see you." Those kinds of friends don't change your life. What changes your life is deep, engaging, intimate relationships, especially when that friend is the life-giving Spirit who loves you.
Well, that's what this book is. It is the Word of God breathed. It's brought forth. God loves us. He doesn't leave us as orphans. He wants us to know his mind, so he gives us his Word. This is probably as relevant a text as the church could hear because it deals with the number-one problem that affects churches in terms of the thing they fail in that they need to succeed in. It deals with the number-one challenge facing most of America today. Let me just give you a little tip into that.
Of Americans, 18 percent (42 million people) suffer from anxiety disorders, despair, and depression, and this chapter tackles that topic like no other chapter in the Scripture except maybe where Jesus tried to take it on himself. So let's dive in. You may or may not know this, but when the Bible was written it was written in scrolls. It was written as letters. It was written as historical narrative. It was written as prose. It did not have chapters and verses.
Chapters were introduced somewhere along the 1200s. A little bit later, in the sixteenth century, a guy named Robert Stephanus, or Estienne, depending on what he was going by at any particular time, inserted the verses. They're not inspired. They're just our best efforts to look at the paragraphs, the ideas, to break them up so when the book was "codexed" (put into book form from scrolls) we could refer to it quickly together.
So we're going to look at this letter that was written by a friend to friends who were a community of Christ followers wanting to experience everything Christ wanted for them that God preserved. We're going to look at what's called chapter 4, verse 1, which if I was there in the sixteenth century I would have told Robert Stephanus to make chapter 4, verse 1, a part of chapter 3, but he didn't ask me. So turn with me to Philippians 4:1.
It says, "Therefore, my beloved brethren…" In light of chapter 3… What was chapter 3? Chapter 3 was given everything Jesus has done for us in the past, the opportunity in the present, and knowing the glory that waits for us in the future, let us stand firm in the Lord. Let us respond to his finished work. Let us know the power of the resurrection. The power of God that raised Jesus from the dead can raise us from a life of self-infatuation and self-love and fleeting human purposes.
Then we can know more of the fellowship of his sufferings so we can live for the glory he lived. We can be conformed to his death. Meaning, we can humble ourselves and become bondservants the way Jesus did. In this present season, what an opportunity, and God one day will deliver us from all of the troubles that are in this world and all the judgment due to us from sin. In light of that, let's not get distracted by dogs who bark at us and say we're crazy and we shouldn't believe these things or by the world's distractions that choke out the fruitfulness and utility God intends for us. Let us not be those people.
Now what you're going to see in chapter 4, verses 2-5, is he's going to address a problem that was affecting the utility and fruitfulness of the Philippian church. The problem was conflict. The problem was they were having trouble getting along. Jesus says, "The way the world is going to know you're my disciples, that you've learned of me, that you've been brought into relationship with God through my work on the cross is your love for one another."
A little bit later in John 17, Jesus said, "I pray you guys would be one, that you would be unified in spirit, intent on one purpose, bound together in love so that the world might know that I'm who I said I was. Not so they say you're my disciples but that I'm who I said I was, which is very God of very God and one with the Father. I'm God who has come to earth." Jesus says all that is going to be evidenced by our unity.
Apparently, when the Philippians sent Epaphroditus to go see Paul… Remember, they're on the very eastern tip of Europe, and Paul is over across a big landmass over there in Italy and Rome. They send Epaphroditus to him because they hear Paul has some human needs they want to meet because they love him. When Epaphroditus shows up, he meets some of Paul's human needs (we'll talk about that a little bit later today), but he also tells Paul what has been going on in the church.
Paul goes, "How are my friends in Philippi? How is the church doing?" Epaphroditus says, "Well, remember Euodia and Syntyche? They're struggling. They're at war with each other a little bit." Paul heard this, and his heart was broken. Think about this. In a letter that God worked through supernaturally that became the very Word of God that he preserved for the future church that would read it later is a note that there was a local congregation that struggled with conflict, and specifically, two gals' names are in it.
How would you like to be remembered in the history of Watermark Community Church as those gals who couldn't get along? That's what God did right here. So there are two gals. One's name is Euodia, which means basically fragrant. Some would say it's a good journey or a successful journey, a well-pleasing time. You can say her name literally means fragrant aroma, because that's what our lives should be when we come to Christ. Then Syntyche, which literally means fortunate or lucky.
So, Fortunate and Fragrant were not getting along. They were having a hard time living in harmony with the Lord. We're not really sure what it was they were fighting about, but we can be pretty certain it wasn't how great their salvation was. Remember back in Acts 16? We know this church started with a bunch of women who were hanging out by a little river in Philippi. Lydia was a seller of purple cloths, a fashionista. The church met in Lydia's house.
These were a couple of the gals, and you need to know this about them: these were gals who, at one point, had shared with Paul in the struggle of the cause of the gospel. Early on, they were all about being people whose lives were changed who became a fragrant aroma to God in the way they were living in holy sacrifices. These were women who were about essential things, and now something had happened. Let me tell you why I think this is so important.
Every time somebody asks us to pray, anytime somebody writes down something on that little perforated section, like "Pray for me this way," or reaches out to us online about prayer, I pray. I pray for every single request that comes in. Every week, I get summaries of how all of our smaller communities are doing. At Watermark we say we're one church with four campuses, Frisco, Plano, Fort Worth, and Dallas, and thousands of locations.
Watermark is made up of a bunch of little Jesus communities, a bunch of little churches, and we want every single one of those churches to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We want every one of them to be prevailing in advancing the mission of the gospel, to be counseling each other biblically, to be living authentically, to be admonishing faithfully, to be devoting daily. We want every single community of people to be thriving in the way God wants them to thrive.
Every week, I get an email from our team that this body provides for so they can engage with every individual location with a summary of all of the groups they met with that week and where they're struggling. This week, I bet you I read no less than seven or eight churches, seven or eight smaller communities that are members of Watermark that are struggling exactly like the church at Philippi was, where they were at odds with one another. They no longer wanted to meet. They no longer wanted to seek counsel. They no longer wanted to spur each other on to love and good deeds.
I read a number of them where it wasn't just Fortunate and Fragrant; it was Adam and Eve, couples that are members of Watermark. They were like, "I'm sick and tired of this. I think I'm moving out. I'm not going to love you the way Christ loved the church. I'm not going to stick in for better or worse, in sickness and health. I'm going to bail." You need to know something. What is going to come out in this little section of Philippians 4 is "Hey, church, that cannot be."
The church has made a big deal about how we can't have same-sex marriage, and rightly so, because this book says we shouldn't have same-sex marriage. The book has said that God created marriage to be a blessing between one man and one woman, but what the "big C" church has failed on for years, for decades, and the LGBTQ community has rightly criticized us, saying, "You guys say you care about marriage. You don't care about marriage. You pick on us and the way we're perverting marriage, but the truth is the reason so many of us feel the way we do is our homes we grew up in had perverted marriages."
That's not the only reason they would claim, but they would say, "A lot of us had moms and dads who went to churches, and we didn't see love between them. They had this no-fault divorce, and the church never said anything about it. You guys are a bunch of serial monogamists. You get married for 6 years and divorce, 16 years and divorce, 36 years and divorce. Don't tell me you care about marriage the way the Bible talks about marriage. You don't love each other the way Christ loved the church. You love until you're sick and tired of trying to love that way, and then you move on. You say, 'This is the person who makes me happy.'" I think it's a rightful criticism.
I'm going to be very honest with you. God doesn't hate divorcees, but he hates divorce because he loves people, and divorce messes up marriages. There is never a reason, as a devoted follower of Christ, to say, "I am no longer seeking oneness with you who I said I would love the way Christ loves." You need to know this. If you get married, such will have trouble. If you get into a church, it's going to be difficult.
My wife married a very difficult person to pursue oneness with. She did. My close friends and my community are in community with a very difficult person to be at peace with, and I am so glad that they, with gentleness and humility, show forbearance to me in love and are diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The Scripture says, "As much as you're able, be at peace with all men." The Scripture says this is a big deal.
What you're going to see is he's going to call in the whole church to get involved. Working through conflict is an "all hands on deck," job number one, highest priority event that every partner in the gospel mission ought to be partaking in. This is something that is so relevant to us, because we have marriages in our church that are saying, "I think I'm done. This person has hurt me in a way I never could be hurt before. They said they loved me, and they gave themselves intimately to somebody else. I'm done."
The Scripture very clearly says you should never be done. Jesus is never done loving his bride. You said, "For better or worse." Isn't this the worse? You said, "In sickness or health." Isn't this the unhealth? We should never leave our partner. Our partner might leave us. The Scripture says if a partner leaves you, acting in an unbelieving way, you're not bound in order to make them stay, but the Scripture then says be single or reconciled. Look for them to come home.
That's a hard teaching, isn't it? That's exactly what Jesus said. Not everybody can understand this. Some are made eunuchs by men, some are born eunuchs, and some are eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God to show the love of God and the irresistible pursuit of God. Now look. Not leaving doesn't mean you stay in an abusive situation. There are times to separate geographically, for sure. You don't keep yourself in danger's way, but everything you do, you're saying, "Lord, what God has joined together let no man tear apart."
We've taught before what to do if you've made that mistake. God doesn't hate divorcees; he hates divorce, because he knows what divorce does to kids, what divorce does to you, what divorce does to a society. Watch this. Verse 2: "I urge…" That word urge is parakaleo. It means to come alongside to help or to comfort or to implore. Parakaleo is a word Jesus used for the Holy Spirit. It's a word for God.
Jesus says, "I'm going to leave you, but not as orphans. I'm going to send the paraklete, the parakaleo, the one who will come alongside to call you to faithfulness and maturity and godliness and fruitfulness and utility for the King." That's what the Holy Spirit does. So what Paul is going to say is, "Hey, listen. You need to have people the Spirit of God dwells in who will come alongside of you to help you when you get in conflict, because conflict is hard."
"I urge [Fragrant and Fortunate] to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion…" That probably is a proper name. I think that's what it should have been. I think the word syzygos is a proper name. I think he's probably saying, "I urge my true companion," probably the leader of the church there in Philippi, because it's a singular male. That's what true companion really is translated as. It's one person.
"…I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement…""Let Clement help you. Get in there. In fact, get the whole church." "…and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.""Encourage these women to not grow weary in doing good but to work together, because the gospel is at stake."
If we say we love much because we have been forgiven much and we don't love much, then it calls to question whether or not we're forgiven. Jesus said, "You're not my church if you don't love and persevere in doing good." Paul is saying, "This is a big deal, church." And it is for us. That's why if you're not in community here… If you're in community, we have staff people who will come alongside and urge you to keep working through the conflict in your marriages, in your conflict amongst community members…girls, girls, guys, guys, couples, couples.
It's hard, but when we stick in there and we love and as iron sharpens iron, we become more of what Jesus wants through our relationships. That's where some people eject out, like, "Man, I just want to go to church. I don't want to be the church. I don't want to be in those kinds of relationships. I don't want somebody to urge me to stay in there when it gets tough." That's just saying, "I don't want to follow Jesus."
Paul is saying this is an "all hands on deck," "big deal" job. So he's going to go through here, and he's going to say, "Hey, girls and guys who are going to help them and family…" "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" He's going to basically say, "Here's the problem. Here's what you need to tell them: their eyes are off center. Something has gotten in the way. They're putting their hope in something other than what hope should be in."
This is exactly what Philippians 3:1 said, where he said, "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord." He goes on to say, "To write the same thing to you again is no trouble for me, and it is a source of safety for you." That's why he's repeating it here. "I want you to know that the problem is that you guys have your eyes on something other than the cross and the love of God. That's why you have conflict."
Let me show you this. The half-brother of Jesus, James, when he was writing his letter to the church… Let me read it to you from James, chapter 4. This is what he said: "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have…"
"You want something you think is going to give you life that isn't life-giving, so you commit murder." Now, very few of us are murdering people, but remember what Jesus says. "You have heard it said you should not commit murder, but anybody who says, 'You fool' or 'You idiot' or 'I don't want anything to do with you…'" He said, "You've committed murder."
James writes, "You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask." This doesn't mean ask for whatever you want and God is going to give it to you. It means you're asking for life by pleading for and prostrating yourself before things which ultimately won't be life-giving to you. You're asking for the wrong things to give you the one thing only God can give you.
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses…" You who make love to the world, who say, "This spouse being different is what is going to make me happy." God says, "That's not going to make you happy." It's why it's so dangerous when people get married and they go, "Oh, this person is my soul mate. This person will give my soul all its needs."
No, there is not a human on earth who will meet your soul's needs. There's not a church in the world who will meet your soul's needs. There is a God, and there are people who pursue him with you and extend grace and receive grace who will help your soul become what Jesus, who can meet all of your soul's needs, wants it to be.
James closes this by saying, "Don't be an adulteress. Don't go back and love the world, because you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God. You're the church. The church shouldn't have hostility toward God." "Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." What James is basically saying in James 4 is what Paul is saying right here. "Your eyes are not focused where they should be."
In verse 5 he says, "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men." This is Paul in the letter to the Ephesians, where he says, "Therefore, I urge you to walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with humility and gentleness, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. For there's one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God who's over all and in all. Therefore, be one. Work through your conflict."
He says, "The Lord is near." What ought to be the reputation of the church is that you guys love. What ought to be the reputation of the marriages in the church is that you guys understand patience and kindness and don't act unbecomingly and aren't provoked and don't seek your own and don't take into account a wrong suffered. You bear all things, hope all things, endure all things, that the love should never fail.
Again, it doesn't mean stay there and be abused. It means deal with abusive situations wisely, committedly, and seek to bring them back to a place where being one makes some sense, and you are there for reconciliation. When the church does that and the love of the church is known by all, blessing comes to a land.
Let me share with you a story I ran into a number of years ago. I think I mentioned to you, another part of this time I was in Kakamega, the western Rift Valley of Kenya… It was right after a major election, and what had happened was there was a major conflict that broke out amongst the tribes. Again, racism is a problem, a big-time problem, in Africa, even though it's all dark-skinned people.
There is the Kisii tribe, the Kalenjin, the Luo, the Luhya, the Kikuyu, and on and on and on, and they're very tribal. What happened in this election was certain tribes believed the elections were rigged so a certain tribe could continue to have power over the country. When this happened, all hell broke loose, especially in the western part of Kenya in the Rift Valley. There was a tribe, the Kalenjins, that took advantage of this chaos.
There was a gentleman I met at this conference I was teaching at just two weeks later. They sent some of us in to try and bring peace to government leaders and church leaders, because that's where there was all kinds of conflict. So I'm meeting with over a hundred of these leaders, and I'm talking about the problem they have with one another.
There was a gentleman whose name was Nashen who came up to me. Nashen was a member of the Kisii tribe. What had happened was when all of this trouble broke out he was cooking dinner with his family. He saw a bunch of the Kalenjin tribe come down with arrows and what's called pangas, which are just machetes. He and his wife and children were eating dinner, and all of a sudden he said, "Run!"
His wife and his daughters ran to the hills and into the bush. He was concerned that they were going to go after them and do horrible things to them. They disappeared into the night. He stayed there for just a second. He watched them steal his cows. He watched them burn his house and ransack everything. These were people he went to church with, who he had served and cared for. These were people he shared crops off his acreage with because they didn't have as much as him.
He said, "I used to give them tea because I had enough, and now they did all this to me. I watched them destroy all this." He came up to me after the very first session, and his exact quote was, "What am I supposed to do with these kinds of people who are so evil?" He said, "I'll just tell you something. If I ever get cows back, I won't let them drink out of a well that the Kalenjin people eat out of."
I looked at him, this man who claimed to be a follower of Jesus, and I said, "Do you want me to tell you what Jesus wants you to do?" He goes, "Yeah." So I took my Bible and opened it to Luke 6:27, and I said, "Nashen, read this." He took the Bible and read it out loud. "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…" I said, "Jump down to verse 35. Read that." He read verse 35.
It says, "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men." He closed it and handed my Bible back to me. He said, "I will love them," and he turned around. I go, "Whoa! Whoa! Nashen." He goes, "What?" I said, "Let me explain this." He goes, "No, you don't need to explain it to me. Jesus told me to love my enemies. He loved me. I will love my enemies."
I said, "Well, Nashen, let me just explain to you… In the next sessions we're going to talk about biblical forgiveness, what it is and what it isn't, that forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness doesn't mean reconciliation. Forgiveness doesn't mean letting abusive people continue to abuse you." He goes, "I'm going to love my enemies. You can teach me that, but I'm going to love my enemies. That's what Jesus wants me to do."
Now watch this. This is amazing. It just so happens that during this same time there was a drought in western Kenya. It was the latest that the early rains had ever come. There was no rain in the land, so they could not till the earth. They could not plant the seed. They were concerned that there was going to be a famine that followed the drought because they couldn't make the ground receptive to the seed they needed to plant, and they were all lamenting that.
We're months after the rain, and there was none. I later taught a session on forgiveness, and after I was done, before we broke, Nashen comes walking up and said, "Todd, can I talk for a second?" I said, "Sure." He goes, "I want to tell you something. I met with Pastor Todd, and he was teaching us on what it takes to be God's people and what my role is as God's man. He just taught on forgiveness. He told me he was going to teach on forgiveness.
I want you to know something. I forgive the Kalenjin people. Here's what they did to me. They were abusive to my daughters and my wife. I lost them. I traveled 60 miles to find them in an internally displaced people camp, an IDP. I didn't even know they were alive. My cows were stolen. My house was burned. These were people who were members of my church, and I want you to know I forgive them."
When that happened, there were some Kalenjin tribal members who were in there, and they got up and came up. She said, "I want you to know I've known the horrors my people have committed, but I've never heard anybody say they forgive them." She started weeping. Then somebody from the Luo tribe came up, somebody from the Luhya tribe came up, and somebody from the Kikuyu tribe came up, and they all confessed their sins and forgave one another.
Now here's what happened. I'm sitting there in this little room with about 150 people, and all of a sudden, in this tin-roofed building, I hear these raindrops, and then just showers opened up. The heavens literally opened up. I'm telling you, I got a chill up my spine. I got a chill just now when I was saying it. I was like, "Holy cow!" Let me read to you from 2 Chronicles 7. This is when Solomon was dedicating the temple.
It says, "Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, 'I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place [this temple] …'""These are my people and the place where they will make sacrifices to me." He says in verse 13, "If I shut up the heavens…" In other words, if there is no rain.
"…or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
I'm going to tell you what happened. In that moment, in just the coincidence of God, when the church repented and leaders repented and started to love the way they said they should love because they're God's people, God healed their land. Rain fell. You could hear rejoicing in the church, and you could hear all around us in the villages people started screaming because the rain came. They had no idea. I'm not saying that every time leaders in the church do everything right that God is going to heal the economy. I'm just saying I've seen it.
I will tell you something. If the church starts to be the place that marriages stay together, there's going to be a change in marriages in our country. If the church starts to love each other and do what the church is supposed to do, there's going to be a blessing that comes on our country, because right now the problem in our country is not the pro-choice movement. It's not the LGBTQ community. It's the church of Jesus Christ isn't loving and doing what the church is supposed to do.
You watch the blessing that will come on your life and this land when we start to say, "We're not going anywhere. We're going to let the paraklete of community and the paraklete of the Spirit of God teach us to love one another, and we're going to sharpen each other, and we're going to become more of who Jesus wants us to be in the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, and our being conformed to his death is going to cause glory to God and healing in this land and blessing in our lives and our families like nothing we've ever seen." Test it.
He says, "Let your gentle spirit be known. Let the renown of marriages that work be the legacy of the church, because God is near." That means he's right here ready to help, and it also means he's coming to judge men and to give them what they deserve. You say you're his church? Be his church.
Now a new section. In verses 6-8, he leaves conflict. This is something he knows, because he said, "The reason you fight and have quarrels is because you want something that's not life-giving, and it's causing despair." When I talk to our Porch community and we ask them, our 20-somethings, "Hey, if we could teach on anything, what do you want us to teach on?" you would think they would have us teach on sex and dating and how to have successful relationships.
Do you know what our Porch community wants more than anything else? They want us to teach on anxiety and despair, because it's ruining their generation. Do you know that 18 percent of Americans (42 million people) struggle with this? I will tell you this is the most significant passage to deal with anxiety attacks and despair. Listen to me very closely. Our society lazily, I think, uses the phrase mental illness.
Anxiety disorders and despair and depression are very treatable, but typically, we treat too many mental illnesses, which are really spiritual problems, like brain problems, physiological problems. Hear me. Not every person who struggles with depression has a spiritual problem, but there are a lot more things being treated like brain problems, physiological problems, that are really heart problems and mental problems. If we just dealt with our idolatry and our strategies and our wrong thinking, it would heal us from our anxiety and despair a lot more than we think.
There is no question certain chemical imbalances… There are some people who were born with deficiencies, so please don't hear me say there is always a spiritual problem to every physiological issue. That's crazy. We don't think Down syndrome is a spiritual problem. It's part of the brokenness on earth. We don't think Asperger's is a spiritual problem. It's part of the brokenness on earth.
We don't think chemical imbalances in every person is because of spiritual problems, but I'm going to tell you this, and this is a scientific fact: if you continue to live in a way that's unwise, it's going to create a physiological problem in your life eventually. If all you do is treat it physiologically and don't treat the spiritual symptom that is the foundation of it, you'll never get well. You'll take medicines that'll make you feel better, but you're going to be dealing with the symptoms and not the problem.
So whatever the percentage is of brain issues, I'm using the biblical term the Scriptures use, which is, "Hey, you want to be healed? Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." So I'm using a mental illness here as a spiritual problem. I know that's not the way the world uses it, but this is what Paul is doing. He's saying, "You have a spiritual problem. Your thinking is wrong, and it's going to create in you anxiety and despair. You're going to be disordered."
Church, watch this. He says, "Be anxious…" The word there is worry. It actually means you're pulled in too many different directions. Some people who study the language today… The word worry means to be pulled in a lot of different directions. Remember what Paul just said? "Hey, listen. You have to focus. Rejoice in the Lord. Know his goodness. Know his kindness. Know that he loves you. Know that he hasn't left you here as orphans.
Don't be pulled in a lot of different directions, but be focused. Why? Because God loves you. Christmas happened. He left heaven to come to earth and took on the form of a bondservant to serve you. He loves you, and he wants to rescue you from sin and death. He wants to reconcile you back to God so you can have a cup of coffee with him so you can know his mind, and he tells you his mind by telling you what's on his mind by sharing his Word.
When you're attentive to God's love and the fact that he rescues you from sin and death, this God who did not stop from loving you by even sacrificing his own Son, won't he also with him freely give you all things? So quit trying to appease God with your acts of righteousness. Quit trying to earn his favor. Quit trying to believe he doesn't have your best interests in mind.
Your God is good, and he cares for you. Trust him. Don't worry. Don't think that the world is going to offer you the peace that passes understanding, because then you have to manage the world and care for your idols and serve them, and they're never going to give you what you want even when you get them."
He says, "…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God [who loves you] . And the peace of God…" This is the only place in the New Testament where the peace of God is offered to us. You want the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension that nobody can understand that will guard (that's the word for a military commander who takes his post and protects you) your heart and your mind in Christ? Then here's how.
Let me say this. It takes as much energy to pray as it does to worry, but worry always leads to anxiety and despair. Worry is believing that God is not going to get it right. Despair is believing that God got it wrong. God doesn't get anything wrong, and God always gets everything right. There's a guy who actually did a study. He surveyed people and asked, "What are you worried about?" Then he went back five years later and looked at them. He said 92 percent of the things people worried about never happened, and the 8 percent that did happen they had no control over anyway. So why worry about it?
Corrie ten Boom said this. Corrie ten Boom is somebody who suffered and was persecuted by the fascist Nazis like she was a Jew, even though she wasn't, because she loved the Jews and cared for them and cared for homosexuals who were being attacked by fascists and Catholics who were being attacked by fascists until the fascists said, "Corrie ten Boom, into the concentration camp for you."
She learned that worry does not rob tomorrow of its sorrow; it robs today of its strength. So she says, "Don't worry." Worry doesn't change anything. It's why we have the Serenity Prayer, which says, "Lord, help me accept the things I cannot change, give me the courage to change the things I can, and give me the wisdom to know the difference." Paul would say, "And have the wisdom to know that God loves you and is for you. He doesn't make mistakes. This world is going to be filled with trouble, so don't worry about it."
It's why so many people who live in troubled times and terrible situations are always better off than people who worry about something terrible happening to them. I always hear from people who go to terrible situations in third-world countries where there's oppression and poverty and despair, and they go, "These people have so much joy." Why? Because they don't worry about losing their house. They don't worry about the government flipping. They don't worry about their taxes being high because they don't have any money. They don't worry about losing their fortune and the stock market crashing because they don't own any stocks.
They're in a much better situation than people who have all of those things and are worried they're going to lose all of those things. Worry is life sucking. It comes from the Old English word. Before 900, the word for strangle in English was weryen. That's what we used to say. "You weryen-ed that guy. You strangled him." That word to strangle became the new English word worry. When you worry, you're strangling yourself. You're choking the life out of yourself.
Paul says, "Quit doing that, but pray to the God who loves you." How much does God love me? Well, chapter 2. He left heaven, and he emptied himself, and he became a child that let the people he created spit on him, mock him, beat him, and nail him to a cross so you could be reconnected to the God who's life-giving. That's how much God loves you. Focus on him.
That's actually what happens now in verse 8. In verse 8 he says, "Finally…" Just closing up this section about not being futile in your worry. "…brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."
This is not, "Don't go see an R rated movie because there are bad scenes in there that aren't true, honorable, right, and pure." This is not the verse to share with your Community Group when you go, "You shouldn't look at porn because it says…" It's a good idea to not look at porn. Do you know when you look at porn it spikes despair and depression and anxiety disorders? It's a fact, because you're trying to go somewhere to get life where life can't be found.
You hate yourself for doing it, and you hate yourself because you're not satisfied. It's like everything else, because you're not rejoicing in the Lord, the one thing that's life-giving. By the way, if you want a verse for that, memorize Psalm 101:3. Psalm 101:3 says, "I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me.""I'm not going to pay to go to a movie and look at things that are bad for my heart."
There's your verse to put on your TV: Psalm 101:3. This is a verse to remind you what to do when you're worrying. You go, "What's true?" "What's true is I might lose my house." No, no, no. You might lose your house. What's true is that God loves you. "What's true is I might get hungry and die." Yeah, you know what's true? To die is to gain.
Is there anything more honorable than Jesus? Is there anything more lovely than God who demonstrates his love in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us? Is there anything more excellent than a God who dies to redeem his creation? Is there anything more worthy of praise than Philippians 2:6-11? "Remember that," Paul says. When Jesus taught on this, he used the exact same word of anxiousness, and it's also translated worry.
When Jesus teaches on this in Matthew 6:25 he says, "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" Don't worry about it. "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?" It's the word for anxiety.
Verse 28: "Why are you anxious about your clothing?" Verse 31: "Don't be anxious. Don't worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?'" Verse 34: "Don't be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow can be anxious for itself." It's why in this section Jesus says you pray for your daily bread. When you worry, you're asking for God's manna that's going to be given to you tomorrow for today. God will give you what you need today. Don't worry about tomorrow. It'll take care of itself.
Remind yourself today of what is true…God loves you…what is honorable, which is steadfastness in the Lord. This is Isaiah 26:3: "The steadfast in mind he keeps in perfect peace, because his heart is set on him." Guys, this is no small thing right here. This is Paul saying, "It's going to destroy you, church, if you keep looking at the fact that the economy in Philippi might flip. It's going to destroy you, church, if you're worried about what's going to happen to me or to you, imprisonment and being hated. Just know this: you might get hated, but be people who live with hope."
This is why Paul says in verse 9, "Don't just have a good mind, but have a good practice." He says, "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Paul is saying, "This is what Jesus did, this is what I've done, and this is what the church in Philippi, what your church should do."
Now verse 10. Watch what Paul is going to do here. He's going to develop a new thought, and I think this is going to really encourage you. "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity." Note to self: people suffering is an opportunity for us to glorify our King. When people are suffering and they don't have physical needs, it's an opportunity for us to glorify Jesus.
Paul said, "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly when you guys heard I wasn't being well cared for, I was cold, I needed a coat. You sent food. You sent parchments. You sent a cloak for me, and when the church of Jesus where God's Spirit dwells gave me out of their abundance things I didn't have, it made me love God." Look at this with me. Jump down to verse 14. I'm going to deal with verses 11-13 in just a minute, but in verse 14 he says, "Nevertheless… I'm glad, even though I'm okay if you didn't do that."
"Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.""You know you've always done this, at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, and no church shared with me to advance the gospel as much as you did. It was awesome. God was going to provide for me in Thessalonica to advance the gospel one way or another, but he used you." Paul said, "It's not that I sought the gift you gave me. I seek Jesus, but I can tell you I'm so glad for you, because when you invested with Jesus in my ministry in Thessalonica, it was a profit which increased to your account."
What does this mean? What Paul is saying is when you take out of your abundance and you go, "I am God's servant. The Spirit of God dwells in me, so I'm going to advance the gospel. I'm going to implore others to be about what Jesus wants. I'm going to sometimes meet physical needs in Jesus' name," Hebrews 6:10 is true. Hebrews 6:10 says, "** For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints."**
Paul is saying, "When you did this and you cared for me as God's servant, I gave thanks to God." Do you think it makes God happy when we do things that make people love him more? Let me tell you something else that's amazing. About six or eight weeks ago now, I was down training church leaders in El Salvador, and when I got done from a day of teaching and training, the folks with Compassion who had pulled a number of their member churches together that care for the kids we're supporting…
They had gone and found the child I support with my family, and they brought him to surprise me when I got to the hotel. This is me meeting Alex. I wish I could show you the whole thing. This is about 20 seconds of it. For five minutes, this little kid grabbed me, and he wrapped his arms around me, and he hugged me so tight. You know how when people hug you and they hug you for a little bit and then kind of let go like, "Are we done hugging?" His biceps never relaxed. He was like that for over five minutes. His head was buried in my neck.
I literally got to where I was trying to greet other people, and I let go of him, and he hung like a pendant around my neck for five minutes. He was just a little kid. This is the size difference in us. I'll show you a picture of him standing next to me in just a moment. This little guy just wouldn't let go. I finally bent down and said, "Alex, let me see your face, let me see your face," and I got to pull him away from me.
This is just a little guy, but he wouldn't let go. Do you know why? Because he had heard that the Lord is a shepherd and he should not want, but he went to bed hungry; that the Lord cares for him, but he didn't have education; that the Lord desires for him to be clothed, and his mom, who has nine kids, couldn't clothe him; that though he wants to be healthy he didn't have doctors who took care of him.
So I, in my abundance, take $40 a month and start sending it to El Salvador in the name of Jesus and write him notes and tell him, "Alex, God cares for you. This is not Todd Wagner in Dallas, Texas. This is a servant of Jesus who is your Shepherd, who cares for you, who has given me more than I need, and I want you to know he loves you."
Do you think that little boy when he lays in bed doesn't thank God for me? Do you think he doesn't pray for me that God would keep oversupplying me so I could care for him? Do you think God is not a little happy that one of his sheep he cares for in El Salvador is being cared for in an embarrassingly non-interruptive way in my life? I think so.
That's what Paul is talking about here. He said, "I don't need the gift. I'm going to be okay whatever you do. The gospel is going to advance whatever you do." Alex might have died, and it would have been gain, but I'm praying that while he lives it's about Christ, and I'm showing him that Christ is worth living for because he changed me and made me involve him in my life. That little boy would not let go, and I believe my God is thankful that I'm doing what he gave me a little bit… I pray I do it more.
Now watch. I'm going to hit this hard and quick. This is probably the most misunderstood section of all of Scripture, in Philippians, chapter 4, the little section I gleaned over, verses 11-13. Verse 13 is not a verse he wants quarterbacks to tattoo over their hearts so they believe they can win Heisman trophies because they can escape five-star, blue-chip athletes from the Crimson Tide and scramble and throw touchdown passes, and they can do all that through Christ who strengthens them. No, even those little athletes sometimes have despair and anxiety disorders that ruin their lives.
This verse doesn't mean you can do things physically, athletically, that you otherwise couldn't do unless Jesus lets you. We know that every gift comes from God. This is a verse where Paul is saying, "Hey, look…" He goes, "Thank you, guys, that you helped me out, but I don't speak from want, for I have learned to be content in every circumstance." How did Paul learn to be content in every circumstance? He was in every circumstance.
He was hungry, we're going to find. He lived with humble means, and he lived in prosperity. He lived while he was hungry, at verse 12, and he had abundance, and he suffered need. God was sufficient in every one of them. The question that begs at the end of verse 12 is, "Paul, what's the secret? How can you be happy and content even when you're in prison or when you're free or when the world loves you or when the world beats you or when your life isn't going the way you want it or when your life is going exactly like you want it?"
The answer is Jesus. Jesus' grace is sufficient for me. I love it when God meets my needs temporally in a physical way, but I know that's not going to make me happy, because I'm going to get hungry again. I'm going to be cold again. I know that even if I'm cold, the way I suffer will bring glory to God. If I sing, this world isn't my home, because I look for the glorious joy that's coming.
What Paul is going to say here is, "I can endure all things. I can have joy in all things. I can sing through every storm because to live is Christ and the gospel will be advanced, and to die is gain." Do you see a theme here? That's what's going on here in Philippians, chapter 4. Paul said, "I've learned that God is sufficient." This is why, by the way, you don't… God is a good God, and a good God doesn't give you your full inheritance before its time. It'll ruin you. We don't have health, wealth, and prosperity promised us, because he's saying, "I want you…"
This is James, chapter 1, where he says, " …the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. " You're going to see that God is sufficient by going through trials of sickness and trials of economies that flip and politics that don't work right and spouses that are crazy and community that's hard so you can see that God is sufficient.
Do you want to screw up a child? You give him everything he wants early and always. You make him a little trust fund baby, a little silver spoon child. He doesn't work for anything. He just gets, gets, gets, gets, gets. That does not make a healthy child. It's why Proverbs 20:21 says, "An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning will not be [a blessing] in the end."
Paul is saying, "God loves me enough to let me learn through trials his sufficiency. It's not just all glory. I'm learning the sufficiency of Christ in every circumstance." Are some of you guys learning that? Is your faith being perfected? Are you learning the sufficiency of Christ, that his grace is sufficient for your weaknesses? That's why some of you guys in terrible situations have more joy than people who are just concerned that terrible situations might happen.
Let's end with this. At the very end of this little chapter, it gets to verse 18 and following, where Paul basically says, "I'm somebody who has received everything in full, and I have an abundance. Thank you that I'm supplied. I've received from Epaphroditus what you've sent. It's a fragrant aroma. It's an act of worship, an acceptable sacrifice to God. Thank you." But he said, "You just need to know that my God will supply all my needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
That doesn't mean if you want something God is going to give it to you. Paul is saying, "I'm glad that you, Philippians, sent me something. I'm glad, Todd Wagner, you sent this to El Salvador for me Alex, but at the end of the day, it's Jesus who does it, and I'm confident even if you don't send food that I'm going to be okay, even if I die, because Jesus has got me.
He's my Shepherd. I shall not want. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. God has got me. I'm grateful, Philippians, Todd, that you sent this gift, but my God has got me. I'm glad, Todd, that it was accredited to your account and a glory to God through you that you did this, but God has got me." That's what Paul is saying.
This is not saying, "God says he's going to give me everything. I'm a member of this church." Well, you might be a member. Are you advancing the gospel? Because God has everything you need to advance the gospel. Even if you're in jail, Paul. He goes, "God has what I need here. He has given me joy. He has given me truth. He's chaining me to a soldier. That soldier has to listen to me. The gospel is going to keep living in my life as long as I'm alive," Paul said.
Then he closes. "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen." That's what my life is about. All I want to do is live for God's glory, not for a blanket, not for more food, not for the world's praise. "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me [the church here] greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household."
Do you see that? Where did Caesar's household come to know faith? Well, they were chained to Paul. "May the grace of God be with you in spirit. May you rejoice in the Lord always. May he meet your needs in Philippi. Your economy might flip. Your health might leave. Don't worry."
Closing illustration. I went and saw the movie Free Solo this week. Do you guys know what that is? You may not know who Alex Honnold is. He climbed El Capitan. It's in Yosemite. It's the largest sheer granite-faced wall in the world. If you want to see what it's like, here's a scale with a bunch of things next to it. There's the Eiffel Tower, which is 1,000 feet. That's the Space Needle in Seattle, which is 600 feet; the Empire State Building, 1,400 feet; the Sears Tower, 1,700 feet.
This brother climbed up that wall. There are spots in that wall that he was literally, I think, 2,600 feet up that he had a thumb hold and his foot in a little quarter-size hole, and he had to chase that thumb out with this thumb so he could put his hand on the loaf of a rock so off that little deal he could lift this foot and karate kick over here at 2,600 feet, and he free-soloed it without a rope. He climbed it in four hours.
They looked at this brother and went, "Okay, you're a little bit nuts." If you see the movie (and I recommend it), he's a lot of bit nuts. But here's what's interesting. They looked at him and went, "How is this guy able to do that?" They said it's because he can control his body and his fear, specifically, in a way nobody else can. Even if other guys are skilled climbers, they just freak out when they realize they're going to die.
What they did was they put him in an MRI machine, and in this MRI machine they showed him about 200 images of things that ought to freak you out. Like, literally, pictures of dead faces that are grossly disfigured, a toilet choked with feces, a woman who has a big beard and has to shave, and just life and death scenes. It was one after another. They showed him all of these different things, and they filmed his brain, and they put his brain right next to those of a group of other world-class climbers.
This is what his brain looked like. That little thing where the crosshairs are is the amygdala, which is just the word for almond. It's an almond-shaped size of your brain where a group of nuclei are involved. It's the spot in the brain that goes off when fear happens. Alex' brain is on the left, and they're saying he's being triggered by these same pictures. That's that blue activity. Over here it's the yellow and the orange. Same pictures, but where the crosshairs are, the amygdala of Alex doesn't fire. He's not freaked out by these death-defying scenes.
There's something going on in his brain where he has learned through his frontal cortex to control the fear chip that allows him to do things that people go, "Who on earth can climb El Capitan?" Who can scale this sheer granite wall that's impossible, has never been done, and will never be done again unless somebody thinks so uniquely differently it allows them to perform in a way that humans can't perform?
What does that sound like? It sounds like what Paul is arguing that the church should be. You should be people that the world goes, "Who is this guy?" There's actually a verb that has been created. It's called Honnolding, which is to stand on a high precarious place with your back to a wall looking straight into the abyss and facing fear with perfect calm. That's what Alex does. It's what Paul says we can do.
The world is going to look at a group of us who are jumping up El Capitan and firing up that thing and go, "How do you guys do that?" We go, "Because we know something in our frontal cortex that you don't know that gives us a lack of fear, that lets us not worry and be anxiety-ridden, that lets us love all people, because Jesus has done this in our past, he has given us this opportunity in the present, and our future is secure." Let's go, church. That's Philippians.
Father, thank you for this book and what you're teaching us. Thank you that through Jesus we can love one another. Thank you that through Jesus we can not be anxious. Thank you that through Jesus we can be content in every circumstance. Thank you that through Jesus everything we need to be gospel people who live for the kingdom of eternity right now will be richly supplied.
Thank you, Father, that through you giving us more than we need and us sharing it for kingdom purposes it causes our wicked selves to be a source of glory to you and a wonder to the world. I pray that we would scale the granite face of this life in such a way that the world says, "What is going on in you all's brains that you live with such love, such eternal purpose, such selflessness? It demands an explanation." May we with gentleness and reverence tell them the story of Philippians 2:6-11. May we sing songs of Christmas. May we adore you. In Jesus' name, amen.
Todd & JP walk us through the entire book of Philippians, a love letter from a pastor to his congregation.