Friday, October 28, 2011

Spiritual Investments with Eternal Dividends

The Search for Joy
Spiritual Investments with Eternal Dividends
Philippians 4:14-23
Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. It was written to the Philippians from Rome by Epaphroditus.
Approximately ten years had passed since the Philippians had sent Paul a love gift to help with his needs. Being content when he had plenty and when he was deprived of enough to eat, Paul encourages the church by telling them they have done well in communicating with him in his affliction and relieving his suffering. Sometimes it is thought that servants of God are better off if they are poor and live in a lower economic level than others. This was not Paul’s philosophy because he felt that Christians should share, taking into consideration the needs of others. Paul commends the church and reminds them that when he left for Macedonia, no other church communicated with him about his needs, but them only. To avoid any thought of covetousness on Paul’s part, he says, Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account (v. 17).
Paul looked at their gifts as rich spiritual investments they were making in the lives of those he would minister to, yielding them, eternal dividends. The church gave love offerings to Paul, a spiritual sacrifice and in return, they benefited spiritually from the Lord. Paul understood that the love gift coming from Philippi was truly from the Lord of heaven and though the Philippian church met a need for Paul, God would supply all their needs out of His great riches in glory. 
   Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen (Romans 11:36).
Good works are a spiritual sacrifice unto the Lord. Believers owe God their highest form of service and in return, they enjoy the fruit of His mercies. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable (spiritual) service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
Thought: When the child of God is serving Christ with a whole heart and for the glory of God; His promises are sure, every need will be met. The Lord does not say He will provide all your “greeds,” but He will provide, all your needs. Remember that real joy is found in loving Christ and walking in His triumphant work of the Gospel in your life. Learning to love and serve others is your spiritual service to Him. May your search for joy be complete in Him who died for you, “that ye may stand perfect and complete (fully assured) in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12b) for you.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Learning the Secret

The Search for Joy
Learning the Secret
Philippians 4:10-13
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; where in ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.  Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Paul, in this passage, is expressing his deep felt gratitude to the Philippian church and his joy over the special relationship they have shared since the founding of the church. The believers in Philippi, at one point in Paul’s ministry, were the only ones that supported him financially and now, again, they are sending him a gift of love. This letter from Paul is his “thank you” note to them explaining his contentment in Christ. There is no substitute for an intimate relationship with Christ while experiencing a heart that is transformed through the power of this bond.
Paul confirms his contentment in the Lord when he speaks of the acceptance of abounding in much or in the lowly station of poverty. The secret of his serenity could only be achieved through a personal relationship with Christ and the unfailing power of God in transforming that life. Contentment is not complacency: a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one's achievements, but an abiding peace and confidence in the One who guides and protects midst  life’s storms. 
Life need not be stated as a series of accidents, but as appointments with God.  I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye (Psalm 32:8). I can do everything that God asks me to do through Christ who gives me strength and power adequate for the demands on my life. Hudson Taylor was a great missionary to China and for many years thought that he was trusting Christ for all his needs, but somehow he had no joy. A letter from a friend opened his eyes and he began to see that it was not him, Hudson Taylor,  and  his faithfulness but it was Hudson Taylor trusting in the Faithful One. This was the turning point of his life and his work in China.
Thought:  The Lord Jesus teaches us this same lesson in John 15 on the vine and the branches. A branch is only good for bearing fruit while drawing upon the life of the Vine. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5). Realizing that all that we are and all that we may accomplish in this life is only because we are self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency alone.

Friday, October 14, 2011

God's Peace, Man's Joy

The Search for Joy
God’s Peace, Man’s Joy
Philippians 4:6-9
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
Paul gives exhortation to the Philippian church encouraging them to be anxious over nothing but be diligent to faithful prayer. We as Christians are never to have anxiety over circumstances, situations, or trails in our life. Prayer brings peace into the church and undoubtedly into the hearts and minds of true believers. Fret and worry can indicate a lack of trust in the wisdom and sovereignty of God. Meditating and delighting in the Word of God will be a great remedy over worries about health, being concerned about family issues, being anxious, agonizing over monies lost or just plain stressed. Being grateful to God with an inner tranquillity and thankful attitude gives a Christian confidence that the Lord is able and willing to do what is best for His children. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33). What great peace we can have in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. His peace surpasses all human intellect and insight and  “guards” our hearts and minds from fear, worry and distress. There are three words used for prayer in verse 6; the first of which is the common word, “prayer,” then the word “supplication,” meaning the act of asking for things and then the word, “requests,” referring to particular appeals or petitions. All of this of course, should be accompanied “with thanksgiving,” that the believer will receive answers to prayer by faith and through this, have “the peace of God.” This peace that comes as a result of prayer is described by Paul as a peace “which passeth all understanding.” 
Prayer is a time of adoration, worship and devotion to our Lord. Whenever we find ourselves worrying about situations in our lives, we need to get alone with God and worship Him! In the life of the Christian, there is no room for half-hearted, insincere prayer but a heart that is earnest in asking. After worshipping and asking God in prayer for the things our hearts desire, certainly, our God wants to hear that we are thankful to Him for all He has done for us and all that He will continue to do on our behalf. When Jesus healed the 10 lepers, only 1 returned to say, “Thank you” (Luke 17:11-19). Could it be said of us that we are unthankful and unappreciative of all the Lord has done for us? I pray this will never be true and that we will continually seek to worship Him with a grateful heart.
The peace of God has many by-products and one of these is that it will transform the thought-life of the Child of God. Meditating on the things that are true, honest, pure, lovely, things of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy is a formula for staying away from sinful thoughts which disturb the inner peace that God has given through prayer. Paul gives exhortation and an example to the Philippian believers as he writes: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Through all of Paul’s trials and testings, his many frustrations and limitations, he speaks to the people he loves to encourage them to, “do the things you have learned, received, seen and heard of me, and you will have God’s peace with you.” If Paul could experience the peace of God as a prisoner, how much more could the people of God be able to experience in freedom?
Thought: If you are walking with the Lord and living in the peace of God, then you are obeying Him and His Word. When peace is gone and life seems overwhelming––go back to the place where the decision was made to have an anxious spirit, where worry and doubt entered in and begin to worship, praise and thank the Lord for all He has done and is doing in your life. This place of quiet rest is where you will find God and the peace that will surpass all human understanding. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Spiritually Stable

The Search for Joy
Spiritually Stable
Philippians 4:1-5
Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.  And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.  Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.  Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
Paul is revealing his deep love and unwavering affection for the Philippian church and uses the term “longed-for,” in reference to the long separation from loved ones he was enduring. Paul did not receive his joy from the circumstances in his life but from the fellow believers in Philippi. The crown mentioned was a laurel wreath that was placed upon the head of an athlete for winning a race, a contest, or for having a fruitful life. The Philippian believers were a spiritual crown to Paul and  their fruitful lives were his joy. 
The Philippian church was facing persecution and Paul’s desire was for them to stand firm in their faith, unwavering in the message of the Gospel of Christ––cultivating harmony in the church. Paul spoke of two women in the church that had had personal conflicts and urged them to pull together, as two oxen must pull together and not be pulled apart. Paul encouraged these two women to,“be of the same mind in the Lord.” Sometimes, human personalities can introduce hints of disharmony even though a common desire to serve the Lord exists. Christians, with like passions and desires can achieve “the same mind in the Lord,” when human pride and stubbornness is put away and all differences are yielded to the Lord.
“Rejoice in the Lord alway,” could be translated, “Keep on rejoicing in the Lord always.” Paul repeats this: “Again I will say, keep on rejoicing.”  He not only wanted them to have joy in the Christian life but experience peace and harmony in the church. Those who have inner peace will have harmony and forbearance with other believers indicating the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Paul wanted this attitude to be well known, not only among Christians, but “ unto all men.” He encouraged them to let their gentle spirit of contentment be known among others expressing patience, mercy and a prevailing grace towards the faults and failures of others. Paul writes at the end of verse 5, “The Lord is at hand” or the Lord is near, meaning: the Lord surrounds and encompasses all believers with His presence supported by a reminder that the coming of our Lord is “at hand” or “near.” The Apostle Paul had the church’s relationship with the outside world in view and in that respect, he wanted to reveal a work of grace in the hearts and lives of the believers, a work of compassion and forgiveness “unto all men” who fall short of the glory of God.
Thought:  Paul’s exhortation to Christians was to, “stand fast in the Lord,” or stand firm, which is often used to describe a soldier standing at his post. We as Christians need to stand unyielding at the post where God has placed us, exhibiting forgiveness, patience and endurance. Much of our Christian service will go unnoticed here on the earth but, be encouraged God takes note, and He will praise in the end. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (I Corinthians 4:5). He alone sees the inner motives, thoughts and attitudes of the heart and will reward out of an inward devotion to Him. Stand fast in the Lord!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Minding Heavenly Things

The Search for Joy
Minding Heavenly Things
Philippians 3:17-21
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.  (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)  For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
Brethren, be followers together of me, literally means, “be imitators of me.” We as believers are forgiven and we are to be pursuing Christlikeness but, we are not perfect. God had given to the Christians at Philippi, examples for them to follow in imperfection who knew how to model a Christ centered life. Paul told the Philippian church of others they could “imitate,” such as Timothy and Epaphroditus watching how they conducted themselves in service to Christ. 
Paul had warned the believers in Philippi that there was danger in false teachers and called them, “Enemies of the cross of Christ.” Some false teachers had posed themselves as friends of Christ and had apparently reached high positions in the church. Paul’s love for truth caused him to speak out against the Judaizers headed for eternal damnation because they placed their eternal destiny in their works to save them. The Judaizers were mainly concerned with their fleshly accomplishments, ceremonies and religious works, not in the finished work of Christ. Paul included the Gentle libertines with their sensual desires, fleshly appetites, and abuse of Christian liberties in the same destruction. Anyone trusting in their own human wisdom, denying the transforming power of the gospel, is doomed.
Paul announces boldly, “For our conversation is in heaven,” or, we are citizens of Heaven. Heaven is where God dwells and where Christ is present. Heaven is were our names are written down in the Lamb’s book of life (Luke 10:20b, “because your names are written in heaven”) and our inheritance awaits us, “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4).  Heaven is where other believers are waiting who have gone on before us, “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23). Heaven is where eternal peace, rest and joy await us and therefore, with great expectation, we anticipate Christ’s glorious return. 
Thought: At the resurrection and rapture of the church, we will receive new bodies. The believer’s body will be transformed into the likeness of Christ’s body after His resurrection and will be redesigned for use in heaven (I Corinthians 15:42-43), “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”  Our hope, whether we are in prison, as Paul was, or in freedom, is to be looking for our Savior to come. It is only then that we will long for the transforming power of Christ to change us into His likeness that we may triumph in Christ awaiting His return.