Standing Firm for Joy, Part 2 (Philippians Sermon 20 of 24)
March 14, 2004 | Andrew Davis
Joy, Human Happiness
I. The Pinnacle of God’s Physical Creation: The Human Mind
This morning we're looking again for the second time at Philippians 4:1-9, Standing Firm for Joy, and that's what this text is calling us to do. We live in a magnificent world, don't we? Magnificent creation from the complexity of God's mind, and it is complex, for who has known the mind of the Lord or ever been his counsel? From the complexity of his mind has come a complex universe, one beyond our understanding though we study it all the time. As we were driving in this morning, the children I were talking about the mind of the Lord, the mind of God. Who has ever stood in God's presence to give him advice, and when did he ever ask for it? Is there ever any a vote up in heaven on what course of action to take? Is God ever confused or brought to a pass and not know which direction to turn? No, this is the mind of the Lord, and he is absolutely perfect in wisdom, and from that complex mind has come a complex universe, a universe of burning stars, balls of gas on fire constantly, with the power of fusion sending off their light and their radiation. And the planets that are going around in perfect God-ordained order in our solar system, everything just where it needs to be, the complexity immeasurable.
And the most complex planet of all is Earth, with all of its ecosystems. They can search for evidence of water at Mars all they want, but we live in a place where we don't need to search for evidence. There is life, there is water, there are ecosystems, there are little bacteria and fungi and all kinds of things mixing together in a way that we will never fully comprehend, all of it pointing toward life. You think of the amazing complexity of this world that we live in, and nothing's more complex than the human body, our bones and our nerves and our systems, all of them fitting together in a way that is so difficult for us to understand. Though we have here in this community and all over the world intelligent people studying it all the time, we'll never fully comprehend it. But the most complex part of the human body is the human mind. I really believe it's the pinnacle of God's physical creation. Nothing is more complex than that tangle of neurons that is between your ears right now.
Now you may think your mind is not as complex as that of your spouse, for example, and you're working on that as you communicate, but the fact is every one of us has a complex mind. To put it in perspective, in the Amazon rainforest, there are... Approximately, it stretches about 2.7 million square miles, and there are 100 billion, they estimate 100 billion trees, in the Amazon rainforest. That's how many neurons you have in your brain. And the interconnections of each neuron are equal to the average tree in terms of its number of leaves. So if you had the leisure and the time to count the number of leaves in the Amazonian rain forest, that's how many interconnections there are in your brain. And that brain, the pinnacle of complexity of what God has created, that is the immense battlefield when it comes to the journey of sanctification. The devil focuses all his attention and his effort on how you think, what you think, what you are pondering, what you are considering. And God, for his part, through the power of the Holy Spirit, focusing all of his effort and his attention and his energy on your mind. It's a battle for the mind.
You were created in the image of God, created to glorify God and to enjoy him forever, created to know the glory of God, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. And God has given you a mind to do that.
II. Context: Stability for Eternal Joy
Now, we've been looking in Philippians at these two journeys, the infinite journeys that are before us, an internal journey of holiness, of sanctification, of growing in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, and the external journey of worldwide evangelization and witness, the advance of the kingdom of God, both within and without. We've been saying here in Philippians 4:1, there is a need for stability, a need to stand firm while we make progress. We talked about that last time. The image I gave you was of a man or woman trying to make their way across a rushing mountain stream in a straight line, needing every footfall to be sure and strong, or a mountaineer on a icy, snowy ridge with wind blowing across and the crampons digging in so that there's a firm footing for progress. So we also need stability. And, in the journeys that are before us, the internal journey in which Paul says "forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead," you need sure footing, don't you?
You need to build step by step in what you have come to know and believe and understand that is unshakable about God and about the Gospel, and move on into the new areas, those things that you don't understand yet, to make progress. And so also it is with the Gospel. To take the base that we have already of believers, those that love the Lord, and move out to those that do not know him yet and have not trusted in him. We need stability and strength as we move ahead in progress.
III. Seven Steps to Spiritual Stability
Now, last time I talked about three ways in Philippians 4:1-9 that Paul gives us for this kind of stability as a foundation for joy.
1) Cultivating Harmony in the Church Fellowship
The first is cultivating harmony in the church fellowship. We talked about Euodia and Syntyche, two women who don't seem to get along, who don't like each other for some reason, they're having some conflict. And it's interesting how the Apostle Paul says, literally in the Greek, that they would be of one mind together, that they would be of one mind, that they would think the same thoughts about one another and about the Gospel. You've got to have unity in the church fellowship, you gotta have unity in the family and the people in your life or it's impossible to have stability and joy. It's impossible. It's one of the big attacks that the devil has, is creating and sowing discord, what the book of Hebrews calls the root of bitterness that defiles many after it grows up. And so there must be that.
2) Determining to Rejoice No Matter What
And then there secondly, a determination to rejoice no matter what. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice. A decision as an act of the will and of the mind that no matter what the circumstances, you're going to rejoice in Christ. You're going to rejoice in him and in his sovereign power and his majestic goodness and in his cross, the blood he shed on the cross. You're going to rejoice no matter what. A determination of the mind and of the heart, an attitude of joy no matter what.
3) Learning to be Gentle
And thirdly learning to be gentle, kind of an interesting thing along the way, but this gentleness, this even mindedness, this reasonableness, a mild response, so that everyone who sees you would know you to be a gentle man or woman. That's what we looked at last time.
Now, today we're going to look at four more. Developing first, a confident trust in the Lord, verse five and six. Secondly, learning to react to problems with thankful prayer in verse six and seven; controlling your thought life, verse eight; and then imitating godly examples briefly, verse nine. And you see that the control of the mind, the issue of the mind and heart is central to each one of these. It is with the mind and the heart that you are confident in your trust and are not anxious. It is with your mind and your heart that you learn to return everything to God in thankful prayer. Verse eight is clearly about mind control, in which it says you must think about these things and not their alternatives. Think about these things, controlling your thoughts, and then imitating godly example I think is more action than it is thinking. But it flows from right doctrine, right living flowing from right doctrine. These four examples.
4) Developing a Confident Trust in the Lord
Let's look at the first one, developing a confident trust in the Lord, 4:5-6 say, "The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything." Now, I know that the verse numbers are helpful to us, aren't they? But sometimes I think there can be a hindrance. I actually think, Let your gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near, being one verse might give you the indication that the Lord is near goes more with the gentleness than it does with the anxiety issue. But I think it can go both ways, and that's fine with me. The Lord is near so be gentle, just like Christ was gentle, and that's fine, but I'm going to kind of look the other way in terms of the issue of the Lord being near. The Lord is near so don't be anxious about anything. Don't be anxious about anything. Our confidence and trust is based on the fact that God is with us all the time.
The beginning and the end of Matthew's Gospel make this very plain, don't they? The beginning, we have after the genealogy an account of the angel coming to Joseph and announcing the birth of Jesus, and the Scripture that Matthew chooses to focus on there is Matthew 1:23, "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel, which means 'God with us.'" And then at the very end of the Gospel of Matthew, we have, "and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age." And so at the beginning and the end of Matthew's Gospel, we have a promise that Jesus, the Lord, will be with us at all times. He is with us always. He is Immanuel, God with us. And therefore, we need not, in fact, we must not be anxious about anything because God is with us.
To be anxious, the word here literally means to chop up the mind, to divide the mind into bits. Somewhat like part of your brain is wrestling in one way and the other part the other, and you go back and forth and you're torn, you're wrestling. You know what anxiety is like. To work over something intensely in your mind so that you're buffeted back and forth, like a piece of cork bobbing on a troubled sea, blown, tossed, to and fro in your thought life. Forgetting all the time the Sovereign God and his goodness towards you, and his wisdom. Forgetting that and instead focusing so much on the problem that you're anxious about.
Now, I think there are two kinds of anxiety. Two kinds of anxiety. First is helpful anxiety, good anxiety. Now I don't use the word anxiety for these things but the Greek word's the same in these verses. I don't want you to think that care-taking or great concern is never appropriate for the Christian life. It actually is. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 it says, "An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs how he can please the Lord." So he's... The Greek word's the same. Anxious over how he can please the Lord today. He's concerned about that, it's on his mind, it weighs on him. How can I please Christ? How can I please him today? It says the same thing about an unmarried woman. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned or anxious about the Lord's affairs, her aim is to be devoted to the Lord both in body and spirit.
Now the context there is talking about the superiority in that case of the single life over the married life and that if you're married, you're going to have a divided mind somewhat, and you're going to be concerned about your family and how to provide for those needs, but that itself is also commanded in other places. If you are a husband and a father, you should be concerned about how you are going to provide for your family. You must be concerned about that but not anxious.
Or it could be a good concern, a good anxiety, it's just concern over the spiritual welfare of others. The Apostle Paul frequently shows us this. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29, he says, "Apart from other things, there's the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak and I do not feel weak, who is led into sin and I do not inwardly burn." he is concerned over the spiritual welfare of the churches he planted. He's worried over them, to some degree. And why is that? Because there's no guarantees that those churches that he planted have genuine saving faith in Christ, they might get deluded or drawn away and so he is praying over them, concerned that some evil attack would come and destroy them. And so the same Greek word is used for these, but I would not use anxiety for that term, it'd be concern, focus, a concentrated effort of mind and will, so you're thinking about these things. But that's not what's in the view in this text, is it? And that's not what you think of when you think of anxiety.
Anxiety is something else, there's the bad anxiety. Do you know what I'm talking about? We're talking about to fret and work over and be concerned over some earthly temporal matter that has no eternal consequence. And how much time do we spend wasting doing this exact thing? Concerned about whether you're going to be late to this or that meeting, right? Got a little bit of a late start, and the light is turning and you're not going to make it, you're just not going to make it, anxious and concerned over it. Or concerned about money. Are you going to have enough to pay the bills this month or next month? Concerned about health and welfare of people that you love, or yourself. Most of the stuff we're anxious over never really happens. Have you ever noticed that? We get anxious over things that never occur.
I've said before, and I think it's true that this bad or evil anxiety is actually the taking of a good gift of God, and perverting it, and twisting it around. It is the gift of imagination gone bad, right? Imagination worst case scenario, what could happen to you? Well, we don't really want to go there in our minds. It's amazing how bad it can be up in here, right. I might slip on a puddle and break my neck and be a quadriplegic the rest of my life. The anxiety comes from an imagination. Now, imagination is a good thing, it's a gift of God to be able to think ahead in the future, and plan or to write children's stories, or poetry or to think of imaginative outreaches and ways to reach people for Christ or have an ambition to go and preach the Gospel in Spain, said Paul, and he's thinking about what that would be like. That's a good thing to have that kind of imagination, but anxiety is a bad use of imagination in which you're laying in bed at night pondering what might happen, working it over.
Frankly, it's a great insult to Christ, isn't it? As you're laying there and anxious and concerned over many things in effect, it says to Christ. I don't trust what you're going to do with my life, I don't trust it. Either, you're going to lack power, or you're going to lack wisdom or you're going to lack goodness, one of those three. You may want to do something good for me, but not know what's good. Or you may lack the power to bring it about, in any case, I just don't trust you Christ and so I'm just going to sit here and marinate in my anxiety. I'm going to be concerned and anxious. Imagine if you were driving down the highway with your 10-year-old, let's say. And it's a rainstorm, it's windy, it's a tense time as you're driving. And all of a sudden your 10-year-old says to you, "Daddy, we're going to die, we're going to die. Oh no, what, what's going to happen? Oh, there's a curve. Do you see the... Do you see the truck? We're not going to make it. Daddy, daddy, can I drive? Will that be okay Would it be alright 'cause it's really rainy and windy. Would it be okay if I drove?" What would you think? I'd be offended. I'd say, "You know how many rainstorms I have driven in. We're going to be okay, we're going to be fine, okay."
But yet, there we are with our lives, saying, "God, it's not going to work out. Oh, see that truck, what's going to happen?" And we're being anxious. And God's saying, I'm in control. I've done lots of these lives. I've gotten lots of people through Zero to 80 or so, and gotten them on into heaven, and I can do it with you too, so be at peace, I know what I'm doing. And there we are wanting that 10 years old to grab the wheel. This is a comprehensive command here. Be anxious for nothing, nothing. Not for cancer or AIDS or SARS, remember that one? We could have been anxious and not sent a mission team. It's amazing how practical this is. Big reports about SARS after the Iraq war was over. Everybody worried about it, concerned, should we go, should we not?
We prayed through it, we found out what we could but anxiety could have derailed a very fruitful mission there because we didn't trust God. Be anxious for nothing, be anxious for nothing, don't be anxious. College students or high school students about grades, about what job you're going to get when you graduate, don't be anxious about anything. Single people about who you're going to marry or couples that would like to have children about whether you're going to be able to have children or older people about what's going to happen to your body. There's so many ways we can be anxious, this says, be anxious for none of it. Be anxious for nothing.
How to Develop Confident Trust in the Lord
Well, how do we do this, how do we develop a confident trust in the Lord? I think it starts with doctrine. It starts with the mind, it starts with retraining the thinking and the doctrine I have in mind is the doctrine of the providence of God. What do I mean by that? Well, it's a fancy word, an important word, an important doctrine, it's the idea that our God is a king who enjoys ruling over his universe. He doesn't just sit back and watch it go like he's watching a movie or something like that or like the passenger in a car on a rainy day. No, he is driving the car, he's in charge of the universe, he is running all things, he is a king who delights to work these things out. It says in Romans 8:28, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to his purpose." Psalm 115:3, "Our God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him."
Now, is that an out of sorts, grumbly, irritable God? Or is it a God who sits serenely on the throne of power and who has never been troubled by anything. He's in-charge, he's ruling, he's sovereign, he's a king, and his rulership goes down to the smallest level. Proverbs 16:33, "The lot is cast into the lap but its every decision is from the Lord." He rules actively over his universe, and therefore anxiety has no place in the Christian life. We must renew our minds, by thinking and saying to ourselves, God is a king, he's a good king, he's a loving king who knows what he's doing.
Jesus’ Teaching on Anxiety
At the end of Matthew 6, take a minute and look there if you would, Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus works very hard on the issue of anxiety. In Matthew 6:25 and following it says there, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothing? Look at the birds in the air, they don't sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow, they don't labor or spin. Yet, I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown in the fire, will he not much more clothe you? Oh, you of little faith. So do not worry saying, what should we eat or what should we drink or what should we wear for the pagans run after all these things. And your Heavenly father knows that you need them, but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Do you realize how much the Lord is laboring on us there that we would not be anxious about anything? That we would not be concerned about anything? The basic idea is, you have a heavenly Father, he's very attentive, he's very alert, nothing escapes his attention. He knows what you need long before you ask, and he is ruling over all things for your good and your benefit so don't be anxious. Don't be anxious.
5) Reacting to Problems with Thankful Prayer
Immediately, coupled with that is reacting to life's problems with thankful prayer. Look at verses six and seven, go back to Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything," it says there, "But in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This is the flip side. We're not just going to be not anxious like we're somehow stoics, we're just not going to think about those bad things. No he's calling us to be very active. Whenever you're tempted to be anxious, return it back to God in prayer, whatever it might be that you're anxious about bring it to him in prayer, roll your burdens on him or cast them on the Lord in prayer, that's what he's calling you to do.
We anticipate problems in the future not with anxiety, but with confident prayer. Now, it says, "Prayer and petition." These are just two words for the same thing. It results in diligent persistent prayer. Not just one time, but many times you're going again and again like the persistent widow. You're going to the Lord in prayer, you're going to bring it to him in everything it says. Entrust the matter to God, lay it before his throne for his wisdom and his disposal. Say "Lord, I'm tempted right now to be anxious about this health issue that I'm facing or that my wife is facing. I'm tempted to be anxious about where the money is going to come for school next semester. I'm tempted to be anxious concerning how old I am, and I'd like a spouse and God hasn't provided yet. I'm tempted to be anxious Lord, right now about these things, I want to present this to you. I want you to take the anxiety away and I want you to bring me peace. I want to trust in you." Prayer drives out anxiety.
And you do it with thankfulness. Thankfulness as you look backward at God's faithfulness to you in the past. Thank you God, for all you've done to bring me this far. Thank you God, for all of the mercies you've shown me already, thank you. But even thankfulness, by faith concerning the future. Thank you God, that in this matter, you will do what's best for your glory and for me. I who am your child thank you. So we pray with faith and with thankfulness, ahead of time. We give him thanks. I think that thankfulness drives out anxiety, and it's greatly honoring to God. And the result of this, it says is the peace of God which passes all understanding. Now, I want to make a careful distinction here that has been helpful to me in my life. There is something called peace with God, and then there's something called the peace of God. I think they are two different but related things.
Peace with God has to do with a status of peace between us and the eternal God. And I get this out of Romans 5:1. In which it says, "Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Can anything take that away? Can you ever be unjustified from God? Never. And therefore, you will always and forever as a child of God, be at peace with God and God at peace with you. Christ is our peace similar to the fact that we are not at war with Great Britain. There's a status of peace between our two nations governments, a status of peace, and a friendly relations. It is true that in the past we were at war with Great Britain, a long time ago, but we are not presently at war, and just in the same way we were in the past at war with God, though we did not know it that was part of the warfare.
And God, also at war with us, because we were outside of Christ, but once we have come to faith in Christ, we have once and forever a status of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. That's one thing, but this is talking about, I believe, something else. The peace of God. Now the word "of" in greek is a little tricky. Can either be the peace that characterizes God or the peace that comes from God as a gift. I think it's hard to decide which of the two but let's start with the idea that it's the peace that characterizes God here. He's at peace. He is sitting on his throne right now and he's at peace. We don't know his kind of peace, that's how deep and rich it is. He's not flustered, he's not out of sorts, he's not anxious about anything, but he is at peace and that kind of peace qualitatively that God enjoys all the time, can be yours as a child of God. It is an experience of peace, a feeling of peace, a confident peace that comes over you because you have entrusted the matter to God in prayer. And you can lay in bed at night free from anxiety, free from concern with God's peace in you because you have prayed the matter through and entrusted it to God. The peace of God.
Now the one you always have, peace with God, but the other you don't always have because sometimes we allow anxiety and other things to come in and we lose our peace. At that time, you must go back to God in prayer and get it back. Say, "Lord I want the peace of God right now. I want to experience that. I don't want to be anxious anymore. I want your peace to come over me." And God, who gives that kind of peace, the peace that's from God, he'll give it to you, as an experience.
Now, it does say here, it is the peace that "passes all understanding." What do I mean by that? Well, in one sense you could say it's the peace that contradicts what makes sense in the situation, the peace that makes no sense, right? If your non-Christian friends were around you saying, "Hmm, how can you be at peace? Your spouse is facing a very serious operation tomorrow, and yet you're at peace, how can that be? She might die." Yes, but I prayed the matter through, and it seems to make no sense, but I am totally at peace right now. Just like Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail singing in at peace, not concerned about anything. It's a peace that passes all understanding.
But I actually take a different approach to this, I think it's a peace that passes understanding in that God doesn't always tell you everything, and yet you can be at peace. He's not going to tell you why it's all happening. Isn't that the thing we want? Why has this happened? What are you doing God? What's happening? How does this fit into your eternal plan? Is he going to tell you all that? No, he's not. And he hasn't promised to. There are some things that are secret that belong to him. And yet he will give you a peace that passes all understanding, so you're able to stand up in that moment of testing and be at peace. And so entrust all things to God in prayer.
6) Controlling Your Thought Life
In verse eight, it says, controlling your thought life. Look with me at verse eight. It says, "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 those things." The implication is, don't think about those things that are not any of those things. Imagine if you had a friend, and he said, "Come here, I want to show you something. This is my prized possession." And he brings you into a room and there is a magnificent Queen Anne desk, the kind with all the little cubby holes and all that kind of thing. And it actually belonged to, he tells you, George Washington. It's been a family heirloom and it was given to him. You say, "Oh, it's magnificent, it's beautiful, it's spectacular. What's in there, in those little cubby holes?" "Mud, I keep mud in there. We have a little river that goes by, and I just go down to the bank and I scoop out river muck, and I put it in the cubby holes there."
What would you think about your friend? You'd think he's nuts. Here's a magnificent desk with all these little cubby holes and he's filling it with muck. And that is the nature of your mind when you fill it with ungodly things. It is a magnificent gift of God, this interconnected brain which was meant for his glory, to know him and to know his glory, and we fill it with what? It's about the same. It's actually worse. Hollywood, the movie industry, the magazines, the books and all that. It's all part of a demonic plan to fill your mind with muck, that's what it's for. To get you to stop thinking about what's true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy. That's what you should be thinking about. You shouldn't be neutral. We're not mystics in the Eastern Hindu thing or a Buddhist thing where we're trying to empty our minds, we don't want an empty mind. We want a mind filled with what's true, filled with what's noble, filled with what's right and pure and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy. I want a mind filled with those things.
Recently my family and I took a home school trip to Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg, they're all three in the same area. And it's an exciting place to go, it's so efficient. They're all real close together, and you can do lots of things, and we enjoy going there. And there are there at least three different battle fields you can go see. There was a battlefield in ancient Jamestown, one of the first sites where there was a battle about eight years after they landed there, with the Powhatans. And you can look at the artifacts, and the struggle that they had. And then, of course, there's the battle field of Yorktown, where you can see where the US won their independence from the British. And then there are some bulwarks that the Confederate soldiers put there. There was never a battle fought there, but you can see those erected along there as well, three different battlefields. Now, that's all in a little small area of land stretching out into the James River. Concentrated battle fields. But there's nothing, it's nothing compared to the Battlefield of the mind.
It's exactly what the devil is working on, he wants you to think about certain things that are different than what God wants you to think. Romans 8:5-6, it says, "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their mind set on what that nature desires. But those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their mind set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." You are to control your thoughts. And the big difference between a Christian and a non-Christian has to do with what they think about, has to do with what's on their mind, how they control their thoughts.
Now, I'm not going to go through each of these words. "Whatever is true..." Want to know what's true? Read the Bible. Want to know about noble things? Read the Bible. How about things that are pure or lovely or admirable? You know what advice I'm going to give you? I'm going to tell you to read the Bible. And how about some excellent or praiseworthy things? I can't think of anything better than the Bible. Now, a little while ago, I preached on why you, even you, should memorize Scripture. Do you remember that? I'm not going to ask each one of you how it's going, but we come again to the same issue. What are you filling your mind with? May I urge you to fill it with scripture? And if you made a resolution at that time that you're going to memorize the book of Philippians, and you have just now completed the third verse of Chapter One, I want to encourage you, good job! Keep going. Fill with verse four and verse five and verse six and keep on going until you get the whole book. Fill your mind with the word of God and not with the things that they want you to think about, which is the opposite of what's true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable. Psalm 1 says, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night, he is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf never withers."
7) Imitating Godly Examples
Now verse nine, we have covered already in depth. And so I'm just going to allude to it again. It has to do with discipleship, you remember, and Paul's pattern of discipleship. He says, "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." Again, the idea is that right doctrine leads to right living, but you must put it into practice. And as you are doing these things, the God of peace will be with you. What an incredible statement. And so follow and imitate godly examples, and be yourself a godly example for somebody else to follow. Say, "Follow me as I follow Christ."
IV. Summary and Application
Now, what summary in application can we get from this? Well, we've looked at seven things, cultivating harmony in the church fellowship, determining to rejoice no matter what in verse four, learning to be gentle in verse five, developing a confident trust in the Lord, verse five and six, reacting to problems with thankful prayer, verse six and seven, and controlling your thought life, verse eight, imitating godly examples, verse nine.
These sermons have been, these two sermons have been so practical that I don't think that I need to give you any targeted applications. But I want to make a few comments. First, harmony. If you know of anybody in this church fellowship or in your family that you are out of sorts with, that you're like Euodia and they're like Syntyche or vice versa, make it right. Resolve in your heart that you're not going to let the sun go down on your anger, restore fellowship with that individual. If there's somebody popping into your mind right now, that's a indication from the Spirit that you need to work on that relationship. In terms of joy, determine that you're going to rejoice in Christ, no matter what happens to you, today, or any time. Make up your mind to be joyful. Gentleness, if you're given a harshness especially with a spouse, make developing a general nature a key matter of prayer. Fourthly, trust. Learn to defeat anxiety by confident trust in the Lord, and I especially urge you to fill your mind with scripture so that you can do that. And finally, thought life. Control your thoughts. Don't put mud in your delicate antique desk, put godly things, beautiful things.