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A mature Christian lives for Jesus, agrees with others in the Lord, trusts God in everything, rejoices in everything, sets her or his heart on good things.

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Opening

As we continue studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we remember why he chose to write to them. They loved Paul deeply and they wanted to know if he was okay. Paul assured them that yes, he was okay, and furthermore, the gospel ministry of Christ, of whom they were partners with him, was flourishing in Rome, even though he was in prison. He wrote to them to encourage them in their faith, in their action, in their ministry. You see, Paul understood the pastor’s purpose: it is not to do ministry for the congregation, but rather to teach and exhort the congregation to do the ministry the Lord has prepared in advance for them to do. Two people in particular had worked very hard with Paul in ministry. But disagreement had come between them.

Agree In the Lord

In verse two Paul pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. It seems incredible, doesn’t it, that these two, who had worked side by side with Paul, suddenly were not working together. What happened?
We can only speculate, as Paul doesn’t give us the exact reason, except for the “in the Lord” part. Here is what I and commentators on this passage suspect. Euodia and Syntyche, having worked together in the Lord for many years, over time, began to disagree with each other.
Now, Paul isn’t calling into question their heart, their motivations, their passion for Christ and doing his ministry. He’s simply saying, they are disagreeing about something, and it is now affecting their work. Their disagreement, I believe, is over the method of communicating the gospel of Christ.
To agree in the Lord is to remember what the Lord has called us to do: to share the good news of Jesus Christ, with everyone—making disciples of all nations. Everyone agrees on this point. But where disagreement likely arose between Euodia and Syntyche was in how to do make disciples.
Something happens to people, to institutions, to churches, church members, over time. We get settled in our ways. I remember talking to Pastor Loren Swier before I went to college. He told me about a conversation he had with the pastor of the newest church in Penticton, “New Life Fellowship”. Not only was it a new church, it was a brand new denomination. The pastor told him, “The problem with the current denominations, current churches is tradition and traditionalism. You do things because that’s the way you’ve always done them. But I don’t have that problem. Everything is new. Pastor Loren said to him, but it will be your problem, you just have to wait 20 to 40 years.
We get set in our ways, and we forget that just because there’s a new way to do something, or a new name, or a new process, that doesn’t make it wrong. As long as we agree in the Lord, that is, to do the work the Lord has called us to do, prepared in advance for us to do, that is the mission, we can be flexible, in the method, the way of doing it. A light bulb emits light even if it no longer uses Edison’s tungsten filament. The method of producing light has changed, but the mission: to produce light, hasn’t.
Paul not only appeals to Euodia and Syntyche, he also appeals to another person or persons. He refers to him as loyal yokefellow, probably a play on words, or a term of endearment. He appeals to him as one who has authority, relationship, and influence, positive influence with these women—so that they would be centred back on what they are united in: the Lord, not on what separates them, how to serve the Lord. Paul mentions Clement, who was one of the early influential leaders in the church, reminding him and all of the people of Philippi to be focused on the work God has called them to do, as fellow workers with Paul.

Rejoice In the Lord Always

Because their names are written in the book of life, they should rejoice in the Lord always. Our response, our obedience, our striving for righteousness, for faithfulness, is always a result of God’s grace. Because of what Christ has done, we rejoice. Because we believe he has saved us from punishment for disobedience, because we have new life in Christ, we live for Christ. Because our names are written in the book of life, rejoice!
Paul commands us to rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice. It’s a command. And it seems strange, doesn’t it? I mean, how can we rejoice when we are deeply aware of our own sin? How can we rejoice when we’re mourning, when we’re going through difficult days? We can rejoice because of who Christ is, to live is Christ, to die is gain. We rejoice because, regardless of our circumstances, we have the greatest treasure always, we have Christ, Christ in us! We know that Paul’s command to rejoice is reasonable and true because he was telling us as one who was deeply aware of sin, who mourned the death of loved ones, who was living in prison when he wrote the words. Our joy, our delight isn’t dependent upon external circumstances, rather upon the internal reality of Christ in us!
Be gentle. Now, I don’t know how Euodia and Syntyche were behaving toward one another, but it doesn’t take much to believe that if their disagreement reached Paul’s ears, that it might have lacked gentleness. When we passionately believe we are right about something, we can become belligerent and less than gentle with others who disagree. Always keep in mind that Christ is with us. He’s watching what we’re watching, he’s seeing what we’re seeing, observing what we’re doing. Treat others as you would like to be treated, treat others with kindness and respect, the same kindness and respect that Christ shows you.

Pray

Who has ever felt anxious? I know I have. I still am. There are lots of questions before me right now.
How do we deal with anxiety? We pray. How do we deal with change? We pray. How do we deal with life? We pray. In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
So, you’re feeling anxious. Pray. Submit to God and his will, trusting, through prayer, that “He’s got this.” Suppose you wanted to build something out of Lego. By the way, it’s occurred to me that Ikea furniture is Lego for adults. You first read through the instructions, gather all the tools you need, organise all the parts, then follow the step by step instructions. Same with anxiety, pray, petition, give thanks.
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Suppose you have something to do in life. First, stop and pray. But notice that prayer isn’t simply waiting on the Lord, waiting for him to do everything for you. There are steps to take.
Pray and petition God. “Dear Lord. I have this thing to do. I can’t do it on my own, I don’t have the strength, the wisdom, the courage. Please give me those things. Thank you for loving me and providing for all my needs, even this, even now and especially in the future. Your past faithfulness, gives me confidence.” Present your requests to God. He knows what we need even before we ask him sure, but he still wants to be asked!
He responds to our prayers by giving us a gift, His peace. It is a peace that we cannot attain by our own striving, or thinking, or doings. It is a peace from God and of God’s making. It is a peace that is far beyond our ability to comprehend it. It simply settles over us. What happens when the feeling of peace disappears? We repeat steps 1, 2 and 3, pray, petition and give thanks.

Active Thinking

The final step we take as God’s mature children is active thinking. You can control your thinking. Temptation comes along, and you can do one of two things: you can keep thinking about the temptation, or you can stop thinking about it by thinking about something else. This is what Paul elsewhere describes as putting off and putting on. It isn’t enough simply to put off the old self, and the old desires, we need to put on Christ
Likewise, when we face life, we need to exercise active thinking. We need to put our attention to whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, we need to think about those things.
We need to seek truth, God’s truth, not the truth of our own making. We have to be careful not to devise falsehood that makes belief we are truthful, when we know we are not. Lots of times we come into fellowship with others and we put on appearances, hiding the truth of who we are. Why do we do this? Fear, worry about what others think? But with our identity in Christ we don’t need to do that. We need to hear and receive truth from others, and accept it, rather than trying to spin our own.
We have to think and consider nobility, righteousness, purity—keeping our minds and our hearts clear of what corrupts. Thinking about the things that trigger our addictions, as Doug shared in his testimony. He’s identified his triggers. Have I? Have you? If so, how are you dealing with them.
Suppose a wife struggles with her feelings toward her husband, she has a friend, a guy friend whom she can talk to in a way she can’t with her husband. She needs to exercise active thinking. She needs, after prayer and petition, to begin shaping the way she thinks about her husband. He’s God’s gift to her. He’s her love. He’s her man. He’s her handsome, amazing husband. By thinking of the positive, good, noble, pure thoughts, she will see that she already has what she desires in her husband, and if not, then she can communicate these things to him.
Don’t go through life passively reacting to everything. Focus your thinking. But focus it on godly, good things, don’t waste it on false, ignoble, wrong, impure, detestible, disgusting, terrible, or base things. Life’s too short to waste it.
Whatever you’ve learned from people like the apostle Paul in your life, do what they do. Put these things into practice. Christian maturity happens when we do, when we live it out. It isn’t a spectator activity. It’s a participatory activity.
Agree in the Lord, do the work, he’s called you to do, regardless of method—the mission is always the same, the methods and strategies can and should be changed as necessary—if what you’re doing isn’t effective, do something different. Rejoice in the Lord always, I’ll say it again, rejoice. Pray. Exercise active thinking.
And God’s peaceful love, grace and joy will be with you forever amen.
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