Study 8: Peace and Perspective
Sermon Date: February 19, 2017
Reading: Philippians 4:2-9
Paul was not only facing divisions amongst the believers in Rome (Philippians 1:14-17) now there was the potential that two members of the church, Euodia and Syntyche could cause divisions in the church in Philippi. Euodia and Syntyche had both worked alongside Paul in proclaiming the Gospel but they had had a disagreement and this was causing problems, not least of all, because they had both been responsible for bringing many people into relationship with Christ. So Paul pleads with the other church members to help the two women reconcile their differences.
Even though the church in Philippi has its problems Paul encourages them to rejoice in the Lord always. He reminds them of the need to continue in the practice of prayer, thanksgiving and right living. To remain true to that which is of the Lord and to follow good Christian practice that is evident in Paul.
What experience have you had of the consequences of divisions and splits not only in the church but also perhaps in other areas of your life?
Why is unity in the church so important?
We are the body of Christ. The enemy is always looking for ways to destroy the body and what better way to do this than to cause cracks and divisions within the Church. Paul wants to see Euodia and Syntyche reconciled because he is fully aware of the potential harm this division could cause.
Questions: (see Helpful Hints at the end of this section)
1. In response to what Paul writes about Euodia and Syntyche, what do you think should be done when disagreements occur between Christians?
2. Read verses 4-6 and consider how can we stand firm in the Lord and develop our relationship with Him?
3. We are told not to worry - something that is easier said than done. How does worry manifest itself in your life?
Can you share with others how you felt God’s peace during a difficult time and how you just knew He would see you through?
4. a) Read verse 7. How would you describe the “peace of God”?
b) Take a moment to consider your own experience(s) of verse 7 and consider sharing with others.
5. What we think, often determines how we act. Read verse 8 and discuss how we can develop the right perspective in a world that competes to corrupt our minds towards worldly values.
6. Read Psalm 19:7-9. Do you see any parallels?
7. Who are your role models and why?
Take a few minutes to reflect and prayerfully consider the challenges that we face as a church.
How can we maintain unity and encourage one another?
How can we help others and ourselves through worrying times?
How can we create a Christian perspective on all we do and see?
Consider sharing your thoughts with one another and praying for unity within our church. Perhaps you may wish to share any concerns you currently have and pray for each other that God will give you a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Helpful Hints for discussion questions:
1 It is thought by most commentators, that verses 2 -3 are one of the reasons that prompted Paul to write the letter. It is assumed that Epaphroditus had told Paul of the dispute between these two ladies in the church in Philippi that threatened the unity of the fledgling church. Paul's reply is a model of tact - he does not take sides but encourages others who are closer to the situation to promote reconciliation. Disunity was and remains a real concern in churches. As you will recall, a primary emphasis of Paul's teaching was to enable people to receive the gift of salvation and then help them to live as a disciple - as citizen of the kingdom of God - in the present. Accordingly, Paul writes about what it means to be "in Christ". A tangible characteristic of this is unity.
Paul knows the power of these two women and the divisions that their fall out could cause and so he concentrates on their good points as shown in verse 3 and reminds us that their names are written in the book of life. He calls on his loyal “yokefellow” to help Euodia and Syntyche. Although we are sure who this person is Paul is obviously calling on someone
whom he trusts to help resolve the situation. This indicates that when there are fallouts in the church there is a need for a responsible person(s) to minister to those who are in dispute in order to prevent a small crack from becoming a gaping hole. We need to maintain the warmth and encouragement of Christian friendships so that we strengthen our church and build on our faith.
2. On Sixteen occasions in his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul encourages them to “rejoice in the Lord always”. He repeats it twice in verse 4. Whether times are good or bad, Paul encourages us to rejoice in the Lord because he is the One who loves us, shows us mercy and is forever with us.
Being able to rejoice in God is a key theme of Philippians. Given Paul's circumstances and history, his teaching is powerful. Paul develops this in verses 6-7. In these verses, Paul reminds us of further gifts that we receive when we are "in Christ" - we are at peace, we have a personal relationship with God through Christ who wants to hear from us (about all things), to communicate with us, to bless us in our relationship with Him. What's more in verse 7b, like a sentry, God will protect all who are "in Christ" as the NIV study bible puts it "to their core of their beings and to their deepest intentions" cf: 1 Peter 1:5. These are then further characteristics of someone who is "in Christ."
In verse 5 Paul writes, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”
By "gentleness", Paul means Christ like consideration for others (see 2 Corinthians 10:1). Is this how we live? Being gentle can be quite a challenge when people annoy us or when we can’t have our own way but there is no need to defend ourselves because the Lord will justify us.
“The Lord is near” reminds us that Christ will return - so there is urgency as to how we are to live for Christ. This links with verses 8-9. Paul exhorts disciples, then and now, to make every effort so that the virtues of Christ will grow within every believer and be put into practice.
3. If anyone had cause to worry it was Paul, his friends at Philippi were disagreeing with one another and he was not there to help them. Along with the potential division in Philippi, Paul had to face divisions among the believers at Rome (Phil 1:14-17). Added to this was the possibility of his own death.
“Worry” is the translated Greek word “anxious” it means to be pulled in different directions. Our hopes pull us in one direction and our fears in another and so we are pulled apart. The Old English root from which we get our word “worry” means “to strangle”. Worry has definite physical consequences such as headaches, neck pains, ulcers, back pain and so on.
Worry is the greatest thief of joy. We cannot just say stop worrying but to try and stop it we have to create a secure mind, secure in the knowledge of God. Then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard [garrison, guard like a soldier] your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:7).
5. If we have the single mind of the Philippians 1 then we can give adoration and praise to God, but if we have a double mind we are distracted from our adoration of God. If we have the submissive mind of Philippians 2 then we can come with supplication and if we have the spiritual mind of Philippians 3 we can show our appreciation to God because a worldly mind would not know that God has given them anything to appreciate. Therefore we must practice 1,2 & 3 before we get to 4. Peace involves the heart and the mind, Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Wrong thinking leads to wrong feelings and before long our heart and mind is pulled apart and strangled by worry. So let us focus on what is worthy of respect and what is right and let us not allow dishonourable things to control our thoughts.
6. The person who fills their heart and mind with God will have a built-in radar for detecting wrong thoughts. In Psalm 119:165 it says, “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” Right thinking is the result of daily meditation on the word of God. Also look at Daniel who gives us an example of peace through prayer. When the king announced that none of his subjects was to pray to anyone except the king, Daniel went to his room, opened his windows and prayed as before (Daniel 6:1-10). He prayed and gave thanks before his God (Daniel 6:10) and he made supplication (Daniel 6:11). Prayer – supplication – thanksgiving – the result peace in the midst of difficulty. Daniel spent the night with the lions in perfect peace, while the king in his palace could not sleep (Daniel 6:18).
7. Paul tells the people of Philippi to “rejoice in the Lord always” i.e. to look to Christ and live in Christ every day. In verse 9, he also encourages the Philippian church to live as they have seen him live (fully surrendered to Christ) so that they may know the peace of Christ as he does.
Although we can learn much from fellow Christians and Christian leaders, we must always bear in mind that Jesus is the perfect role model. We are His disciples and how we live (thoughts, words, actions etc.) ought to be in line with what Jesus taught and with how he lived.