Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

Leave a comment

4. Euodia & Syntyche – God’s prescription for peace

Philippians 4:1-9
How many of you like the idea of peace, how many of you long for peace and how much would you be willing to pay for peace? Peace is something every person wants but few pursue. Before us today we have one of the most powerful passages in Scripture because it tells us HOW we can have peace. Not just passing or fleeting peace but the power of God’s peace. READ SCRIPTURE – Philippians 4:1-9
Here in Philippians 4 Paul presents us with God’s prescription for peace. Not just personal peace but also people peace. In verse 2 we read about two women Euodia and Syntyche who had a rift in their relationship, they had a problem when it came to people peace. Now before us we have Christ’s cure for conflict, but when it comes to reading God’s Word what has always surprised me is how many people seem to segment scripture. Instead of reading it in context we tent to compartmentalize it and when we do we don’t just divide it we disconnect it. Now why do I bring this up, because as I was reading over this passage in preparation to preach I realized how many people pass over the first part of what Paul had to say and proceed straight to verses 6 & 7. We tend to segregate these verses from the rest of the passage. But its these preceding verses that initiated Paul’s entire discussion of peace. Look segregating scripture is a serious problem because it stops us from seeing the whole picture and if you are really serious about peace then the last thing you want is a partial picture of peace. So what is the process of peace, how do we have peace in our personal relationships? First you need to have a:
Paul doesn’t start with the problem he starts with people. So often we get so focused on the problem and the pain that we forget that we are dealing with real people. Social media has not made us more social, the truth is that media has made us meaner, because we are no longer talking face to face. It may be called Facebook but it has actually taken away the face to face. The digital age has actually dehumanize, when it comes to people it allows us to be passive aggressive. Take a look at how Paul talks about people, he calls Christians brothers and sisters, his focus is one of family. Do you realize that Family is one of the first things we forgo when we get into a fight. We get so focused on the fight that we forget we are family. Pain has a way of poisoning our people perspective. When it comes to Christian conflict we tend to forget that we are all part of the same family, God’s. Look at the people picture that Paul paints for us:
a. I LOVE you
Love is not just an attitude it’s an action. Let me ask you who do you love outside of you? Most of us are so in love with self that we can’t see anyone else, self-love is shortsighted and selfish. Are you suffering from the sickness of self? Do you love people? Not only does Paul love people but second he:
b. I LONG for you
You long for what you love. Today much of our people longing has been replaced by a longing for possessions, position and even progress. We are so busy seeking stuff that we no longer see relationship as significant. No wonder we are never satisfied, we have traded meaningful relationship for rubbish. In the garden of Eden God did not say “It’s not good for man to be alone I will give him more stuff” Look man had it made in the shade when it came to possessions it was people he was short on. Have you let your heart long for what is wrong? Third Paul says:
c. You are my JOY
Many of us see people as a problem not as a pleasure, because our focus is on getting our needs met not on ministering. A life without a ministry will always be miserable. Parents your children are a privilege not a pain. How do you think your Father in heaven feels when He sees you, does He smile or sigh, He smiles at your sight, James 1:18 says that you are His prized possession.
Many of us see people as a pain and not a privilege because our focus is on how we can prosper in the present from people instead of on God’s promise. Do you see the real riches, relationship. Do you have a proper people perspective or a polluted one? Not only do we see that we need to have a proper perspective when it comes to people but second we need to:
Paul now pleads with them to pursue God’s plan for peace and he can do this because when it comes to peace Paul practiced what he preached. He modeled the message. Parents if you want your kids to pursue peace with their siblings don’t just preach peace be a parent that practices peace. Peace doesn’t just happen it’s something we need to pursue and the only way to pursue lasting peace is to submit to God’s plan. Are you going to pursuing God’s plan for peace or your plan? The first key to pursuing God’s plan for people peace is to:
a. Admit the problem
Don’t live in denial, deal with the problem. As long as you let it linger and try to look the other way you will forfeit real peace for a fake. Don’t run from the problem it will only ruin your relationship.
Second take:
b. Take Personal responsibility
How many of you have ever had a problem with another person? Now how many of you were the problem? We tend to see other people as the problem, but Paul reminds these two women that they both need to take personal responsibility for the problem. In other words you are part of the problem. As long as you keep playing the blame game you will have to deal with the pain. But look it doesn’t just effect you conflict cripples the whole Christian community. We want peace but are we willing to work at peace?
c. Prescription
Paul doesn’t spend much time on what caused the problem he focuses on the prescription. It’s ok to identify the cause but you need to spend your time on the cure. The problem wasn’t that they didn’t want peace it’s that they wanted peace on THEIR terms. We all want peace we just want it our way. Are you going to make it about your way or God’s Will, Man’s plan doesn’t bring peace it only adds to the problem. How many believe that they will experience peace when they get revenge? Revenge doesn’t bring us peace it just adds to the pain. How many are putting their hope for peace in their political party, believing that when the right party is in power we will have peace? The reason we have so much conflict is that we want peace on our terms. How do we have God’s peace in your personal relationships, Paul says remember who you belong to “the Lord” As Christians we are called to change our perspective. Because we are Christians our conflicts are not about us anymore, these women belonged to Christ and so do we. When we forget who we are even mature believers can make a mess of it. Look these were godly women, hard working women, women of the Word, who witnessed about Jesus. As it says in 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20 “…You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” Because of who we belonged to God, our objective is not to win its His Will. As a Christian how do you conduct yourself in a conflict, do you focus on your want to win or God’s Will? Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed “Not my will, but thine?” He’s our role model. He has set the pattern for our priorities. When conflicts arise Christians should ask what does Christ want? What is Christ’s command throughout scripture, “Love One another” Paul reminds us that our real focus should be the relationship, not being right. Some of us are:
• FIGHT TO WIN people – Goal “Seek to dominate at all costs”
The problem is that it becomes about me not we, WINNING comes at a cost there is a LOOSER, not only does the other person loose but the relationship. While I’m right the relationship is ruined! For many their relationship takes a back seat to winning. They end up with CONTROL but at the expense of CONNECTION. Then there are the
• WITHDRAW people – Goal “Seek comfort at all costs”
The problem it becomes about me not we. Ccomfort comes as a result of AVOIDENCE and there is never any resolution because we avoid the issue even if that means avoiding each other/silent treatment. The real looser is the relationship because we care more about comfort than connection. Then there is the
• YIELD people – Goal “Seek False Peace at all costs”
The problem it becomes about me not we, Peace comes as a result of Compliance. There is no real resolution because we just agree or give in. It’s the don’t rock the boat reasoning but the real looser is the relationship. We end up with COMPLIANCE but no CONNECTION
Interestingly fight to win and yield people seem to get along great, but the real reason is not because they have a real relationship but because fight to win seeks control and compliant people give in. You don’t have real peace what but rather two people both following their own program.
• LOVINGLY RESOLVE – Goal “Seek to resolve at all costs”
Place We not me in first place, make the relationship a higher priority that the conflict. Today we are giving the priority to the problem not to the people, we need to value the relationship more that winning or loosing, escaping or feeling comfortable. Conflict is confronting the heart issues in order to resolve the relationship. Look peace is not the absence of problems its the presence of God in the problems. Now sometimes part of the prescription of people peace involves having:
d. Partners in peace
People who help mediate the mess. Paul didn’t just call anybody to partner in the peace process he encouraged his “true” partner, the one who served the Savior and would not pick sides. Why don’t we use peace partners because we believe that our problems are a personal matter. But notice that Paul has no problem calling these women out by name. Now understand that this letter would have been read out loud before the entire congregation. These women would have been held accountable in front of the entire church. What would happen in our culture if we called people out over their conflict, especially in cultures were “privacy” is considered our primary right! But Paul places the importance of protecting the fellowship of the church over protecting the privacy of these two ladies. Look long standing conflict between Christians that destroys the fellowship within the church is NOT a private matter. Their fight was no secret, even Paul who wasn’t even present knew about it. The world is watching and why would they want what we have when we are always at war with one another. They don’t need another dysfunctional family. Along with pursuing peace we need to keep:
3. PRAISING Vs 4-5
Don’t get so cause up in the problem that you stop praising. Do you have a perspective of praise? Do you readily rejoice regardless of your circumstances? Paul calls us to find our joy in the Lord, he doesn’t say Rejoice in your circumstances but in Christ. Because Paul’s desire is that you not rejoice in the temporary but in the eternal. Look no matter what your problems are your reason for rejoicing, your Redeemer, hasn’t changed. Now we come to a critical part of the prescription, not only should we praise but we should:
4. PRAY Vs 6-7
Don’t panic, pray. Now remember that as Paul is writing this he is in prison, again he is not just preaching “don’t panic and pray” he is putting it into practice. Where are you taking your people problems to, who are you talking to about your people problems, are you going to God or is it just gossip?
If you want peace then you need to train your thinking. Paul tells us to fix our thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. How many of us have missed the connection between Peace and purity. If you are focused on the putrid and the problems don’t expect to experience peace. Look this is not a passing glance at what is pure this is about developing a pattern of purity. This is about both guarding and girding your mind. What are you fixing your focus on? Let me give you some advice stop focusing so much on the global news and start focusing on the GOOD NEWS. Are you going to focused on your Father or the fear and the flaws? Last but not least:
Live it out, put it into practice. To practice means to regularly repeat it. Look this is not a formula it’s a way of life. It’s the difference between a diet and a lifestyle change. Diets focus on a quick fix, a lifestyle change focuses on the future. Paul gives us God’s prescription for peace and he says if we follow it then you will experience God’s peace. Do you want God’s peace, which will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus? Then submit your wants to His ways. Put God’s prescription into practice, its no good going to the doctor if you will not fill or follow the prescription. As Christians we have more in common because of Christ. We tend to focus on the differences that divide instead of Christ and what we have in common.
Do you have a proper people perspective? Are you pursuing God’s plan for peace? Are you praising even in the problems? Are you praying, going to God or gossiping? Are you pondering what is pure or what is putrid? Are you putting these things into practice or are you just letting them be principles in your life?

Leave a comment

3. Aquila & Priscilla – Ministering through Marriage

Acts 18:1-3; 24-28
Last time as we caught up with Paul in Philippi on his second missionary journey we learned several lessons from a woman named Lydia. Paul left Philippi and journeyed through what today is Greece stopping in many cities to teach and preach the Word of God. One of the places he stopped was Berea where we get our name Berean. Acts 17:11 says that the Berean’s studied the scriptures daily to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. Scripture was their source, their sounding board. What is your source for truth, is scripture steering your life? They didn’t just regularly read God’s Word they rely on it. Today we catch up with Paul in Corinth and meet 2 new partners in ministry, turn with me to Acts 18:1 As a couple they had been:
Scripture says that they had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome. How often when we read scripture do we skip over the story and miss the seen. It’s a seen of suffering, think about the seriousness of this statement: Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome. They were not just hurt they were homeless. What would be going on in your heart if you were deported: Told to leave and never come back, if the only thing you could take was what you could carry. How would you feel, what would you do? Have you ever been hurt by someone? The truth is that we all have and the greater question is not have you been hurt, but how are you going to handle the hurt? They may have been homeless but they were not helpless. Their focus wasn’t on the hurt done to them but the hope given to them. Today many believers have become bound up in bitterness because of what has happened to them. They have become defined by what has been done to them instead of what has been done for them. Because of the Cross of Jesus Christ hope always trumps hurt, no matter what comes my way I win. The basis for their life was the bible not their bruises, they went back to the basics, back to what they believed. Today we are basing life on a false premise that if we follow God that life will be better, but according to Aquila & Priscilla that belief is bogus. For many of us the only reason we run to God if for results it’s not for the relationship. We pray not to communicate and commune with God but to so He can cater to our cares. I fear for the church because we have become seeks of his hand but not His heart. We are basing things on better not being. But look at Aquila & Priscilla, when things didn’t go their way they stuck to the Word of God. Which way will you go when things go south, the way of the world or the way of the Word? It is here in the midst of the hurt that we see their real heart, and hurt will reveal your heart. Aquila & Priscilla had a heart of:
In this life you are going to get hurt but you don’t have to get hung up on the hurts. Bitterness doesn’t have to become your basecamp you can come back to the bible. So how do you stop from getting high centered and hung up on the hurts? The world will tell you that you just need to move on, but Aquila & Priscilla didn’t just move on they ministered. They partnered with Paul, they opened up their lives and they loved. When we are hurt we have to do what our hearts don’t want to do love. What are you going to do with your hurt, are you going to haul it around and let it hinder. You can’t control the actions done to you but you can control your attitude. So often when we are hurt it causes us to hold back in our relationships but notice that Aquila & Priscilla responded by reaching out and receiving Paul. They invited him into their lives, they didn’t just work together they lived together. They understood what it was like to be a stranger in a foreign land and so they reached out and received Paul. Look at all that they had in common, the same confession Christ, the same profession tent makers, the same problems or persecution, but they also had the same provider Jesus. Are you going to let your suffering suffocate you or be a vehicle to serve others? You can spend your time living in misery and moaning or you can minster. Are you going to let you heart get hard or are you going to use the hurt in your life as a tool to help others? 2 corinthians 1:3-4 says: “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” We have a choice we can become calloused and uncaring or we become compassionate. What kind of a helpmate are you?
Despite having been made homeless they were hospitable. So many of us have convinced ourselves that we don’t have a big enough home to be hospitable. But hospitality is not about your accommodation it’s an attitude and an action. They carried on caring and we learn in 1 Corinthians 16:19 that “The churches here in the province of Asia send greetings in the Lord, as do Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings.” They didn’t have a house but they had a home and the Christian home is still one of the best tools for spreading the gospel. Do guests find Christ in your home? Do you see your home as a tool to share Jesus or is your home primarily about your happiness? Their hospitality opened the doorway of healing and salvation for many. Do you realize that it’s the simple things that often speak the loudest, In Matthew 10 Jesus said “if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded” Seriously rewarded for a cup of cold water. Do you have a heart of helping, a heart of hospitality? The truth is you don’t always know what is going on in people’s lives take Paul for example. While in Philippi Paul was put in prison when he was released he went to Thessalonica but there he had to flee when a mob rioted against him. He went to Berea but the mob in Thessalonica came looking for him so he was forced to flee from there to Athens where he was confronted with the discouragement of a city filled with idol worship. So when Paul arrived in Corinth he would have been weary and worn down but look who he meets this married couple who use their marriage to minister. Why don’t we serve because we are selfish, the greatest obstacle to ministry is me. What I love about Aquila & Priscilla is that in an age when the focus of marriage seems to be only on what happens between a husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla are an example of what can happen through a husband and wife. Their effectiveness together speaks volumes about their relationship with each other. What is interesting to note is that you never find Aquila mentioned without Priscilla NOR Priscilla mentioned without Aquila. That means that Priscilla and Aquila were a team, partners in ministry. Their marriage teaches us about the power of togetherness and team work. They worked together to build up the Kingdom of God. What a contrast between our first married couple Ananias and Sapphire who lived for self and Aquila & Priscilla who lived to serve the Savior. They pulled in a partnership to build God’s church, because it was bigger than either one of them. You are either going to pull together or pull apart. Most of us have missed the greatest part of marriage, ministry, because we are making marriage about me instead of ministry. Today we have made the goal of marriage self instead of service, happiness instead of helping. Marriage is about husband and wife coming together to complement not to compete. We live in a world where men put their wives down and where women belittle their husbands. Where most married couples spend more time trashing each other than teaming together. Feminist theology imposes the type of competition and struggle into this 1st century couple that is entirely foreign to anything taught anywhere else in scripture. What these feminist scholars miss is the beauty of what Priscilla had, she had a partner who valued her gifts and teamed with her for God’s glory. She didn’t try to overshadowed Aquila and Aquila didn’t try to crowd her out. We have lesser marriages today because we have limited them to the smallness of self. We see marriage simply as a vehicle to self-happiness and self-fulfillment instead of as a ministry. But Aquila & Priscilla’s partnership served a greater purpose that personal profit, it was about proclaiming God’s plan. Look a marriage with no ministry will become miserable. Your marriage matters, your ministry matters. Are you in a partnership that is pulling or one that is putting down. The secret to a satisfied and successful marriage is when we find ourselves in the sweet spot of serving the Savior together. Are you making marriage about me or ministry?
Paul and his ministry partners Aquila & Priscilla left Corinth and arrived in the city of Ephesus where at some point Paul traveled on leaving Aquila & Priscilla behind in Ephesus. In Verse 24 we are introduced to “a certain Jew named Apollos, who was a native of Alexandria which was located on the north coast of Egypt and was the second largest city in the Roman empire. Alexandria was noted as a cultural and educational center, its library was the largest in the world and scholars tell us that before it was destroyed by fire it contained over half a million scrolls. Apollos was an educated man, he had the equivalent of what we would today refer to as a university or graduate school education. His credentials were very impressive, not only was he an eloquent speaker but he was bold and spoke with zeal. Apollos was a person in the Word, 24 ‘mighty in scriptures, a Person of the Word, 25a ‘instructed in the way of the Lord’ and a Person by the Word, 25b, ‘fervent in spirit …taught diligently. What about you are your ways a reflection of God’s Word or just your wants? He spoke with accuracy but his knowledge was limited, scripture says that he “had been instructed in the way of the Lord; . . .though he knew only the baptism of John.” We don’t know exactly what Apollos knew and did not know, but it is clear that he had a limited knowledge of the Lord Jesus. He was excited about what he did know about the scriptures, he had an “enthusiastic spirit” which literally means “burning or boiling hot.” But no matter how passionate he was he couldn’t take people any further than he himself had been. As Apollos is passionately preaching Aquila and Priscilla not only hear him but realize his limited understanding of scripture. Here before us is one of the most powerful passages on humility put into practice. I’m not sure who I am more impressed with Aquila and Priscilla or Apollos, for they all reveal hearts of humility. True to form when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home so that they could help Apollos. But I want you to notice that they wrapped their help in humility. They took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. They opened their hearts and their home to this young preacher. Didn’t put him in his place, or publically humiliate him but privately and lovingly completed his theological picture. They could have had an attitude of attacking, “I will show this young buck from the college educated city how little he really knows. But humility doesn’t humiliate, it doesn’t put others down to put self-up. No that’s pride that puffs up and puts down. Aquila and Priscilla didn’t see themselves as superior they saw themselves as servants. They came alongside Apollos they didn’t crash into him. This verse also reveals the humble attitude that characterized Apollos. Although cultured and well educated, he humbly sat at the feet of these tentmakers to learn about Jesus. He was humble enough to go to their home and receive help. He recognize that he didn’t know it all and that learning about the Lord is a life-long process. The Bible is complete but our understanding of the Bible is far from complete and we need open minds as well as open hearts if we are going to continue to learn about the Lord. Aquila and Priscilla used their marriage to mold and mentor Apollos, the result was that Apollos proved to be a powerful preacher. He became a great blessing to other believers. What if instead of building into Apollos they had belittled him? Paul referred to them as fellow workers in Christ Jesus, companions not competitors, people who were willing to risk their lives for others. They weren’t just Sunday morning Christians putting a check mark by church and saying well I’ve done my good for God. No they were committed to using their marriage for ministry, to mentor and make a difference. So let me ask you what are you modeling in your marriage? In your team ministries do you have a heart of, help, of hospitality, and humility? Are you being a companion or a competitor?