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:
1. PROPER PEOPLE PERSPECTIVE – Vs 1
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.
d. My CROWN
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:
2. PURSUE PEACE VS 2-3
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.
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?
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?
5. PONDER WHAT IS PURE Vs 8
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:
6. PRACTICE Vs 9
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?