David Jeremiah - The Joy of Harmony
In the early church there were a few men who were gifted with what was called exhortation. No question about the fact that Paul was one of those gifted men. They used their gift to encourage and motivate people and when they spoke, it was like you were in the locker room getting ready to go out and play a game because they spoke like that, motivationally and powerfully. So here are Paul's four exhortations to the Philippians and to us in Philippians chapter 4:1 through 5. Number one: don't be defeated. Paul writes in the 1st verse of the 4th chapter: "Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved".
I don't know if you noticed it or not but in that one verse, Paul said five good things about the Philippians. They were, first of all, his brethren. These people were family to the apostle and he considered them his spiritual brothers and sisters. Second, twice in the same verse, he called them beloved. Third, he described them as longed-for and more than anything else he valued the people themselves. He describes them as his joy and he ends up by referring to them as his crown. And it's intriguing that his admonition and exhortation to these people is not for them to march forward in the battle. He tells them to stand. In every one of Paul's letters there is no offensive warfare demanded of believers. That comes as quite a surprise to many of us.
Even in Ephesians 6 where you have the whole armor of God, all of the armor except for the sword of the Spirit is defensive armor, to protect the believer and help them stand. You see, the fact is there is no more ground for us to take. Jesus Christ has already won the battle decisively when he died on the cross and was resurrected from the dead and his command to us is to hold the ground that he's already given us. We are to stand fast in the Lord. So the first thing Paul tells these Philippians believers from his incarceration is, "Whatever you do, don't let the enemy make inroads into the joy of the Lord".
And remember, that was happening. There were some dudes from Jerusalem who had come up and tried to tell these Christians that unless they embraced the Old Testament law they could not be Christians. In other words, they had to become Jews before they could become Christians. Paul said that's false doctrine. Don't let it in. Stand your ground. Stand against that which comes against what God has given you and that's the challenge he gives to us today. Everywhere you look today, there are strange things being said. It's just not in the political world, it's in the religious world as well. Our job is to know the Word of God, to understand what God has given us and stand with everything we have against those who would come to take it from us.
Here's his second exhortation: don't be divisive. Now I have to believe in my heart this might have been maybe the main reason Paul wrote this letter. Here's what he says in chapter 4, verses 2 and 3: "I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life".
Now there's a little background to this so let me create it from the Scripture. When Paul came to Philippi to start this church, he started in a way that many of the churches started during that day: without a church and without a synagogue they would meet at the river in the middle of the city and have their little gatherings. One day Paul came to Philippi, he went to the river and there he met a woman named Lydia. She was a commercial woman. She sold purple and that day when Paul met with her and explained the gospel to her, she quietly accepted the Lord and she began to live for him.
If you wanna read the whole story of this, it's in the 16th chapter of Acts. Paul owed a debt to the many women who were a part of the early churches that he made happen. These women had enough faith to pray, many of them were very prosperous. There's a whole study on the women who financed Paul's journeys, that helped him do what he did just out of their love for the gospel and their love for him. However, the Philippian church has now grown. It's been in existence for a while and, apparently, there's these two women in the church who are causing trouble. And Paul's really worried about it. And all this stuff we've been learning about unity and walking in oneness of spirit, I believe it's all directed to this problem. He's building up to it.
Now he's gonna tell us what the problem is. These two women aren't getting along. Paul referred to these women as "those who labored with him in the gospel". These weren't just women who were at the edge of the church. These were women who were at the very core of the church. They may have been some of the women who helped find a church and found it. Their effect on the congregation couldn't be explained if they weren't influential in the congregation. Their names are interesting. Euodia means sweet fragrance. Syntyche means affable. So Sweet Fragrance and Affable weren't getting along.
I remember a time in the church that I started in, Fort Wayne, Indiana, that we were experiencing some disunity among some of our members. It was the first time I'd ever experienced that and I was trying to figure this all out. It was exhausting to me because it was taking up all my time. Every day somebody would call me, "Did you hear this? Did you hear that? She said this, she said that". And I could not come to grips with the amount of time it was taking for me to deal with disunity in our church. And then one day in my study, I came across this Scripture: "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, and long-suffering, bearing with one another in love," now watch this phrase, "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit with the bond of peace".
I looked up the word "endeavor" and it's a word that comes from the same word as diligence. It means to work hard, to pursue, to give everything you have to it. Here is Paul telling the Ephesians that keeping the unity in the church is just plain hard work. You have to be aware, you have to be willing to spend yourself because the unity of the church is one of the high priorities of the Lord Jesus. He prayed in his high priestly prayer that we would be one. We are all part of the body of Christ and when little chapters like some churches, maybe one that you came from, has disruption and disunity and arguments and fights, it's displeasing to the Lord and we who are in charge in leadership in churches, we should take that very seriously.
My father, who was a pastor, used to tell me when he found out I was going into the ministry, he'd give me these little tidbits of advice. He would say to me something like this: "David, if you take care of the splinters, you'll never have a split". And he was telling me the truth. You have to work hard at unity. When something goes wrong, somebody gets upset, I mean, like about the music or whether you should wear ties or whatever, you gotta work hard at making sure that doesn't do damage to the body of Christ. As he attempted to deal with the division in the church at Philippi, Paul called upon his friends in the church to help these women. He wanted the problem resolved. His appeal was strong and his reasoning was clear: these women were members of the body of Christ and they should not be divided. Paul appealed to a threefold unity to bring these two women back together.
First of all, he reminded the Philippians that these women had unity in their salvation. He said, "These women, their names are in the Book of Life". If you study the Book of Life in the book of Revelation, you discover that the Book of Life was a book into which every human who was born into the world had their name inserted and if, by the time they die, they have not received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, their name is blotted out of the book. When we get to heaven someday, God's gonna open the book to see if our name is in the book. And if we have accepted Christ, we will be in the book. But if we have not, our name will not be there. Paul said their names were in the Book of Life. They were Christians. They had unity in salvation. But they also had unity in Spirit. Paul said they were of the same mind.
When Paul exhorted these two women to be of the same mind, he was just reminding them that they had the Holy Spirit living in them and he was talking about the spirit of humility and servanthood which should have filled both of them. They had a unity in Spirit. These were women who were together. And here's the most amazing thing. They had unity in service. Euodia and Syntyche are wonderfully described here as "women who labored with Paul in the gospel and with Clement also, and the rest of his fellow workers". These two women were not just Christians. They were not just women who knew the Lord. They were women who served the Lord. Think of that now. They were unified in their salvation, unified in their Spirit, unified in their serving.
Oh, how he loved the unity of the believer. Much more could be said about that but let's get number three. Don't be defeated, don't be divisive, and don't be discouraged. Here's my favorite part. Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice"! I don't know what was going on in the Philippians church but if we've been studying along the way what was happening with all these people trying to come in and destroy their unity, all these people who were trying to drag them back into the old days of Judaism, that must have been really hard and there probably had been discussions at dinner on some nights at home where one person was going this way and another person had been attracted to go this way. And they were even not together in their families. And Paul, who's a great example to all of us who preach the gospel, wanted to pour courage into their lives.
Did you know that's what it means to encourage somebody? To pour courage into their life. When somebody's discouraged, that means they're running low on their tank of courage. So when you encourage them, you fill them back up again. And that's what Paul's going to do. He says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say, rejoice"! In the book of Philippians, the word "rejoice" is used nine times and the word "joy" is used four times and the phrase "rejoice" is used twice. And these powerful positive words were written by a man who was under house arrest in Rome. This exhortation to rejoice is the message of Paul and, believe it or not, this will surprise you, it's the message of the shortest verse in the Bible. 1 Thessalonians 5:16: "Rejoice always".
Now I know what you're thinking. Some of you grew up in the church and you thought "Jesus wept" was the shortest verse, John 11:35. And it is the shortest verse in the Bible if you're just counting the English. But the New Testament was not written in English but in Greek and there are 16 letters in the Greek phrase, "Jesus wept", and there are only 14 letters in the Greek phrase "Rejoice always". So "Rejoice always" is the shortest verse in the Bible, right there, there you go. Now let's go back to this shortest verse in the Bible and put it in its context. Now I want you to get this, friends. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to 18: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks," now grab hold of this, "for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you". What is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you? Rejoice always.
When Paul exhorted the Philippians to rejoice, he was not motivating them to seek happiness. Joy is not happiness. Joy is a relationship. One of the best definitions of joy that I ever read goes like this: "Joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart when the King is in residence". When Jesus is in my life, when I'm honoring him with what I do, when I'm living the life of Christ the best that I am able to in the power of the Holy Spirit, when that's going on and Jesus is in my life and the flag of joy is flying over my heart, I can go through anything, no matter what it is. And I will be sad, I will cry, I will have tears but it can't touch the joy that's down deep in my heart. The joy of knowing that everything is okay with me as long as I'm okay with God, amen? And you know, that's not just one verse. Here's a couple of Scriptures from the Old Testament to illustrate what I'm saying.
Psalm 5:11 says this: "But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You".
Psalm 9:1 and 2: "I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High". That doesn't sound negative, does it?
Nehemiah 8:10 says: "The joy of the Lord is your strength". Did you know that gratitude and joy go together? I watched a commencement address that was given by Denzel Washington, one of my favorite actors. He ended his talk with this little bit of advice. He said, "When you go to bed tonight, be sure to place your slippers way under your bed so that when you awake tomorrow you'll have to get down on your knees to get them. And while you're down there, be sure to thank the Lord for all that he has done for you". How's that for a positive way to start your day? You see, happiness is just the world's cheap imitation of Christian joy. Did you know happenings are the basis of happiness? Come from the same word. Happiness then depends on what's happening.
How many of you know if you have the joy of the Lord in your heart, it doesn't depend on what's happening? It depends on the ever-faithful God in whose trust you place your life. When we have joy, it can be our constant possession 'cause it doesn't depend on the circumstances of the day. Paul said, "Rejoice in the Lord". Rejoice in the Lord. This philosophy made it possible for him to endure all kinds of problems and still move forward in his walk with Christ. When he wrote his second letter to the church at Corinth, he listed just a few of the things he had endured. There's two or three of these lists in the Epistles but this is my favorite. This is the things Paul dealt with every day. Remember, he's the apostle of joy. He wrote a book that has joy in it 9 times, 12 times, 14 times.
You wanna know what he lived like? Here it is. "From the Jews five times I received 40 stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness, beside the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches".
Rejoice in the Lord? You gotta be kidding me. In the midst of that, he rejoiced in the Lord. How could anyone experience all these things and still have the spirit of joy? Paul understood what most modern men do not, that joy and pain are often compatible emotions. Is there any joy greater, women, than to bring a new life into the world? And is there any pain worse than what accompanies that joy? If you never have any pain, you don't know what joy is like. If you've never been sick, you don't know what it's like to be well. If you've never lost a job, you don't know the joy of having a job. You see, pain and joy are kind of God's yin and yang, if I can say that, to keep us focused and understand that our joy isn't about what happens. Our joy is about who we know and who we love.
The apostle James wrote about this in his letter. He said, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into trials". You know, this is one of the things that's so cool about being a Christian. We can understand this but somebody who's not a Christian thinks we're crazy. That's just double-talk. This is crazy speech. And that's what they think but, if you know Jesus, you know what I'm talking about. It's true, isn't it? We have a peace that passes all understanding. If you don't know Jesus Christ and his peace and his joy, you can't comprehend that. If you haven't been through a trial or two and watched how faithful the Lord is with you when you go through that trial, you can't understand what I'm talking about today.
One of the most encouraging passages in all of the Bible and certainly one of the most encouraging in the Old Testament is this from the prophet Habakkuk who validated this concept of joy. Have you ever read this? "Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls," listen now, "yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation". For a man in Habakkuk's day, what he just described was total, absolute ruin. In an agricultural world, he just described someone losing everything they had and at the end of it he said, "Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, and I will joy in the God of my salvation".
So don't be defeated and don't be divisive and don't be discouraged. Whatever you do, don't be discouraged. And don't be defensive. Verse 5 says: "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand". When the apostle urges the Philippians to let their gentleness be known to all men, he uses a word that means to be reasonable, not to be carried away with an obsession. Paul was exhorting his friends to avoid that inflexible attitude that will not bend or yield to another's opinion. He was not saying that doctrinal conviction should be yielded. He was not urging compromise.
Paul's exhortation was a very proper ending to this whole discussion. We must cultivate the right spirit toward one another so that even in areas where we may not see eye to eye, we can still love one another and avoid the problems that separated Euodia and Syntyche. Why was he saying that? Because they were being assaulted by bad people, evil-spirited people, and Paul was saying, "Don't return evil for evil". Paul said, "Be reasonable, be gentle. There's a way you can stand for your faith without losing your reputation. You can be strong and still loving. You can be bold and not be bad". We have to show it all the time to all people whether they agree with us or not.
So as you look back, here's Paul's four principles: don't be defeated; stand your ground. Don't be divisive; be of the same mind. Don't be discouraged; rejoice in the Lord. And don't be defensive; let your big-heartedness be known to all men. So let's walk with a positive gait. Let's walk tall and strong. Let's be the people Christ created us to be. What did he create us to be? "Rejoice evermore for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you," and all the people of God said "Amen".