“Positive Attitudes and Actions”
Sermon on Philippians 4:4-9 by Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Wong
Martin Grove Baptist Church, Toronto, April 30, 2017
When parent go away on vacation, they leave the children in the house with a list. These include a number of do and don’ts. They include, wash the dishes after use. That implies not to wait until the night until we come back to wash them. Take out the garbage. Don’t have a party in the house. Don’t leave the stove on.
The Apostle Paul gives a checklist for his fellow believers at Philippi. They are the conclusion of his letter, right before he signs off. They are important reminders and instruction as they are apart. They are called by Bible Commentator, Gordon Fee, as “staccato imperatives.” As the music term implies, with each sound or note sharply detached or separated from the others for emphasis.
We will look at these positive attitudes and actions that we should incorporate in our lives. May the Lord particularly remind you of one to grasp and apply.
- Rejoice in the Lord
This is not a new concept in the book of Philippians. It is often called a letter of joy. The word “rejoice” or “joy” is used 16 times in the letter. We are especially reminded in this verse that “to rejoice” is not based on circumstances or good fortune. We are to rejoice in the Lord always, at all times, in any circumstance. Did you hear that, church? If not, “Rejoice in the Lord, always and again I say, Rejoice.” Paul and Silas demonstrated that when they first came to their city, were put in prison and were singing songs of praise. The Philippians themselves were going through tough times as well by those outside and even inside the church. Rejoicing must be in the Lord. While complaining and a sad face may be a natural response. Rejoicing is a supernatural response.
We note that rejoicing is commanded. We may not feel like it. We do this by faith. Do you remember the classic children’s song, With Christ in the Vessel?
“With Christ in the vessel, We can smile at the storm, Smile at the storm 2X
With Christ in the vessel, We can smile at the storm As we go sailing home.”
The song is based on Jesus with the disciples in the midst of the storm on the lake.
We can take the stance demonstrated by many of the Psalms. “The righteous rejoice in the Lord” (Ps 64:10; 97:12). They praised God in advance. They thanked God in advance for what was yet to happen. They did this by faith. For them, it was a done deal. Do you have this inner joy? If so, let your face know about it. Have a “sneaky smile.” Other will ask, why are you smiling? Smile by faith.
- Demonstrate gentleness
Even amidst difficult circumstances, believers were not to retaliate but to show gentleness. Other words for gentleness include “kindness” and “tenderness.” Gentleness is polite, restrained behavior. This is not weakness but it takes strength to control anger and not lash back. It is showing kindness when the expected response is retaliation (Thielman)
What I am finding is the aggressiveness of drivers who are anything but gentle. They tailgate you, honk their horns, and even use their car as a weapon to cut you off. I don’t see that many gentle drivers these days. I saw a post this morning – “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (posted on Instagram by Canadian Living).
The opposite of gentleness is the spirit of contention and self-seeking. (Lightfoot by Fee). This is the Apostle Paul’s version of 1 Peter 2:23, spoken of Christ but urged on Christian slaves: “when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” It is this gentle forbearance and meekness of Christ, to which Paul appealed in 2 Corinthians 10:1, which he here calls the believers to exhibit in Philippi. (IVP Commentary on Biblegateway.com). Meekness and gentleness (same word) of Christ. This is the proper conduct of a gentleman or gentlewoman.
Why are we gentle? The Lord is near. Psalm 145:18, “The LORD is near to all who call on him. Also, it means that the Lord’s coming is near who will right all wrongs.
- Don’t worry but pray about it
We come to the verses that are the ones most quoted in this book. Philippians 4:6-7. They are found of Bible memory systems. They are very meaning. They connect worry and prayer. Did you know that worry is a sin? Don’t worry about it. If we worry, we are not following the Lord and his instructions.
What are you worrying about today? What keeps you up at night or preoccupies your thought? Is it making ends meet? Personal or family health? Worry is related to concern. People have panic attacks too where they are immobilized, heart racing, thinking about something.
We are to specifically pray about it specifically. Illustration of “My Worry Book.” Write down your worries specifically and pray about each one.
Changing perspective. “When asked “How would you have lived your life differently if you had a chance?” Nadine Stair, an 85-year-old woman, from Louisville, Kentucky, provided these poetic words as her response…
If I had my life to live over again,
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d limber up.
I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances,
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would, perhaps, have more actual troubles but fewer imaginary ones.
you see, I’m one of those people who was sensible and sane,
hour after hour,
day after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments.
If I had to do it over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else- just moments,
one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute.
If I could do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.
If I had to live my life over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances,
I would ride more merry-go-rounds,
I would pick more daisies.”
(I have seen a number of versions of this)
As a result, we experience God’s peace. It guards or garrisons our lives – hearts and minds.
- Think good thoughts
Here are a number of areas to focus our mind. Whatever is… What fills or occupies our minds overflows to speech and action. These are certainly an apt description of Jesus Christ. We need a good filter on what we allow through our eye gate to enter our minds. You are what you eat. You are what you think.
- Imitate good examples
Paul is the example for them to follow, It was by what they heard or saw from him. They were to put these into practice. We have many great examples of Christian faith in our midst. Here the stories. Learn from each other.
Positive attitudes and actions? In what area is God speaking to you? To rejoice in the Lord, demonstrate gentleness, don’t worry but pray about it, think good thought or imitate good examples? Decide on one. Pray about it. See how God will develop that in your life this week.
Joseph Scriven was a person who experienced grief. Born in Ireland, he desired as a young man to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Royal Marine, but his poor health made that impossible. Then he fell in love and was engaged to be married, but his fiancee had a riding accident, was thrown of a horse and went head first into a river and drowned before their wedding could take place.
To put as much distance as possible between himself and that tragedy, Scriven then moved to Canada. While living here, he became engaged again, but his fiancee became ill and died before they could be married.
In his grief, Scriven determined to devote himself to a life of service. He was especially known for carrying a bucksaw and cutting firewood for people in need. He was trying to live out the Sermon on the Mount.
Scriven received word that his mother was ill. He couldn’t afford to return to Ireland, so he sent his mother a poem in the hope that it would comfort her. The poem began, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!” He later submitted a copy of his poem to a religious journal anonymously, where it was published. A few years later, in 1866, he died.
But his poem lived on in ways that he could never have imagined. Ira Sankey, a musician who worked with Dwight L. Moody, published it in a book of hymns, and Moody had it sung in his evangelistic meetings. Soon “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” was one of the best-known hymns in America. Missionaries took it abroad, where people sang it in many languages.
This hymn has maintained its popularity for a century and a half—probably because a man acquainted with grief—who happened also to be acquainted with faith—helps us to see that faith can triumph over grief. The hymn of often sung at funeral and we will sing it in a couple of moments. (from https://austinbhebe.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/what-a-friend-we-have-in-jesus/ . Also see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKjUoE2fack