How Peace Comes December 8, 2019

Philippians 4:10-20 Rev. Donald W. Hackett, D.Min.         

Centre Presbyterian Church New Park, PA

Faith Conversations with Children

Today is the second Sunday of Advent and we remember that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace who came to give you and me peace.

  • How can you tell if someone is peaceful? The way they look and talk.
  • Focus on the manger scene, who looks pretty peaceful?
  • I think Mary is the picture of peace. We know when the angel Gabriel came to her and told her she was picked by God to have baby Jesus, she said,“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Luke 1:38
  • Mary trusted God.  She put herself in His care and direction. She wanted to do what God wanted. Mary knew when she focused on God, she would have peace.

Introduction

When someone gives you a gift, what is the right thing to do?  Say “thank you” and maybe you even write a thank you note.  How many of you were taught to write thank you notes? In our passage today, Paul is writing a church to say thank you and in this letter we learn a lot about how to have peace.

Background

This letter was written to a vibrant church located in the seaport of Philippi in Greece.  It was a bustling trade center at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Most of these followers of Christ were not Jewish in background, but Gentile.  They probably knew little of the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul and his companions had started this church on their second missionary excursion. It was the first church in Europe and Paul had a special relationship with them. 

The Holy Spirit worked wonderfully in Philippi.  When Paul and his associates arrived these people responded enthusiastically to the good news of Jesus the Christ.  Quickly they learned, matured in the faith, and became partners in supporting Paul’s work.  Now, years later, Paul has received another gift and is writing to thank them.  Let’s read what he says.

Philippians 4:10-20

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 

Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. 

In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. 

For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. 

Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account. I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 

And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The friends who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of the emperor’s household.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

1. Peace comes through others

We know that Paul is writing this thank you letter from prison in Rome. 

In prison, one has a lot of time to reflect and it can be very lonely.  Paul may have wondered if people remembered him any more.  We can understand when he finally hears from this church in Philippi and writes:

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 

It can be very powerful when others show they care for you. One of things I celebrate about this community is that you are so faithful to write notes and send cards.  I have received so many special cards from you all.  Each was a gift and an encouragement.  I know many cards go out from you all each month. Thank you for your practice of send notes!  It is a special ministry you have in this church.  Thank you.  

Application:  Has the Holy Spirit been nudging you to encourage or thank someone?  I have found that if I am prepared, I am more likely to respond to those nudges.  I have note cards, envelopes, and stamp gathered together in a spot they are easily retrieved. I get a sense I should write someone, I go pull out my supplies and in minutes the task is done. Emails, phone calls, and text messages are even easier.  What do you need to do to get ready to encourage others?  The peace that Jesus Christ comes to others when we hear and respond to the needs of others. 

2. Peace comes with contentment

Then Paul follows with this amazing statement:

Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 

Did you hear that?!  Paul has learned to be content in all situations.  When we reflect on his life, Paul did not have an easy road.  After Paul became a follower of Jesus Christ, he was a target for abuse.  In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul outlines what he has been through:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 

          • Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 
          • Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. 
          • I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.
          • I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 
          • Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 

How can Paul be content? I thought contentment was something we entered when we are comfortable and relaxing in our favorite chair near a crackling fire.  Isn’t being content is when you have all your bills paid, a full refrigerator, no big medical issues, and your kids aren’t fighting in the back seat?! Paul redefines contentment here.  Being content is not having everything around you the way you would like it.  Rather, contentment is allowing God to give you peace no matter what is happening.  Do we still work to make things better?  Of course we do!  Do we let people walk all over us?  No, we speak up for what is good, true, and just.  

The peace that Jesus Christ brings and that Paul experienced come when we give to God those things we cannot change.  Paul did not ask for all those hardships.  They just kept coming as he followed Christ.  Paul learned to surrender his situations to God in prayer again and again. As he did, he experience peace and contentment. 

Application: What do you and I need to surrender to the Prince of Peace today?  Is it a family situation or a problem at work?  Are we struggling in ways only a few know?  Are we frustrated with a person or problem that just does not change?  Don’t hang on to whatever is stealing your peace and contentment.  Share it with Jesus. 

The peace that Jesus Christ brings comes to us when we hand over our problems to God.

3. Peace comes through Christ

Paul’s secret here is that when he handed each situation over to God, an amazing thing happened.  Paul wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” 

Paul learned to ask for God’s strength and wisdom.  Paul was a bright guy, had an impressive education, and had a number of great talents.  That was not enough.  He would be the first to tell you that all that was all trash next to knowing Christ and finding his life in Him (Philippians 3:8). Paul learned to draw on the power of Christ to do the things God was directing him to do.  As Paul would surrender each situation to Christ, the power of Christ would carry him the next step. 

As you and I seek to serve others, we need God’s help.  We can serve on our own but it will miss the mark. When we are listening, God will clue us into who to serve, when, where and how.  That is one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  He directs and guides us.  In our Advent devotional from Lancaster Bible College, music professor Paul Thorlakson describes a time a friend’s prayers really helped him. He writes: 

About a decade ago, a persistent dark cloud seemed to intrude into every area of my world.  It was debilitating.  One Saturday morning, the oppressiveness of that cloud was especially intense and troubling. At about 10 a.m. in a remarkably miraculously instantaneous way, that cloud seemed to pass, and the sun began to peak through. Two days later, I received an email from a friend, who I had not been in contact with for a long time. He wrote God had laid it on his heart to pray for me on that same Saturday morning. I was absolutely stunned and grateful for my friend’s spiritual sensitivity.

(31 Day Advent Devotional, Lancaster Bible College Capital Seminary & Graduate School, 2019, pg. 7.)

Application:  Don’t you love it when the Holy Spirit guides you and me to help others just at the right time and in the best way? Be on the lookout for God guiding you.  The peace that Jesus Christ brings comes to us and others when we respond to the needs of others. 

Let’s pray:  

Thank you Prince of Peace for coming to be with us today.  Guide our steps, give us wisdom and power as we serve.  In Christ, Amen.