"Things Christians Struggle With"

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Wether we like to admit it or not, we all have at least one problem or struggle in our life. In fact, there are even struggles that our church family has. The apostle Paul lays out here in our passage some serious struggles that Christians encounter in this fallen world. Over the past few months as we have journeyed through Philippians we have seen how this church at Philippi was a good and caring church, but even great churches who have good people in them still struggle with sinful things. Every church need’s God’s word to guide them and correct them. Let’s dive in. Notice verse one of chapter 4.
Philippians 4:1 ESV
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
Paul uses a bunch of terms here to show the church his love and care for them. They are his brothers and he longs to be with them. When Paul thinks about this church it brings joy to him. Clearly Paul loves this church. But he also challenges them to stand firm, or to stick with it when the struggles of this life come up. Paul is doing everything he can to encourage them to keep living the Christian life faithfully and to apply his counsel to their lives. Never give up the Christian walk.
So, let’s take a look at these issues Paul addresses. On all of these issues I want to help us see the problem and then identify the solution.

1. We often deal with Disputes.

Philippians 4:2–3 ESV
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
The obvious problem here was that there was a disagreement between two ladies. Paul does not shy away here, in fact, he get’s very bold and actually calls out these ladies by name. Can you imagine sitting in this church service and listening to this letter being read out loud and all of a sudden you hear your name being called out. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Why does Paul do this? Why can Paul do this? Paul know this church and more specifically these ladies and he does this because he loves them and loves the church. We don’t really know much about why this dispute has come about, but we do know that Paul wants them to settle this matter so that the good news of Jesus can still be spread and not hindered there in Philippi.
The solution here is that Paul instructs them to agree in the Lord. He urges them to resolve or find a solution to fix this problem together. Can they just jump right to this and fix it, no way. The one thing that we must do just like these two ladies is to have to right attitude when we know that there is a problem. So, the solution here is to have an attitude of unity or like-mindedness. But notice here how Paul points them to do this in the Lord. It’s only because of the power of the Lord that they can come together and agree. Because of the Lord church we can come together and resolve our disputes and differences.
Paul also asks his companion to help these women get along. We are not sure who this is, but the point here is that sometimes we need someone to step in and mediate the situation. We do this so that the problem can be addressed and fixed and more importantly the church to be healthy and flourish.
If we are going to have real relationships with others, then there will come times that we will have disputes and conflicts. As believers we should not look for this or try to stir up problems but always look to agree in the Lord and be willing to ask for help when there is conflict or when it seems not to be resolved. Division in the church family can damage the health of the church but it can also affect our witness to the world. Let’s desire to get along so that we can shine brightly in this dark world.

2. We can struggle with a Lack of Joy.

Philippians 4:4 ESV
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
I don’t know about you but there can be some mornings when I get up and I lack joy. Maybe it’s because there is a lot going on and I feel overwhelmed or stressed out. It can also be that I have received some difficult news the day before. Sometimes it’s hard maintaining a joyful heart. Paul knew that these Christians there at Philippi needed to hear this challenge to rejoice.
George Mueller once said, “The first great and primary business every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord.” Even he realized that there are some mornings where we don’t want to sing the Happy Song. When you read Christian biographies of great Christian heroes and pastors we see that many of these men wrestled with seasons of despair and discouragement. In this life there are many things that can rob us of our joy. Paul in verse 6 talks about anxiety, there can be the loss of a loved one, illness, a difficult job or any other number of daily problems.
So, what is the solution? How in the world can we find our joy? Notice here that Paul doesn’t say rejoice when everything is going well. He tells the church here to Rejoice in the Lord. And he also tells them to rejoice in the Lord always. Please here me today church, our joy comes from our relationship with Jesus and in knowing him, not from our current circumstances. Paul is writing this letter from a Roman jail cell not while he is sitting on the beach in Hawaii. Paul of all people understand that his real true joy comes from the Lord and he is grateful for everything that the Lord has done for him. This still may not make sense for you today. You may be here and say but what exactly made Paul happy??? What made Paul able to rejoice and be happy was that the good news of Jesus rescuing him from the death of hell made him able to rejoice.
Paul tells us to rejoice always, in fact this is actually a command not just some really good advice. Now I already know that some of you are saying but Matt seriously how can I rejoice when certain things happen in my life??? Yes, there will come times when we are grieved or our hearts are filled with sorrow this is a natural part of life. For even Christ himself wept and was sorrowful. But we can grieve as those who have hope because of what Jesus has done for us. If you have lost your joy today i want to encourage you to reflect on how graciously the Lord has treated us, and may that lead us to live for him a life of joy.

3. We can struggle with not being gracious.

Philippians 4:5 ESV
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
Now depending on what version of the Bible you are reading from here some versions say graciousness or reasonableness or considerate or gentleness. Paul’s point here is that he desires for us to have a gentle forbearance with others. This is the exact opposite of being self-seeking or unreasonable. When we take a look into the life of Christ most everything he did was about a life of graciousness. He was going about healing the sick, blind or lame. He restored lives and forgave people. Here in Philippians chapter 4 Paul says that believers should have a gracious and gentle spirit with one another. We need to be willing to give up our preferences and show grace to others. This call to be gracious is so important as we step out into the world and engage with them about biblical truth, or even volatile issues in our culture. I have seen way to many Christians get into arguments and fights when we need to graciously step out and take a stand for what is right. We are not for sure what Paul has in mind here by telling us that the Lord is near or at hand. It could mean that the Lord’s return is near or it could mean that his presence is close. Paul may have both in mind but the point is that either way this should cause us to live differently in our world.
Solution: It should cause us to resolve differences, rejoice and to be gentle and gracious.

4. We can struggle with Anxiety.

Philippians 4:6–7 ESV
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Anxiety is not good. Here is what King Solomon had to say about this problem. Proverbs 12:25
Proverbs 12:25 ESV
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.
(Illustration of backpack)
What is worry and anxiety? We worry when we begin to imagine the future in a terrible way. Pastor John Piper says, “Anxiety seems to be an intense desire for something, accompanied by a fear of the consequences of not receiving it.” Generally in my life what happens is that when I begin to worry I think about the worst possible thing that could happen and I freak out about it. This type of thinking is sinful and I have to confess it to the Lord. When I think this way and freak out i believe a bunch of lies. What I so easily forget is that God is in control and He is wise and has a plan for my life.
Why do you think these Philippians were anxious? What did they have going on that could possibly cause them to freak out??? They faced external threats. Paul tells them not to be frightened by their opponents back in chapter 1 verse 28. They were also dealing with internal disputes as we have seen here with the two ladies. They were constantly concerned about Paul and Timothy and others. They constantly dealt with worry about God’s provision. All of these things are why Paul was writing to them.
Have you ever stopped to think about what anxiety does to you? It is the number one joy killer in our lives. It consumes us with worry and doubt. It distracts us from the Lord and robs us of peace. But there are actual physical signs of anxiety. Here are just a few. Mood swings, anger, chest pain, exhaustion, panic, shortness of breath, weight gain or loss, high blood pressure and several other difficulties.
So, what’s the solution? What can we do about anxiety? Well, Paul addresses the solution. We need God’s Word to know God’s peace.
-Be reminded of God’s provision. In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus has a specific message on anxiety and he tells us that we are more valuable to him than the birds of the air. And God takes care of the birds. The point is that worrying is pointless. We don’t know exactly what will happen in this life and we can’t control tomorrow. Remember that God will provide just what we need, not what we want.
-Take your cares to God through prayer. The number one cure for our anxiety is prayer. Paul says that peace comes only through prayer. In everything let your requests be made known unto God. D.A. Carson says, “I have yet to meet a chronic worrier who enjoys an excellent prayer life.” Let me ask you this morning, how is your prayer life? Do you have time alone with God? Do you know the peace that comes from being in God’s presence?
-Paul says we when we pray we should pray with thanksgiving and intercession. There are so many things that we can be thankful for church. God has once again given us his new mercies this morning. He has given us breath in our lungs, he has saved us from sin and death. Be thankful!!! Be reminded that God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. We need to believe that promise. So often, we grow anxious when we forget to remember God and His promises.

5. We can struggle with our thought life.

Philippians 4:8–9 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Over the past several weeks we have discussed the importance of not only knowing the Lord, but growing in our faith and running the Christian race well. But, in order for us the grow in the likeness of Jesus we have to often renew our minds.
Romans 12:1–2 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul as well as many of the apostles realized that real change involves one’s thoughts. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gets at the thoughts behind adultery and murder calling attention to our thoughts. What we think matters, and it matters more than we think. What we need today church is for God’s Word to saturate our minds so that we may be renewed day by day. In addition to God’s Word Paul also draws our attention of some admirable things to think about. Here is the solution:
-Think about what is true not false.
-Think about what is honorable not dishonorable.
-Think about what is just and not unjust.
-Think about pure thoughts not impure or lustful thoughts.
-Think about what is lovely not gross or disgusting.
-Think about what is commendable, not wrong.
The point Paul wants us to see here is that we are to dwell, think and carefully consider on virtuous things that honor God in this life. What we must do is always run things through God’s Word. If you have every wondered is this ok for me to do hold it up to the light of God’s Word. And God’s Word will always show us if it is true or false, pure or impure.
2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Today surrender your thought life to Jesus and don’t allow your mind to drift away into the gutter. As your Pastor it is good to run to passages like Philippians chapter 4 and be reminded that yes there are things that we all struggle with, however we can stand united, we can rejoice in the Lord and be gentle spirited. We can replace anxiety with God’s peace through prayer, and to think on praise worthy things. How do we do this? IN THE LORD!
Let us be reminded today of the gift of salvation. This is truly a reason to have joy. Because God through his son Jesus has removed fear and anxiety because he paid our penalty by his death and resurrection. I want to encourage each and everyone of us today to look to the Savior for help and daily renewal.
(Pray and lead into Communion)
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