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Series:  Philippians:  A Letter of Life in Jesus - Part Eight

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
August 31, 2003

Please turn with me to Philippians 4:2-9.

I read recently that French novelist and playwright Alexander Dumas once had a heated quarrel with a rising young politician. The argument became so intense that a duel was inevitable. Since both men were superb shots they decided to draw lots - the loser agreeing to shoot himself. Dumas lost. Pistol in hand, he withdrew in silent dignity to another room, closing the door behind him. The rest of the company waited in gloomy suspense for the shot that would end his life. It rang out at last. His friends rushed to the door - opened it - and found Dumas very much alive - smoking revolver in hand.

“Gentlemen,” Dumas announced. “A most regrettable thing has happened. I missed.” (1)

More often than we'd like to admit we find ourselves in ongoing hurtful situations of personal conflict - situations of unresolved issues - anger - bitterness - division. What we’re coming to this morning is a section of Philippians where Paul shares with us steps we can take to resolve our interpersonal conflicts.

Philippians 4 - starting at verse 2: "I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the Gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."

Let's pause there. When Paul was on his second missionary journey - with Silas, Timothy, and Luke - they were led by the Holy Spirit to the city of Philippi in Macedonia. In Philippi, Paul had a very effective ministry - sharing the Gospel - teaching - encouraging believers.

Philippi was where Lydia became Paul's first European convert. Philippi was where Paul cast a demon out of a woman who was being exploited as a fortune teller. Philippi was the city where there was a massive earthquake that destroyed the jail - and as result the jailer and his whole family accepted Jesus as their Savior.

In this city - in this church where Paul and his companions had worked so hard - with people that they deeply cared for - in this church were two women - Euodia and Syntyche - dear sisters in Jesus Christ. These two women - along with Clement mentioned here - they had been Paul's fellow-workers - partners - a ministry team struggling and laboring together - to share the Gospel in Philippi.

But now Euodia and Syntyche were involved in a great and long-lasting conflict. Someone referred to these ladies as "Odious" and "Soon-touchy." Heard that? They were really going at it. On a scale of 1 to 10 - they were up to an 11. This was a good one.

Their conflict was spreading to others - causing problems in the church - damaging the work and testimony of the church in the community. Its not hard to imagine that the church could have been taking sides - choosing teams for the conflict. The situation was so bad that the church - when it had sent Epaphroditus to Rome - where Paul was - sent Epaphroditus to report on the condition of the church - they specifically asked for help with these two ladies. That’s how big this conflict had become.

We need to hear that. There's no way to sweep conflict under the carpet - or ignore it - to look the other way. To say, "Well, I guess I'll just have to live with this." The effects of conflict are too great.

When we carry the weight of unresolved conflict - it tears at our hearts - burdens our spirit. Unresolved conflict can make us emotionally and physically sick.

Conflict - even if its between 2 individuals - conflict effects the lives of everyone around us - our kids - our families - in the community - at work. People become afraid to talk about certain subjects - we talk around issues but not about the real issues. There are people that we stop talking to.

Imagine what our children learn about God's love - when God's people can't get along together. What do our kids learn from our conversations going home after church? Imagine how our testimony in the world is compromised when the church can’t get along. And they do notice when we don’t get along.

That's not God's plan for our lives. He has something much better for us. Notice Paul’s appeal in verse 3: I ask you also to help these women. He’s appealing to the church. In the midst of conflict God gives to us the ministry of reconciliation. We have a critical responsibility to help each other get along. What a privilege! What a joy. Rather than getting wrapped up in conflict - choosing what team to be on. We get to be a part of the solution.

Conflict is an opportunity to demonstrate the grace - the love - the mercy, - the longsuffering patience - the forgiveness of God - the reality of His presence in our lives. An opportunity - in Christ’s name - to love each other. Turn and share that with each other: “Conflict is an opportunity for us to love each other.”

In verses 4 to 9 Paul shares 5 attitudes that can help us move through conflict towards resolution.

First Attitude - verse 4: REJOICE IN THE LORD

Not usually our first thought when we encounter conflict. But Paul is emphatic: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I'm going to say it - are you ready - rejoice!"

When I worked for Hume Lake Christian Camps - if someone noticed that you were a little touchy - they’d come up and say, “Attitude check.” Which was really irritating. The last thing I wanted to hear when I was ticked off about something. “Attitude check.” “There’s nothing wrong with my attitude. Buckwheat. Go check your own attitude.”

We often need the reminder to rejoice. There are over 230 times where the Bible encourages us to rejoice. The majority of times this rejoicing is over the work of God in the lives of His people.

  • Rejoice because God reigns - for us He has conquered over death and sin.
  • Rejoice in God because He has revealed His great love and grace and mercy towards us in Jesus Christ.
  • Rejoice because we can always trust in God - His word is true - we will never be ashamed if we trust in Him.
  • Rejoice because God has prepared for us an eternal heavenly home.
  • Rejoice because God has worked salvation on our behalf through Jesus Christ.
  • There is tremendous joy - a rejoicing - in knowing that Jesus - God - even in the midst of the worst conflicts we may find ourselves in - cares about us so deeply and our situation - that He's already died on the cross for the sin of that conflict - triumphed over it - has authority over it - and is with us right in the middle of the conflict.

    Second attitude: BE PATIENT

    Verse 5: "Let your gentle spirit - your patience - be known to all men. The Lord is near."

    Not many years ago there was a professional wrestler named Andre the Giant. Andre was 7'4" tall - weighed about 500 pounds - an enormous - strong - formidable man. For 15 years - until he died in 1993 - for 15 years Andre the Giant wrestled professionally.

    Andre - with all of his strength and size - was also known as "The Gentle Giant." I read recently that Andre said it never occurred to him in all of his adult life to be physically afraid of anything. As a result, he was secure - gentle - not having to prove himself or defend himself all the time.

    I love wrestling around with my kids - all four of them knocking me down - crawling all over me - brutalizing dad. As they’re getting bigger it’s getting more painful. But, I’m still bigger and stronger. I know that if I had to win I could win. But winning isn’t important. Because of strength - self-confidence - I can be free to not win all the time.

    We don’t have to win!

    Paul writes, "Be gentle - because the Lord is near." The Lord is our strength and our confidence. We have a champion - a great strong Savior who is as near as our heart. He's able to care for us - defend us - bring about justice. We don't need to win. We can be patient - gentle towards each other.

    Third attitude: PRAY AND KEEP PRAYING

    Verses 6: "Be anxious for nothing - not some things - or these things - or a few things - be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

    A few years back I read a book by Mary Geegh - who - years ago - was a missionary in India. Mary would take every situation and circumstance to God in prayer - pour it out before God - and then wait and listen for His answer. Whatever He said to do - she would do.

    One time there was an ongoing conflict between Mary and a colleague. The conflict was getting real ugly and was affecting the ministry and a lot of other people.

    One morning Mary was praying about all this and God told her to take her colleague one fresh egg. That seemed silly. But God said to do it. So, with embarrassment and anxiety she took the one fresh egg to her colleague. Her colleague received the egg with disbelief and great gratitude.

    Come to find out, the colleague was a mother of ten children. She had used her last food to feed her family. All of which was behind the attitude of this colleague that was fueling the conflict. This fresh egg was to be her only food for the day. God used one egg and the trust of His servant to break down the barrier between them - to begin healing and restoring their relationship and provide food to this mother. (2)

    Paul highlights 3 types of prayer.

    First - conversation with God - pouring our hearts out to God - "in everything by prayer"

    There’s a story of a woman who came to Dr. G. Campbell Morgan and asked, “Dr. Morgan, do you think we should pray about the little things in our lives?” Dr. Morgan replied, “Madam, can you mention anything in your life that is big to God?” (3)

    Sometimes we think that God is impressed with scholarly - religious sounding - prayers - lots of Thee's and Thou's - and shalt this and wilt that. "Oh Almighty Wondrous God of Creation - Thou who art enthroned above the firmament" - and so on. As if somehow if we don't talk in King James English we aren't good enough to speak to God. But God listens to our hearts. He invites us to pour out our hearts and our situation to Him.

    Second type of prayer - petition - "supplication"

    Paul - in every one of his prayers recorded in the Bible - is asking God for something. In conflict, God invites us to ask Him for help.

    Third - "thanksgiving"

    Pray with gratitude to God because He hears us and is already working to resolve the conflict.

    God’s promise comes in verse 7: Pray - And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    “Guard” was a military term that described a Roman soldier holding his weapon - walking back and forth in front of an open gate so that no one could enter. There's a tremendous - God given - peace that comes to us - a peace that guards our hearts and minds - when we take our conflicts to God - and lay them out before Him. He hears and is already working to bring resolution.

    How does that saying go? “A family that prays together stays together.” Imagine the church. “A church that prays together stays together.” Wouldn’t it be great - in the midst of conflict if we could agree together to get on our knees together - all of us prostrate - on the same level - opening our hearts before the throne of God? Seeking His resolution to our struggles.

    Paul writes - don't stress out over conflict - pray. If you're anxious - pray. If you're losing sleep - pray. And, keep on praying.


    Verse 8: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

    Notice something with me. Paul never mentions what the conflict is between Euodia and Syntyche. That should say something to us. In most situations where we find ourselves in conflict the issue is not important. We usually get wrapped up in our position on an issue - thinking we're right or justified.

    The goal of conflict resolution is not always the solving of the conflict - or declaring a winner. The goal of conflict resolution is to release us from bondage to the conflict - to help us grow and move forward - beyond the conflict.

    We've heard this, "I can't change others - but I can change myself."

    If we're going to see the conflict as a positive - life changing - growth experience - an opportunity for God to work in our lives - then we need to get our focus off of ourselves - off of the other person - off of the conflict.

    Paul gives us a starter list - six other things we can be focusing on:

  • Whatever is true - God's Word - His Gospel.
  • Whatever is honorable - Godly behavior and character.
  • Whatever is right - The commands and will of God.
  • Whatever is pure - those things that are holy - and righteous - morally pure.
  • Whatever is lovely - those things that promote Godly love in us.
  • Whatever is of good repute - those things which produce in us a reputation for having Godly character.
  • Paul says focus on these things - meditate on them - dwell on them - and God will change our heart and bring growth in our life.

    Fifth attitude: CONTINUE IN OBEDIENCE

    Verse 9: "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice the things, and the God of peace will be with you."

    Its so easy - when we're involved in a conflict - to get depressed - to become physically wiped out - and to be in danger of spiritual burn out. The pressure of conflict can drive us to do things which are wrong before God.

    How many of us have seen this? Truly Godly people - when faced with ongoing conflict with their spouse - will opt for adultery or divorce - even though they know its wrong before God. Workers - wronged by their employers - who opt to steal from the company - or worse. How easy it is for us to wage verbal wars against those we have a conflict with - even though God tells us not to. Sometimes when we see the ugly side of how God's people treat God's people we start to question our faith. "If this is Christianity - maybe I signed up for the wrong faith?"

    Paul reminds us not to abandon our faith or obedience to God in the midst of conflict. God is still God regardless of our conflicts. We can grow through conflict - be strengthened in our faith - if we purpose to renew our decision to obediently follow the will of God in our lives.

    There was a father who was in his study reading when he heard a commotion outside the window. It was his daughter who was playing with her friends. It got louder and it got louder and more heated and more argumentative until finally this father couldn’t restrain himself any longer. He pushed the window open and said, “Stop it. Honey, what’s wrong?” The little girl responded quickly, “But, Daddy, we were just playing church.” (4)

    God has something much greater for us. Conflict is an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love towards each other.


    What conflict are you in bondage to? Where do you need release? What personal right are you clinging to? Maybe its a conflict that has spanned continents and years. A conflict at work - with your kids - your wife or husband.

    Today - let go of it. Give it to God. Speak to Him. "Lord Jesus, this is what I'm struggling with (name it). Here it is. I give it to you. Change me. Help me to leave this with you and to look forward with expectation to what you will do in my life."

    Lord Jesus release us from the conflicts that binds us. Teach us to rejoice in you - to find our strength in you - to keep speaking to you about the circumstances of our lives - to turn from focusing on conflict to focus on those things which are worthy of our meditation - keep us living in obedience to your word and will.

    1.  Today in the Word, Moody Bible Institute, January, 1992
    2.  Mary Geegh, God Guides
    3.  Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible Commentary on Philippians
    4.  Leslie Flynn, Great Church Fights

    Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.