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Series:  What A Fellowship - Part Eight

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 21, 2015

We are back in Philippians - at chapter 4, starting at verse 2.  We are continuing our study of Paul’s teaching on fellowship.  Fellowship being the union we share together in Jesus Christ - being His Church - His Body.  Fellowship that’s only possible because of Jesus Christ.  Jesus dying for us.  Fellowship we can only experience by trusting Jesus as our Savior - giving our lives to Him. 


That’s a mouthful.  Isn’t it?  That is a lot to process.


Hang on to this:  God actually desires for us to experience fellowship together - with Him and with each other  Fellowship that is the kind of relationship with Him and each other that we all crave.


Paul has been teaching us that the purpose of our fellowship - like our lives - is to bring glory to God.  Life - fellowship - its all about God.  And second, our fellowship - like our lives - are to be lived testifying of Jesus - living and sharing His gospel - making disciples and discipling… disciples.  Spiritual reproduction.


Philippians - to large extent - is about guarding and deepening fellowship.  There’s great opportunity in fellowship.  When we’re firing on all 8 cylinders here at Creekside this is an amazing congregation to be a part of.  Right?  Which is why our Adversary - Satan - will use any means to destroy what we share together.

To guard and deepen fellowship, Paul taught us that - first - we need to stay humble.  We need to do a reality check on our attitude.  Fellowship isn’t about us.  We need to focus on the interests of others and not just taking care of our own interests.


Second - starting in 3:1 - we’ve been following Paul’s teaching us that we need to stay focused on God - to rejoice in the Lord.  Regardless of our circumstances we need to rejoice in God - His presence with us and the life and hope He’s given us in Jesus.  We need to let go of anything that might shift our focus off of God and to put everything we are into the process of following after Jesus.


Focus on others.  Focus on God.


Which is where Paul is taking us in this next section of his letter - starting at 4:2.  What we’re coming to this morning is an illustration of what focusing on God looks like in real time.  Paul is going to give us an illustration of conflict. 


A while back I read that Alexandre Dumas - the man who wrote... The Three Musketeers - The Count of Monte Cristo - among other things - Alexandre 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, Dumas 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.  Happens in our families - at work - at school - wherever.  Even in the church.


God’s people treating God’s people ungodly.  Just basic disagreements over stuff can get ugly.  Doesn’t have to be a major theological or doctrinal issue.  Most of the time it isn’t.  Just stuff we lock horns over.


Too often we hear about some Christian killing another Christian over something going on in the Church.  Not some mentally disturbed person or someone from outside the church.  Which is hugely tragic.  But God’s people killing God’s people.  Are together?  How does that bring glory to God?


Which is what Paul is taking on in this passage.  Regardless of the degree of the conflict - we need to work through it in a way that glorifies God and testifies of Jesus.  Where fellowship is guarded and deepened.

Let’s look together at
Paul’s illustration of conflict.


Philippians 4 - starting at verse 2:  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.


Let’s make sure we’re together on what’s happening.


Philippi was a Roman colony.  It had a special status in the Empire.  In Philippi they lived by Roman law.  They dressed like Romans.  Spoke Latin.  Philippians could be born as Roman citizens.  They were hugely proud of being Roman.


When Paul was on his second missionary journey - somewhere between 48 and 51 AD - with Silas, Timothy, and Luke - they were led by the Holy Spirit to the city of Philippi in Macedonia - today its in north east Greece.  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.


Picture this:  In the Philippian church there were Roman citizens - Gentiles and Jews - slaves and masters - a “set free from demonic possession” former fortune teller - a jailer and his family - probably some former prisoners of that jailer - all meeting in the home of a Jewish business woman who led a women’s prayer meeting down by the river.  Someplace in there is the potential for conflict.  Yes?


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 - Paul describes them as his 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.  Certainly not God glorifying.  Its not hard to imagine that the church could have been taking sides - choosing teams for the conflict.


Seemingly the situation was so bad that the Philippian church - when it had sent Epaphroditus to Rome - where Paul was.  Right?


The date is about 61 A.D.  Paul is a prisoner in Rome.  Where he’ll be for about 2 years - under house arrest - living in his own rented house. (Acts 28:14-30)


When the Philippian church sent Epaphroditus to Paul 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.


Conflict never effects only one person.  It takes at least two to have conflict.


Conflict never takes place in a vacuum.   It always effects others around us.

When we carry the weight of unresolved conflict - or conflict that we’ve not dealt with at least in terms of dealing with it in a healthy Godly manner - conflict will tear at our hearts.  It will burden our spirits and effect our relationship with God.  It has the potential to make us emotionally and physically sick.  And, even if we don’t see it or we try to ignore it - conflict will effect our fellowship - our family - our witness.


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.  We tip toe around the elephant in the room.  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.  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 on each other.


Turn and share that with each other:  “Conflict is an opportunity for us to love each other.” 


How do we do that?  In conflict how can we stay focused on God and not what’s tearing us apart?  To stay focused on God and move forward through conflict to the witness and glory of the God who can redeem any situation and any person.


In verses 4 to 9 Paul gives us five steps to help us move through conflict.


Step #1 - verse 4:  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 


Rejoice in the Lord is Paul bringing us back to his theme for this section.  The place to begin is focus on God.  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 - 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.  19 times in this letter Paul writes about joy and rejoicing.  It is a significant theme in this letter.  The Christian life is to be full of joy.  Christian fellowship is to be experienced with joy.


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 Hes 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.


Scripture goes on and on and on giving us reasons to rejoice in God.


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.


Step One:  Rejoice in the Lord - get your focus on God - not the conflict.


Step Two:  Be Reasonable.  Verse 5:  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The lord is at hand;


Anyone recognize this man?  Andre the Giant.  Professional wrestler.  Actor.  Died in 1993.  Andre was 7’4” tall - weighed about 500 pounds - an enormous - strong - formidable man.

Andre - with all of his strength and size - was also known as “The Gentle Giant.” 
A while back I read 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.


Not too many years ago I used to wrestle around with our kids.  They’d be crawling all over me - brutalizing dad.  As they got bigger that got more painful.  But I knew if I wanted to win I could win.  But winning isn’t important as a parent.  Right?  Of course now a days all that wrestling would be a fight for survival. 


Point being that when our “self” isn’t on the line we can be free to not insist on winning.  We don’t have to win.  We can hold back for the benefit of the other person.


“Reasonable” translates a Greek word that has the idea of being “gentle” - patient - moderating our response.  Thinking - reasoning - carefully about what is the appropriate or reasonable response.  Not just blowing people away because we can.


Be reasonable in conflict.  Why?  Because “the Lord is at hand.”


How close is your hand?  Pretty close.  Yes?  How close is the Lord?  Hand close.


Meaning that God is not off someplace running His universe totally oblivious to our circumstances and the conflict we’re experiencing.  He knows what we’re dealing with.  He’s knows the people involved.  He’s not surprised by all this.  He knew about all this before creation was creation.  He’s already worked out - and is working out - His plan and purpose in all this.


Let’s be reasonable.  When we’re focused on God the pressure is off of us.  We don’t have to win.  The Lord is our strength and our confidence.  We have a champion - a great strong Savior who is as near as our hand.  He’s able to care for us - defend us - bring about justice.


Step Two:  Be reasonable in our response.  We don’t need to win.  God already has.


Step Three:  Don’t Stress - Pray.


Verse 6:  ...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with 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.


A number of years ago I read a book by Mary Geegh - who - years ago - was a missionary in India.  What Mary wrote about prayer has hung in my mind as very challenging and very helpful.


Mary would take every situation and circumstance to God in prayer - pour it out before God - and then wait and listen for His answer.  Which might mean sitting for hours in a room - with a piece of paper and pencil - sitting quietly anticipating God’s answer.  And God would answer.  Whatever God 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.  Which seems kind of silly - pretty awkward.  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’d 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 Mary to break down the barrier between them - to begin healing and restoring their relationship and provide food to this mother. (2)


Ponder that.  How much anxiety - stress - would we miss out on if we just focused on God in prayer.  Expected that God will answer.  And we’re just going to follow God when He tells us what to do.  


Paul highlights 3 characteristics of prayer.  All of which get us focused on God.


First - “in everything with prayer”


“Prayer” translates a Greek word that’s used of fervently - passionately -  heart level coming before God.


It also has the meaning of worship.  Coming before THE God in all of Who God is.  God, Who alone is worthy of worship.  Coming to God knowing that God alone will be holy and righteous and just in His response.


Everything means… everything.


There’s a story of a woman who came to Dr. G. Campbell Morgan - the great British Bible teacher - she asked him, “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)


Nothing is too small or too big.  Nothing is off limits.  God doesn’t require us to clean up our language or use religious sounding words like “Thee and Thou” or have everything organized in a well crafted prayer.  Sometimes we’re not even sure what the question is - or the issue.  That’s okay.  And we don’t need to check our emotions at the door.  Tears are okay.  God doesn’t demand that we change our attitude first.  God is bigger than our anger or depression. 


God listens to our hearts.  He invites us to pour out our hearts and our situation to Him.


“in everything with prayer” describes prayer that’s letting it all hang out before God - knowing that THE God hears - and will do the right thing in response.


Second characteristic of prayer: “supplication” - asking God to do something.


Supplication means admitting we can’t do it.  We need to ask God to step in.  To deal with what we can not.  Which is pretty much everything.  And then to let Him do it.  Why ask God to accomplish what He alone can accomplish if we’re going to trying doing it on our own anyway?


Third - “thanksgiving” - which literally means to... give thanks.


We exist because God wills it.  We live because God allows it.  We’re saved because God accomplished it.  Sometimes we need to stop asking God for stuff and starting thanking Him for what He’s already done.  Praying with gratitude to God because He chooses to hear us and is already working in our circumstances and our lives.


In verse 7 there’s a promise that comes with that:  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


When Paul writes, “Do not be anxious.”  It’s a command that’s written in the plural.  “You all don’t be anxious.”  Meaning prayer is a group activity.  Its what God enables us to do for each other and with each other.  


How does that saying go?  “A family that prays together... stays together.” 


Same is true of the church.  “A church that prays together... stays together.” 


What goes on here on Tuesday and Saturday nights - Sunday mornings before services - people during the week praying for each other and God’s work here - all that is essential if we’re going to keep moving forward together.


Essential - especially as we move through issues that our Adversary might use to get our focus off of God - to create conflict - essential that we be on our knees together - all of us prostrate - on the same level - opening our hearts before the throne of God.  Focused together on God.


Let’s be careful.  When we pray - often times what’s on our mind is what?  We want the answer to our prayer.  Who’s right or wrong.  What do we do next?  Notice that the promise isn’t about getting an answer.  God’s peace isn’t dependent on our getting the answer we want on our time schedule.


Peace is dependent on...  God.  Peace - God’s peace.  Peace that goes way beyond anything we could ever hope to understand - but we desperately need - because its God’s peace.


“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.


When we go before THE God together in prayer - asking and relying on His working - with thanksgiving knowing that He is working - there's a tremendous - God given - peace that comes to us - a peace that guards our hearts and minds - notice the plural - our hearts and minds - when we take our conflicts to God - and lay them out before Him - we know that He’s standing guard.  He’ll take care of what needs to be taken care of and He’ll let us know what He want us to do when and if He has something for us to do.


Meaning we “collectively” need to pray focused on God.  Period.  Wait for Him.  Period.  Obey Him.  Period.  Mary and the egg kind of praying.


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


Step Four:  Dwell on what’s worth dwelling on.


Verse 8:  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.


Often we have unmet expectations about the way things ought to be.  We ask how any reasonable spiritually alive person who’s reading their Bible could fail to see things the way we do.  People let us down.  Things do not go the way we think they should.  And we tend to focus on that.


Unmet expectations lead to bitterness that leads to anger.  Which if undealt with - anger leads to depression.  We get focused on what’s wrong and we start to spiral into depression - into hopelessness - into a bottomless pit of anxiety and that just gets deeper as we sink away from any solution as we understand it.


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 - off of what isn’t going the way we think it should - and on to God. 


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


Whatever is true - God and His Word - the source of what is true - valid - reliable - honest.


Whatever is honorable - Godly behavior and character.

Whatever is just - The commands and will of God.


Whatever is pure - God’s moral purity.  What is holy - and righteous - morally pure. 


Whatever is lovely - those things that promote Godly love in us.


Whatever is commendable - those things which produce in us a reputation for having Godly character.


Notice all six have their source in God.  Focus on... God.


Then Paul writes:  If there’s anything excellent - if there’s anything praiseworthy - and these things are - rather than focusing on the conflict - think about these things - fix your thoughts on them - NASB - dwell on these things.  Choose to camp out on them.  Internalize them.  Meditate and marinate in them.


Dwell on what’s worth dwelling on and God will use these things to change your heart.


Fifth Step:  Practice these things. 


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


In conflict - isn’t it easy for us to wage verbal wars against those we have a conflict with.  Wise statements shared in confidence with others that are really about gossip and pointing out the superiority of our position - gaining the approval - or affirmation of others.


Or we hold back on our giving.  Withdraw from serving.  Disengage from fellowship - hanging with only those who see it our way.  Sometimes conflict becomes an opportunity for us to excuse our own ugly behavior.


Sometimes we’re on the receiving end of conflict.  Its easy to feel alone.  To feel like a target.  How do we cope with that?


Conflict is not an excuse for gluttony.  Consuming massive amounts of so called “comfort” food.  Or drugs or drunkenness or smoking or porn or adultery or whatever ungodly behavior or attitude we might turn to “cope” with what’s going on.


Paul encourages us to do what he did.  Paul experienced tons of conflict.  But he keep focused on God.  Practice is the choice to keep going regardless of the cost involved.  Like an athlete up a 4 in the morning working out - training. 


Learned is character we’ve acquired by repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again.  Bible study.  Prayer.  Worship.  Fellowship.  Witnessing.  Over and over until the character and lifestyle of a Godly man or woman is ingrained in our hearts and minds.


Received is about taking something from someone else and making it our own.  Its no longer Paul’s faith or our parent’s faith or our pastor’s faith.  Its our faith.  Its my own relationship with Jesus. 


Heard is about listening and understanding.  Moving beyond what the Bible says or what it means - moving beyond that to what difference that teaching makes in my life.  At the heart level what changes?


Seen is about seeing and understanding.  Seeing how some Godly man or women is living following after Jesus and seeking to follow their example in our lives.  Asking, “What would look like for me?”


Bottom line:  Don’t chuck your relationship with God because of conflict. 

The promise - Paul reminds us - is that the God of peace - God Himself will be with you.  We may feel lonely.  But we’re never alone.  The way through the conflict is to go through it with God.  Stay focused - stay  committed - to God.


Processing all that…


Going back to verse 2 - what was the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche?  Doesn’t say.  Does he?  Doesn’t even keep score or tell us who was wrong.


That should say something to us.  Shouldn’t it?  In most situations where we find ourselves in conflict the issue is not important.


The goal of conflict resolution isnt always the resolving 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 - so that fellowship is guarded and deepened so that we keep testifying of Jesus and God is glorified.


Paul writing in Romans 12 - a similar teaching - Paul writes:  “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  (Romans 12:18)


Meaning - conflicts happen - and its not always possible to resolve those conflicts.  Meaning - we are accountable to God for our own actions in the midst of conflict - what depends on us.  Meaning - we’re not to be the one’s fanning the flames of conflict - but those seeking peace.


We’ve heard this:  “I can’t change others.  But I can change... myself.”

We can't.  But God can change us... if we let Him.

What conflict are you engaged in?  Where do you long for God’s peace?  What needs to change in you?




1.  Today in the Word, Moody Bible Institute, January, 1992, page 33

2.  Mary Geegh, God Guides, page 2

3.  Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible Commentary on Philippians


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.