Sermon on Philippians 4:4-7
Text: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
As we draw nearer and nearer to Christmas, Christmas carols are heard with great frequency on the radio and the television. Many of the religious ones center on joy and praise. For example, we sing, “Joy to the World.” We encourage others by singing, “Oh, come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.” The last line of “Oh, come, oh, come Emmanuel” is “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” But, what is all this joy about? Foolish question, right? We know that Christmas is a time for celebrating Jesus’ birth. We praise God for sending his Son to us. That’s what all the joy is about! But, my friends, at times the world tries to bog us down with cares and concerns. At times we may feel that there is nothing to be joyful about. Our spirits are in the dumps. This morning, however, the Apostle Paul urges us LET YOUR JOY OUT! It is 1. A Gentle Joy, 2. A Prayerful Joy and 3. A Peaceful Joy.
Let us, first of all, look at why we can be joyful. As we look at the world in which we live, it may seem as though there is nothing to be joyful about. There are the daily reports of violence both at home and abroad. There is sickness and death. There are financial shortcomings. There are angry words and broken homes. One might ask, ‘What is there to be joyful about?’.
We can be joyful for a very important reason. We have been released from the bondage of our sins. Our sins would have brought us to an eternity in hell. Even the smallest sin, committed only once, was enough to condemn us. That angry thought, that gossiping word, that act of unkindness was enough to place us in hell where the punishment that we deserved would have been felt in all of its fury. We are all guilty of these sins. No one can claim exemption. No one can claim ignorance. All are guilty and deserving of punishment.
But, then, God sent his Son into the world to do what we never could do. Jesus Christ kept God’s law perfectly. Jesus then allowed himself to be punished in our place. Jesus gave us his perfect life. An exchange was made. We received Jesus’ perfect life, while Jesus took upon himself our sins. He paid for all of them on the cross. He died in our place. He rose from the dead, giving us the victory. That is why we can rejoice, because Jesus has paid for all of our sins and we have been saved. As much as we rejoice at Jesus’ birth, we all the more rejoice at his resurrection. For that resurrection brings salvation to all who believe in Jesus as their Savior. That is why Paul urges us by saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
But, one might say that Paul was naive. How can one rejoice when they are in this world? Look at all of the problems. But, we need to remember that Paul wrote these words while he was in prison. If ever there was a time when he could have been sad or depressed, it was now. Yet, even in these circumstances, Paul was still urging the Philippians to rejoice. So also he tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” We rejoice because our sins have been forgiven. We rejoice because we know that eternal life is ours. Buoyed up by that, we can express our joy while living here on the earth. It is only fitting. We have had a great load of sin taken from us. We had an eternity of hell staring us in the face. But, God stepped in and saved us. What else can follow, but a life full of joy and thanksgiving for all that he has done for us. Paul tells us “Rejoice in the Lord always.” In the next verses, he gives us ways in which we can express this joy.
He says in verse 5, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” This is one way that we can show our joy in our Savior. We show ourselves to be “gentle.” The word “gentle” is a difficult one to translate. It is hard to pin an English meaning to it. Basically, it has the idea of “someone in a superior position of rank or argument kindly deferring to someone in an inferior position.” That means we do not always have to be right, even when we are.
How different from the way the world would have you act. The world teaches us to think of ourselves first. ‘You deserve the best. Your desires should be catered to first. And nobody, but nobody, had better infringe on my rights! Don’t ask me to do anything. I’ll do what I see fit and best.’ This attitude shows itself in every aspect of our lives. In the relationship between husband and wife, parent and child, siblings, friends, employer and employee. This is the selfish aspect of life that we are born with.
This is the exact opposite of how the Christian wants to act. The Christian would rather be wronged than wrong anyone. Elsewhere in Scriptures we are told to serve one another. We willingly help each other out. We place ourselves beneath others, happily and humbly serving them. We know that, if we are wronged while we serve, all wrongs will be righted when Jesus returns. But, until that time, life is too short on this earth to be spent in endless bickering. We have such a short time together. Let us show love for others by being willing to let our gentleness be evident to all. That is one way in which we let our joy in being saved shine forth!
Paul continues by saying, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” We don’t have to be anxious about anything, because we know that we can present our requests to God. We have been assured that God hears all of our prayers. He listens to every one of them. He is able to do something about them, as well. As the omnipotent God, he is able to grant our requests. He tells us to lay all of our requests at his feet and rest assured that they will be taken care of. Notice that Paul said “in everything.” There is no problem too little or too big for God. We can bring all of our requests before God. As Peter tells us in his first epistle, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
We also bring our requests “with thanksgiving.” We don’t want to forget how God has blessed us in the past. We spend a great deal of time teaching our children to say, “Thank you.” Let us listen to our teaching and thank God for all of his blessings as we bring our requests to our God.
When we face anxiety in our lives, let us not complain. Rather than telling them to a friend, who can only lend a sympathetic ear, let us tell our cares and concerns to our God, who is able to do something about it. Let us show our love and joy in the fact that we are God’s children by coming to him in prayer. In that way our joy shines forth.
Paul gives us one more reason to rejoice. He says in verse 7, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We have the peace that comes from God within us. At this time of year people bring out the words of the angels and speak of peace on earth, meaning peace between peoples and nations. That was not the peace that the angels were speaking of, nor is it the peace of which Paul is writing here. This peace is the end of hostilities between God and man. Jesus brought about that peace when he suffered and died on the cross and when he rose again. That peace goes beyond our understanding, that God would willingly send his Son to die for us. Yet, we believe and rejoice in that peace that comes from God.
This peace “guards your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This peace acts like a sentinel at the gate of our heart and mind. It keeps out whatever would be harmful or dangerous to us. It keeps sin from corroding our faith in God. It keeps Satan away from us, by giving us the strength to say “No!” to his temptations. This peace that comes from God keeps us safe until we enter the kingdom of glory, where we will be with our God forever.
Because we have this assurance of peace with God, we can be happy and content with whatever circumstances we might face while here on the earth. If we face hardship, we know that God will use it for our benefit, and the hardship pales in comparison with the joys of eternal life. When we face times of joy, this is also a blessing from God. No matter what comes our way, we can rejoice in the fact that God is in control and, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are at peace with God. Show your peaceful joy!
Our society, it seems at times, frowns on showing emotions. We are told to have the same face on, whether we are happy or sad. But, my friends, let your joy out! Don’t just go through life from day to day. Let your joy out! Let others know why you are so happy. Let your joy be seen as you humbly serve others. Let your joy out as you trust in God to supply all of your needs. Let others see that peace that is yours, because you know your sins have been forgiven. Let us sing this Christmas season with joy in our hearts and may that joy be evident all year long. Let your joy out!
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