Philippians 4:1-3

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37.jpg Sunday Bethel: 1.13.2013
Title: Tough talk to the "Choir" about harmony
Big Idea: Its really tough to get along in a world where you know you’re really gifted…
Introduction
Getting along is not a solo event. It requires the right people and the right attitudes to make it hum on all cylinders. Truth be told, we are often our own worst enemies. I have been somewhat surprised at the lack of attention this passage has drawn from many commentators. I might understand that from those of another generation because "relationships" were not the stuff of their concern. But even amongst more modern commentators on the text… a sort of silence. For any organization, the greatest threat to the long-range viability may be its ability to foster harmony amongst the members of the organization. And oftentimes, success is not determined by the abilities of the best and the brightest, but the mix of personalities that must get along during the week. But how about a swim in the dangerous waters just off the coast of relationship, maybe just dip our toe in the shark infested waters of women’s relationships. It’s here where I am reminded again just how relevant Scripture is to my life and that of our congregation… offering guidance and principles to the big stuff our our day.
Reaching deep within the darkness that was her own experience, author Kelly Valen published an article in the NY Times about the difficulties women face from other women. While critically "thumped" by many, she received many other positive comments from other women such as:

  • This put into words the things I’ve been feeling for decades
  • I never knew there were others out there like me.
  • Girl on girl crime is the worst– you never foreget that brand of ugliness.
  • And again, I’m 46 and still licking my wounds from Junior High.
  • Finally, I’m always cautious. Except for my closest friends, I keep women at arm’s length.

To be sure, conflict happens to both genders; but for a church with such a prominent number of women involved, Paul, writing from jail in Rome knew all too well what we often fail to admit; that the biblical approach is the only real answer to our needs; whether that be dealing with the issues of doctrinal error and sluggishness, or the relationships that either drive a local church forward or into the ground. And it shouldn’t be blamed merely on our personalities. Nor more strident a mix could be observed than the two disciples, Peter and John (whom we looked at in some detail the other night); as different as they were in their approach and demeanor, they developed a bond of friendship that lasted throughout their apostolic career.

Transition: Not to be dismissed here then is the admonition that Paul had left already with this church about the necessity of self-effacing leadership and respect for the authority of the organization. ( See: 1:27-30; 2:1-4, 5-8; 2:19-30). Here the counsel comes out of a genuine love for the members of this church; recognizing the history that they had already enjoyed and the value they had proved to the apostle. By the way, unlike the situation faced in Greek cities and Hebrew culture, Macedonia was filled with prominent women in places like Philippi and Thessolonica with people like Lydia and others who were part of husband-wife teams of small business owners and also part of the churches’ early backers. Whatever the prevalence of such businesses, it is no doubt that women played a very prominent role in the activity of the Philippian church
Pyramid point bigger A model prayer

He loved these people. They represented the work of his hands and the prayer of his heart. He calls them:

  • His beloved brethren
  • His joy
  • His crown: significant when considering that he viewed these people like seasoned athletes pursue the winner’s wreath woven especially for them after they had given everything they had to win the coveted prize of "first" in the race.
    And so, he begs them..
CONSULTING150G1_Group_SI0522.jpg Who are these women?
With names like Euodia and Syntyche

These are women who had found, prominence.

  • Euodia: prosperous journey: One who has arrived; gifted, capable, and strong.
  • Syntyche: Pleasant acquaintance: Here we have a
    good mixer; the first to greet strangers and
    a person who could make everyone feel welcome.
The owner of Deb Kneads Dough An urgent plea
His plea, just that; strong word– I beg you

Writing from his prison cell in Rome, he could have ordered , but instead, he asked… Laying principle upon foundation, (earlier scripture), he proceeded to challenge these two women to higher ground.
The "And" of verse 3 suggests that the women in question had already started the work of reconciliation.

CONSULTING150G1_WomanAndMan_SI0577.jpg An Ardent Request
A change in tone…

When approaching two beloved saints who were out of fellowship with each other because of some difference and subsequently out of fellowship with the Lord– Tender word: ( Gal. 6:1)
This is work that should not be blundered through but purposely pursued and suggest a real giftedness in knowing how to lead people forward.
But when he makes request of (Syzgus: English spelling for Greek word meaning yoke-fellow).
Paul uses his authority for true yokefellow who would understand these instructions as orders from the Lord himself.

Mark profile photo This true Yoke-fellow:
The real deal

He is the real deal: (true). This yoke-fellow meant the yoke, or crossbar tied to the end of a pole and having collars or loops at each end by which the two oxen were put to the trough. This word had become his "name"

  • The 1st century practice– discard the pagan name in favor of a name descriptive of his character. This is one who "pulled well in a double harness."

Here was a model that two strong, very capable, personable women needed. Someone who could model well the practice of pulling well in a harness with someone else.
Two sources of encouragement here:
The Word, "And" suggests that they had already come to see the problem and were doing "something" to honor Paul’s request.
The word, "help" suggests that they had already come to see the light; laying aside some differences for the good of the ministry. To "help" means to take hold with another in a task. Used of Martha when asking Mary to lend a hand ( Luke10:40). Its just that important in a church where women had been so influential in getting this church off the ground.

Pyramid point bigger Real Work for the church

This is the work that should not be blundered through but patiently, yet purposefully pursued. Real giftedness here in seeing people move through difficulty and get to ministry. Real leadership, to see the challenge of a problem and yet engage it head on.
This is the "labor" that athletes understand all to well. Anyone who plays on a team, together, cooperating with one another in harmony to get to the goal, w/o the agonizing effort of all. That’s how it used to be. But somewhere, they had gone from being part of the solution to part of the problem.

South Haven summer night An urgent plea
Paul says, I h.ave such a high view of you that I know you are going to get it right.
Pyramid point bigger Real Work for the church
Principles that drive a church forward, even in rough seas.

  1. A Willingness to confess vulnerability: The vulnerability to open ourselves to examination; the vulnerability to admit wrong.
  2. The proximity of a godly associate: (Gal 6): What we’re preciously short of in this culture is the kind of yokefellows who understand the enormity of their commitment to Christ; can stand back from their own prominence long enough to advance the cause of the Gospel and others (maturity, I’ve had names like that move across the pages of my life at every turn.
  3. The perspective of a bigger picture
  4. The incentive to do the right thing. Plenty of incentive out there to grab for the easiest out, or the thing most agreeable to the masses, but precious little incentive to elevate our character and just do the right thing.

I commend that to you here… for Paul’s time… and ours.

Pastor Mark

616.546.0292

Final sentence

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Mark J. CongrovePastor, Bethel Baptist church
616.546.0292

Check out markinthemorning.wordpress.com for regular encouragement and inspiration or follow vicarc1 on twitter.

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