Thankful for Our Church Family by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR OUR CHURCH FAMILY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Thankful for Our Church Family

Introduction: One of my fondest memories as a kid growing up was having family meals with the whole family. I especially remember those meals when we were having my favorite dish or dessert, my mom, dad, and grandma would give me an extra spoon from their plate. It was their way of saying – “We know how much you love this! So, we are willing to sacrifice so you can enjoy yourself and we can watch your joy!” It built a feeling of love and assurance in me. Amazingly, I’ve found myself doing the same with our kids when they were young. If we had a special meal or some ice cream the kids really liked (we’re not talking about vegetables), I would take some from my plate and put it on theirs and watch their faces light up. I am so grateful for my family. It taught me so much.Family is where we learn how to love others and live with others. The church is also a family where we also learn how to love others and live with others. But it goes beyond: Our earthly family is temporal but our spiritual family is eternal and we are constantly adding more people to the dinner table. This is very hard for people to grasp in a world that is antisocial and self-centered. God has given us the church for a reason. Are you thankful for the church?

Colossians 3    12Therefore, astheelect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you alsomust do.14But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

Question: Do you see it as optional and burdensome or do you see it as essential or beneficial? Have you entered the church family through Christ? Are you saved?

Context:We’re in our series called “Thankful.” With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, the goal of the series is to prepare our hearts to have the right perspective at this time of the year. Today we’re going to talk about being thankful for our church family. Paul in his letter to the Colossians talks about some essential values of a church family. When I see that list, I realize that we have much to be thankful for our church family. 3 things to be exact:

I. GODLY RELATIONSHIPS

Colossians 3    12Therefore, astheelect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;

Background:The key phrase here is “the elect of God.” Who are the elect of God? Keep in mind that this passage is not about the doctrine of election and predestination and all that. In the context, it is simply the adjective “eklektos,” which means “choice,” “excellent,” or “pure.” The idea behind it is that of a special people. The church is a special people of God, holy and beloved. Being this kind of a people, we are to have certain family values. What are they?

  1. Greek word is “splanchna,” which refers to our vital organs like “heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.” These were considered to be the source of our emotions. The word implies mercy from within.
  2. Greek word is “oiktirmos,” which has the idea of compassion with lamentation. Together, “splanchna” and “oiktirmos” have the idea of a deep gut level compassion for others that cannot be put into words. A family has a bond that is inexpressible.
  3. Greek word is “Chrestotes,” which has the idea of kindness. It’s the opposite of harshness. It is “always alive and active and breaks out spontaneously in the life of the person who is led by Christ.” (NIDNTTE)
  4. Greek word is “Tapenophrosune,” which means a deep sense of humility. It is the word that Jesus used to describe himself in Matthew 11   28“Come to Me, allyouwho labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” In other words, people should find rest through you.
  5. Greek word is “Prautes,” which means gentleness. But, it is the gentleness that comes from God. It is the fruit of the Spirit.
  6. Greek word is “Makrothumia,” which is more than just patience. It is something that God does in us that helps us meet people with a generous and self-giving spirit.

13“bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…”

  1. Greek word is “Anechomai,” which means “to put up with.” It means don’t say or do what comes to your mind. It is also reciprocal in the context.
  2. Greek word is “Charizomai,” which comes from another Greek word “charis,” which is grace. It means to show grace and to forgive each other. Rest of verse 13“…if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you alsomust do.” 14“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

Application: I am thankful for this church family for its godly relationships. It is not perfect by any means but it is one where I see these Christian graces at work. If you come with the spirit of “giving someone a piece of your mind,”“straightening people out,” or “putting someone in their place,” you are missing out on what this church family is about. Are you truly thankful?

II. WORD AND WORSHIP

16“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…”

Background: What is the Word of Christ? Is it the words that Christ preached while he was on the earth? I believe it is really the word “about” Christ, the entire Bible. For those of us who are living on this side of the canon, it is both the Old and the New Testament. One of our core values at Clearview is that “We are a Bible believing church that believes in the importance of sound doctrine and the need for a scriptural foundation for our daily life and church.” The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice.”That’s why we emphasize biblical preaching. There are times that I have to put aside meetings and even certain ministries if I feel that the message needs some extra time. After every message, I ask myself certain questions:

  • Did this message come from the Bible, from its immediate and overall context?
  • Is it clear enough to understand and apply?
  • Does it magnify Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross?
  • Does it draw the lost to salvation?
  • Does it call the saved to obedience?

16“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another”– Here “teaching” is the systematic explanation of truth and “admonishing” is “strong encouragement” to follow what you have learned. It also involves correction. This happens through Sunday School, Wednesday Evening Bible Studies, Circle Groups, and Inner Circles. This is available for adults, youth, and kids. This is a must for us to live in this world.

“teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” – We are now talking about worship here. 3 titles are given:

  • Psalms – the Greek word is “psalmois” which comes from the Greek word “psallo,” which means “to pluck the strings.” They are songs of praise with a beat. They can be from the Old Testament but many were also composed.
  • Hymns – the Greek word is “humnos” which originally was even used by Homer to mean poetry that was recited or sung. It means to sing about someone or something. It’s not just a reference to Protestant church songs from the 1600s. I love the old hymns but we shouldn’t stop there. Every generation should write more hymns.
  • Spiritual Songs – the Greek word is “ode” or “ade” that’s where we get our English word adoration. This includes songs that reinforce our beliefs and draw us close to God.

“singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”– This tells us the attitude we should have in worship.

Application:I am thankful for this church family for its heart for the Word and Worship. It is not perfect by any means but I see the focus and the balance. If you come angry because your music is not being played, you will miss out. Are you truly thankful for the worship of this church?

III. SELFLESS MINISTRY

17Andwhateveryou do in word or deed, doall in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Background:This is a doing and serving church. We are to meet the needs inside and outside. We are to go across town and across the globe to meet the needs in Jesus’ name and with thanks to God the Father through him.

Invitation:Are you doing that? Are you serving Christ? Are you doing it thankfully or grudgingly? Are you saved?

Thankful for my Church Family

THANKFUL FOR MY CHURCH FAMILY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

thankfulformychurchfamilyThanksgiving is upon us and we are told to be thankful for our family, friends, health, nation, and even spiritual things like the Word of God and our salvation. But there’s one thing that we usually don’t hear in this list – it’s our church family. So this weekend I’m preaching a message titled – “Thankful for my Church Family.”

Romans 1 7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.

Overall Background: Unlike the churches in Galatia, Philippi, and Ephesus, Paul did not start the church in Rome. We don’t know who did – maybe it was someone on a business trip or someone on a military assignment or maybe it was a family or a group of people but somehow the gospel made it to Rome and the church was born. In fact, when Paul wrote this letter to them, he had never even been to Rome as an apostle. But, he heard about them and listen again to what he says in Romans 1   7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all…” Paul had never even travelled to the church family in Rome but he was already grateful for them!

According to a survey by AAA that came out last Wednesday, this Thanksgiving week 46.9 million people in America will travel about 50 miles or more from their homes to visit family and friends. It’s the highest number in the past 8 years, about 300,000 more than last year. That’s a lot of travel! But, did you also know that according to some estimates as many as 16 million people in America travel to their church every week? Could be more but I’m being conservative. But keep in mind, that’s 52 times a year. So, 16X52 = 837 million trips to see the church family throughout the year! 46 million trips just at Thanksgiving versus 837 million trips throughout the year! But, if you talk to most church going people, not many are grateful for their church family. In fact, most of them are unhappy with their church family. Some are disappointed with their church family. Yet, others look at their church family as a burden, an obligation, and treat it as dispensable/unnecessary. “It’s alright but I can live without it.”

Question: How do you see your church family? Are you grateful for this church? Do you realize what God has done in your life through Clearview? How do you see this place? How do you talk about this place to others? Are you saved? If not, you will never truly appreciate the benefits you are receiving here.

This morning we will learn to be thankful for our church family like Paul was for the church family in Rome. Let the Holy Spirit bring an attitude of gratitude for this church.

I. REASON TO BE THANKFUL – FAITH

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Background: The reason Paul is grateful for the church in Rome is because of their faith, which is being spoken of throughout the world. What does “faith” mean here? The Greek word “pistis” has two implications:

  1. Saving Faith – it means receiving the message of the gospel. It means believing that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and He is alive today. Later in Romans 1:16 Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Again, in 1 Corinthians 1:21 Paul says, “…it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.I can give you many other examples but here’s the point – Faith, first and foremost, means being saved by believing in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s the point – the church in Rome had the reputation of being a gospel preaching, soul saving church.

Churches today are trying to make a name for themselves, such as “contemporary church,” “old-fashioned church,” “young people church,” “missions minded church,” “Bible-teaching church,” “community focused church,” and many other titles. Paul is not grateful for the church in Rome for any of those reasons but for their faith in the gospel. My goal as a pastor of this church has always been and will always be to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with every man, woman, boy, or girl, no matter what they look like and where they come from. That’s why the motto at Clearview is “Making Christ Visible.” That’s why I’m thankful for this church family.

Application: Are you thankful for Clearview? Are you grateful for the focus we have at this church? Are you saved? Have you placed your faith in the work of Jesus on the cross? The goal of this service and everything that goes on here is to get you saved.

  1. Life of Faith – it means living daily by faith in God and His promises. It means trusting God to guide, provide, and protect the direction of our church. You have to understand the background of this church in Rome in order to appreciate that compliment from Paul. The church in Rome was made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers. One early historian (Suetonius) tells us that in AD 49 Jewish believers were being expelled/kicked out of Rome because of their faith. More than likely some of these Jewish Christians had family members and friends who were taken away from them. You can only imagine their pain. The Gentile believers in the church were Roman people or other nationalities that also believed in the gospel. What an interesting combination! They don’t have a whole lot in common. Oil and water coming together but blood is uniting them. In spite of all this, the one thing that is being heard about them is that they are a family of faith. Meaning: They are a church that believes in God for great things. They are a church that believes that God will provide and we can trust Him with the impossible.

Almost everything we do here can be duplicated. Good preaching – you can go and listen to a great talk by some great speaker. Good music – you can go to a great concert. Good programs – you can join some club. Good outreach – you can join some relief organization. But there’s one thing the world cannot duplicate – it is our faith in God. Clearview stands today because of our faith in God. People in this community are still scratching their heads as to what is the secret of this church! Rich, poor, black, white, young, old (led by some Indian guy whose father is a Muslim convert) keep coming to this church and it keeps growing! How? It’s our faith that God will do great things. Listen carefully – if we stop trusting God for great things, we begin to make sense to people. Let’s be a mystery! Let us be known for our faith in a powerful God!

Application: Are you thankful for the life of faith in this church? Are you adding to the faith are you taking away? Are you an asset or are you a liability?

II. RESPONSE IN THANKFULNESS – PRAYER

9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,

Background: Paul wants the Christians in Rome to know that because of their reputation of faith, he is not only thankful for them but he is also praying for them. Many times people mention their church but it’s not in prayer. It’s in gossip, criticism, anger, and disappointment. If you have a problem with Clearview, start praying for it and see what God will do. He will not only change Clearview but he will also change your heart towards Clearview. But Paul begins the verse with – “For God is my witness.” Now we’ve all said that to someone at some time – “Praying for you.” “We’ll keep you in prayer.” Paul wants them to know that this is not fluff. So he adds, “For God is my witness.” Meaning: God knows that I’m not lying to you. “…whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.” Meaning: God knows that I am no hypocrite. I serve Him very sincerely from my inward self. “…that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” And what is Paul praying for? I can think of a few things he must have mentioned in his prayer:

  • God build their faith in You.
  • God help them to not lose heart.
  • God make them more like Jesus.
  • God give them a hunger and thirst for your Word.
  • God ground them in your truth.
  • God protect them from the Enemy.
  • God keep them united, loving, kind, and patient towards each other.
  • God help them to keep winning more and more souls in the kingdom of God.

But there’s something more. Listen to verse 10 “making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.” Paul wants to visit them. Why? Listen to verse 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established. Meaning: Paul wants to strengthen them in their faith. He wants them to be established. How will this happen? Listen to verse 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Meaning: Paul is saying, “I will bring my faith to you and we will put your faith and my faith together so that together we will have a stronger faith – first in the gospel of Jesus Christ and then in the power of God to do the impossible. In the end of his letter to the Christians in Rome, he returns to this. Romans 15   30 Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.

Isn’t it true that when you get around people of faith, your faith begins to grow? They believe in a big God and you start believing in a big God! They believe that God’s gonna do great things and you start believing that God’s gonna do great things! They believe that nothing is impossible to God and you start believing that nothing is impossible to God! As a pastor my heart’s desire is to get you to build your life unhesitatingly on the gospel and trust God with the impossible here and at home. Then, I need my faith to grow. Bring your faith to me so that my faith will grow. Many of you have done that for me time and time again.

Application: Do you fuel the faith at Clearview or do you quench it? Are people trusting God more at Clearview because of you or are they trusting God less because of you?

Conclusion: In our time people look at the church as non-essential, just something extra. In fact, it is looked upon as more of a burden than a blessing. I’m thankful for my Clearview Church Family. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for this church. I don’t know where my marriage would be if it wasn’t for this church. I don’t know where my children would be if it wasn’t for this church.

Same goes for you – many of you still have your life together because of this church. Many of you have your marriage together because of this church. Many of you have your children walking with God because of this church. Are you thankful for this church family? Do you belong to this church family? Are you saved

When It’s Hard to be Grateful

WHEN IT’S HARD TO BE GRATEFUL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whenitshardtobegratefulThanksgiving is upon us and we often hear things like – “We have so much to be grateful for” or “There’s always something to be thankful for.” Although that’s true, sometimes it’s just hard to be grateful when you are going through a difficult time. So, I want to preach a message titled, “WHEN IT’S HARD TO BE GRATEFUL.”

Psalm 13 1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Overall Background: Psalm 13, the psalm we just read, is known as an individual lament. It is the desperate cry to God of one individual who is going through a very difficult time. Who is this individual? If you take the superscription (the first line) “A Psalm of David” as authentic (which I do), then this psalm was written by David. Apparently, David was going through some great trial and suffering and he wrote this psalm as a prayer and a praise to God. What was David going through that was so difficult? We don’t really know the answer to that. Maybe it was when he was running for his life from King Saul. Maybe it was when David and his men were busy fighting the Philistines and the Amalekites had attacked their base camp and taken their wives and children as hostages. Maybe it was when David was fleeing his own son Absalom. We’re not sure exactly what was happening but one thing we know is that David felt like he was dying and there was no one there to save him, not even God.

Question: Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been in a trial when you felt like God was just not coming through? Have you ever cried – “How long O Lord? How long?” Listen carefully: Just because you are saved doesn’t mean that you are exempt from the fiery trials of life. David was saved and yet he felt as if God had abandoned him. It’s easy to praise God and be grateful when things are great. It’s very very difficult to be grateful when things are not great.

Are you going to a difficult time? Has it been hard for you to be grateful? Are you saved?

3 things we will see in this psalm. As Joseph Parker, the great Victorian preacher of City Temple Church in London in the late 1800s said, “The psalm begins with winter and ends with summer.”

I. THE PRESSURE OF LIFE 

1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?

Background: The psalm begins with a series of rhetorical questions known as “erotesis.” It means asking questions back-to-back without expecting any answer. Listen again – How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? The Bible is such a true to life book, isn’t it? Many of us have been in a similar situation when we have cried – “What are you doing God?” “Why are you allowing this to go on?” “Can you not change this situation? “Can you not answer my prayer?” “Why do you let my enemies win over me?” Many times people compare the Bible to other religious books. There is no comparison! This book is so real and applicable.

But there’s something more – there’s another figure of speech here known as “anaphora,” which means repeating the same words at the beginning of a series of statements. 1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul…? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? David is really struggling with the time that God is taking to respond. He’s asking – “Why is God just sitting there and watching me suffer?” “If He loves me, why doesn’t He do something?” By the way, there is no mention of sin and need for repentance. This means that this was not some punishment for sin.

Question: How many of y’all have wondered that at some point in your life? If God is all loving and all powerful, why doesn’t He do something about my situation? If I’m not sinning, why is God delaying His answer?

Illustration: When I was going through pain, I remember asking the same questions.

Listen carefully: It’s not a sin to ask that question. Jesus also did from the cross. As he hung on the cross for sins He did not commit. He was paying the penalty of your sins and my sins and the sins of every human being. He was fulfilling what He had agreed to do even before the foundation of the world. Nonetheless, Matthew 27 says in 45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Application: Are you going through a difficult time? Do you know that God understands? Jesus is our “merciful and faithful High Priest” who sympathizes with us. It’s alright to cry before Him? David did. Jesus did.

II. THE PRAYER OF DESPERATION 

3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;

Background: Even though David has been praying for a long time and has questioned God for delaying His answer, yet he does not give up on prayer. Instead, he prays again. Unfortunately, when we go through tough times, we stop praying. “Why pray when God is not even going to hear.” This is the time when you should pray all the more. What is interesting to me is that now David refers to God as “my God.” It is personal. One reason God allows us to go through difficult times is to bring us closer to Him.

What does David pray for? “Enlighten my eyes…” Job said the same thing in Job 17:7 “My eye has also grown dim because of sorrow, And all my members are like shadows.” Our greatest need in times of trials is vision. “God help me to see what you see.” From my perspective, it is hopeless. But then he says, “Lest I sleep the sleep of death.” What is at stake? David is so worn out that he thinks it’s going to kill him.

How many of y’all have said that at some time in your life – “This situation is going to kill me.” What’s the answer? Pray.

What else? 4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved. One of the hardest things to face is our enemy doing well while we suffer. It is tough to watch the Enemy winning over our lives. By the way, the first enemy is singular and the second is plural. Meaning: We have one “The Enemy” and then we also have many “enemies.”

Once again, Jesus understands this. Listen to the Messianic Psalm 22 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

Application: Are you praying through trials? How are you addressing God? Are you praying for His vision in your desperation? Are you asking God to bring life into your dead situation? Are you reminding Him how the enemy is mocking you?

III. THE PRAISE OF VICTORY 

5 But I have trusted in Your mercy;

Background: Just when you feel as if all hope is gone and there is no sign of God, answer comes. David prayed for vision and God answered him. He always does! But His answer came in a very different way. It doesn’t say that God just removed the problem or that God vanquished David’s enemies. Instead, God changed David’s perspective. He is able to see life in a wholly different way. Now David is not as concerned with God’s power as He is in His mercy, His loving kindness. He understands that God does not owe Him anything. He understands that all he deserves is God’s judgment. Instead, God chooses to be merciful to David.

Many of us have too high a view of ourselves. Trials have a way of humbling us. They have a way of showing us who we really are and what we really deserve.

What’s more – My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

Previously, David’s joy was built upon his circumstances. Now, he rejoices in God’s salvation. What is this salvation? It is salvation from sin. It is salvation from self. It is salvation from Satan. It is also salvation from our circumstances. Maybe it has already happened or David is beginning to see the faint light of God’s intervention in his life. We don’t like to wait on God’s timing – Abraham had to wait for 25 years for Isaac to be born. Isaac had to wait for 20 years for his children. Joseph had to wait for 13 years before he became second in command in Egypt. Moses had to wait for 80 years before He could lead God’s people to the Promised Land. Jesus had to wait 33 years before He could do what He came to do.

What is David’s response? 6 “I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Now David breaks out in a song and says – “The Lord has dealt bountifully with me.” Before prayer David felt that he was falling into the sleep of death. He cries out to God in prayer. There is a change in perspective. Now he realizes how merciful God has been to him and all he can say is that “God has dealt bountifully with me.” Meaning: God is better to me than I deserve!

Question: How do you see your life? Do you feel that God is not giving you what you deserve? Do you feel that God is holding out on His best for your life? That is the Enemy’s greatest lie. He used it against Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and he still uses it against God’s people, especially when they are going through a difficult time.

Are you facing a tough time? Are you having a tough time praying? Are you saved? If you are saved, then when you can’t pray, the Holy Spirit is there to pray for you.

Romans 8   26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

How to Enjoy the Holidays

HOW TO ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtoenjoytheholidaysToday I’m preaching a message titled, “How to enjoy the holidays?” Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas is not too far behind. If your family is like ours, starting now, the next 2 months are crazy busy and stressful. We can’t wait for January to get here. This should not be the way.

Philippians 4   4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Overall Background: The central theme of the book of Philippians is joy. Paul mentions it about 16 times. Sometimes it is either the noun “chara” that means joy and other times it is the verb “chairo” that means rejoice. Here are some examples:

  • 1:4 in every prayer of mine (I’m) making request for you all with joy,
  • 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded,
  • 3:3 rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
  • 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown,
  • 4:4   Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Caesarea

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 2

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 3

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

The point is – Philippians is the letter to read if you want joy in your life. But there’s something more. Listen to Phil. 1:12  But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; Not sure if Paul is in Rome or Ephesus, or Caesarea. If Caesarea, then Nicole and I stood in the very room where Paul’s trial took place. Either way Paul is in prison writing a letter on joy! Here’s the point: Joy is not hinged on your circumstances.

Question: How is the joy level in your life? Here’s another question – would people around you call you a person of joy? Here’s a better question – do you bring joy or do you bring pain in the lives of people around you? Are you saved?

5 things we will learn from this passage about how to enjoy the holidays:

I. FIND JOY IN EVERYTHING. 

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Background: If you read this verse out of context, you will miss the reason why Paul stressed, “always” and repeated, “Rejoice.” Read the 2 prior verses – Phil. 4:2  I implore Euodia and in the church I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Meaning: There was a conflict between 2 women. Who were they? 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Meaning: These women loved the Lord and helped Paul in his ministry. For some reason, they were in a conflict and it was tearing the Philippian church apart. It was stealing their joy. Hence Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

Would you agree that life has many unexpected joy stealers? Relationship conflicts, health, finances, crime, morality, bad news, and the list goes on and on.

For e.g. As I was typing this message, all of a sudden the word file closed. It does that once in a while. Only problem – I hadn’t saved it in the past 5 minutes. It was frustrating because now I had to remember what I had written and retype. Such is life.

Here’s the bottom line: You have a choice. You can either choose to be hateful, painful, or sorrowful or you can choose to be joyful.

Application: What is your choice this holiday season? What joy killers are lurking in your life? Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because joy is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of joy and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

II. FOCUS ON BEING GENTLE.

5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Background: The word for gentleness can also be translated “kindness” or “tolerance.” It has the idea of being willing to bend. Bending does not mean compromising. It means learning to get along. In other words, don’t be rude, hateful or impatient but be kind, gentle, and patient. What is your motivation? “The Lord is at hand.” In other words, Jesus is near you and watching your behavior. You better be nice.

Illustration: Remember that old joke – Children were lined up in the cafeteria for lunch. At the head of the table was a basket of apples with a note – “Take only one, God is watching.” Moving through the line, on the other end of the table was a tray of chocolate chip cookies. Some smart aleck wrote a note and put it next to the cookies – “Take all you want, God is busy watching the apples.”

Bottom line: God sees everything. He sees when were being judgmental rather than gentle. Live every moment as if God is watching you because He is.

Application: Are you a gentle person or are you a judgmental person? Beware of self-righteousness. Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because gentleness is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of gentleness and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

III. FIGHT ANXIETY WITH PRAYER. 

Be anxious for nothing,

Background: The Greek word for anxious is “merimnao.” It’s origin is from two Greek words – “merizo” = divide and “nous” = mind. In other words, anxiety is a mind divided. Another synonym for anxiety is worry, which comes from the German “würgen.” It means to strangle or to choke.

Listen to what Chuck Swindoll said about worry – “Stress and worry break us down. They are the unseen source of our headaches, backaches, heartaches, and belly aches. They produce everything from obesity to obscenity, from constipation to diarrhea, and from impatience to impotence. They give us knotted stomachs, sleepless nights, high blood pressure, low morale. They make our tempers short and our days long. They cause indigestion, irritation, chest pain, and muscle strain. “You do not get stomach ulcers from what you eat,” said one doctor. “You get ulcers from what is eating you.”

What’s the solution? It’s not enough to say – “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Listen to what Paul says Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Meaning: The antidote to worry is prayer. What will happen? 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Once again, an old illustration: Frederick Handley Page of England was one of the pioneers in the early days of aviation. The story is told of how once he was flying and he heard the sound of gnawing. It was a rat. This was before autopilot so he could not do anything. He knew one thing – rat is a rodent that is not bad for heights. He began to climb higher and higher until it stopped.

Anxiety is also a rodent that cannot live in the secret place of the Most High.

Application: How is your prayer life? Are you daily grateful for what God has already done for you? Are you making your requests known to God?

IV. FIX YOUR MIND ON WHAT’S POSITIVE.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Some people think that Christian life is simply a list of don’ts, all negative. Christian life is also positive. We have to focus on what is good. You’ll become what you focus on.

For e.g. One time this lady came to me and complained about how she constantly had bad dreams. I told her to read her Bible and pray before she goes to bed tonight and see if it makes a difference. She thanked me and as she leaves she tells her friend – Can’t wait to watch “The Evil Dead” or some movie like that!

Then Paul adds in verse 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Meaning: If you need help finding positive things to focus on, copy me.

Application: What are you focusing on right now? Is it on Christ? Is it on the good that God has done in your life? Is it on the positive? Who are you copying?

V. FILL YOUR HEART WITH CHRIST.

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

This is one of the most misunderstood and misquoted verses in the Bible. Paul is not saying – “With Christ I can take over the world.” He is saying – “With Christ I can face the ups and downs of life, the time of abundance and the time of hunger.

Illustration: Several years ago I was in Mexico on a mission trip. We were up in the Yucatan peninsula where they still didn’t even have electricity. The people lived in these tiny homes and had hardly anything. All day long we had activities for the kids and in the evening we had songs, movies, and message for all the people in the village. On the last day we had a final activity in the morning and we were going to leave after that. As we were breaking things down, I thought came to my mind – “Is this worth it? Yeah…we spent all that money and came, went somewhere we’ve never been, learned a new culture, grateful for all we have back home, gave these kids something to do for a week but is this worth it?” As the thought was still in my mind, a man approached me. I had seen him several times in the week. He had a wife and couple of little kids. He asked me something in Spanish, thinking I knew the language. I asked the translator to help. The man was asking for a Bible. Of course, we had bought a bunch from the church. I opened my bag and gave him some. No sooner had I done that, 3 more people asked me for one. By the time we left, all were given.

The point is – those people didn’t have much but they were not hungry for stuff. They were hungry for the truth.

When your heart is full of truth, you will be content no matter your circumstances.

Are you ready to face the holidays? Are you saved?

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