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     Sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    Nov. 1, 2020 | 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

    Stand Firm
    Philippians 4:1–13

    “My brothers and sisters,
    you whom I love and long to see,
    stand firm in the Lord in this way.”

    † † †

     W HAT WAY IS THAT? The way Paul wrote about in last week’s Scripture reading. Paul reflected on his own experience and shared key factors in what it means to “stand firm.”

    Paul changed his perspective — acknowledging that all things are garbage compared to the great value of knowing Christ. Paul’s purpose is to know Christ and attain to the resurrection from the dead. Paul emphasizes the need to press on “for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

    † † †

    STAND FIRM in the faith. But Paul knows, just like we know, that some members of the church at Philippi or Swift, or ___________, some members begin their faith well and fight for the gospel, but now appear to be having second thoughts. Perhaps they are counting the cost of following Jesus and are hesitating.

    I’ve admitted the past few Sundays my difficulty in perspective, purpose and pressing on.

    Paul addresses directly the believing community in Philippi and encourages them to “stand firm in the Lord in this way.” In particular Paul addresses two women who have been active in the work of the gospel, right alongside Paul, but now Paul has to encourage them to “be of the same mind.”

    Many commentators and readers assume these two women have had a falling-out with one another. But when you read Paul’s plea to the women in the midst of Paul’s call to “stand firm,” the context suggests that it is far more likely that they have stepped back from the challenge of discipleship, and no longer hold to the principles found in Paul’s example.

    † † †

    THAT REALLY BROADENS the audience for these wise words. Paul writes to two people who are struggling in discipleship. Paul writes to us who are reconsidering our commitment to walk the way of Christ. Paul writes for those who no longer want to take up their cross daily and to love regardless of the cost.

    When we are struggling with our faith, hold on to the joy to be found in God. Paul specifically encourages us to “rejoice in the Lord.”

    We rejoice in all the goodness that is found in God and in his blessings. Rejoice in the Lord. The writer of the New Testament book Hebrews, encouraging believers to hold on to their faith, says, “fix your thoughts on Jesus” and “fix your eyes on Jesus.” It is in looking to God that we can truly rejoice.

    The road we travel may be difficult — even distressing, downright debilitating — but we can fix our eyes and thoughts on Jesus and rejoice. As the psalmist sings, rejoice and give thanks:

    “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

    † † †

    WHENEVER WE are reconsidering our commitment to walk with God, hold on to the character of Christ.

    One of the key challenges of following the Lord Jesus, and thus the aspect most likely to be put down when the going gets tough, is our commitment to adopt the character of Christ in everyday life.

    Paul encourages the Philippian believers, and particularly those who are reconsidering their commitment, to continue to live in the spirit of gentleness. Gentleness doesn’t always go down well in our culture. To live in gentleness is to provide a stark contrast to the harsh, acrimonious, and sometimes cruel values that are the norms of our culture.

    The character of Christ is our prime example of gentleness, and his gentleness was often met with hatred and violence. But Paul seeks to encourage the disciples to hold on to the character of Christ, because it is by living in Christ that we experience salvation.

    † † †

    WHEN WE DON’T WANT to pick up the cross daily, Paul says to hold on to the nearness of God. At the heart of the good news of Jesus is the announcement that God is near. God is not a distant and aloof deity, requiring sacrifice before he draws close to sinful humanity.

    In Christ Jesus, God has come close.

    Whatever we experience in our lives, relationships, or workplace, “the Lord is near.” Whatever we go through in the struggle to follow Christ Jesus and to witness to his Lordship, “the Lord is near.”

    This statement is intended to bring comfort and consolation, to encourage and strengthen the resolve of everyone who has ever stepped out on the journey of discipleship.

    † † †

    “My brothers and sisters,
    you whom I love and long to see,
    stand firm in the Lord in this way.”

    — Keith Cardwell   

    «In Christ Jesus, God has come close.»


    ►This is the Word of God for the people of God:

    Philippians 4:1–13
    Holy Bible, New International Version

    Closing appeal for steadfastness, unity
    4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

    2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

    Final exhortations
    4 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.

    8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

    Thanks for their gifts
    10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

    — This is the Word of the Lord.
    — Thanks be to God.

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    Foley, AL 36535
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