Tuesday, September 08, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 6, 2020




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Sermon Message: “Certainty in Uncertain Times”

Text: Philippians 4:4-9


What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.  It’s a nice platitude and one that may have some truth to it, but in these uncertain times we should all come out of this pandemic paranoia stronger than ever.


In reality, many, are tired and weary.  Uncertainty can bring about a whole host of negative emotions but through it all, we hear in the pages of Scripture to rejoice in the Lord always!


For the next two months we are going to be spending time studying, pondering and dealing with Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  In four short chapters Paul encourages the church that feels uncertain that not only will we get through this, we will grow through this.  That will be our theme for the next 8 weeks, growing through what you are going through. 


And I know we all are going through a lot, so I invite you to take comfort in God’s Word from the book of Philippians the next few weeks and at the end I pray that we can all rejoice in the Lord always and find growth in Christ. 

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice (clap, clap)

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice (clap, clap)

Rejoice, Rejoice, again I say rejoice (clap, clap)

Rejoice, Rejoice, again I say rejoice (clap, clap)


This is one of those songs that never ends and I think Paul would be OK with that.  After all, they are his words from Philippians 4:4.  But it’s hard to rejoice when things are uncertain…and things have been uncertain for a long time. 


Have you found it hard to Rejoice…always these past 6 months?  It seems like these months have been filled with fear, abounding in anxiety, washed in worries and about as solid as sand. 


We all live in uncertain times.  We face external oppression at the hands of others and of institutions.  We experience infighting in the systems that we are a part of.  We struggle with discrimination based along ethnic, racial, economic or ideological lines.  Pandemics, plagues, persecutions are a part of daily life, so it may seem.  The church is not immune from this either.


Pastors, principals and countless ministry leaders have been under enormous pressure to navigate regulations from our elected leaders and no matter what decisions are made, no matter how much research and time, and prayer and agony are put into a decision there will be someone who completely disagrees with it.


A Christian media consultant once noted that he had never come across a person who joined a church because they read something negative and mean-spirited on the church blog. From his experience, no new member ever said, “I just loved the way you trashed those other Christians and thought ‘I have to be a part of that church.’”  Unfortunately, however, opposition tends to bring out the worst in the church. Arguments within the church and conflicts with the culture can lead to speech that is filled with “anger, malice, wrath, slander, and obscene talk (Colossians 3:7).


Hatred is masked as zeal for the truth and, when those who are outside the church are asked what it means to be a Christian, the first thing that comes to their mind is not “see how they love one another” (John 13:35) but rather “see how they fight with one another and with the world.”  We seem to have lost sight of the way of love as enacted and encouraged in Philippians by the apostle Paul.  I’ve been guilty of this.  I’m guessing you have been too.


There was uncertainty and division in the church in Paul’s day too.  Something happened in the church at Philippi between members.  We don’t know what it was but it was significant enough for Paul to address it in his letter.  From the beginning of Chapter 4 Paul writes, “So, brothers and sisters, I love you and miss you. You are my joy and my crown. Therefore, dear friends, keep your relationship with the Lord firm!  I encourage both Euodia and Syntyche to have the attitude the Lord wants them to have. Yes, I also ask you, Syzugus, my true partner, to help these women. They fought beside me to spread the Good News along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers, whose names are in the Book of Life.” (Philippians 4:1-3)


Paul confronts a situation that is filled with strife. There is internal argument among members in the church in Philippi.  Not to mention that Paul has had his share of external opposition which has led to his imprisonment. Yet, in this midst of this, while in prison, Paul writes to the church in Philippi and focuses on the work of Christ and from that focus he encourages God’s people to be the family of God to be:

·         United in Christ

·         Supported by one another

·         Engaged in the work in the world


Hear his words again, Always be joyful in the Lord! I’ll say it again: Be joyful! Let everyone know how considerate you are. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)


The biggest certainty in uncertain times is that the Lord is near.  As close as all the junk in the world seems to be.  As close as fear and anxiety and worry feel, God is closer.  He never abandons us and he is our source of unity.  This is exactly what Jesus prays for on his last night on earth.  Hear His words from John chapter 17, 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)  That unity came to you at your baptism, is confirmed as your faith is strengthened and helps you grow through what you are going through. 


As Paul seeks reconciliation in the church in Philippi he urges the members to remember the support that he gave them when he was with them.  Paul points to the Lord who is the true source of agreement and reminds them that they fought beside him to spread the Gospel along with the others.

He does this by urging them to keep their relationship with the Lord firm. Standing firm does not mean inaction, he fleshes it out a bit more as he writes, “8 Finally, brothers and sisters, keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable. Practice what you’ve learned and received from me, what you heard and saw me do. Then the God who gives this peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9) This support is not just thinking, it’s doing.  We find certainty when we engage the world.


It might be tempting to retreat from the world or just fight against it, but Paul encourages a bold entry into the world that involves careful thought and faithful action.  Paul urges us to find that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise and then do it.

Here is how confident Paul is, he says that as we practice these things peace will be with you. 


This is not a conditional statement, meaning you will have peace if you practice these things, but as we practice these things, peace goes with us, and Christ goes with us.  Notice the difference?  Paul said the Lord is near.  He comes as you go.  In this case practice doesn't make perfect; this practice brings peace.  You are a bearer of peace as you practice these things.  It is God’s peace that will goes beyond anything we can imagine and He will guard your thoughts and emotions as you grow through what you are going through and as you go His peace flows.   


But before you get the wrong idea, this is not because you have it all figured out, or have achieved some sort of high divine position.  Just as Paul reminded the Philippians, let me remind you, this is all centered on Jesus.  Jesus came to bring you to him.  For all of your fears and failures, for all of your worry and anxiety, for all of those things you do and for what you don’t get done he is there to bring grace and in Him all of your sin is forgiven.


Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, came to earth for you.  He died on the cross for you. He rose again to defeat death for you. In Him there is forgiveness. He is our source of unity. He is the strength of our support. And He is the reason we engage the world.


What does engaging in the world look like?  What does Paul say? 


Keep your thoughts on what is right and identify what is good or needs to be practiced in your neighborhood.  This could be a food drive for Christian Outreach in Action or the Long Beach Rescue Mission.  It could be the support of a woman’s shelter or an organization that works with formerly incarcerate individuals.  It could be volunteering for meals-on wheels, or a clean-up effort in a local part or an effort for immigrant families.


As you practice these things, Christ goes with you and as we see the Peace of Christ at work in our neighborhood we can be joyful in the Lord at all times as he helps us grow through what we are going through.     

- Pastor Seth Moorman




Worship Resources for Sunday, September 13th will be up on Bethany’s website by midday Saturday, September 12th.


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