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The Heart of a Disciple [8-20-23]


August 20, 2023

Philippians 4:4-9

“The Heart of a Disciple”


We all have favorites. Favorite ice cream. Favorite teams. Favorite children. Favorite grandchildren. Favorite vacation spots. Favorite television shows. Favorite movies. You get the point.


There are movies I’ve seen more than five times. Some even more…It’s a Wonderful Life is the first to come to mind. Then there are sitcoms. I’ve watched the “Dinner Party” episode of The Office more than ten times. And I will fight anyone who says it’s not the best singular episode of any sitcom ever made.


Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Or even a favorite passage within a book of the Bible?


Over and over again, my heart and mind returns to The Letter of Paul to the Philippians. I did a sermon series on the entire letter. I’ve also, over the years, preached one-and-done messages on specific passages from Philippians. It is a treasure.


Before we look at our primary passage today, a little background.


Some have described Paul’s letter to the Philippians as overflowing with joy, freedom, and contentment. Put in context, as Paul wrote this letter, he lived under house arrest in Rome as he awaited trial before Caesar. He was chained, 24-hours-a-day, to a rotating squad of Roman soldiers.


Instead of wallowing in fear and loathing, Paul celebrated his house arrest. It gave him the opportunity to share the gospel to elite soldiers in Caesar’s army. Counter-intuitively, Paul found freedom and joy in his confinement.


Here’s our focus today:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.


Before we get into the specifics of Philippians 4, let’s turn to a passage that is foundational to the truths expressed by Paul:

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

  • Luke 21:25-28


Jesus talks a lot about judgement and the end and his return in glory. Jesus says a lot of people are going to react the way people who are not spiritually or emotionally grounded are going to react. But not us. While others are having a meltdown, what does Jesus say to us? “Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”


I love that image. Lift up your heads. Move forward. We will not fear. We will not be afraid of what’s up around the corner because we know what’s at the end. Are you with me on that? We know how the story ends.


When I was a kid, I grew up a huge Los Angeles Rams fan. This goes back to the 1960s, an era when many players had to take off-season jobs to pay their bills. Several of them worked at the bank my dad worked at. They were there to impress potential clients. Anyway, I was a huge fan, even when the Rams left Orange County for Saint Louis.


That’s where Super Bowl 34 comes in. Rams/Titans, January 30, 2000. They had lost their only previous Super bowl appearance. If you remember Super Bowl 34, it ended in heartbreak for the Titans. It ended on the final play of the game. The Titans were stopped on the Rams’ one-yard line as time expired.


Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Late at night, comfortably ensconced in my recliner, I checked out the NFL Network. And what do you think they were showing? Super Bowl 34. And I tune in a few minutes before that last play. I am watching it with a totally different attitude than when I watched the game 23 years ago. I now know how the game is going to end. No fears. No worries. No anxious moments. Just pure joy because I know the Rams are going to win. I know what’s going to happen.


Jesus knows life is going to be filled with good and bad. Some people go

through entire seasons of disappointment and loss. But Jesus knows how

the story ends. So straighten up and raise your heads, for victory is drawing near.


Listen to what Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18:

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.


When things start to go south, and people are fainting with fear, look up. Jesus is here. We love how Revelation 21:1-4 captures it:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”


Paul says rejoice in the Lord always. Jesus says straighten up and raise your heads. Along with what we just read from Revelation, you shake these together, and you get this wonderful affirmation captured beautifully in the song, Look Up Child. Here are some of the lyrics:

Where are You now When darkness seems to win? Where are You now When the world is crumbling?

Oh, I hear You say I hear You say

Look up child Where are You now (where are You?) When all I feel is doubt? Oh, where are You now When I can't figure it out?

Oh, I hear You say I hear You say

Look up child, Look up

You're not threatened by the war You're not shaken by the storm I know You're in control Even in our suffering Even when it can't be seen I know You're in control

I hear You say

Look up child Look up child I hear You, I hear You calling my name,

I hear You say Look up child


We know how the story ends. We need to remember that we know how the story ends.

With that solid ground underneath us, let’s now breakdown Philippians 4:4-9.


Paul commands us to rejoice. It is not a suggestion. It is a command. So when God says to rejoice, what do we do? Here’s something you might want to write down:

REJOICE EVEN THOUGH.

It’s so important, Paul says it twice. Look up. Jesus Christ is reigning in glory. Rejoice in the Lord always.


How many of us spend too much time focusing on our problems? For how many of us does rejoicing not come naturally? How many of us get stuck in a downward spiral of negativity? When something bad happens; when bad news hits, how many of us can’t seem to let it go or get past it? For how many of us does it have to be fixed before we can rejoice in the Lord always?


Rejoice…rejoice. For some, it doesn’t come naturally. I once heard someone say her aunt had such a sour disposition, she must have been weaned on a pickle. But when you become a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, there’s no room for that. Because it’s not about if you’re naturally happy. It’s about how Jesus changes us. It’s about how he reorients our disposition. We understand what God did for us in Jesus Christ. When you feel like you’re losing strength or confidence or contentment, remember what you’ve been given. Your name has been written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life.


As Paul says, don’t ever forget how the story ends. “Rejoice in the Lord, always; again I will say rejoice.”


If you find yourself sometimes struggling to fulfill this command, I recommend you intentionally seek out things to feed your rejoicing. The Lauren Daigle song, “Look up Child,” is a good example. So is stumbling across positive, uplifting stories. Here are but a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • A man left a note for his wife of over 50 to be read after he died. Here’s what it said, “This will I remember when the rest of life is through: the finest thing I’ve ever done is simply loving you.” Rejoice

always.

  • Illinois-based Whitey’s Ice Cream introduced “Sgt. Camo” flavor, where all profits from Sgt. Camo is allocated to military veteran organizations. Rejoice always.

  • Chicago police were called to a gym after a teenage boy kept sneaking in to work out. Instead of arresting him, officers bought him a membership. Rejoice always.

  • A man in Florida spends some of his free time cleaning forgotten veterans’ tombstones. Rejoice always.

  • Someone said, “Call me crazy but I like to see other people happy and succeeding. Life is a journey, not a competition.” Rejoice always.


It doesn’t matter if other people wallow in worry or fear. We don’t have to. This graphic T captures where too many people are:

  • Show Picture {Graphic T-Shirt that instead of Back to the Future, says Scared of the Future.}

We don’t have to join them. In fact, we are commanded not to join them.

Can you conscientiously commit to rejoicing every day? You’re not trying to

fix anything. You are just content to know God and to speak to Him.

Next, after the command, Paul says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” How do you want to be known? Better yet, how do you want to be remembered? What Paul means here is when bad things happen to you, they don’t destroy you. You don’t fly off the handle when things go wrong. There’s a sweet reasonableness about you because you esteem Christ above all others. That is the path Jesus has chosen for you to walk.


In other words, as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, be an example of rejoicing to inspire others. I love how Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it:

“YOU SEE, IT IS NO USE SAYING YOU BELIEVE JESUS IS LORD, AND THAT YOU BELIEVE THIS GREAT SALVATION, IF YOU GO ON LIVING AS YOU USED TO LIVE OR AS PEOPLE LIVE WHO DO NOT BELIEVE THAT.”

Amen? Amen.


In the next verse, Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in

everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests

be made known to God.”

That’s another command. Don’t be anxious about anything. Think of all the times we’ve come up short in that category. Some of us were probably worrying about something before we came to worship this morning.


The Bible says we need to stop worrying. So this is where we’re going to stop. We’ll pick-up next time here at verse 6. In the meantime, here’s a fun exercise to do in preparation for that. Write down your top worries. What are the biggest things that keep you awake at night?


Until then, always remember:

SOLI DEO GLORIA…

To the Glory of God Alone




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