A Better Response ~ Based on a sermon by Pastor Gail Dudley, 6.30.13

July 5, 2013

Philippians 4:4-9

On Sunday June 30th as I sat and received the message delivered by Pastor Gail Dudley at the Church at North Point, I realized how conditioned we are as a culture. When things are no longer easy, comfortable or pleasing to us, we are quick to respond with negativity. We speak our own failure into the atmosphere rather than recognizing and appreciating the position we are in; two weeks ago Pastor Dudley reminded us that it’s about the experience but we verbally throw in the towel before we get the chance to fully experience what God is doing in our lives. Think about how often you have uttered, “I quit, I give up, I’m tired, I don’t know what to do, I’m depleted, I feel insignificant…?” Don’t feel ashamed, those are all common and natural responses to hardship in our society, but last Sunday, Pastor Gail asked that we turn our attention to Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and recognize a better response.

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I love The Message interpretation of Philippians 4:4;

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!”

The New International Version says;

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

Paul was writing this letter from prison. He was in chains and had been persecuted for proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Paul had been beaten, ridiculed, and for lack of a better word, hunted. He was a wanted man and now found himself behind bars. Yet, Paul’s instruction to fellow believers was to rejoice! Not sulk, moan or groan, but to rejoice! “Celebrate God all day” as The Message Bible puts it. We often claim that our problems are more intense, that others simply can’t relate -that the life we live is way too stressful and difficult for us to be able to rejoice. But as we visualize the image of Paul, a servant of the Lord, chained to a wall as he writes a letter instructing his pupils to rejoice in the Lord, we have to be willing to feel the conviction of God as he gently whispers, “it’s not about you.” We minimize our relationship and experience with God to being about us and our problems so much so that we miss what He is saying and doing as we experience hard times. When we focus less on ourselves and more on the God whom we say we serve, although our problems don’t change, our mindset will and our problems will seem insignificant.

Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” As I read along in church I wondered why Paul felt the need to repeat this command immediately after stating it the first time. I thought about my mother. As a child she would command me to do a chore and as soon as I walked out of the room she would repeat herself: “don’t go outside until you finish your homework.” I’d reply sweetly, “okay” and walk out of her room closing the door behind me. Before the door was closed she’d repeat, “homework first.” My mother knew that as soon as her door closed my short term memory (that all 8 year olds suffer from) would kick in and I’d head right for my shoes and for the door. I needed a reminder. Paul knew that the Philippians, like we often do, needed a reminder. God will bring us through a situation and allow our victory to bring glory to who He is in our lives as we rejoice in His goodness and no sooner than the clouds clear, we forget. In the midst of our rejoicing we have the opportunity to share the goodness of the Lord with other people. As Christians that should be what we live for so why do we so easily forget to rejoice? We settle for a worldly response to pain and hardship –we either relish in our state of suffering as we seek superficial sympathy or we pretend like nothing is wrong (my mask of choice). God wants us to be transparent because it is through our transparency that others may see the power of the God we serve and come to know Him.

As I type these words the little voice in the pit of my stomach is telling me to take my own advice. Rejoicing is easy when my load is light and trouble has gone from me, but how are we supposed to rejoice in the middle of our difficulties?

First, Pastor Gail said to in mind that what you are going through is not for you. We know that God will not give us more than we can bear so the idea that our problems will defeat us should be the furthest thing from our minds because it is simply not the truth. When we get to the point that we feel like we’re going to crush under the pressure and that we simply can’t take anymore, be reminded that nothing in this life that ever happens to you has anything to do with you –it’s all about HIS glory. And when we share our struggle it will help others, whether we think our journey is significant or not, we all have something to give. We are called to testify to the goodness of God, not to complain about where He has placed us or allowed us to be. Complaining about our situation is the anti-testimony. How can I claim to be living in the goodness of God when all I do is talk about how hard my life is, how bad knees hurt, how broke, lonely ugly, fat, tired I am? In verse 5 Paul says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (NIV). Although the truth may hurt, we have to be honest about what we are going through to those God calls us to share with.  The gentleness and rejoicing in our delivery will reveal the goodness of our Lord in a way that will heal others. Image

Secondly, although things may look extreme through our tunnel vision, we have to say to ourselves, don’t sweat the small stuff when things look bad. We spend so much time examining our problems through a microscope that we end up stressing out over things that truly aren’t that important. We focus on that which isn’t important when God is working on something much bigger than we could ever imagine. When we spend our nights and days sweating the small details rather than praying, we leave room for the enemy to blow the little things up in our mind. Verse 6 of the selected reading tells us to not be anxious and pray about everything. Rather than spend time in worry, we are told that we can come boldly to the throne of God. Even as Christ faced the ultimate hardship, being called by God to hang on the cross as a sacrifice for our sin, he declared, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Compared the God’s plan, anything that we ever go through on this earth is small. We complain and moan and groan about the small things sometimes in an effort to manipulate people, looking for sympathy. Or we worry even as we claim to have let it go, our controlling nature won’t allow us to truly give it over to God. Be reminded that prayer and worry don’t mix. If a burden still keeps you up at night that’s because you’re still holding tight to whatever it is you claim to have left at the Throne. When we pray to God we have to pray with a trusting heart, knowing and being okay with the fact that he will answer us according to His will and not our want. Prayer is second nature, it is something that we do before we know that we are doing it; it is something that non-believers do when faced with a circumstance that they realize they can’t conquer on their own. The difference is that when we, as believers in Christ growing in relationship with him daily, we should pray expecting God to move on our behalf. When we find ourselves stressing out over the small stuff and allowing the little nuisances of this life to get the best of us we should stop and rejoice rather than stress or complain; God is doing something with you, little old you. Rejoice!

ImageLastly, we must never forget that we have the power. What can be more powerful than the peace of God in our lives? Verse 9 tells us that if we follow the simple instruction outlined in the previous verse, the peace of God will be with us:

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. ~ Philippians 4:8 NIV

In our lives however, it is often times hard to find the things that are true because we have been brainwashed by the lies; it is hard to think on noble things when everyone seems to be so selfish; we cannot find the right or just in our fellow man; purity is seen as old fashioned and impurity is tolerated and even celebrated; we find it hard to meditate on that which is lovely or admirable because of all of the darkness and ugly in the world; very little is excellent in our lives but for God. As Pastor Gail put it, we need to allow God to be our trump card. Life is not always going to deliver the truth and real justice won’t always be served. We are impure people and our shabby little lives may look less than lovely to those on the outside, but we have God. We have to demonstrate in our lives the God we say we live with and His peace and power will be with us.

If I have learned anything during my years studying and worshiping under Pastors Kevin and Gail Dudley it’s that life is not always going to be comfortable. Storms will come and hardships will arise. There will be times when we feel as though we are literally drowning under our problems. Life hurts. God supersedes that hurt. So when we feel like we want to cave in and cry, take a second and cry…but then rejoice. Again, I say Rejoice! Remember that what you’re going through is not for you, our lives are meant to bring God glory, every part, the good and the bad is all for His good. Don’t sweat the small stuff allowing room for the enemy to take the insignificant details and make them seem like the end of your world –pray about everything. And always know that you have the power. We walk with Jesus because Jesus walks with us –there is power in your relationship with Christ strong enough to overcome everything that you will ever face. Rejoicing is a way to break free from the chains of our hardships…so we have a choice: we can choose a better response and rejoice in the power of the Lord no matter where we are in life allowing our outlook to be transformed, or we can choose to stay in the pain.

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Interested in having Pastor Gail at your church or women’s conference or retreat? You may contact her at GED@MIMToday.org or through her website at www.GailDudley.com 

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