Sermon 1627 Philippians 4.4-7 February 28, 2018
Why is it that entertainers are always smiling? You look at those concert blurbs in the paper or on the billboards. It looks like they are having the time of their life. Could it be that most people are not smiling? Could it be that life for the common man is less than ideal? Well, if that’s the case, there’d be a lot of depressed people walking around looking for ways lose the blues. Pills maybe. And they’d advertise them a lot on TV. Alcohol consumption would be called Happy Hour. People would look forward to when they wouldn’t have to go to work any more—retirement! But then you know life’s grim if they complain there’s nothing to do.
Scary. I think I just described America in the 21st century. We are in the midst of a gray, grim mass of humanity trudging through life. Move along, move along.
Don’t you want something different for your life? Was it your goal when you were young to be just another gray face? Don’t you want to
- Rejoice! (4-5)
- Be at peace! (6-7)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (4-5).”
You want to stand out? Rejoice!
That’s right. Rejoice! Oh, am I telling you to fake it? Smile through the tears of a clown? The way to be happy is to walk on the sunny side, keep it on the sunny side? I hope not. The way to find joy is not to force rejoicing. That always struck me as hollow.
I want a joy that rings true. I want a joy that is solid. The Apostle Paul says that joy is found in the Lord. Always.
You and I have a Lord. He is the Promised One that our loving God promised to send throughout the ages to take care of our wickedness, rebellion and sin. You see, if we are going to be realistic about this, we are good at making ourselves miserable. Think how you got fired from your first high school job. Yeah. You shouldn’t have done that, though you thought you could get away with it. And then, boom! No more paycheck. No more loose cash to go out on a date. It’s always been that way. Eve thought she’d be dancing in the moonlight every night if she ate that forbidden fruit and all she got was a scratchy one piece of fig leaves as she tried to hide behind a bush when the Lord came looking for her and Adam. The way to find misery is to force rejoicing.
The way to find joy is to look for the Lord. Rejoice! What does that mean? I thought, hmmm, where have I seen this word before in the Bible? The Christmas story! The angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy.” And here’s the news. “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” We find joy in the Lord. Joy comes to us through Jesus. Always.
Why is that? Well, there’s this crazy little thing called sin. It ruins my days and threatens to ruin my eternity. The wages of sin is death. I’m feeling it now every time I go to the doctor. I don’t want to feel it for eternity, but that’s what I deserve because of it. My Lord, Jesus, has taken away that sin. He died on the cross. That’s why we have that representation of his sacrifice in front of our church and, I would dare say, any Christian church worth its salt will have that cross in front of the eyes of all who worship within its walls. I will not have to die forever in hell. My Lord promises me that I, forgiven of my sin, will live with him forever in heaven. I believe that and am filled with joy. A fantastic life awaits me and you and all who love Jesus. Always.
That joy shows up in gentleness, a gentleness that knows the Lord is right around the corner.
I imagine most of us are going to be doing some traveling this year. Family vacations. Camping trips. Driving up to a national park or a California beach. Seeing the grandkids or the grandparents. Lots of work, those trips. Lots of planning. Lots of complaining and tension, until you get into the car. Then everything melts away. Leave the dishes in the dishwasher. So what if the bedroom didn’t get vacuumed? It will be there when we get back.
A lot of the daily routine doesn’t matter anymore. We’re pulling out!
What do people get bogged down with in daily life? Jesus told us. “What should we wear? What should we eat?” He said the pagans run after all these things. That’s what their life is all about. Not so you. Seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness. All the other stuff will fall into place. We don’t have to covet, grab and steal everything that comes into sight. The Lord is coming. The end of our journey is right around the corner. Every tear will be wiped away. Every care removed. Every desire met. Every delight will be ours.
Stand out. Rejoice! You will be smiling more than the toothiest country western singer playing at Mandalay Bay.
Stand out. Be at peace.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (6-7).”
Anxiety. That’s the prescription if you want a joyless existence. A load of worry and cares that immobilize you, like a deer in the headlights. Every which way you turn you lose. That’s what anxiety tells you. So it’s best not to do anything, but you have to do something!
Those who have found joy in the Lord always know what to do. Take it to the Lord in prayer. Is it something so big no person on earth can help you with? The Lord is there. He is honored when you bring the impossible problems to him. Is something so little it is almost trivial, but it keeps coming up and takes way too much of your time and energy? If the Lord can handle the big problems, this stuff is child’s play! You’ll get a good answer, many times an unexpected answer. That’s because God has a way of hitting the nail on the head.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed for a way to save the human race and God sent him such strength that he never looked back when they arrested him, tried him and crucified him. Jesus even used that experience to prove his crushing victory at Easter. “Look at my hands and my feet! It is I! A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have!” The Christians in the book of Acts prayed for protection from the Jewish leaders and God gave them such confidence that they filled the city with their preaching and teaching of Jesus, doing so much good the enemies of Jesus were afraid to stop them! We pray for more money. Then we get laid off, but we learn how to curb our spendthrift ways and, once we get called back, because we know how to save, we have more money in the bank.
Prayer gives us a way out. The Lord answers our prayers. We come away with peace. It is not a peace that the world can understand. The world only understands what you can see and hold right now. How do life insurance salesmen make a go of it? No wonder we have to be forced to have car insurance and (maybe still) health insurance! But the hands of faith folded in prayer are holding on to something more than the present. Our hands are holding on to eternity, an eternity that is ours, a gift from the Lord who loves us and promises to never give up that love.
How many people in the world have that going for them? Very few. How many people have that on their daily routine? Hardly any. That’s why you and I and every believer
- Rejoice! (4-5)
- Be at peace! (6-7)
And maybe, just maybe, you will be contagious and the Holy Spirit will start a little bit of an epidemic of faith, hope and love in our corner of the world. That would be outstanding!