Monday, December 3, 2018

Strong Finish #1 Positive People - Philippians 1

Strong Finish #1 Positive People

Text: Philippians 1

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 Introduction: Philippians and Colossians two of the most positive books in the New Testament will be the foundations for my sermons for this month as we present “Strong Finish.” I want to wrap up 2018 in the strongest, most positive way possible and you can’t get stronger or more positive than Philippians and Colossians. Just look at these two verse:

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”  
Though often misapplied, that is truly one of the most encouraging, positive verses in the Bible.


Colossians 2:6-7 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:  Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

Those are some positive verses and the letters Paul wrote to the churches at Philippi and Colossi are uplifting, hopeful and overcoming epistle. Its my prayer, that we as a church and each one of us as individuals, will have a strong finish as we wrap 2018 and then stay strong in 2019.

In a small church I grew up in there was one older lady who served as a example to me as a young child, but it was the wrong kind of example. Mrs. D was the a complainer and a pessimist.  We were always told to be polite with Sister D no matter how much she complained. Often when we got home and started whining or complaining about something that one of our siblings was doing, or having leftover for dinner, or something else that kids complain about, My Mom would often say, “You sound just like Sister D.” And that would shut us up.  You know what I still don’t want to sound like Sister D, bless her grouchy old heart.  Neither do I think the Lord wants a church full of Sister Ds.

Instead I think Pastor RG Lee, the famous pastor of Bellvue Baptist in Memphis, TN expresses what we all want in a church. 

  If all the sleeping folk will wake up,
  If all the lukewarm folk will fire up,
  If all the dishonest folk will confess up,
  If all the disgruntled folk will cheer up,
  If all the depressed folk will look up,
  If all the estranged folk will make up,
  If all the gossipers will shut up,
  If all true soldiers will stand up,
  If all the dry bones will shake up,
  If all the church members will pray up...
  Then we can have a revival!  - R.G. Lee

Positive People And Prayer  Philippians 1:3-11

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,  Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,  For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;  Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:  Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.  For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.  And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;  That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;  Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

Paul’s Prayer For the Philippian church

Look at this very detailed description of Paul’s prayer for the members of the church at Philippi.
In Vs. 3 He says that he prays for them, every time he remembers them. For Paul if someone came to mind then he took that as a reason to prayer for them.

Vs. 4. Describes how he prays. He says, Always in every request, with joy.

Vs. 5-6 He gives thanks for fellowship in Gospel, (their sharing the work with him of spreading the Good News of Christ) and he prays in confidence because he knows that the good work God has begun in them will continue until Jesus returns.

The word fellowship here in Greek is Koinōnia. It comes from a verb meaning "to have in common" and may be defined in the NT as "that Christian corporate life and mutual belonging which grows out of the common sharing of Christ and his benefits" - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
Give it to you this way, “The Christian life and belonging that grows out of the shared love and life of Christ and His blessings.”

Further in Vs. 7 Paul reveals the strong affection he feels for this church. He says, I have you in my heart, they share in Paul’s ministry, both in the prison where he is being held and in the court when he defends himself before the Roman judges.

In Vs. 8 you can really see Paul’s heart for he says, God is my witness, He knows much I want to see you because I love you with the heart of Christ.

Then in Vss. 9-11 Paul lists his prayer requests to God for the Church. These are not like the request we often pray one for the other today.

He prays, that their love may bound in knowledge and discernment
That they may approve the things that are excellent (the essential things, the important things of God)
That they would be sincere and without offense till the Day of Christ
And be filled with the fruits of righteousness by Jesus, to God’s Glory.
When you consider all of this you can’t help but realize that …

Positive People Need Passionate Prayer

We need to prayer for others always and every time they come to mind. We should take that as a reminder from the Holy Spirit that we need to pray for the person He has put in my mind and heart.
 We need to give thanks for what we share, our fellowship and all that we have in common in Christ’s blessings and His commission.

We need to be holding one another in our hearts and loving them with the heart of Christ.
And we need to be praying for spiritual goals, for things that change us and the world inwardly before they change things outwardly. We as God’s people, as members of this church should have love, excellence, sincerity, inoffensiveness, and the fruit of righteousness from Jesus inwardly and then showing in our lives outwardly.

Praying like that would change this church, it would change your family it would change you. Prayer like that would be one of the most positive things you could do to finish this year in the strongest way possible.

Illustration: About Prayer

Here's a story  told by Howard Hendricks: Years ago in a church in Dallas we were having trouble finding a teacher for a junior high boys class. The list of prospects had only one name -- and when they told me who it was I said, "You've got to be kidding." But I couldn't have been more wrong about that young man. He took the class and revolutionized it.

   I was so impressed I invited him to my home for lunch and asked him the secret of his success. He pulled out a little black book. On each page he had a small picture of one of the boys, and under the boy's name were comments like "having trouble in arithmetic," or "comes to church against parents' wishes," or "would like to be a missionary some day, but doesn't think he has what it takes."

   "I pray over those pages every day," he said, "and I can hardly wait to come to church each Sunday to see what God has been doing in their lives."

Transition:Positive People need to pray positive prayers and they need to be prayed for. Now Paul goes from praying to preaching. Look at verse 12.

Positive People Preach Christ Philippians 1:12-18

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;  So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;  And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.  Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:  The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:  But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.  What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

Paul Sees Christ Proclaimed despite the circumstances.

The church was afraid, worried because Paul, the apostle to the Gentile nations, was now imprisoned, but Paul saw things much differently.

Vs. 12-13 My chains in Christ are seen even in the palace.

Vs. 14-17 Even those who are trying to convict me and hurt me, are preaching Christ. No matter the motive Jesus is being preached and the Gospel is proclaimed.

Just look in Vs. 18 at Paul's attitude, “I rejoice that Christ is preached.” Joy runs through the book of Philippians like an electric current even being conducting by the chains on his wrists and ankles.
What I see next is that…

Positive People Preach Christ no matter the circumstances.

We must see obstacles as opportunities, just as Paul did.We must rejoice even in opposition and ridicule because even then the name of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and there is power in that name.

Another of Paul’s positive writings is found in Romans 8:28, where he echoes this same thought, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Illustration: Joseph and his imprisonment

Remember in the Book of Genesis the story of Joseph and his brothers. They had debated killing him, finally sold him into slavery and when the time came that Joseph could have sought revenge on them as the Chancellor of Egypt, instead he say the way God had worked to bring good out of evil.

In Genesis 50:20  But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Positive people of God know this truth when it comes to the opposition of the world. “You thought it would harm me, but God used it for good.”

Transition: Keep that truth in mind and you’ll finish this year in God’s wisdom and strength.

Positive People Live for Christ Philippians 1:19-26

 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,  According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.  For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.  And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.

Paul Determines To Stay in order to live for Christ

In Vs. 19-20 Paul asks the Philippians to pray for his release.  And we may not realize it till we read it closely but that release in Paul’s mind could either be freedom from a jail cell or freedom from this world. He tells them either way, in life or in death, he will magnify Christ in his body. Either by giving his body in sacrifice for the cause of Christ or by giving his body in continued service in carrying and preaching the Gospel.

He makes this powerful statement in Vs. 21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” To live is to continue to serve Christ, but to die is to go leave this world and be with Christ.
Then in vss. 22-26 he explains the struggle he contends with, should he go should he stay? Finally it is settled in his heart by doing what is best for others. “Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.  And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith”
This brings us to out next point about positive people.

Positive People Live for Christ by Living For Others.

I believe what Paul is teaching us is this, When our lives are over, the extent that I lived for Christ will be measured by the extent that I give myself to others in the cause of Christ.

How should we make our decisions as Children of God, as members of His body here at Calvary Baptist?

By what is best for me, or as Jesus did and Paul did, what is best for others? How many people leave a church because they say, “I’m not getting anything out of the preaching” or the singing isn’t up to par or the youth group is too small or the singles ministry doesn’t exist?  Is this what Christ intended?  That we shop around for churches like we do grocery stores? I just keep looking until I find the best deal for me personally?

Nor is this by any means limited to church members. I know preachers who think this way.  About every 2-3 years they take off to another church that will have less problems, more money and greater prestige.  They look for a church that will serve them rather than serving the church they are pastoring.

I believe that one of the major reasons we become negative in our outlook is because we have quit serving others and instead have begun to serve ourselves.  You cannot really serve Christ unless you are willing to serve those Christ died for. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to be negative while you are helping those around you. Nothing cheers a heart like know God is working through you to touch other lives. Nothing.

Illustration: Christ washing the Apostles feet.

Isn’t this what Jesus was trying to teach us when He washed the apostle’s feet?
John 9:15-17  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

Transition: And now we come to the very rare and very dangerous 4th point. This could wrap everything up quickly or it could go on till supper time. We can’t close out the chapter with the last few verses and the very important truth about having a strong finish, …

Positive People Suffer for Christ Philippians 1:27-30

 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;  And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.  For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;  Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me..

Paul’s Perspective of Suffering

Vs. 27 First, conduct yourself to be worthy of the Gospel, stand fast in unity.

Vs. 28 Second, Do not fear those who would oppose you for persecution is proof of their damnation and evidence of your salvation.

Vs. 29-30 Third, suffering in these circumstances is a privilege and not a punishment.

Positive People, Positive Perspective

As Christians, we must see how we can suffer and still be positive.
Paul says, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Be what you are a child of God, a Christian, someone who shows Christ though their life. There is nothing more positive than when a Christian shows on the outside, what we truly are on the inside.
We should stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving for the faith of the Gospel.  Can you imagine the positive power of a church standing fast in unity?  Ignoring pettiness, looking past childish problems, and working as one for the faith of the gospel. 
Paul says, “Don’t be afraid of opposition it is the proof of your salvation.”  Simply put Satan doesn’t oppose what is already his.  Be glad for the opposition, it means Satan has taken notice and is trying to stop us.

Finally, Paul says, “suffering for Christ is a privilege.”  I can’t be negative when I fully understand this. Christ, who suffered so much for me, would allow me to suffer anything for Him. What a privilege that would be, what an honor.

Illustration: Poem - The Path I Feared to See by George McDonald

I said, "Let me walk in the fields.
 He said, "No; walk in the town."
 I said, "There are no flowers there.
 He said, "No flowers but a crown."

 I said, "But the skies are black,
 There is nothing but noise an din."
 And He wept as He sent me back;
 "There is more," He said. "There is sin."

 I said, "But the air is thick,
 And fogs are veiling the sun."
 He answered, "Yet souls are sick,
 And souls in the dark undone."

 I said, "I shall miss the light,
 And friends will miss me, they say."
 He answered, "Choose tonight
 If I am to miss you, or they."

 I pleaded for time to be given.
 He said, "Is it hard to decide?
 It will not seem hard in Heaven
 To have followed the steps of your Guide."

 I cast one look at the fields,
 Then set my face to the town.
 He said, "My child, do you yield?
 Will you leave the flowers for a crown?"

 Then into His hand went mine;
 And into my heart came He;
 And I walked in a light divine,
The path I had feared to see.


Let’s pray for a strong finish in the weeks we have left of this year.

That means focusing on prayer for others and seeking prayer for ourselves. We need to be proclaiming Christ always but especially as Christmas draws nearer. Remember that living for Christ in this world means living for those He died to save. And like many of God’s paradoxical truths, be positive if you endure suffering because in Jesus that can only make us rejoice.

May we be positive people in the power of God’s truth and love and change this negative world of sin in that power.

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