PEACE THAT TRANSCENDS

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The Peace Which Transcends

Philippians 4:2-4:9


ILL. Have you heard about Tracy Lyperd? Tracy was a beauty queen in VA a few years ago. Shortly after crowning her successor, she drove 250 miles to seek revenge on her ex-boyfriend for jilting her & marrying another. She took along a pistol, a hammer, lighter fluid & matches.

When she arrived at his house & rang the doorbell, it was answered by his new father-in-law. Tracy faked having car trouble, & asked if she could use the telephone. Once inside the house, she took out her hammer & hit the father-in-law on the head. She stunned him, but didn’t knock him out.

What she didn’t realize was that he was an ex-secret service agent. He grabbed her & as they struggled, she pulled the pistol from her purse & tried to shoot him. That’s when the mother-in-law joined the fray & the two of them wrestled her to the floor, holding her until the police arrived.

I have a suspicion that Tracy, with that kind of disposition, was probably never in the running for the Miss Congeniality award. When questioned, she said that she was driven to seek revenge because she needed "inner peace."

PROP. Now, the subject of my sermon this morning is "the peace...which transcends all understanding." That phrase is found in Philippians 4:7. And in the verses surrounding it, Paul deals with the subjects of peace with one another, peace within, & peace with God.

Now, I think you need to realize that peace means "being in a right relationship." So peace with one another means being in a right relationship with one another. Peace within means being alright within, & peace with God means being alright with God.

I. PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER

A. First of all, Paul tells us that we need to be considerate about & at peace with one another.

But that’s not the attitude of a lot of people today. They’re convinced that if you don’t gripe & complain & argue & fight for everything you want in life, you’ll never get it. So you’ll hear them saying such things as "Me first, & everybody else last," & "It’s my way, or no way!"

But in the church it’s different, isn’t it? I mean, after all, we’re all Christians saved by the grace of God. And since we all have that in common, we always get along with each other, never disagreeing. Right?

Wrong! We do disagree at times. Even though we’re all Christians, wanting to serve our Lord, there are still times that we disagree.

ILL. A couple of years ago a rapidly growing congregation I know very well sent out a questionnaire & asked its members to fill it out & send it back because they were trying to find out what the people felt about certain things. More than 200 members did so, & they compiled the results.

The one thing that the survey revealed most dramatically was that they were a very diverse congregation.

For instance, some thought they ought to go to the bank & borrow all the money they could borrow, buy more land & build all the buildings they needed immediately. But others felt that they shouldn’t borrow at all. Instead, they ought to wait & not build anything until they could pay cash for it.

Some felt they were giving way too much to missions. They wanted to keep the money for themselves, & use it to help pay for their new buildings. But others said, "We’re not giving enough to missions. We need to give more!"

One person responded that the preacher didn’t preach enough on stewardship, & he ought to be encouraging the people to give more. But someone else wrote, "It doesn’t make any difference what the subject is, the preacher always talks about money."

Now that wide a diversity should not surprise us because almost everybody has opinions on almost everything - even in the church. But the question is, what do we do with the diversity?

Do you allow it to cripple you? Do you say, "We’re so diverse we’ll never agree, so therefore we won’t do anything?" Or do you move forward prayerfully, realizing that some will disagree with whatever course you take?

Now the Bible gives us some guidance on this. It teaches that the way for the church to solve the problem of diverse opinions is to select elders who are in tune with God & also in tune with the needs of the congregation. And as they seek God’s guidance in the decisions that have to be made, pray for them, get behind them, & support them.

B. Now let’s look at our text & read what Paul says in Philippians 4:2-3, "I plead with Euodia & I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, & I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement & the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."

Here were two women, both of them really committed Christians who have worked side by side with the Apostle Paul, who have had a disagreement, & we have no idea what they’ve disagreed about.

But there is something that bothers me. This is a letter to the church at Philippi, & in it Paul has dealt with some very important matters. So why on earth, in the midst of such an important letter, does Paul stick in something so personal about two of the ladies in the congregation?

Shouldn’t he have tried to solve this problem much more discreetly & privately? Why so publicly as to write about it in a letter that millions have read now for nearly 2,000 years?

Well, maybe it is because it is important that the church communicate to the world that we don’t handle disagreements the same way that the world handles them - that we’re able to find common ground & agree to work in harmony with one another.

C. Notice what Paul does & what he doesn’t do. First of all, he doesn’t take sides. He doesn’t say, "Syntyche is right & Euodia is wrong. So you get out of here, Euodia." He doesn’t do that.

Secondly, he doesn’t pull rank. He doesn’t say, "I’m the apostle here & therefore I say if you two don’t agree, you’re both out of here." Instead, he encourages them to find common ground where they can agree. He says, "I plead with (you) to agree with each other in the Lord."

Do you remember what Paul wrote in Romans 12:18? There he says, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

There is something else that Paul does. He appoints a third party to intervene. In vs. 3 he’s called, "loyal yokefellow." We don’t know who he was, but whoever he was, he was a peacemaker. And Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called Sons of God."

APPL. Now there is nothing Satan would rather do than to divide the church. Because if he can do that, then he can so cripple the church that it won’t be effective in getting out the good news about Jesus.

So it’s important that we pledge to one another & to God that we’ll not allow ourselves to be used as pawns in the hand of Satan to divide His church. As we serve God together, we will be at peace with one another.

II. PEACE WITHIN

A. Secondly, Paul talks about peace within. Listen to vs’s 4:

"Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer & petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus."

Now, I don’t know how you felt as you came to church this morning. Sometimes we feel like we’re on top of the world & everything is going our way. But probably, most of the time, we don’t come to church feeling that way.

Did you come this morning carrying a heavy burden? Maybe you’re worried about something. Maybe there is a problem in your life that just doesn’t seem to go away. Maybe you feel guilty because of some sins you have committed.

Maybe you’re concerned about finances. Maybe you’re frustrated because you’re trying to get something accomplished & you can’t seem to get it done.

Whatever the reason, here we are. And I think Paul’s words are directed at all of us who carry burdens.

B. And we need to realize that as Paul writes these words he is not sitting in some ivory tower. Not all the pieces of his life are in place either. He’s in prison & facing trial. He may soon be executed. But in these verses, Paul writes a formula for developing peace within.

He says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer & petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." In other words, "Don’t worry. Let God handle it."

Someone has observed that worry is the Christian’s most popular sin because it is one that we don’t even try to disguise. Worry is so common in our lives that we’re not even particularly ashamed of it.

When we come to church we mouth all the right words, "Crown Him with many crowns. He’s Lord of Lords & King of Kings. He is Emanuel. God is with us."

But then we leave church & forget that He’s with us. We forget He’s Lord & King. And we take all the burdens that we brought with us & put them right back on again. And we begin to worry more & more.

In Ephesians 3:16 Paul writes, "I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being." Paul is saying that even while we’re wasting away on the outside, if we’re Christians, we’re being strengthened & changed on the inside.

C. In Matthew 6, Jesus talks about worry. Now I know you’ve heard these words before, but please listen to them again. Listen to how complete & inclusive they are, & listen to it as though you were standing face to face with Jesus & He is looking right into your eyes as He speaks these words.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, & the body more important than clothes? ... Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these...,

"So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, & your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom & His righteousness, & all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, or tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Someone has said that worry is assuming responsibility that God never intended us to have. He will carry the burdens for us. We need to turn our worries over to God.

And 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you."

III. PEACE WITH GOD

A. Finally, Paul mentions peace with God. Vs’s 8-9 are verses we need to read often. They’re so special. Here is what Paul says.

"Finally, brothers, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

Paul is saying, "Here are 8 filters. Everything you hear & everything you see needs to pass through them. And if it doesn’t make it through these 8 filters then it shouldn’t be in your mind & in your heart.

There is so much garbage in this world. And the old saying "garbage in, garbage out" is true. So think about it. Can the movies you see, & the TV programs you watch, & the music you listen to pass through these 8 filters?

Paul says, "Put everything through these 8 filters. If it’s not true, then don’t welcome it. If it’s not noble, if it’s not right, or pure or lovely or admirable or excellent or praiseworthy, don’t let it find a home in your heart. And if you’ll use these filters you’ll have peace with God."

Jesus said in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

ILL. About 20 years ago, Time Magazine featured on its cover 5 missionary families & honored them for their many years of devoted service to others. One of those was the J. Russell Morse family, the family that my parents worked with on the border of China, Burma & Tibet.

I remember them well. In fact, my sister Marcia, & my brother Neal were both born in their house in Yea Chi, China. Marcia was born as we traveled further toward Tibet, & Neal was born several years later as we came out.

I remember also being with J. Russell in a church camp in the summer of 1950, & spending hours reminiscing about China. His furlough was nearly over, & he was returning to China later that year.

It was then that we decided that I ought to go back with him. But despite all our entreaties, my father said "No." He wanted me to finish High School & attend college first before going back to China. So I stayed home, & J. Russell went back just as the communists were taking the interior of China.

It wasn’t long until communist soldiers came to get him, & they said, "Come with us." He asked, "Can I take some clothing & bedding with me?" They said, "No, you won’t need anything. We’ll take good care of you." But in his memoirs he later wrote that he knew they weren’t telling the truth.

For 18 months he was held in a communist prison, with 15 of those months spent in solitary confinement. His small cell had no window, only a small hole high up to let in a little bit of light & air, & no bed, just filthy straw on the floor.

For 15 months he was never able to see or speak to anyone. Just once a day a small panel was opened in the bottom of his cell door & a bowl of food shoved through. He had no Bible, nothing to read. They had even taken away his glasses, so that he could barely see.

In his memoirs he later wrote, "The only things that helped me keep my sanity during that period were the Bible verses & hymns I had memorized. And the one verse that kept me going the most was Philippians 4:6: ‘Don’t be anxious about anything. Pray about everything, & with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.’"

He wrote, "If there was ever a time to be anxious, it was when I was in that prison. And if there ever was a time when it was difficult to pray & be thankful, it was then. But I kept repeating those words in my mind over & over again."

When J. Russell Morse came out of the prison, he didn’t have to be deprogrammed because God gave him the peace that transcends all understanding.

CONCL. Do you remember the words that Jesus first spoke to His disciples following His resurrection? The disciples were in the upper room, & they were fearful for their own lives. Their leader was dead, & their future uncertain.

Just then Jesus appeared though locked doors & spoke to them. Do you remember what He said?

ILL. Max Luccado puts it this way: "The betrayed sought His betrayers. And what did He say to them? Not, `What a bunch of flops you are.’ Not, `I told you so.’ And there was no `Where were you when I really needed you,’ speech.

"No, his first words were just one simple phrase, `Peace be with you.’ The very thing that they didn’t have was the very thing that He offered - peace. And He still offers it to us today."

Do you have it? Did you come into God’s house this morning with it? Or did you find yourself carrying burdens that were too heavy to carry? And are you going to leave here with those burdens still? Or are you going to turn them over to Jesus?

I know One who died on a cross for your sins. And I know One who shed His precious blood so that you can have everlasting life. And I know that He is available to you this morning, & that you can have Him as your Lord & Savior simply by coming & confessing your faith in Him, & giving yourself to Him.

We give you the opportunity to do that as we extend His invitation. We invite you to come as we stand & sing. Will you come?


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